What Can Using a Dishwasher Teach Us?

Hint: There are no rules

“Has your therapist ever told you something completely unexpected?” is a question on Quora. Kate Scott answered. She told the story of a meeting with her therapist that transformed her life. During the session with him, he asked her:

“What are you struggling with?”

She answered, “Honestly? The dishes. It’s stupid, I know, but the more I look at them the more I CAN’T do them because I’ll have to scrub them before I put them in the dishwasher, because the dishwasher sucks, and I just can’t stand and scrub the dishes.”

His answer was simple but profound.

“Run the dishwasher twice.”

Do “rules” constrain your life?

One of the most liberating concepts anyone can learn is that there are no rules. Kate’s therapist told her to run the dishwasher twice, so Kate tried to explain the rule that you’re supposed to run it once.

Her therapist said, “Why the hell aren’t you supposed to? If you don’t want to scrub the dishes and your dishwasher sucks, run it twice. Run it three times, who cares?! Rules do not exist.”

I read another story about a woman who always cut the ends off a ham before putting it into a pan and cooking it. One day, her daughter asked her why she cut the ends of the ham. Her mother said that was what her mother always did, and that’s how she taught her. So the daughter asked her grandmother, “Grandma, why do you cut the ends off the ham before cooking it?” Her grandmother smiled and said that when she was raising her kids, she was poor. She only had one pot. It was too small to hold a whole ham, so she cut off the ends so the ham would fit.

The granddaughter thought cutting off the ends of hams was a rule. But there was no rule.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

How to free yourself from arbitrary rules that control your life?

When Kate went home, she threw the dishes into the dishwasher and washed them three times. It was so empowering she felt like she had “conquered a dragon.”

The next day she took a shower lying down. Then a few days later, she folded her laundry and put it wherever they fit.

By “breaking the rules” Kate discovered arbitrary rules were controlling her life. And she allowed it. By running the washer three times, lying down when showering, and putting laundry away where she wanted, she learned to break the rules was liberating. It gave her the freedom to live without rules.

Once she found freedom from her rules, she returned her life to normal. She washed the dishes once. She showered standing up. And she put the laundry where it belonged. But she did these things because she wanted to, and not because of some arbitrary rules.

Image by 11417994 from Pixabay

Final thoughts

Arbitrary rules are debilitating. They take away decision making personal power and force us to act in certain ways. But they aren’t real; they are self-imposed.

If you feel that the rules in your life are depressing you, do something different. If the lawn needs mowing, and you don’t want to do it because it takes too much time, cut half of it today and the rest tomorrow or next week.

There are no rules.

Mow the lawn tomorrow.

Published in The Ascent, The Writing Cooperative, Illumination-curated, Writers’ Blokke.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store