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My Dishes: Lessons Learned

by | May 1, 2011 | Decorating Inspiration, Domesticity, Kitchens

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My Dishes: Lessons Learned


If you follow me on Facebook (come on over, it is fun!), you might have seen one of my Instagram pictures a couple of days ago of the dishes on my dining room wall. I am liking how the room is coming together, but was starting to feel like my baker’s rack was kind of floating there in the middle of the wall, and the four dishes I had on the wall near it were hanging out all by themselves. Every time I took a picture of that wall, I realized I didn’t like the arrangement. So, I decided to add four more plates to bring a little more connection between the plates and the baker’s rack.

As I hung those dishes on the wall and took a picture, I was thinking about how much of my life involves dishes. I walked around with my phone taking pictures of dishes and thinking about my day to day rituals.

My Dishes: Lessons Learned

For instance, I love plates on my wall. Perhaps decorating with plates on the wall is outdated now, I don’t know, but I still think there is something simple and lovely about that look. I’m not a fussy decorator, so simple clean dishes are beautiful to me whether they are on my wall, on my baker’s rack or on stacked on my open shelves. They represent order and beauty.

My dishes themselves actually hold a lot of memories for me. I’ve had a mixture of various shapes and styles of white dishes for years. My white dishes remind me of my family and bring back memories of holidays at home. I enjoy simple rituals involving my dishes each day, like filling my mug of coffee in the morning, grabbing cereal bowls off our shelves in the morning before school and bringing down the dinner plates at night. Little privileges like that could go unnoticed but they really do mean a lot to me. I am blessed to be able to do those things, and I know it!


My Dishes: Lessons Learned


However, while clean dishes make me smile, I’ve learned that dirty dishes make me cranky. Ha! I don’t really like dishes piled up in my kitchen. More dishes on the wall, yes. More dishes on my baker’s rack, yes. More dishes on my counter, no. Dishes smell when they are dirty. I’ve learned that a smelly kitchen is not OK with me.

My Dishes: Lessons Learned


My husband doesn’t like dishes on the counter so when we are apparently too busy to unload and reload the dishwasher, he artfully piles dishes high in our sink. I don’t like dishes in my sink. I don’t like the sound of them tipping over or the splash that happens when they all come tumbling down.

I think the creative energy involved in the sink piling technique may just as well be used to unload and load the dishwasher. I’ve learned over the years that when I don’t fill the dishwasher with our dirty dishes at night — I’m cranky in the morning. I’d rather take a few moments at night to deal with my dishes right then and there, no matter how tired I am, than to wake up cranky. Who wants to wake up cranky? Not me!

I love that my white dishes fit perfectly in my new dishwasher. It is so well designed, loading the dishwasher is actually enjoyable. I cannot say that about the last two dishwashers I had. Call me crazy but small details like this matter in my day. I don’t like to fight with dishes or dishwashers. Life is too short for that.

My Dishes: Lessons Learned

Perhaps that is why I enjoy my open shelves for my dishes. I love the ease and simplicity of removing a dish from the dishwasher and turning around to set it on the open shelves. However, I also loved seeing my white dishes in my glass cabinets in my old house and hope someday to have glass doors once again. I can still remember the feel of the glass knobs as I opened them every day. When all of my dishes were clean and put away, I thought those glass cabinets full of dishes were so beautiful. Simple memory, but seeing those dishes behind the glass doors made me happy.

My Dishes: Lessons Learned

dishwasher incident at my old house: blogged about way back in 2007

We’ve been through a lot over the years with our dishes. We’ve learned that dish washing soap and dishwasher detergent are not the same thing and you really need to pay attention as you fill your dishwasher with soap. SHOCKING! We learned this lesson twice, if you don’t learn it the first time apparently you get to learn it again. The first time we had dish soap bubbles going down the hallway.

We still laugh at that memory. As much as I like to see my dirty dishes IN the dishwasher, I love even more to empty the  dishwasher of clean dishes. When the last dish is put away, I take a moment to stare at that beautiful empty machine! That sense of accomplishment so early in the morning makes me feel like I can conquer the world that day. It doesn’t take much to make me happy!

So fess up. I want to know.
Have you ever put dish soap in your dishwasher? Ha, ha. Good times.

Note: It might seem silly that I find joy in the every day routines of life like getting dishes out for our family dinner or cleaning up in the evening, but at times like this tragedy in Alabama from the tornadoes, it reminds me that we need to treasure even the mundane moments at home. There is so much devastation, so many lives and homes lost, if you are able to help with Alabama disaster relief and recovery, here is where you can find out more.

This post is part of a six part series on Homemaking, sponsored by Electrolux as part of Homebuzz. I received an Electrolux appliance in exchange for my participation. The opinions stated in this post are my own. My old dishwasher is being donated to a worthy cause.

The other posts in this series are here:
My New Dishwasher
Order from Chaos,

3 Truths and a Lie, How to Organize a Kitchen


  1. domestosgoddess

    In our home, people leave dishes piled up beside the dishwasher for someone who cares about mess (me, generally) to fill it up and switch on. We ALL hate to empty the dishwasher, and have various sneaky manouevres to avoid this task, including making urgent telephone calls, disappearing to the bathroom for 30 minutes, and finding homework to be completed right that minute. And I further confess that our dishwasher has stood unused but filled with stinky china for four days this week waiting for dishwasher salt to be purchased, meanwhile we gladly washed dishes in the sink old-style.

    • Melissa

      Ha, I love the convenient excuses at your house! LOL!!

  2. Kathy

    Haha! YES, Melissa, I have done that! I couldn’t believe it either. I only did it the one time. I guess the memory of it is so burned into my subconscious that I won’t do that again! I just got new white {everyday} dishes and to try and avoid chipping and keep things a bit neater in my cabinet, I’d love to get those simple wood dish holders. This is only my third set of everyday dishes in 26 years of marriage. I do still have my “good” set for all these years and still love them. I think it’s because we don’t use them all the time that I can still appreciate them.

  3. Estela

    Surprisingly, I’ve never put dish soap in my dish washer, which is shocking because its totally something I would do ;)

  4. Screaming Meme

    I love dishes on the wall…I don’t think they will ever totally go out of style. I have seen them used differently in each new trend. And even if they are. You can bring them back…lol I love white dishes too. They are so peaceful and calming. Love that you realize the importance of tradition and making memories…even though everyday dishes. And I would go crazy if my husband or children had anything in the sink. It is my pet peeve too…:) We do wash off each dish we use and put it to the side , if the dishwasher is washing. I hate to see food on the dishes…Another pet peeve. Though dishwashers nowadays wash so much better, I like to see neat “dirty” dishes…and I guess now since you mentioned about smell…it helps that too…ha! I wanted to remind you of my giveaway series. If you get a chance come by…My first giveaway is a slipcover…We all need those…lol…Hugs! Meme

  5. Paula

    Love the post and have to agree with (almost) everything you so artfully said. I’m still not a fan of the open shelving for the ordinary stuff. I like some closed doors for a lot of my storage, even though it’s not necessarily messy in those cupboards. About the memories, yes, dishes can bring on a flood of them. I remember after my mother’s funeral and lovely lunch we had at our home, which was the hundred year old family homestead, all the dishes that needed to be done. And, there was my cousin and his wife who moved smoothly into taking on the task and while we all chatted so much got cleaned and put away. It was a memory I will always treasure from such a sad time. Dishes,funny,huh.

  6. jeannett

    i loooove me some dishes. lovey love love.
    and bowls.
    love bowls.
    can’t get enough of them.

    and, i think you should be linking up at instafridays if you’re gonna keep up the love affair with instagram. ;)

  7. Vee

    No, no dishwasher. And I have dishes soaking in the sink right now.

    Love what you did by adding the extra dishes to connect more to the baker’s rack. It looks great. I am unpacking my grandmother’s dishes and my great-grandmother’s dishes this week…tomorrow and Tuesday actually. I am so wondering what to do with them all. I feel that a lot of plates may be going on my walls and they won’t be white. That can’t be a good look. ;>

  8. the cottage child

    I have used dish washing liquid in the dishwasher – I was a teenager so it was pretty instantly forgiven, as my mother was in such shock that I was doing the dishes in the first place.

    We’re considering a house with no dishwasher – really! I sold a lot of my dishes in a garage sale last week, in preparation for our move, so we’re down to one large set instead of three. Anyway, I’m battling with myself over whether I’ll let something like an automatic dishwasher stand between me and a house I have a big crush on and a change of lifestyle we’ve long wondered about and have a fairly cushy opportunity to experience (sans dishwasher, of course). We only run the short cycle with minimal soap anyway because I can’t help myself but to prerinse. They’re mostly clean when they go in as it is – a drainboard might be in my future.

    • Melissa

      I bought a house without a dishwasher once, didn’t take too long before we put one in! At this house we don’t have a garbage disposal. I thought for sure we’d put one in within a few weeks. It has been two years now and we still don’t have one. I don’t even miss it!

  9. Clara S.

    Funny post! I unload our dishwasher first thing in the morning and like you said, it’s such a sense of accomplishment. Even in the midst of morning sickness the last few months it still gets done because…I can’t stand dishes on the counter or in the sink! The dirty dishes go directly into the dishwasher no rinsing or anything (unless it’s a baked on mess, of course.) Even my 3 year old clears her place at the table and puts the dishes right in the dishwasher. Of course, with 4 (soon to be 5 kids) there are always some dishes to hand wash after dinner but I make myself do them immediately (or sweetly talk my hubby into doing it.) It’s a habit just like making our bed :) We have open shelving in our kitchen and I love it. I don’t miss those ‘ole cabinet doors at all.

  10. Andrea Howe

    I have never put dish soap in the dishwasher, but my babysitter has numerous times. I kept coming home to nasty dishes, the dish soap was actually baking the food on the dishes so I’d have to rewash them by hand! Now how’s that for making someone cranky?!? Finally I happened to come home early from work one day and I SAW her do it and I screamed! Not at her or in a scary mean way, but in an excited way. I was just glad to finally know what the heck was going on with my dishwasher! :)

    • Melissa

      Ha ha ha, poor babysitter, glad you were able to redirect her to the right soap! ;-)

  11. a' la mode

    This post spoke to me. Finding enjoyment in the mundane. I like it. Oh, and I like your pure white dishes too =) Oh, and can your hub teach mine NOT to like dishes on the counter. Mine thinks its awesome. *sigh* xoxo shel

  12. Shanthi

    That is one POST on dish washing. I usually use this expression – that I am the dishwasher of my house. I can do the rest expect emptying the dishwasher. One good thing I do with the dishwasher is when I have a party and have toto hand wash China – I use the dishwasher to drain and dry them – very practical :-)

  13. Ann

    I’ve never put dish washing soap in my dishwasher (I know better that that, lol) but one Christmas Eve I did put laundry soap in it. Needless to say we had a flooded hardwood kitchen floor on Christmas morning.

  14. Margaret

    so far I haven’t put dishwishing detergent in but my grandmother did between the time we got the machine and Mama came home with the right soap. I seem to remember that they just swept the suds out the back door! My husband unloads the dishwasher as he is fixing breakfast. He has taken those jobs since he retired. Sounds sweet doesn’t it. I still have him 24/7 and for lunch.

  15. Annie Joy

    I agree with you about the dishes on the counter versus the dishes in the sink. My husband will rinse all the dishes on the counter and stack them in the sink, usually within about ten minutes of the time I intend to put them in the dishwasher. I only like dishes in my sink if they can’t been seen unless you walk up to the sink. Any more than that — they go into the dishwasher. One thing I posted about recently — you can overload your cabinets to the point that they fall off the wall! I went into my Dad’s kitchen recently (my stepmom died last November) and the cabinet had fallen and the dishes my stepmother treasured had all broken except a few, which I brought home with me. (BTW, they were all white.) She also had cookbooks stored in the cabinet, which was probably the “tipping point.” Anyway, enjoyed your post very much! Annie

  16. Kelley

    I hate dishwashers. *cringes* But that’s probably because I’ve always had an older one that didn’t work so well, so I had to wash them all by hand anyways. Now it’s my favorite chore to do. I find it’s a good stress reliever. And it’s peaceful.

    As for the plates on your walls…who cares if it goes out of style!! If you like it, stick with it! You might as well be ready for the next time it’s back in. ha ha

    And my mom was the one who used dish soap in the dishwasher…on Christmas Eve, when I was like 7. It was funny to see all the suds on the floor.

  17. Sarah

    Oh, my. Yes, I have also made the dishsoap mistake and boy, it was a pricy one! I decided to “disinfect” the sink soapsponge one night by throwing it into the load of dishes in the dishwasher, but without rinsing out the extra soap first!! Most unfortunately, we turned the washer on and went to bed. It was the next morning before we discovered our hardwood kitchen floor buckling under puddles of soapy water. I called a water damage service that day and we managed to save the floor, but only after about $1200 worth of dehumidifying equiment and service! Ouch! I won’t forget that again. By the way, I do love your blog and gorgeous photos!

    • Melissa

      oh my!! we had something happen one time where we put a drain cleaner in our garbage disposal (I do not advise this, lol) and it ended up going through our dishwasher, all over the floor and ruined our floors! We got to get new ones though and I was thrilled over our mistake ;-)

  18. laurie

    I have to agree with you on the dishes in the sink. I hate them. I have figured out that I need to run the dishwasher after breakfast or lunch, so I can unload them before dinner and start with dirty dinner dishes and still have room for the breakfast mess. I know they would not get unloaded before I go to bed and I need a place to put the dishes that are not the counter and certainly not the sink.

    It is the little things.

  19. maggie

    Well, no, I haven’t put dishsoap in the dishwasher (yet!).
    I did something similar to that, though, and even more embarrassing because it was right. out. in. public.
    I took a comforter to the laundromat (I DETEST laundromats!) and put too much soap in the machine. Then it did the ‘HUGE GOBS of suds coming out all over the floor’ thing. :(
    I didn’t know what to do! Do I grab someone else’s dirty towels and start trying to mop the floor up with them or do I just abandon my comforter and kind of casually stroll out the door and act like that was someone else’s big fat mess? auuughh! It was SO embarrassing.
    In the end an attendant came running out of the back room with a mop and bucket to clean it all up. That was my very last trip to the laundromat. The end.

    • Melissa

      OH MY WORD, so funny!! I would have died.

  20. Carol-Anne: Use the Good Dishes!

    As someone whose blog is called “Use the Good Dishes”, I can certainly understand how dishes have multiple meanings and ‘layers’ in your life! My entire life philosophy has been based on a couple of issues involving dishes…..

    Loved your post!

  21. Lisa

    Drives my kids crazy but we seldom use our dishwasher as intended. Rather, it is our dish drainer. Hubby and I both enjoy doing dishes and with a double window over our sink, it is a great time to relax and enjoy our beautiful view. After more than 20 years and 4 homes, I think this habit is here to stay!

  22. Jo

    I did the dish soap in the dishwasher thing once before. We had just gotten home late from somewhere. I started the dishwasher, put the kids to bed, then came downstairs to a soapy mess! Some of our laminate got a bit of water damage. My husband still won’t let me live it down. Just wait ’til he does it! Ha! ;-)

  23. Michelle

    Your dish grouping looks so great! I love white dishes as well & I enjoyed reading about your sentiments. One time after I had one of my babies, we were out of dishwashing powder, so we tried clothes detergent instead. The result was a CRAZY invasion of bubbles! Bubbles were coming out of the air vents like a horror movie. We never tried that again!

    Warmly, Michelle

  24. FairfieldHouse


    Thank you for the smile this morning! I have a memory of my father loading the dishwasher while we were out with my mother. When we returned he was in the living room watching TV totally unaware of the mess in the kitchen. We walked into what seemed like a “winter wonderland”! Soap suds covered the entire floor and the dishwasher looked like a rabid animal frothing at the mouth!

    Your Friend,

  25. Franki Parde

    Yup…been there…I thought, “oh, I’ll just put my hand soap dispenser in the top rack to “freshen” it up”…my hubby could hear my screams all the way in the garage…we wiped up bubbles for what seemed like hours. Who knew?!? P.S. I LUV my open more “sticking” doors, no more greasy knobs. I Luv dishes and have enough…until the next one… franki

  26. Lisa

    I love dishes on the walls. I don’t care if it’s not in vogue anymore, I will always do it, and who decides this stuff anyway if we all still like to do it? I totally know what you mean about your baker’s rack “floating” and the wall not looking right until you added some more – I am always tweaking things like that that seem off-kilter to me (that seem just fine to my husband!) Love all your white dishes you use in the kitchen!
    I just recently used dishwashing liquid in my WASHING MACHINE (not recommended, but I was desperate!!!) I call that being a resourceful mom! :)

  27. Heather Corin

    Melissa–I LOVE your white dishes. I’m in the market for new dishes since the majority of ours are chipped and/or broken. Where did you get yours? Thanks!!!

    • Melissa

      I collect dishes all the time, I find a lot of them at discount stores, HomeGoods, etc. You can never have too many white dishes, IMHO. ;-)

  28. My Design

    Decorating with dishes is in – again and probably can be considered a classic. Exception to the rule – not in rooms where dishes would be kinda creepy like bedroom and bath. :)

    • Melissa

      Good, I love keeping things classic!!!

  29. Denise

    Well Melissa, I love all of your dishes. I can tell by the way you speak that you take care to notice the little pleasures in life.
    I have never had a bad dishwasher experience, yay for me!

    I too like to take care of those dirty dishes before I go to bed. I don’t like dirty dishes in my head. I don’t like them in the sink. I don’t like them when they stink. I like them stacked up nice and clean, I like them stacked up to the ceiling. I like them stacked up one two three, I like them stacked like that you see. hahahaha! I went all Dr. Seuss on you. :)

    These rainy days are really getting to me I guess. :)

  30. Erin Morgan

    The first time I was left alone in the house for a week at my parents house (summer before my graduation year) I had a huge house party. In an effort to cover my tracks, I whipped all the dirty glasses in the dishwasher and filed it was soap (I had never actually started the dishwasher before, only emptied it)- apparently there is a difference between the two soaps! Just as my parents arrived home I was trying to collect all the suds off of the floor – at the other end of the house. They were less than impressed – but I never made that mistake again!!

    • Melissa

      HAAA. Hysterical. I can just picture that scene! Nice try though!

  31. Melissa

    This happened before at our house. A friend who was staying with us did it and it made a huge mess. Fortunately a cup or two of trusty vinegar, then another wash through, and the soap was gone!

  32. Kate

    Years ago, I rented an apartment in a brand new building, with brand new appliances, so I was utterly shocked to come home after running some errands and see bubbles spilling across the whole apartment. I called the maintenance people and they sent someone straight up. He took one look at the bubbles and said, rather condescendingly, “Well, that’s what happens when you use DISH soap.” I swore up and down that I would never have used dish soap, going so far as to show him my many boxes of reserve Cascade, all, “How dumb do you think I am?” Eventually he believed me, and spent a couple of hours working on the dishwasher, finally pronouncing it sound. After he left, I started to empty the clean dishes, and sitting right in the middle of the top rack? That would be my little dish scrubby ball, complete with the last remaining traces of the Palmolive I forgot to dump out of the mostly full soap compartment before washing. Oops!

  33. Jan

    One evening after work I was greeted by our frantic German exchange student. He tried to be helpful and load/run the dishwasher. You got it…using dish soap!! There were bubbles everywhere…..we sure had a good laugh….that is after I settled him down.

  34. Rita

    I’m pretty crazy about your wall of ironstone ware. Actually, I’m pretty crazy about any ironstone ware, but the wall is lovely.

  35. leslie

    I have to agree with you on all points… but I too am a sink stacker- drives my husband MAD! :)

  36. teresa

    Some of my most treasured items are dishes- My Father gave me a set of yellow, green, red and blue serving dishing that were my Mother’s; I received them after she died.
    I haven’t put dish soap in the dishwasher …but have put it in the washing machine….not a good idea either =)

  37. susan

    My lovely ancient butcherblock top KitchenAid hasn’t completely died,but i’ve taken to just handwashing. Because of its age, I had to scald&scrape anyway. Now that I am not working nutso [email protected]&events then running to a hospital,the folks’ or both, I just scrub’em. I will admit, I am a*scalder*&stacker,tho. I hv broken so many when hands don’t work,it’s better to wait. Never confuzzled soaps,yay! Hv sprayed hairspray in my pits tho! OUCH on fresh-shaved! (only time use pitspray,paperskin from meds) And I will always have “wall dishes”&trays&pretties! Daddy built plate rails for momma&me,and I will be hard-pressed not to swipe hers&the builtin corner cabs from the dining room when sell “home”(but all lookers love’em).Hate the thought :( but bro “wants his money”. His sons r heartbroken too,but none of us can “pay him off”.(sigh) ANYway,it really is the rituals&little “loveys” that make a *home*,not a house! :) I’ve been teased I’d hang pix on ‘crete under a bridge or on a tent pole! Hugz-s-

  38. Lana

    My dishwasher has been out of service for at least 7 or 8 years. I miss it so much! :(
    Hopefully when we renovate the kitchen this summer, I’ll get a new one.

    In answer to your question, “Have you ever put dish soap in your dishwasher?”, no, but once my sister bought liquid dishwasher detergent thinking it was regular dish liquid (she didn’t own a dishwasher). That’s not the worst of it! One evening she was out of bubble bath and thought she’d add a few squirts of the dish liquid to the water. She said she slipped and slid all over the tub! Needless to say, she watches what she buys now. :)

  39. nanne

    thank you so very much, melissa, for providing the link to the alabama disaster relief hub! these people need so much.

    on the subject of dishwashing….everyone in my family will rinse off their dishes, no problem. but for some reason, against union rules maybe.., the dishes never make into the dishwasher. they just sit there, waiting for me, the expert designated dishwasher loader.


  40. Bettsi

    Ahh, dishes! Yes, I love my dishes! I just downsized and I made the decision to make my mother’s wedding china (Johnson Bros. Old Mill Stream in multi) our only china. It gives me so much pleasure to see it, use it, wash it, care for it! I’m like you, nothing is more depressing than waking up to dirty dishes! I love emptying the dishwasher while the coffee perks in my vintage percolater. We are so blessed!

  41. Becky

    My teenagers can’t seem to find their way to the dishwasher from dropping off the dirty dishes by the sink. There’s only about 3 feet between the two of them. They don’t unload the dishwasher and I hate to do it so many times, it sits full of clean dishes, while I wash up the ones we just used by hand.

  42. Dawn Camp

    I love your new dishwasher! No, I don’t think I’ve ever put dishwashing liquid in mine, but anything’s possible around here. My mother would never turn on the dishwasher or washing machine before leaving the house: she’d only run them if she was home. I guess there’s a lot of sense in that!

  43. mjskit

    Still laughing! I love dishes also, but I have a friend that loves and collects lots and lots of dishes. She provides me most of the dishes for my blog’s photography. You and she should get together! :) Great post! Enjoyed it.

  44. SueDee

    Although very late to this conversation…thank you very much for remembering those in Alabama in the aftermath of the April tornadoes. Alabama, early in its recovery, has now experienced another series of tornadoes–which again, brought loss of life and property. I am again reminded of the simple joys in our home–a freshly made bed, clean towels, and “simple clean dishes”…how the morning sun bounces light down our front stairs. How blessed I am with the ‘worry’ of color schemes and tablescapes :-)


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