The Zen Approach To Dirty Dishes

Or how to master the art of washing up

If there was one thing you thought would be impervious to the mindfulness revolution - it might be washing up. Crusted ketchup stuck to the plate, tea bags clogging up the strainer, knives threatening to stab you from a pool of slimy water: surely there can’t be anything spiritual about it?

A recent study from Florida State University set out to investigate whether washing dishes could be used as an informal contemplative practice. They concluded that taking a mindful approach to this familiar chore can significantly increase our overall sense of wellbeing.

That’s no surprise to John-Paul Flintoff, who designed our Mindful Dishcloth. As he explains:

“One reason we don’t often value the opportunity to wash up is because we are wrapped up in thinking about whatever is coming next: we want to get back to the computer or the television, or make a phone call or a cup of tea. It's easy, in a life that esteems busyness, to let our thoughts be constantly chasing the future.

But always thinking about the next thing is a tragedy. If we do it too often, we lose the capacity to fully experience the present moment. It’s a skill, noticing how we are feeling, and what we are thinking, right now. Washing up can help us hone that skill. To let go of what we are holding in our minds, we need only to pay attention to what we hold in our hands.”

The design on our Mindful Dishcloth wants to help keep you focused on the intrinsic rewards of the activity at hand. A play on traditional Willow Pattern homeware, the illustration invites us to engage with each element and sensation: the buoyancy of a sponge, the roughness of a scourer, the pleasure of foam, the wonder of bubbles floating up to catch on the light…

There’s no testing this hypothesis in theory. You have to learn through practice. So next time someone asks “Whose turn is it to do the washing up?” - offer your services. It could take you one step further on that elusive journey to enlightenment.