Exchanging what’s better for what’s less

We’ve been busy lately packing for our move next month. With three kids and moving right after Ramadan, I need to get things going as early as possible. This past weekend, we packed away all the dishes. We only kept the bare minimum that we need for our family of five. This should force us to keep up with cleaning before the stacks of dirty dishes take over. We have so few dishes now that we can’t fill a single dishwasher load!

Which reminds me… I have a surprise to reveal about our house. It has (gasp!) no dishwasher. I haven’t told many people about this because I know I’ll get a ton of criticism and people saying that it will be too hard for us. It won’t be, inshaAllah. Our plan is that we’ll only keep this many dishes out (everything we’ve packed will go straight into storage), and we’ll be forced to get into the habit of hand washing. We can always pull out more dishes from storage when we have company.

The second big surprise about our new house is that there is (double gasp!) no microwave. Our last two homes have had a built-in microwave, but this house doesn’t. If we want one, we’ll have to buy it ourselves. However, there’s not enough counter space for a microwave either. So if we really want a microwave, we’ll have to put it in the dining room. I’m not a big fan of that option, and having no dishwasher and no microwave sound really appealing to me. We’re going to try our best to reheat everything on the stove.

There’s an ayah in the Qur’an (Al-Baqarah: 61) in which Bani Israa’eel said to Musa (‘alayhi salaam), “We can never endure one type of food; call on your Lord to bring forth for us from the earth, from its green herbs and its cucumbers and its garlic and its lentils and its onions.” And Musa (‘alayhi salaam) said, “Would you exchange that which is better for that which is less?”

The ayah is about a totally different context, but it made me stop and think. In my current station in life, I’m feeling overwhelmed by technology and things that are supposed to make my life easier, but instead make me feel suffocated. My smart phone, for example, has opened many doors to me, but it also makes me feel rushed and calls me to fill my time with things that are not beneficial at all. I’m always busy, but somehow I still have time to browse Facebook. With my old phone, I didn’t feel connected to the world 24/7. I could unplug and unwind. Of course, I can still do that with my smart phone, but it feels much harder now.

Similarly, my dishwasher does make things easier — I can put all my dishes in and they get clean with the press of a button. But, to be honest, my kitchen is no cleaner than it used to be. There are still dishes everywhere and the sink is still full, and the dishwasher sometimes doesn’t get things totally clean so we have to wash them by hand anyway. And my microwave is easy, but it heats food unevenly and the food doesn’t taste nearly as good as it does when reheated on the stove.

So perhaps I already had what I needed all along. We say, “oh I could never do all these things by hand. Give me more appliances that can do it for me, so that I can focus on more important things.”

But are we doing important things with all this newfound time? Sometimes I feel like we just fill our time with one commitment after another. All we accomplish is feeling busy.

Washing dishes and reheating food on the stove are blocks of time that can be perfect for unwinding, reflecting, and renewing intentions. This is a great opportunity to connect with our activities: washing each plate and reheating food with more care forces me to actively think about how I eat. So I don’t feel like I’m missing out by giving up my dishwasher and microwave. I’m really excited, actually. For me, this is one of my steps toward a more mindful life. This is something better that I had exchanged for something worse.

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2 comments

  1. lol I feel like I live on the other side of this spectrum although I do have a microwave. I only recently got a portable dishwasher, and have gone 6 1/2 sans washer and dryer.

    1. I never had a dishwasher until 2014 so I’m hoping to just fall back into the old routine. I remember having no idea how to use it when we finally had one; my husband had to teach me and I still don’t load it right. 😂

      I think having a washer/dryer in my house is one thing I can’t ever give up. We used a laundromat for a few years, and an apartment shared laundry room for a year after that, but having it in my own place is so much easier.

      If I didn’t use cloth diapers, it would be a different story. I remember when my oldest was born, we had to use the shared laundry and pay for every load. So we ended up washing all her cloth diapers with a mini camp washing machine in our bathroom. After that experience we said “never again” and now it’s one of our conditions when we move. 😂

      Anyway, I don’t think it’s necessarily about doing everything by hand. I think it’s more about making time to value the things we use (e.g. I used this dish, now I’m cleaning it and putting it where it belongs) and also about being self-sufficient. It wasn’t too long ago that we didn’t use dishwashers and microwaves, yet we seem completely dependent on them now.

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