Keep It Simple Stupid

Sage ReddyHappiness, Health, Wealth59 Comments

Do you look forward to doing dishes? I didn’t think so. No, haven’t met anyone who’s thrilled about tackling that huge pile of dishes in their kitchen sink each night. Except me, of course. But enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

Did you know that the dirty dishes in your kitchen sink can teach you a lot about life? The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book.

Isn’t it odd that with all the time-saving devices money can buy these days, we have less and less time on our hands? Why is that?

I’ll tell you why. While time-saving gadgets do saves us time, they end up giving us even more stuff to do. More than we would have on our plates if we didn’t have these gizmos. So much for saving time!

Take your trusty dishwasher. This modern marvel does all your dirty work for you and saves you plenty of time in the process, time you can put to good use. Hopefully, you’re using this time to do more of the stuff you wanna do in life. Like watch TV.

Jokes aside, I’ll be the first one to admire a hi-tech dishwasher, especially one that can read my mind and cook my meals. Even so, I refuse to own one. I do not like dishwashers, period.

I don’t have an Amish bent of mind, mind you, and quite enjoy technology. Just try parting me from my iPhone and you’ll see what I mean. Then what gives?

In my view, dishwashers are more trouble than they’re worth.

First, look at the all the steps involved with a typical dishwasher: unload old dishes, load new dishes, add detergent, turn on the machine. And if you really want your dishes clean you must remember to soak them in the sink first. If you forget to soak (which I always did), you’ll fare better if rinse them lightly before you toss ’em into the washer.

And this was the last nail in the coffin for me, as far as dishwashers go.

If you’re going to go through the trouble of soaking or rinsing before you drop ’em in the washer, why not just go ahead and wash ‘em while you’re at it? It only takes a few seconds longer and you do away with all the other dishwasher nonsense.

Then there is the headache of having to remember if the dishes in the washer are clean or dirty? Who knows? They look clean, but they don’t smell clean. Did you run the unit last night? You can’t remember. Ok, so you forgot, but maybe your partner did. She’s more on top of things than you are. Or so you think.

Perhaps you did turn it on after all, but did you add the detergent? You don’t remember. So you stand there and shake your head. What if the dishes look clean because, you know, you’ve been doing such a fine job lately of rinsing them before loading the dishwasher? Ah, to hell with it. No one will know.

Life without the dishwasher

No matter. You can’t imagine life without your trusty ol’ dishwasher. So trust me, I’m not going to take it away from you. But humor me for a moment, will ya? Let’s do a mental experiment. Let’s pretend you don’t have your dishwasher anymore. Dishwasher: poof! It’s gone. How will you fare?

You’ll hate it, but you’ll survive.

Now let’s take this experiment further. I want you to stop using it for some time. Say about a week. Can you do it? Sure you can. But why?

You’re about to find out. And what you do will be worth its weight in gold.

You think I’m nuts, but you’ll do it just to show me that you can. Besides, you’ve always wanted to be on the TV show Survivor. Now’s your chance. Compared to Survivor, this ought to be a walk in the park.

“But how will I manage without my trusty dishwasher?” you think to yourself privately.

Why, you’ll just have to do them by hand. Just like they used to a hundred years ago. The first practical dishwasher was invented by a woman named Josephine Cochran in 1886. Dishwashers, however, did not begin appearing in homes until the 1950s.

And now you can’t imagine any home without a dishwasher.

For the next whole week, you labor away at your kitchen sink each night without your good ol’ dishwasher to assist you. Naturally, the dishes now take forever. And you soon tire of all this unwarranted extra labor. How did people ever manage without these time-saving gadgets? you wonder.

As a married man, you’ve found that you and your wife can’t go for more for than a day without doing the dishes.

By the end of the week, even as you curse me under your breath for keeping you from your dishwasher, you have a new revelation. It’s the kind you’ve never had before, something that came about as a result of not using your automatic dishwasher. What is this revelation?

Here it is: “I have too many dishes!”

Granted, you’re not single anymore, but why does a childless couple need so many darn dishes? You haven’t got a clue. So you just scratch your head and walk away baffled and befuddled. All you know is this: it does not make much sense.

Then later that day you have this insight: “We have more dishes in our kitchen because we have a dishwasher. If we had to clean these dishes by hand we wouldn’t buy so many darned dishes.”

Life simple

A week later, rather than run to embrace your trusted dishwasher like a long-lost pal, you decide you want to prolong your “no dishwasher” experiment. ” Another week won’t kill me, you tell yourself.

You don’t hate me anymore, continue to labor away at the kitchen sink each night, and another week rolls on by. At the end of which you have three more amazing insights about your life:

Insight 1. Not only do you have too many dishes in your kitchen, you have too much of everything. You and your wife have too much stuff in and around the house. A lot of this stuff is what you’d consider a “want,” not a “need.”

Insight 2. You’re a procrastinator. Shameful yet true: if you can put something off until tomorrow, you will. And why do you do that? Many reasons, but a big one is this: you’re just too overwhelmed by everything on your plate these days.

Insight 3. You’d like to simplify your life. You want to change. Actually, you’re hungry for change. You just don’t know where to start. Even so, the desire to change is so strong you can actually taste it in your mouth.

This last thing is significant. Why? Because the old you liked change—as long as nothing had to change. Now that you’re hungry for change, question is what kind of changes will make you happy?

Anything that’ll simplify your life, you shout.

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

You’re going to simplify your life, starting with your kitchen. Seized by this desire to simplify, you put away 80% of your dishes, leaving out only two of everything. Two bowls, two plates, two forks, two spoons, two knives, two spatulas, a ladle, a small pan and an awesome skillet. Everything else is out of sight, out of mind.

Your sparse kitchen won’t impress your mother-in-law, but, boy, will she be ever so impressed when she sees what you can do in the kitchen with just these few things.

Over the next few days, not only do you cook more than ever before, you actually look forward to doing your dishes. As does your wife. Now you have to do them three times a day. If you don’t, there won’t be any to eat out of. But cleaning is now such a breeze! Often, it’s just a quick rinse and you’re done.

Could life be this simple?

What’s even more interesting, your new obsession with simplicity has now spilled over into the rest of your house. You and your wife are now determined to keep only what you absolutely need and use everyday. Everything else has gotta go.

You’ll sell it or donate it.

Six months later, you feel lean and mean. And you look it too. Both in body and mind.

Strange, but getting ridding of all that unnecessary stuff at home has had some other unintended consequences: (1) Your head is much clearer now and you can remember stuff much better than before, (2) You lost weight without going on any kind of diet. That flab around your waist? Poof, it’s gone. (3) You have an endless supply of energy now, again for no apparent reason. (4) Now you have more leisure time than you know what to do with.

Actually, you put it to good use. You play the guitar instead of watching TV and eating potato chips.

In short, you and your wife have your life back.

And it all happened because you chose to take a long and hard look at the dirty dishes in your kitchen sink. And you chose to simplify.

Here’s to your newfound joy of the simple life!

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59 Comments on “Keep It Simple Stupid”

  1. Nice points. I’ll keep them in mind when i do dish washing. I think doing it without dishwasher ( I don’t have one though) is fun when i’m not single. But i’m single so here it is (I still have to do it though, since i don’t have one). One of most loved machine at my house is the one doing the laundry. I don’t know how i feel if i have a dishwasher. When that time comes, I’ll look back to your topic.
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  2. Sage, You have me thinking about living my life more simply, but on the West Coast of America, we tend to complicate all the things in our lives with stuff and more things. Life is about the enjoying all the little things and luxuries, and simplicity should come in the form of balance I believe. I love my dishwasher and I don’t know where I would be without it, but there are areas of my life that I try to keep very simple, like eating and fitness. Thanks for your post.

  3. Sometimes, if there are only a few dishes to wash, we use a plastic tub that fits in half the sink. That way, we save some water and the whole process goes faster. However, most of the time, we fill the sink with dishes so it’s not worth using the plastic tub.
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  4. great tips-also I found that my dishes didn’t get clean with a certain detergent (palmolive eco). I thought my dishwasher was going to crap but now I just use the target brand liquid detergent and everything comes out fine! Recently my sister mentioned she thought her dishwasher was becoming no good and it turns out she was using the same kind :-/May have to try mrs. meyers though!
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  5. Whether ’tis better to wash your dishes by hand or by machine really depends on the people those dirty dishes belong to. Let’s split the entire population of New Zealand into two main groups: singles and couples with no kids (or brand new ones); and families and other groups of people living together (flatmates, say, or kinky polyamorist types). For families who make stacks of mess in the kitchen and need to do dishes several times a day, the convenience of a dishwasher will be life changing. Lucky, then, that if you choose the right dishwasher, and use it smartly, it won’t use any more power or water than doing all those plates by hand.
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  6. Hi Sage,
    Makes a ton of sense. I went to paper plates, LOL! But, even then I might change back to 2 plates like before and save some money! Point well taken in this post. Once our heart and mind go to working it reaches into other areas because there is usually clutter there to. The end result – peace of mind. I like it great post.

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    1. Thanks for your good words, Joe. Good to hear from you, as usual. Christ would agree with your thought process on this matter and assert that you’re on the right track. 🙂

  7. Hello (Sage) Srinvas,
    This issue of simplifying everything actually brought the opposite of what was promised. Now you have to think about using the vacuum cleaner, using the dishwasher, doing the laundry… If we had to do these things ourselves, we wouldn’t
    have as much garbage as we do now.

    Thanks for the post.

    1. Thanks for thoughts, Emmanuel. Good to see you here! You’re right, we’ve got all these time-saving gadgets, but now we have even more things to worry about in life. Not to mention all the garbage we create in the process.

  8. Sage,
    All growing up I appreciated my mother’s geneosity, but dreaded having more things. I became quite the clutter bug trying to hide the excess away to maintain a manageable load. I am extremely grateful that we share the same desire for simplicity. Great minds think alike!
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  9. Sage what a fabulous post as always:) I genuinely look forward to reading your blog and loved this.

    Your opening paragraph “Isn’t it odd that with all the time-saving devices money can buy these days, we have less and less time on our hands? Why is that?” is so scarily true. I could also add that for me I’m making more money than ever but am I happier than when I was when I was travelling round the world and sleeping in $4 huts…. but maybe that’s for another blog subject lol

    Funnily enough we recently moved and don’t have a dishwasher – the first time in my life for about 20 years (my parents always had one). I have to say the novelty of washing up is wearing thin and I’m looking forward to having our new kitchen installed (which of course will come with a dishwasher). However the fact is it’s a lot cheaper and quicker to just wash up a few dishes… afterall you still have to load and unload a dishwasher. But I don’t enjoy having the dishes out as it looks messy…

    I think that anything we do on a regular basis i.e. watching TV every night and then not doing that is a good thing. I hardly watch TV now (too busy working lol) but when I do rarely sit in my lounge I embrace it as it’s such a treat for me.

    It’s good to do different things too – to challenge ourselves. We’re creatures of habit and often don’t adapt well to change but the irony is it can give a fresh perspective and can turn out to be a good thing:)
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    1. Been missing you, Lilach. Good to hear from you again! And thanks for sharing your wonderful, well-articulated thoughts. You’re so right. Ultimately, it’s not about the dishwasher at all. It’s about simplifying so we can live creative lives. And as remind us, it’s also about getting out of our comfort zones.

  10. Hi Sage,

    Your choice of topic are always good.

    I think I know someone else who loves to wash dishes: My mum. She does like washing dishes.

    Back to the topic, I hear you. The observation that the more time-saving gadgets we have, the less time we have is true. Alot of people will agree with your valid points here, myself inclusive though not exclusively 🙂

    Cheers my friend

  11. I can appreciate the desire for simplicity. What you described as the disadvantages suggest there may be a lack of a system hence not knowing clean from dirty. The newer dishwashers do require less pre-rinsing. For me, the advantage is the sterilization factor. Once we installed a dishwasher, our colds dramatically decreased. Of course having a retired husband who is in control of the dishwasher, I may be somewhat spoiled.

    Your point about simplicity is well taken. For the last 2 years we have been minimizing our home. Old papers and records are being shredded and sent to the recycling bin. Old clothes are being re-purposed. Items we have not used in at least 3 years are also being reviewed and re-purposed. Having a lot of stuff does not make one happy.

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith
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    1. Good to see you here, Leanne! I think you’ve summed it up nicely. It’s really more about simplicity than about dishwashers. Though I personally don’t care for a dishwasher, I’m not against them at all. And you’re right, what’s more important than whether or not one uses a dishwasher is a SYSTEM that makes it all easy and smooth.

  12. Hi Sage,

    That’s some great advice and I do agree.

    Simplifying your life will increase progress, clear the mind and make one more focused.

    Just clearing up the mess on my desk has improved my productivity! Throwing out my son’s toys has made him play chess with me more 🙂
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    1. That’s a funny and fascinating titbit about your kid, Alan. Indeed, getting rid of junk around home will create space for creative, fun stuff. We get to “play” more than we would otherwise.

  13. Well…we just had a congestion in the refuse water pipe from our kitchen sink, so we are now using a bucket under the sink. Luckily the plumber led the pipe coming out from the dishwasher so that the water it is using lands in the bucket too. I must say, that I was full of surprizr to find out that the dishwasher was only using 8 liters of water all together. THAT is much less than the water I would use for the hand-job :).
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  14. Sage,
    Your choice of topic is fantastic. Most people down having a dishwasher and still every so often upgrade to a faster and lager one. Still having the same issues with cloggs and such. Using the wrong soap and not rinsing the dishes correctly leaves much to clean.

    I never and will never use one. I always feel the need to clean as I cook and that is on a daily basis. Now, mind you that its better and faster than a dish washer. Hey, I don’t use tons of water. I do not have to clean the dain clog and other things.

    Most people have to rinse after they use the wash machine. That is madness.

    Your article bring to light many things in our business. Like keep it simple and not over doing something. Some just must get the new toys/tools every month. Yet, they never made any profit for years. They will complain and still keep doing the same as that person using the machine.

    We need to get back to basic and stop with the faster is better mentally. It is not better and you loose at the end. Hey, soon our children will not be using pen and paper in most schools. It is bad enough their writing is bad and they use symbols as words and think that is what to hand in to a teacher? It is bad and getting worse.

    Sage, amazing and inspirational coach your are. I love your site and tell Becca thanks for all the advise and guidence with the oils. You both are a perfect example of balance in our industry.
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    1. Thank you for good words, brother William. I’m not surprised at all that you do not use a dishwasher. Actually, I’d be surprised if you did own one. And everything you say about how we adults are always buying more and more “toys” that only clutter up our lives is right on the money. We’d be smart to do the opposite and start ridding ourselves of stuff. Thanks for sharing your wise thoughts here. 🙂

  15. Sage
    This was awesome! I love your writing style!! Your points bring up why so many people love spring cleaning. Well, not really love it, but when it’s all over with boy you sure feel good about getting rid of all that old stuff that has been cluttering the house. We have 5 kids. So, my daughter regularly uses our dishwasher. But cleaning house and doing dishes, can be very therapeutic!
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    1. Good to see you here, Tonya! And thanks for sharing that. Ultimately, it’s not really about using or not using a dishwasher. As you can tell, it’s simply about simplifying. I love spring-cleaning… and do it every weekend. That way stuff never piles up. 🙂

  16. Hi Sage,

    Your sage advice is needed in our family. We are far from minimalists. We could benefit from reduction of excess stuff.

    We used to go camping. I think the main reason people like camping is that life is back to the basics. For example, the few dishes used when camping are washed (or rinsed) by hand, and the same simple set of dishes is re-used again and again. The attention is on the environment and nature, rather than stuff.

    Lately, I have been re-using the same coffee cup all day for coffee, water, juice, and even sometimes wine. By using it frequently, it never gets too dirty. I rinse it each time. Also, I have begun to re-use the same pan for oatmeal in the morning and other things at lunch. I figure that it has not had time to grow bacteria since breakfast. The same goes for the bowl I use for oatmeal. It is still clean enough for lunch. They do not even require detergent, because they are used within a few hours.

    As for the rest of my stuff, well, I have lots of room for reduction. 😉
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    1. Sure you’re not a zen master, Buddy? 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your wise thoughts and insights. So true about why we yearn to go camping and get back to the basics. By the way, I do the same with my mug. Except mine’s a tea mug. Not much of a coffee drinker. 🙂

    1. Marquita, it does not surprise me that you prefer a simple life. Good for you. It’s fascinating to me that many self-aware women own a dishwasher, but do not use ’em.

  17. Hi Sage, I totally see your logic… but I do love my dishwasher. 🙂

    I know exactly what you’re saying. Too much stuff does clog your mind, life and everything else.

    I am working on simplifying.. and getting rid of stuff. I keep telling my kids we are Feng Shui’ing the house so we can all think straight! don’t know if they have bought into it yet, but we are trying!

    Very creating post … and you did indeed make your point!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Jayne! Indeed, nothing clears the mind as does getting rid of everything unnecessary from your life. As goes the mind, so goes the body.

  18. I do have a dishwasher, but I prefer hand washing my dishes… dish washers still do not get everything as clean as people believe they do. That and it does not matter whether it is powder or liquid detergent, there are going to be some residue.

    My job when I was in high school, including washing a lot of dishes and I remember when I got home, it was like… eh, no biggie, I’ll wash the dishes.
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  19. Hey Sage, I agree with you about simplifying. Last year when we the power was out for 5 days here in Huntsville from the tornadoes, it changed the way of life for people. It made you realize what was really important in life (food, water, heat, shelter, etc) and that even without power for a few days, we can still survive! It served as a good reminder!
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    1. Good to hear from you again, Hans. Thanks for sharing that. When the s-it hits the fan, we humans automatically focus on the bare essentials of life, don’t we? But why wait for a crisis? Why not do it NOW?

  20. Hi Sage,
    Thanks for this great post and i couldn’t agree more. The example of dishwasher is not a good one for me, as I rarely cook and my kitchen is already as minimalistic as it gets, but your point about simplifying things is well taken. Some of the things that I can think of along this line include:

    1. Getting rid of the cloths that I haven’t worn in over a year, and most likely never will again.
    2. Clearing up my computer.
    3. Unsubscribing from news letters which I rarely read.

    I am sure I can think of some more. Thanks again for this great post.
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    1. Good to see you here, Ankesh. And thanks for sharing your thoughts. Exactly, it’s not really about the dishwasher at all. As you point out, it’s about simplifying our lives. It’s amazing just how many areas of our lives we can dramatically simplify. Cheers!

  21. I guess, Sage, one of the main reasons we don’t keep it simple is that everywhere we look: tv, print ads, our friends…

    Everywhere, we are encourage to get more! And then more, and even more.

    We have to break the conform to the norm, and realize how insane it can really be! If insane is the norm… maybe we need to step away from the crowd and reclaim the sane!
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  22. Awesome post, Sage. It’s funny because growing up, I didn’t use a dishwasher at all. Everything was washed by hand! I’ve only started using it once I started college and even now, I don’t mind the occasional hand-to-plate action. It’s amazing how your perspective can change once you decide to trim the fat and highlight true priorities. P.S. There is always the option of paper cups and plates! Remember to recycle, folks!
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    1. Good to see you here, Anthony! And thanks for your thoughts. Indeed, trim the fat and we’ll see the light again. I’ll pass on the paper cups though, thank you. 🙂 Can’t stomach the waste. Cheers!

  23. As usual, another awesome post Sage! Funny how you talk about dishwashers. I never understood the concept. Never had one, never will. First, it is a waste of energy, second, it does leave contaminants residue. And thirdly, most importantly, you need plenty of dishes (like 2 sets) and lots of other stuff. I do have a dishwasher- my husband lol!
    Washing dishes is a great way to meditate, water flowing, one with a dish. It may sound silly, but it is a great way to “escape.”
    Simplify: Too many people have too many too many things! What for? I really don’t get it. I am a minimalist at heart and only keep what I use. (except for shoes…there is a problem there lol)
    When we simplify our material things, we simplify our minds. If there is too much stuff, we can get overloaded.
    Less is MORE!
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    1. Ah, minimalist Donna! No wonder I like you. You and Becca have got it made. You’ve married the kind of men who’ll do your dishes for you. And you thought we men were useless. 🙂 I won’t tell anyone about your shoes, btw. 🙂 Love your thoughts here, Donna. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Hi Sage,
    you made some great points, especially about the dishwasher.
    I agree with you, by the time you rinse the dishes and then put them into the machine, you could wash them. I always wondered how much water and electricity could be saved.
    Washing dishes can be a meditation, warm you up on a cold day and it could be something you share with someone having a talk at the same time.
    How about the washing machine? Just joking!
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    1. I have pondered on the washing machine too, Yorinda. However, hand-washing clothes is a pain in the you-know-what. It’s a chore I could never embrace. Solution? What my wife and I have done is simplified our wardrobe, which cuts back on the number of loads we have to do every week.

  25. Great post, Sage! However, when I didn’t have my dishwasher for 6 months.. I was good and ready to have it back!! We dont’ watch tv, and we have kids to run around to sports, not to mention other evening activities. So doing the dishes in the dish washer, gets us out the door to be on time! However I do see the potential of what you are saying.. if my kids used 1 glass per day, we wouldn’t be needing a dishwasher to do all the dishes!! Oh, but my kids would kick up a storm if I decided to give it up!! If it weren’t soo new, I would be willing to experiment… Simplify is a great way to go….
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    1. Hello Holly! Good to see you here. I’d hate to keep you from your new dishwasher. Granted, what I propose is what many would consider too RADICAL. However, I think our modern-day insatiable appetite for “stuff” is what’s truly radical. May be you could put away some of the china and talk your kids into using the dishwasher a couple of times a week. That way, you could have the cake and eat it too! 🙂

  26. such a cool and fresh blog!
    The symptom of the dishwasher you are describing here, reminds me of the decision I have taken a while ago to measure my time spent on the internet ( it drains me sometimes with the excuse of having to do so many tasks for my marketing) and on my smart phone.
    if what we want is to increase the quality of our lives are we sure that technology gadgets do just that?
    keeping it simple slows down our rhythms and being less alienated from this consuming paranoia, allows us to be in contact with our hearts and our loved ones, including our passions.
    The nicest things in life are the ones that are given for free, would you agree?

    1. Indeed, Patricia. Well said. I agree, the best things in life are FREE. Technology is like fire. It can cook you a meal or burn your house down, all depending on how you use it. It takes a lot of awareness to use technology wisely. But we consumers are too busy consuming to cultivate any self-awareness.

  27. Hi Sage,
    We use so many things today that could be useless if we think about it and probably this is the reason of the credit crisis we face right now.

    For me washing plates is one of the most boring tasks that I have to do every day (a solution would be to eat outside all the time, I used to do that a few years ago but of course it costs a lot 🙂 ).

    Anyway back to the essence of your post, consuming less is a must if we want to keep advancing as a human race since if we just consume without investing in our future (I am not talking about money) then unavoidable there will come times that we will face the consequences of this mistake in the worst possible way…
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    1. Well said, Kostas. Our human species is consuming itself to death. As for the dishes, I do enjoy doing them, and there’s a reason for that. But that’s for another post. 🙂

  28. You know what is funny? I have a dish washer, but I never use it. That does not mean that I am not lazy because at times, that is my middle name. My reason for not using my dishwasher is that I do not fully trust them. I rather use my own two hands and wash my dishes. That way I can make sure that they are clean enough to pass my inspection.

    Another thing is that dishwashers use a lot of water and that means more money out of my pocket.

    I have a pile of dishes sitting on the counter. My plan is to tackle those tonight, but we will see how well that goes. Wish me luck!

    God bless,
    William Veasley
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    1. Good to read your thoughts, William. And good to see you here! If you’re middle name is “lazy,” hey, it’s mine too. Laziness can be a virtue if you know how to use it. 🙂 Good luck with those dishes.

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