Smelling The Flowers

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Ladies, I have a confession to make that makes me feel I am letting down the sisterhood. I enjoy washing dishes.

I know. I’m sorry. I always considered myself a feminist, but since my dishwasher died last week I’ve had to wash all the dishes by hand and I have found comfort in the warm sudsy water. I stand there, looking out at the garden through the basil and tomatoes growing on the window ledge. If the window is open, and the fine weather recently has made this more likely, I can hear the melody of the wind chimes mixing with birdsong. It is lovely and without the chore of dishwashing, I’d be missing out.

The dishwasher being on the blink has also, oddly enough, given me a bit more energy. After dinner I’d scrape the plates and then sit down to vegetate in front of the TV and laptop for the rest of the evening. But because I busy myself about in the kitchen I tend to stay on my feet for longer, maybe sorting some laundry, tidying a bookshelf… little things but things I would normally leave until the next day.

So instead of getting less done because I have to hand wash the cups and plates and cutlery, I’m actually getting through more. Weird, isn’t it?

I’m not advocating that we should all give up on modern conveniences. Far from it. If I had to attempt the housework in the same way as my mother and grandmother had to, I’d never have time to write, edit my photographs, blog, tweet, play on-line scrabble… you get the picture. But I sometimes think that all the technology we rely on today makes us take a step back from what the job actually means.

It’s the same with writing. When I write straight onto the computer I write quickly, rattling the keyboard with the words as fast as they come. But give me a pen and paper and my writing changes. It becomes slower, more considered and I find I actually need to edit it less than the work I put straight onto the screen.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? For me, definitely. But I’d be interested to know how you feel about it.
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61 Comments

  1. Margot Kinberg
    May 22, 2011

    Nettie – Not weird at all. If it gives you satisfaction, then you’re doing something because you want to do it, not because you feel obligated or because it’s something women are “supposed to do.” To me, that’s the big difference. I’ve got domestic chores that make me feel the same way.

    • nettiewriter
      May 22, 2011

      You are right: it is satisfying to get the dishes clean. I’m not giving up on the vacuum cleaner tho!

  2. Margot Kinberg
    May 22, 2011

    Nettie – Not weird at all. If it gives you satisfaction, then you’re doing something because you want to do it, not because you feel obligated or because it’s something women are “supposed to do.” To me, that’s the big difference. I’ve got domestic chores that make me feel the same way.

    • nettiewriter
      May 22, 2011

      You are right: it is satisfying to get the dishes clean. I’m not giving up on the vacuum cleaner tho!

    • nettiewriter
      May 22, 2011

      You are right: it is satisfying to get the dishes clean. I’m not giving up on the vacuum cleaner tho!

  3. Tracy Tidswell
    May 22, 2011

    I’m exactly the same with my writing, I hadn’t really thought about it until you wrote that. The stories I write with a pencil and notebook never need changing as much as the stories I type.
    I also like washing up, when I moved I had to leave my dishwasher behind and I had a little bit of middle class angst about it. But a year later and I don’t miss it, there’s something quite therapeutic about standing and washing up, I think I do most of my proper thinking then and it’s quite satisfying to make something really dirty, really clean again. I think a lot of these time saving things only have value if we use that extra time in a good way and it’s good for us to go back sometimes.
    (I also really like hanging washing out, it’s a revolution!)

    • nettiewriter
      May 22, 2011

      Exactly, Tracy. I wasn’t using the ‘extra time’ in a valuable way – just frittering it on nonsense. Maybe we should start a support group for it?

  4. Tracy Tidswell
    May 22, 2011

    I’m exactly the same with my writing, I hadn’t really thought about it until you wrote that. The stories I write with a pencil and notebook never need changing as much as the stories I type.
    I also like washing up, when I moved I had to leave my dishwasher behind and I had a little bit of middle class angst about it. But a year later and I don’t miss it, there’s something quite therapeutic about standing and washing up, I think I do most of my proper thinking then and it’s quite satisfying to make something really dirty, really clean again. I think a lot of these time saving things only have value if we use that extra time in a good way and it’s good for us to go back sometimes.
    (I also really like hanging washing out, it’s a revolution!)

    • nettiewriter
      May 22, 2011

      Exactly, Tracy. I wasn’t using the ‘extra time’ in a valuable way – just frittering it on nonsense. Maybe we should start a support group for it?

  5. Marisa Birns
    May 22, 2011

    Yes, I agree with you. Odd as it might seem, physical activity does enhance productivity.
    I find that when I’m doing something that doesn’t involve lots of brain power – such as dish washing – I can think about projects or find some solutions to problems during the time.
    Too much sitting around, whether on computer or watching television, weakens body and mind 🙂

    • nettiewriter
      May 22, 2011

      I’m the same in the shower. I always come up with my best ideas or plot breakthroughs there.

  6. Marisa Birns
    May 22, 2011

    Yes, I agree with you. Odd as it might seem, physical activity does enhance productivity.
    I find that when I’m doing something that doesn’t involve lots of brain power – such as dish washing – I can think about projects or find some solutions to problems during the time.
    Too much sitting around, whether on computer or watching television, weakens body and mind 🙂

    • nettiewriter
      May 22, 2011

      I’m the same in the shower. I always come up with my best ideas or plot breakthroughs there.

  7. Naomi Bulger
    May 22, 2011

    While I was a student I had a boss, a philosopher, who used to say that despite all the technological advances of the past 100 years, production remained exactly the same. His argument was the same as yours: that all our ‘time saving’ devices actually ate time in other areas. He used this argument to get me to type out his handwritten notes, so when he stepped up onto that particular soap-box it was less than welcome, but still salient.

    I also find that in my own writing, if I slow down and write by hand rather than typing, or use my antique typewriter with the keys that stick, it completely changes the tone and often even the content of what I have to say. On the other hand, I grew up without electricity and I can’t tell you how good it still feels to get light and hot water with just the flick of a switch and, yes, to turn that dishwasher on and walk away 🙂

  8. Naomi Bulger
    May 22, 2011

    While I was a student I had a boss, a philosopher, who used to say that despite all the technological advances of the past 100 years, production remained exactly the same. His argument was the same as yours: that all our ‘time saving’ devices actually ate time in other areas. He used this argument to get me to type out his handwritten notes, so when he stepped up onto that particular soap-box it was less than welcome, but still salient.

    I also find that in my own writing, if I slow down and write by hand rather than typing, or use my antique typewriter with the keys that stick, it completely changes the tone and often even the content of what I have to say. On the other hand, I grew up without electricity and I can’t tell you how good it still feels to get light and hot water with just the flick of a switch and, yes, to turn that dishwasher on and walk away 🙂

  9. maria Duffy
    May 22, 2011

    Lovely post, Nettie, and I completely understand what you’re saying. But unfortunately, I’m one of those who love my modern conveniences. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but it pains me to wash a cup – I’d rather wait until the dishwasher is done!! Gosh, that makes me sound so lazy, doesn’t it? On a funnier side, I watched three of my kids searching like crazy for the remote for the telly the other day because they wanted to change the channel. When I suggested they go over to the telly and use the switches, they said: “You can do that??” Kids today!! xx

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      Haha! I had to explain to mine that there was a time before remotes and that my first remote was for a new fangled video cassette player. The ‘remote’ was attached to the machine by a wire!
      Given how busy your life is, Maria, I don’t call you lazy for preferring to use a dishwasher. I don’t doubt I’d be the same x

  10. maria Duffy
    May 22, 2011

    Lovely post, Nettie, and I completely understand what you’re saying. But unfortunately, I’m one of those who love my modern conveniences. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but it pains me to wash a cup – I’d rather wait until the dishwasher is done!! Gosh, that makes me sound so lazy, doesn’t it? On a funnier side, I watched three of my kids searching like crazy for the remote for the telly the other day because they wanted to change the channel. When I suggested they go over to the telly and use the switches, they said: “You can do that??” Kids today!! xx

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      Haha! I had to explain to mine that there was a time before remotes and that my first remote was for a new fangled video cassette player. The ‘remote’ was attached to the machine by a wire!
      Given how busy your life is, Maria, I don’t call you lazy for preferring to use a dishwasher. I don’t doubt I’d be the same x

  11. Cathryn Louis
    May 23, 2011

    I’m not that way about washing dishes – but I do enjoy dusting. Something about taking care of the wood that I like.

    I know what you mean about writing as well. When I want to do a final edit or if I’m having trouble with a scene, I always rely on pen and paper.

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      It’s heartening to hear how similar we all are. Maybe I’d not as odd as I think!
      Nx

  12. Cathryn Louis
    May 23, 2011

    I’m not that way about washing dishes – but I do enjoy dusting. Something about taking care of the wood that I like.

    I know what you mean about writing as well. When I want to do a final edit or if I’m having trouble with a scene, I always rely on pen and paper.

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      It’s heartening to hear how similar we all are. Maybe I’d not as odd as I think!
      Nx

  13. clarekirkpatrick
    May 23, 2011

    I find the same with my writing, Nettie. But I disagree that it’s letting the sisterhood down to enjoy doing something. The point about feminism for me, is that all work is valued, whether that’s traditionally women’s work, or work that has a big financial reward. It’s all work, and it all needs doing.

    And I know loads of feminists who knit, crochet or bake for fun…

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      I agree, Clare. For me, feminism is about having the same choices as men – and access to the same resources to make these choices possible. I am happy with my life and that has to count for something, right?
      Nx

  14. clarekirkpatrick
    May 23, 2011

    I find the same with my writing, Nettie. But I disagree that it’s letting the sisterhood down to enjoy doing something. The point about feminism for me, is that all work is valued, whether that’s traditionally women’s work, or work that has a big financial reward. It’s all work, and it all needs doing.

    And I know loads of feminists who knit, crochet or bake for fun…

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      I agree, Clare. For me, feminism is about having the same choices as men – and access to the same resources to make these choices possible. I am happy with my life and that has to count for something, right?
      Nx

  15. Suzanne Collier
    May 23, 2011

    Lovely blog post Nettie, i find it makes no difference whether I’m at the computer or at a notebook for writing, the difference is in whether I feel I want to write at that time. When I sit at my computer forcing myself to write nothing but jibberish comes out, but when I m relaxed with a cup of tea and concentrating on something else, i find myself writing heaps. I couldn’t manage without a dishwasher though. I’d probably box up all my dirty dishes and put them in my mum’s dishwasher.

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      I hear you. I have started and restarted the same thing umpteen times just cos I wasn’t in the mood for it. I do hope surgeons aren’t the same tho :0{ I know I need to be more disciplined.
      As for the dishes, couldn’t you employ a handsome dishwasher? I’m sure that wouldn’t be at all distracting… 😉

  16. Suzanne Collier
    May 23, 2011

    Lovely blog post Nettie, i find it makes no difference whether I’m at the computer or at a notebook for writing, the difference is in whether I feel I want to write at that time. When I sit at my computer forcing myself to write nothing but jibberish comes out, but when I m relaxed with a cup of tea and concentrating on something else, i find myself writing heaps. I couldn’t manage without a dishwasher though. I’d probably box up all my dirty dishes and put them in my mum’s dishwasher.

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      I hear you. I have started and restarted the same thing umpteen times just cos I wasn’t in the mood for it. I do hope surgeons aren’t the same tho :0{ I know I need to be more disciplined.
      As for the dishes, couldn’t you employ a handsome dishwasher? I’m sure that wouldn’t be at all distracting… 😉

  17. Rosalind Adam
    May 23, 2011

    I can understand what you’re saying in theory but when our dishwasher broke it felt like a major blow. I’ve never enjoyed housework. But you’re right about getting more done when you’re more active. As the saying goes, ‘Give a job to a busy girl.’

    I agree about the pen and paper. In fact I blogged about that a few weeks ago at http://rosalindadam.blogspot.com/2011/05/remember-fountain-pen.html

  18. Rosalind Adam
    May 23, 2011

    I can understand what you’re saying in theory but when our dishwasher broke it felt like a major blow. I’ve never enjoyed housework. But you’re right about getting more done when you’re more active. As the saying goes, ‘Give a job to a busy girl.’

    I agree about the pen and paper. In fact I blogged about that a few weeks ago at http://rosalindadam.blogspot.com/2011/05/remember-fountain-pen.html

  19. Carole
    May 23, 2011

    You’re not odd at all Nettie, I love to wash the dishes at this time of year, looking out at the plants, every evening you can see something new. Although I have to say I have no choice, we don’t own a dishwasher 🙁

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      Choice is a good thing, Carole and maybe it’s the being able to choose which makes it enjoyable for me. We’ll see if I relent and replace the dishwasher at some point! Thanks for commenting x

  20. Carole
    May 23, 2011

    You’re not odd at all Nettie, I love to wash the dishes at this time of year, looking out at the plants, every evening you can see something new. Although I have to say I have no choice, we don’t own a dishwasher 🙁

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      Choice is a good thing, Carole and maybe it’s the being able to choose which makes it enjoyable for me. We’ll see if I relent and replace the dishwasher at some point! Thanks for commenting x

  21. Anora McGaha
    May 23, 2011

    Ah Nettie, this is a gem.

    “I stand there, looking out at the garden through the basil and tomatoes growing on the window ledge. If the window is open, and the fine weather recently has made this more likely, I can hear the melody of the wind chimes mixing with birdsong. It is lovely and without the chore of dishwashing, I’d be missing out.”

    Love it!

    I see my own sink, the cuttings from my plants, spider, swedish ivy, begonia, rooting on the window sill. Look out at the tree with two wells in it where birds and squirrels feed. Soulful moments.

    I would love to read more from you on this topic, the other side of technology. We know the efficiencies, but as you started here, it does change what we do.

    Could you say more about this, “taking a step back from what the job actually means.”

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      Thank you, Anora. Your garden sounds much nicer than ours – wells? Oh, the stories I’d have made up for my daughter.
      Let me cogotate and get back to you x

  22. Anora McGaha
    May 23, 2011

    Ah Nettie, this is a gem.

    “I stand there, looking out at the garden through the basil and tomatoes growing on the window ledge. If the window is open, and the fine weather recently has made this more likely, I can hear the melody of the wind chimes mixing with birdsong. It is lovely and without the chore of dishwashing, I’d be missing out.”

    Love it!

    I see my own sink, the cuttings from my plants, spider, swedish ivy, begonia, rooting on the window sill. Look out at the tree with two wells in it where birds and squirrels feed. Soulful moments.

    I would love to read more from you on this topic, the other side of technology. We know the efficiencies, but as you started here, it does change what we do.

    Could you say more about this, “taking a step back from what the job actually means.”

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      Thank you, Anora. Your garden sounds much nicer than ours – wells? Oh, the stories I’d have made up for my daughter.
      Let me cogotate and get back to you x

  23. molly campbell
    May 23, 2011

    I applaud you. Isn’t it funny–when my clothes dryer broke, I felt very virtuous hanging my clothes to dry. But I also have to admit that when we got the new one, the virtue went right out the window with the clothes line, and I am back to modern convenience! molly

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      If my dryer broke down I’d replace it in a blink! Mainly cos in Scotland the weather isn’t always terribly good for drying and where I stay is so windy, my knickers would end up in Norway!
      Nx

  24. molly campbell
    May 23, 2011

    I applaud you. Isn’t it funny–when my clothes dryer broke, I felt very virtuous hanging my clothes to dry. But I also have to admit that when we got the new one, the virtue went right out the window with the clothes line, and I am back to modern convenience! molly

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      If my dryer broke down I’d replace it in a blink! Mainly cos in Scotland the weather isn’t always terribly good for drying and where I stay is so windy, my knickers would end up in Norway!
      Nx

  25. Anora
    May 23, 2011

    Wells…. well let me explain. I have photos somewhere. The maple tree right out back has two well-like pockets in it’s trunk about 20 feet up, that look like where branches fell off. Rain water collects in them and all kinds of birds and squirrels visit and sip. I think you’ve hit on a gem of a topic with this post Nettie – a book worthy topic, too.

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      Ooh – no books! Too busy with the book in hand – for which I think I’m going to Hell – and I don’t want another excuse to procrastinate! Be gone! lol xxx

  26. Anora
    May 23, 2011

    Wells…. well let me explain. I have photos somewhere. The maple tree right out back has two well-like pockets in it’s trunk about 20 feet up, that look like where branches fell off. Rain water collects in them and all kinds of birds and squirrels visit and sip. I think you’ve hit on a gem of a topic with this post Nettie – a book worthy topic, too.

    • nettiewriter
      May 23, 2011

      Ooh – no books! Too busy with the book in hand – for which I think I’m going to Hell – and I don’t want another excuse to procrastinate! Be gone! lol xxx

  27. Rebecca Brown
    May 23, 2011

    I was the same; when our dishwasher broke just before Christmas I was gutted, especially as it was on top of a hundred other things going wrong at the same time. But I quickly found the same things as you: it gave me time to myself to think and daydream, I made an extra effort to get the dishes done & out of the way so I freed up time & had a cleaner kitchen, and I never ran out of cups because they were always done rather than waiting for the dishwasher to be full, washed and emptied. I’m also going back to much more time writing with pen & paper rather than computer. It’s liberating in a weird way.

    The dishwasher’s fixed now and I’m using it again but sometimes, just for fun, I do dishes by hand…! 😉 great post mrs.

  28. Rebecca Brown
    May 23, 2011

    I was the same; when our dishwasher broke just before Christmas I was gutted, especially as it was on top of a hundred other things going wrong at the same time. But I quickly found the same things as you: it gave me time to myself to think and daydream, I made an extra effort to get the dishes done & out of the way so I freed up time & had a cleaner kitchen, and I never ran out of cups because they were always done rather than waiting for the dishwasher to be full, washed and emptied. I’m also going back to much more time writing with pen & paper rather than computer. It’s liberating in a weird way.

    The dishwasher’s fixed now and I’m using it again but sometimes, just for fun, I do dishes by hand…! 😉 great post mrs.

  29. Deborah Rickard
    May 27, 2011

    I like to wash the dishes … and*hidesface* look out of the window at the washing drying in the sun on the line! Sad? No, I drift into my imagination, like you say.
    A wonderful, insightful and thought provoking post, Nettie. Thanks.

  30. Deborah Rickard
    May 27, 2011

    I like to wash the dishes … and*hidesface* look out of the window at the washing drying in the sun on the line! Sad? No, I drift into my imagination, like you say.
    A wonderful, insightful and thought provoking post, Nettie. Thanks.

  31. charly milligan
    Jun 3, 2011

    Response to smelling the flowers. I would firstly like to point out to the author that the opening comment is quite sexist. I am a male and I do most the housework manually or is that womanually. Anyway I love doing MY dishes by hand and can do a better job than any machine not any woman though I must add. I also do most of my constructive thinking whilst at the sink doing MY dishes and love to listen and watch the birds on my garden feeders. Modern machines can sometimes stifle our creativity. I do prefer to write on the pc because unlike Nettie my hand writing is worse. Great article Nettie.;)

    • nettiewriter
      Jun 3, 2011

      Haha – point taken, Charly, and I withdraw the sexist remark!
      Nx

  32. charly milligan
    Jun 3, 2011

    Response to smelling the flowers. I would firstly like to point out to the author that the opening comment is quite sexist. I am a male and I do most the housework manually or is that womanually. Anyway I love doing MY dishes by hand and can do a better job than any machine not any woman though I must add. I also do most of my constructive thinking whilst at the sink doing MY dishes and love to listen and watch the birds on my garden feeders. Modern machines can sometimes stifle our creativity. I do prefer to write on the pc because unlike Nettie my hand writing is worse. Great article Nettie.;)

    • nettiewriter
      Jun 3, 2011

      Haha – point taken, Charly, and I withdraw the sexist remark!
      Nx

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