living without a freezer and washing dishes by hand


the Manx have it right

Old school housekeeping is the new black. At least, that’s how I’m tackling it here on the Isle of Man.

When we were shown our new home there were a few unexpected, but charming to me, differences between it and our old home in Canada.

The first difference was that there was no freezer. This is, apparently, quite common here. Chris saw that I wasn’t phased by this, that our inability to have ice cream at the ready 24/7, or batch cook chili, wasn’t make or break and he was surprised. I figure, if millions of other people can live without a freezer it probably isn’t that difficult. Also, no freezer and a relatively small fridge meant I would need to be on my A-game for meal planning. Who doesn’t like some external constraints to help you with your goals?

The second difference was no dishwasher. Not having a dishwasher was a harder pill to swallow than the freezer. I paused on that one. I haven’t been without a dishwasher since… maybe ten years ago when I was an athlete.

Weighed against the pros of the flat, great location, price and nicely furnished, I was fine with taking on some heavy labor. At least on a semi-permanent basis. We only have a three month lease so who knows how long we will live here.

So we moved in and after our first meal here as a family it was revealed: there is indeed a dishwasher. Modern kitchens here conceal the refrigerators and dishwashers with cabinet paneling. The dishwasher lock is sticky and when Chris and I tried to open it, it didn’t move. We both figured it was a false cabinet for plumbing for the sink. We were wrong.

We have a dishwasher.

But I’m not using it.

I’ve decided to wash dishes by hand. The apartment came with dishware but not a large amount. To fill the dishwasher we would have to put all the dishes and bowls in it. If the dishwasher is as temperamental/useless as the washer dryer, it will probably be more work than it’s worth.

Shhh don’t tell Chris, but I’m enjoying washing dishes after each meal. There is a nice ritual to it. In fact, I always choose dish duty over bath duty and early bedtime routine. I get a lot of Henry time and it’s nice to shut the kitchen door and let Chris take over with our tired toddler.

And because we don’t have a lot of dishware, and the sink is fairly small, there isn’t room for me to leave more than a meals worth of dishes. Washing dishes is now part of a meal cycle: prep, eat, wash.

I’m not promising the dishwasher will never be used but, for now, I’m enjoying that it makes meal time clean up simple.

We’re not the only family to give up the dishwasher. Check out these other minimalist families that found an easier path washing dishes by hand:

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  • I’ve never used a dishwasher and I just don’t need it. Here where I currently live (Eastern Europe) it’s just too expensive as there are other more important things to spend money for, so most people just don’t have dishwashers. And washing dishes by hand is just easier, takes less time and you always have clean dishes :)

    • I’m starting to enjoy the benefits of hand washing. So nice to just have it all done. Especially in the morning. No dishwasher to unload – the kitchen is ready to go.

  • I love love love doing dishes well my husband takes care of my kids after dinner. To me it is the most relaxing part of my day – I get to listen to MY music, work at MY own pace and have MY time, even if I have to clean too.

    • After a challenging day – read: screamy toddler – I’m quite happy to wash dishes too. Will have to bring in some music or a podcast to listen to. Great idea!

  • I’ve been without a dishwasher since I left my parent’s place, except for one year in a shared house where it didn’t even get used all that often.

    But… No freezer would be weird! I’ve never lived anywhere, or even looked round flats that don’t have one. I’ve got used to picking up reduced stuff and bunging it in the freezer for another time. No biggie if you’re doing fine without one though, i guess you just need to be organised!

    It’s quite fun hearing about the differences. I heard it’s not common to have an electric kettle in the US/canada but here most people would be shocked at the idea of not having one. We need them for aaalllll the tea :)
    *flicks kettle on*

    • The no freezer is going okay – so far. Starting to have a few pains with it. Like:

      – I sprained my foot quite badly and we had no ice to put on it.
      – I ordered a bit too much meat for the week. Expiry date is today and we have two packs. If I had a freezer I would just pop it in. Hoping the lamb chops are good a day after expiry.

    • I know! It took me a while of reading blogs to realise than Americans don’t always have kettles! It was the first thing I bought aged 17 when I left home for uni. A kettle, two mugs and a biscuit tin. Sorted. :-)

  • It seems like living in Europe is fitting into the minimalists lifestyle. For the first time in my life I am living with a dishwasher, from a small space where we had very few dishes and sliver wear. Now I understand why so many people have loads of dishes, so that they can fill up the dishwasher and have clean dishes at the ready. While we’ve only accumulated a few more dishes since we’ve moved into a house with a dishwasher, I have found that I still wash many by hand (because there are lots of quality cookware that I don’t want to put in the washer anyway) and, it just seems a waste of time to wait for the dishes to be clean. I’d say we run it about twice a week.

    • Really enjoying the no dishwasher right now. I agree, it fits into a minimalist lifestyle and intentional living.

      We had 8 dinner plates at home and they got used a lot. My husband worked from home and my sister lived with us. That was 3 adults at home for 3 meals a day. We used the dishwasher almost every day.

  • I haven’t had a dishwasher since I graduated high school and moved out of my parents’ home! Washing dishes is not my favorite thing to do, but I would take that over not having a freezer. There’s a lot of frozen foods that we use to cook quickly, and we live in a small town without a grocery store. No freezer would be a BIG deal breaker for us. I lived with my husband (then boyfriend) and of course we each brought our own mass amount of kitchen items with us. It was a huge chore to wash dishes, and we’d let them pile up and argue over who’s turn it was. So, when we got married, and college was done, we moved, and bought our own set of dishes and donated the rest. It was nice having a setting for 4. Then, on our 1st anniversary, my mom, *thoughtfully* bought us an entire set of dishes, complete with mugs, and flatware, to match what we had so we’d have enough for company. They come over to visit *maybe* once a month, its usually us driving to their house an hour away. SO now, I have a ton of dishes that are just too tempting to use all until they’re dirty and then wash. Ugh. And because those are breakable, I have a whole other plastic set for our crazy toddler that likes to throw them on the floor when he’s done or doesn’t want to eat something…

    • That is my problem. I will wait until all of our dishes are dirty to wash them because I hate to wash dishes. It also doesn’t help that in order to have a full load for the dishwasher I have to wait until almost all of our dishes are dirty.

      Yesterday I decided to stop using my dishwasher as a dishwasher, instead it will be a drying rack. I’m also getting rid of the extra dishes. We don’t use the tea cups or saucers, only use 3 of the plates and bowels because the toddler uses plastic and the infant doesn’t use anything.

      • Henry is 20 months and has one bamboo bowl and other wise uses an adult side plate or I just put his meal straight on his place mat. We’re just getting into a stage where he mostly won’t throw dishware. Throwing food is another matter…

  • No dishwasher here either. Ours was rendered useless and not earning it’s keep when we refurbed our kitchen. What i like about washing up is that the dishes are washed dried and put away, all done. With a dishwasher you have to load and wait for it to do it’s stuff then go back and have to empty it, usually when you really can’t be bothered, i found it all a faff to be honest. I could never do without a freezer though, this would mean shopping more than once a week (a chore i hate)for essentials such as bread.

    Sharron x

    • It does mean shopping more than once a week. I’m okay with it for now. We get a big Tesco delivery on Monday and then I do a small shop at M&S on Friday.
      Not too bad because it is small shop and I fit it in with other errands/activities.

  • I don’t know who told you that not having a freezer is common here, I don’t know anyone without a freezer and think it’s quite rare to not have one! Dishwashers on the other hand aren’t quite so essential. I also don’t use our microwave any more, I put it in the utility room last year and decided to see how often I really needed to use it, and it was only used once, at Christmas for our Christmas pudding which would take hours on the stove!

    • Maybe it’s an IOM thing? The letting agent said it was common. Maybe she meant for the building?

  • Hmm, I’d say freezers (at least little ones that are part of the fridge) are fairly standard. If someone doesn’t have one as part of a tall fridge freezer, there will often be one tucked away in a garage somewhere. You should keep an eye out on freecycle as they often do the rounds up here. Although it’s an extra possession, it’s definitely something that adds to the simplicity of life – one grocery shop and freezing bread and milk for the week, and making large batches of bolog trasnform my life.

    As for dishwasher. I have one BUT, we are currently redoing our kitchen and I’m thinking of sacrificing it for more drawers. The dishwasher tablets are the only harsh chemical left in my house (and the ecover ones are guff) and I hate that.

    Also, it all boils down to the cheese grater and the carrot peeler. I can take three days to fill the dishwasher when my husband is at sea BUT I need the grater and peeler every day. And the pots. And the water jug.

    Karen (Scotland)

    • I actually brought our old carrot peeler over in my suitcase (along with 2 sets of silverware and a paring knife – just in case we took a place with an unfurnished kitchen). Same as you, I use it every day. That’s one of the nice things about washing dishes after every meal: always ready to prepare the next meal.

      Ecover: a few years back, before we had Henry, I switched to something similar to Ecover. Our dishes were not getting clean. I forgot about the detergent switch and called a plumber in to look at the dishwasher. Nothing was wrong with out machine. It was the eco-friendly dishwasher tablets. You’re right – another good reason to wash by hands is no more harsh dishwasher detergents.

  • It probably sounds really weird but the more I read your blog since you moved to the UK, the more I miss it! I want to go home!!! I hope you end up enjoying life there as much as I did. Of course I’ve never even been to the Isle of Man- I’ve lived in Lancashire, Hampshire, and Herefordshire (talk about a mix of places) but my husband used to go with the Boys Brigade to the Isle of Man every year when he was a boy.

    • When I talk to my mum on Skype about life here she gets all reminiscent about her life in Scotland before she moved to Canada.
      The language is, sort of, the same but it really is a different lifestyle with all the little things. We’re loving it. It’s bee a fun and gentle change of pace.

  • Having lived now almost for 12 years in Canada, I see more of the lifestyle differences between here and (Eastern) Europe. We grew up with no dishwasher amd no dryer, and no automatic washing machine until the early nineties. We have always lived in apartements, I dry almost everything, except my sheets and towels if I have too many loads at once. I use wire drying rack, hangers on the shower rod, sheets over doors and chairs. There is always something drying around here.
    I agree with the above comments, using pegs help a lot (less need to iron) and take car to leave enough space between thicker items for proper air circulation, otherwise they can get smelly.
    Good luck with your new endeavors, I love to read your posts!

    • Thanks, Charlotte. It’s these housekeeping tasks that have been the first adjustment and made me realize, wow, life in Canada is quite different. The response I had about hanging laundry really surprised me. It seems so foreign, and so much work, yet so many people do it.
      Thank you for the tips about pegs. I’m going to get a big drying rack in the next week and I think that will really help with efficiency.

  • Hey Rachel,

    We’ve been operating sans dishwasher for several months now. I really don’t mind it at all. We still have a perfectly good, working dishwasher, we’re just choosing not to use it for now.

    I don’t mind the alone time I get while washing dishes after dinner either!

    • Hey Jenny,

      I thought you had ditched the dishwasher. I looked around your blog for a post about it but couldn’t find it – send me a link if you can so I can add it in.

      Agreed, it is nice alone time. Someone posted that they listen to music. Going to start bringing my laptop in and listen to podcasts while I wash and dry dishes. My alone time is so limited right now – gotta make the most of it.

  • No freezer! It would be a hard adjustment for me. Washing by hand, I currently do it because I think it’s more work to rinse, put the dishes in the dishwasher and then taking them out. I think that’s more work than just washing them as we use them. We don’t have enough dishes anyway. I can’t fill the dishwasher with the dishes that we have. Also, I my mom didn’t have dishwasher when I was growing up. I got used to wash by hand. BUT I don’t really enjoy it. ha!

    • The longer I get into the wash, dry, put away routine the more I see that it’s easily even with, or less than, the amount of work I put in with a dishwasher.

      Housework isn’t my favourite thing either. I’m trying to get my routines down and find a bit of joy in getting the task done. I’m doing well with everything but bathrooms. Hate scrubbing toilets.

  • I went this past year without a dishwasher, and didn’t have too much trouble. The only casualty was my entire collection of glasses. I had 12 water glasses last summer and now I only have one. I must be too rough on them in the sink. But coincidentally enough, I just last month finally replaced my dishwasher. I had twins in May, and couldn’t see myself washing dishes 3x a day in addition to taking care of 2 infants and my 3 year old. But if I were to move and not have a dishwasher I’d probably be okay with it. The freezer would be tough to adjust to.

    • Three under three sounds like a solid reason for a dishwasher.
      The biggest hurdle right now with no freezer is food waste. My planning was a bit off so we have meat that is about to expire. Normally I would throw it in the freezer or cook it up in a recipe and then freeze the meal. Now… I might be eating pork curry for breakfast tomorrow.

  • When I didn’t have a dishwasher, I was the sort of person who washed dishes on an as-needed basis. It was a bad scene, and likely one of the reasons that I am no longer on speaking terms with any of my room-mates. When I got married I viewed a dishwasher as essential to the survival of my marriage.

    But I admire your resolve – and I’m glad you’re enjoying hand-washing!

  • Without a doubt a smaller fridge will reduce food waste. I manage with a small fridge for a family of four and we don’t go without. My freezer is also small and contains very little – but does contain ice-cream! Fortunately the local ice-cream van has got used to my tastebuds and pops by every day around 5pm come rain, shine or snow!

  • We lived without a dishwasher for 4 months. It’s hooked up now but we are not using it. I like the idea of washing a dish once I put it in the sink. Now I won’t have to empty a dishwasher.

  • Wow I never considered living without a dishwasher to be minimal… lol. I would be happy if my kitchen had enough room for a freezer let alone a dishwasher. I have to choose between a freezer OR a fridge… I am poor and need to batch cook so I am terrified of living with just an ice making compartment.

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