Our homes tend to have lots of appliances, many of them what we would consider necessities, like a refrigerator, a cook-top and oven or a stove, but I've been thinking about the appliances that really aren't necessary, when you think about it. It's just that when you get used to having them around, you never want to go without them again.
Here's a list of my favorite non-necessary housekeeping appliances:
1. washer/dryer -- My life after my college graduation was spent in finding living quarters that either had a washer and dryer or were close to a respectable laundromat. The day I moved into a rental house that not only had two bedrooms and a nice yard, but also had a full-sized washer and dryer in a laundry room, I was nearly hysterical with joy. Anyone who has ever spent time in a laundromat along with some seedy looking people who seem to be there for the express purpose of washing the smell of marijuana out of their clothes will understand this feeling.
2. dishwasher -- I grew up, spoiled, in a house with a dishwasher. Then that dishwasher broke and my parents, ever frugal, decided that I could become the dishwasher. When my mother remodeled her kitchen when I was in college, I was overjoyed when we went to pick out that sturdy KitchenAid, wringing my dishpan hands in glee.
3. microwave -- Believing that microwave popcorn is an abomination, I still use the microwave for a number of little tasks, like heating up my soup, melting butter, heating water for hot tea and cooking bacon. Yes, cooking bacon. My mom bought me a microwave bacon-cooker at Wal-Mart for something like $8 and it has been one of my favorite things ever in this world. I bless the dual inventors of the microwave and the bacon-cooker. They are brilliant, extraordinary people and should be given medals and trophies which I could probably purchase out of the money I've saved by not having to buy grease-cutting stove cleaner by the gallon.
4. bread machine -- All the yummy of homemade bread with none of the fuss. Sometimes, when I feel that our lives are too ruled by stuff, I get Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books out of the playroom bookcase and read about what those poor pioneer folks had to go through to make a simple loaf of bread and then I go downstairs, call the florist, and have roses delivered to my bread machine.
5. little food chopper -- I have never owned a food processor, but I do have a tiny Black & Decker food chopper that I bought when Meelyn was a baby and getting ready to eat solid foods. I used to whirl peas and carrots and green beans and chicken breast in it for her (and then did the same for Aisling a couple of years later), but when they grew out of the need for whirled food, I kept on using it to chop carrots and celery and hunks of Parmesan cheese and onions and all kinds of stuff. It is a nice thing to have and really saves the fingers from being skinned on one of those old-fashioned graters.
These are the five things I use the most frequently and I can't imagine having to do without any of them, but my dishwasher would have to be the thing I would hate to get rid of the most.
In the little city where my husband works, there is a really nice laundromat and when all's said and done, I suppose the girls and I could schlep the dirty clothes over there and do that neat trick where you efficiently do the entire week's laundry by using five washers at once. That is one benefit of laundromats. But this is theory, not practice. Two months ago, when our ten-year-old washer gave out (with its life mate, the dryer, going into some kind of Victorian decline and developing an alarming squealing noise that made the washer repairman, who had just declared our washer D.O.A., give it a grim look and say, "That is not a good sound") I was so very grateful for financial whiz Dave Ramsey's insistence on having money saved up so that I could go right out and buy a new set.
Dave Ramsey, besides being awe-
somely handsome, also encouraged
us to become debt-free and save up
the money to be able to buy a new
appliance when an old one croaks.
The dishwasher is good to have because it makes it possible to hide all the dirty dishes that seem to constantly be loitering around my sink. And I can't stand to see dishes in the sink, I just can't stand it. I am philosophical about dust and have become resigned about doggy nose prints on the windows, but a mess in the kitchen is anathema to me. I know this sounds a little like I need some kind of soothing medication, but when I see my kitchen looking yucky -- dishes in the sink, mail scattered on the table, a wet teabag reposing forlornly on the counter -- I feel very anxious and irritable, with a desire to go shout at my family and say, "You are all pigs. PIGS."
My first dishwasher was purchased for $50, a portable Whirlpool that was formerly owned by my friend, Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen had a really freakishly annoying husband whose hobby was accumulating vast amounts of debt, buying mostly computer stuff, but then assuaging his guilt for being a selfish, immature you-know-what by using his many credit cards to buy things for Mary Ellen that she didn't even want.
Like the dishwasher.
Mary Ellen and Whatsizname lived in the tiniest house I have ever seen, but also the cutest. Every wee little room was just as perfect as could be and her garden was like something out of a magazine. Her kitchen, and I am not kidding about this, was probably 10x10. It was big enough for a stove, a fridge and one itty-bitty cabinet to the left of the fridge that had two small workplaces and the sink.
The rest of the room in there was taken up by a kitchen table for four from IKEA and, of course, this enormous clodhopper of a dishwasher. Mary Ellen pointed out that she thought Whatsizname had bought it on purpose because he knew the space in there would be so tight, they wouldn't be able to sit at the table anymore. She sat and ate with their little daughter; Whatizname sat and ate at the computer (and probably flirted with girls in sleazy online chatrooms; Al Gore had just invented the internet.)
Mary Ellen also brought my attention to the fact that, in order to use the dishwasher, she would have to move the kitchen table and all four chairs into the miniscule laundry room, hook it up to the sink and let it do its stuff, and then move it back, along with the table, et cetera. Not practical.
So in a fit of pique at Whatsizname, she told me she'd sell it to me for $50. At the time, I was flush with birthday money, so I told her I'd give her $150. She told me that she wanted $50. I told her that that was not enough money; Whatsizname was probably making payments on the dumb thing that were at least that much. So she accepted $150 and then mailed $100 back to me a few days later.
She insisted that I take it then, so she and I half-rolled, half-carried the dishwasher out of her house, shrieking with laughter, and somehow loaded it into the back of my little station wagon. I'm still not sure how, but I think it involved butter.
I got it home and my husband unloaded it and I ran the first load with, like, one fork, just to hear it swishing away.
That dishwasher lasted for eleven years. When it finally broke, I was very sad because we hadn't yet discovered Dave Ramsey and his practical advice about emergency funds and we had to save up the money for a new one. It took three long, sad months of washing dishes by hand, and if I tell you that the sink water was mostly salty, you'll know why.
The new dishwasher is also a Whirlpool and it came with us from our old house to our new house because there is no under-the-counter dishwasher here either. Mostly because our new house is very old and 150 years ago, dishwashers were named Hazel and Alice and Pauline instead of Whirlpool. My kitchen is a nice size,but it wasn't meant to hold a refrigerator, a table and a dishwasher with room left over to make a meat loaf. I do have a lovely appliance garage near the sink where one could go, but then where would I put Items #4 and #5 from my above list? Not to mention the turkey platter and the toaster.
So my Whirlpool portable has pride of place on the wall near the sink, where a couple of pushes bellies it nicely up to the faucet. I wonder what I'll do with it if we move in a couple years and we go to a place that has one? Will I keep it because of its sentimental value, or keep it as a second string washer?
Maybe I could sell it to someone for $50 and let the Whirlpool bring me full circle.
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