Hot Water Sundays: A Metaphor for Happiness

Hot Water Sundays: A Metaphor for Happiness

Washing dishes is one of my daily chores. Quite frankly, it’s the only chore I do on a regular basis, but I trust my reader will see that this is compensated by its importance.

You see, in our household, dishwashing is a notable endeavor because my wife, Ambra, is a food stylist, recipe developer, and founder of Little Bites of Beauty, a health food website for people with special dietary needs or for people simply on-the-go.

Every day there’s a new creation, photo shoot, recipe, or project in the kitchen. And as much as I love being the guinea pig for her new experimentations, it always comes with a compromise: the dishes.

I average three cycles a day and surprisingly never use the dishwasher, except to dry the dishes after hand washing them. It’s simply not practical when using blenders, food processors, large pots, or cast iron that requires hand washing.

Save from having a full-time-live-in-maid, the kitchen clean-up is on me (A small tradeoff considering I’m experiencing a taste-of-heaven, savoring all those sensational gourmet meals).

Still, I’m on the hook.

(Readers of my blogs may know that I’ve tried various ways to optimize my time doing the dishes; my two favorites are podcasts and thinking. In fact, some of my best epiphanies come while washing dishes—and for you organizers and GTO advocates, here’s a bonus tip: I’ll often use my clean-up-detail as a means of interrupting my work routine, thereby creating 30 minutes to 1 hour work intervals, which seems to optimize my work/focus time.)

Surrendering to my inevitable fate, I have accepted my duty with pride. I keep a clean ship; I always use the same organic green soap (I like the color and smell and appreciate that it’s an environmentally safe product). I even have a favorite green-and-yellow-sponge: Its two-sided, duel nature of soft and coarse cleans most efficiently.

Now that my newfound appreciation for sponges is out there, it’s time to delve into my philosophical dilemma:

Hot or cold?

When asking around, I’ve learned that most people go hot. When pressed further, it becomes apparent people don’t think twice about their decision, citing habit or the classic, hot water cleans dishes better, a myth my own experiences prove to debunk.

Despite enjoying the sensation of hot water warming my hands, my default has always been to go 100% cold.


Indeed, when I recently shared my cold-water-dishwashing views with a close friend, he retorted, “The war is over. You don’t need to save every penny.”

From a practical standpoint I’d have to agree. Where we live, water conservation isn’t an issue (sorry California); nonetheless, I practice responsible water conservation, only using water when it’s necessary. Surely then I could grant myself the extravagant expenditure of hot water to make a chore more pleasant.

There are only two possible explanations for this outlier: either I’m a massive dishwashing fish, or there’s a logical explanation for using cold water.

With the remnants of a banana ice cream still at the bottom of the Vitamix, I put down the sponge, washed the soap from my hands, and sat on my armchair to think.

I came to the conclusion that I used cold water as a metaphor.

Hot water is an indulgence, and doing it excessively creates an expectation that it will always be there. And isn’t it true that if we always chose the indulgent option—similar to reverse implied pot odds—the indulgency demands more input with progressively decreasing rewards.

Personally, I notice symptoms of this in my every day life. It’s very difficult to be grateful for things which are actually a luxury: heat, Internet, iPhones, etc.

Hot water is perhaps the quintessential example of such a luxury. But what if we could engineer gratitude in the simplest of tasks? What if washing the dishes could make me more grateful and happier with each clean knife and fork?

The solution?

Hot water Sundays!

When washing dishes, I use cold water Monday–Saturday and hot water on Sundays—and sometimes, if I’m feeling lavish, once on Wednesday.

I’ve found that every time I wash the dishes, I’m primed for a mental state of gratitude. In modern society, the standard is hot water cleans dishes. But as a poker player trained to go against the grain, I prefer turning mundane, mechanical responses into fresh and different experiences; consequently, because I use hot water so sporadically, it’s easy—almost automatic—to experience gratitude for a modern day luxury that I otherwise overlook.

When using cold water, I appreciate the fact that I get to do it by choice. That undeniable truth fills me with an overwhelming sense of humility and gratitude. It’s just another (much needed) reminder that I get to, I don’t have to . Washing the dishes, then, becomes another daily reminder of just how lucky I truly am.

Hot and cold isn’t a practical dilemma but rather a challenge to see if I can optimize for more happiness. Creating an environment where I’m continually reminded of that fact, three-times-a-day, keeps me in a perpetual state of gratitude.

And with that pithy armchair discovery, I got up and off my armchair, turned on the iceberg-cold-winter-water, and continued the arduous task of separating dried banana from the blade.


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