life in a (less) tiny apartment.

November 12, 2020
a brand-new dishwasher | reading my tea leaves

Tip #200: Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping…

This is the 200th tip I’ve written about living in a small space. Tip and small are both loosely defined here. These posts are sometimes just small space progress reports, or personal pep talks, or general musings that only tangentially relate to apartment living. Forgive me and allow me to introduce our new dishwasher. This not-so tiny apartment now has a full-sized dishwasher. I cannot overstate the amount of time it is saving us, to say nothing of counter space.

This is not an endorsement of a particular kind of dishwasher. Our landlords agreed to replace an old and very cranky combination washer/dryer that was in our apartment when we moved in September. They chose the new machine and so I don’t have any special intel to offer on model or make, only thanks in multitudes. No doubt having any kind of dishwasher at all is a privilege that’s not afforded to everyone.

For our part, we’ve lived in apartments with dishwashers and more apartments without them, but when we moved at the beginning of September it was the first time we’d been without a dishwasher since having kids. The awakening was immediate and rude. Keeping up with the breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes each day was time consuming enough, but add to that pile the reusable lunch containers and bottles that return from daycare with a fine patina of yogurt smears and avocado film. Stack up the breast pump parts and milk bottles that secret away stores of stink if you’re not fastidious. Consider that children under six cannot always be trusted to remember which of the water glasses they last deposited their crumbs into and that a sink can be filled with glasses alone in the space of an afternoon.

In a year when every minute of the day feels like it needs to be accounted for and optimized, we were spending multiple hours a day elbow-deep in dishwater. Hours that were already compromised by the competing demands of childcare and work and remote school were getting lost to scraping butternut squash remains from baby jars and boiling pump parts on the stove. When we weren’t actively washing or drying dishes, our available counter space was being colonized by them. We started planning meals around how many dishes they would require. “Are you sure you need a plate for your toast, dear?”

The dishwasher alone isn’t going to solve the ongoing crisis of parenting in a pandemic, not for us and not for anyone, but every one of the minutes that we’ve reclaimed from the kitchen sink is a minute we’re grateful for. Last week, I found the time to crack open a can of paint and begin the process of giving a fresh coat to the walls and ceilings and snaking moldings of this old apartment. I hung slapdash drapes cut from drop cloth to cover windows-turned-fishbowls by newly bare trees. I dusted off my old newsletter and plan to send my first letter since March later today. Right this very minute, I know the machine is whirring quietly in kitchen, spraying piping hot water and soap at breakfast dishes like some kind of magic trick. I’ll take all the magic I can get.

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  • Reply stella November 12, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    felt the exact same way when ours was installed a few months ago after almost 2 years without. my god it is such a luxury!

  • Reply Joyce November 12, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    Yay!!! I lived for 3 years without a dishwasher, and the 8 months when I also had a baby were by far the most difficult. (Also there was a pandemic during half of that time, and, you know, very limited sleep, ha.) So happy for you and your family!! How do I sign up for your newsletter? 🙂

  • Reply Megan November 12, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    Live for a dishwasher with kids (two under two ). Hopeful that a change in administration will usher about a change in the pandemic as well. Beginning to get cabin fever here in Colorado where our cases keep on rising. Congratulations on your gained minutes!!

  • Reply D November 12, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Ours was broken for about five weeks and while I still hand wash a few lunch items and special cups the gratitude for counter space and time is just as you described. While bending over our sink, I often thought about my mom who had three kids and for many years did not own a dishwasher. And seemingly less time.

  • Reply Tara Rasmus November 12, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    Sooo happy that you guys got your dishwasher, and that they got it to fit!! The amount of dishes our family of 3 produces in a day is astounding, and I can only imagine with a family of 5 + pump parts! Truly, every minute feels like it counts now, and I’m so glad you’ve gotten precious minutes (nay, hours) back!

  • Reply Stargirl November 12, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    Next to having my own washer, dishwashers are my favorite appliance. I put everything in there but wooden things and sharp knives. I’d rather run it multiple times than wash pots and pans. I’m bad at saving water when I hand wash.

  • Reply Lindy November 12, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Our dishwasher broke in the new house we moved into the day before pandemic lockdowns began and we waited multiple agonizing weeks for the new one to be delivered and installed. Yes, it totally robbed us of precious work and childcare time.
    Even my husband, who is generally ambivalent about a stack of dirty dishes, was going crazy.

  • Reply Diana November 12, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    So happy for you! Even with a dishwasher keeping the kitchen clean with all these people home all the time is quite a task! Update on the clothes-washing situation?

  • Reply Maria November 12, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    Thank goodness for dishwashers! Ours broke down the second week of in-person school, right before my kids came down with colds and had to stay home for a week and a half (Ontario has since changed guidelines for kids with runny noses, another blessing!). It took us three weeks to get a new one , the old one is still sitting in our kitchen and I have never loved an appliance more. Here’s to your new dishwasher!

  • Reply Tess November 12, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    This post brought to mind my grandmother, born just after the turn of the century, mother to nine children, who when asked what the greatest invention she saw in her lifetime answered, ‘the washing machine’. Up until she had one she spent many, many hours a week washing loads and loads of clothes by hand. She described it as liberating. Hearing that when I was young always made me appreciate these time-saver, bulk washing appliances.

  • Reply Pat S November 12, 2020 at 3:33 pm

    Oh, my! My dishwasher turned up its toes right at the beginning of the pandemic. I thought I might have to wait awhile for a replacement, but a new one came within two weeks. It is amazing how many dishes you can go through even when being careful and I never felt like my dishes were really clean. Glad you have this one.

  • Reply Gerry B November 12, 2020 at 4:08 pm

    When my kids were younger we used the 5 oz Duralex glasses. I ordered personalized silicone rings and fitted them onto the glasses so they could identify theirs. The ringed glasses went in and out of the dishwasher. This saved on dishes and counter clutter. We also used the rings on their Kleen Kanteens water bottles.

  • Reply Milou November 12, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    When my partner and I bought our apartment in 2012 his parents offered to buy us a dishwasher. I politely declined for a variety of reasons (space, I don’t like them, the noise irritates me, there’s only 2 of us…) and they thought I was nuts! They have 2! They kept trying to make a case for months and I kept politely declining, before they finally gave up and graciously bought us a new bed frame.

    That being said, we don’t have kids and I think if that dishwasher makes you happy and gives you some respite in this bizarre time, then it is a very wonderful thing!

  • Reply Lauren Rose November 12, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    A dishwasher! We don’t have kids at home so can’t completely relate but these last 6 months of both my partner and I working from home full-time has made my dreamy about a dishwasher. Dishes feel like a never ending battle!

  • Reply Lindy November 12, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    The only newsletter I’ll read. Pls make sure yogasite

  • Reply Tonia Collett November 13, 2020 at 9:28 am

    oh lordy, yes. I love my dishwasher! Anything that removes some of the drudgery from keeping a house clean and tidy, I’ll take it.

  • Reply laura November 13, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    I do not need a dryer. I don’t need an automatic coffee maker. I don’t ever need/want a microwave. But life without my dishwasher? I shudder at the thought.

  • Reply Viviane November 14, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    I bought my dishwasher in 1985 and it still works perfectly! When I bought it (my first dishwasher) it changed my life. I even gave it a name. Maybe that’s why that 35 year old machine still works!

  • Reply Kim B November 15, 2020 at 5:44 am

    When we moved into our current apartment, we also finally had room for (and bought) a dishwasher. So glorious!!

    I remember thinking: we have this magical box — you out dirty dishes into it, and a bit later, you re-open the box and POOF!! they are CLEAN!!!!

    Ours is currently broken, but it’s just my husband and me, so we can deal. So glad you have this tool to help with your sanity!

  • Reply Charlotte K November 23, 2020 at 6:32 am

    I just saw the story in the NYT and the picture of the stove. I have a recommendation about taming that flame, and that’s a flame tamer! I heard about them first in a wonderful Lori Colwin book, More Home Cooking. Most hardware stores carry them. The stove is beautiful!

    I don’t blame you one bit for getting a dishwasher for a family of five. There were 7 of us in my family and one year my father asked my mother if she’d rather have a fur coat or a dishwasher for the rest of their lives (sorry….it was the 1950s…) and my mother didn’t even blink. I’m single and live alone so I do without but there is nothing that helps preserve peace at home better than a dishwasher!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 23, 2020 at 9:05 am

      Ah, thank you so much! Kim, who wrote the NYT piece, actually emailed me shortly after the interview with the same recommendation via her husband! I’d heard of them before but had totally forgotten! Still haven’t gotten myself one, but maybe this is the clincher!

  • Reply Silvia February 3, 2021 at 6:28 am

    Aside from Mum’s place, I lived my adult life without a dishwasher and I thought, this is fine, I use like 2 dishes a day, what’s the big deal, Mum now she had all three of us and a full time job, the dishwasher was needed. But as I found my partner and he moved in with me and we both started working more and more, the dishes started to make us feel like — as you said — we wasted so much of our precious spare time elbow deep in dishwater. But now we’re not alone in the kitchen, we have a little helper, and every morning she gets my thanks when I empty it of the past day’s culinary shenanigans.

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