A Healing Table: Simplicity and the Kitchen Sink

(Part five in a series on finding simplicity when living with chronic pain/limits; the full series can be found here)

The kitchen sink is a place a homemaker spends so much of her time, so its pretty important i feel. There's the spiritual side of this, like the comfort of creating a nice "kitchen sink shrine" there (gone into here). That part is core i feel, our spirits need things like this...and even more so when we are in pain.

Then there's the practical side. Basically, if something on your sink (or anywhere really) isnt adding to making a cheerful prayerful place for you to work at, or truly needed, i find its best to let it go. And to be dilgient about it. Truly, its worth it... an uncluttered sink makes things SO much easier. And so many little things usually can go.

Do we really need for example measuring cups and spoons out? Might it be easier and far less cluttery to find out how much the spoons and cups we already usually have out (becuase you use them for meals) hold, and use them to measure with instead? Things like that sound silly, but they have really helped in cutting down on the clutter. Likewise things like paper towels can be eliminated (use a dishcloth instead, or have a small roll of tp in a subtle place for when something paper is really needed). And the only cleanser that is really needed, for both dishes and hands and counter wiping/general cleaning and the like, is a simple bar of natural soap (i use Dr Bronners) in a little plastic (safer than glass) soapdish. We went for generations without different special cleansers for everything, let alone liquid soaps. Seriously, a simple bar does the job beautifully, and definitely cuts down on the sink clutter... not to mention the cost.

For extra cleaning power when needed, a small clear squirt bottle can be filled with vinegar and a small clear plastic jar with baking soda. Simple basic things like this stuff can easily be added to the scene, with the sink still left soothing and uncluttered. And also, none of these things leave an icky residue on your dishes either that need to be rinsed forever and a day....in fact, all of these things are safely injestible when it comes down to it (even the soap, if its the Dr Bronners or similar, which is made solely from purely natural ingredients; some even use it to brush their teeth with).

The truth is, what we touch or breathe in effects us just as much as when we injest it. From here, " There is no barrier between the brain and the chemicals that you breathe in…. Studies have shown that inhaling fragrance chemicals can cause circulatory changes in the brain. Changes in electrical activity in the brain also occur with exposure...What’s more, our skin is the largest body organ that soaks up toxins into its system." Using simple basic real things, including even on the sink and the like, it has been a necessity in my life i have to admit, becuase of my EI/chemical sensitivity. But even if this werent a factor, it makes a true difference i feel in things being more nourishing and peaceful.

Then there is ergonomics at the sink. I find using a cushioned floor mat really helps...though there's no need to have to buy the ones in the store made for that purpose...you know, the pricey ones with their busy distracting designs on them. Instead a simple impact reducing exersize mat can be cut down to size, leaving you with several mats to put at places you need them (or even doubled for extra softness). Then each mat can be covered with a nice pillowcase in a color that matches your home (folded and pinned underneath to make it snug and smooth). These mats are not only cheaper, but will last longer as the exercise mats tend to be of better quaility than the household aisle ones. And they can stay clean looking rather than quickly getting tattered, since you can wash the pillowcases, or later replace them if needed.

Then there is the area of and sponges and scrubbers. Something so "normal" as a dish sponge can be an ergonomic nightmare with the firm grip they demand, not to mention hard to keep clean. Its so much easier i think, and less sink cluttering too, to just use a small dishcloth (you can cut your own out of material/color of choice) that can be draped over the faucet or sink wall when not in use. These can be used with far less grip and strain, and are also easier to to keep clean i've found. Another small cloth can be there as well, for household cleaning. I tend to also have a third, kind of off to the side, for using on "grungy" stuff only.

And also, sometimes its easier to skip the cloth even. I know that must sound so odd, but at times when pain makes you need to do things one handed, its easiest i find to swipe your hand accross the soap bar and just wash the dish with your hand, since this way it can be done one handed. Hey, painful times call for creative measures sometimes : )

For scrubbing, the scrubber sponges likewise are pretty hard to use i think. The best thing i have found is the tiny little flat scrubbers that are homemade (crocheted with scrubby material) and sold at craft fairs.

(Image from Simply Catholic. There is a lovely window reflection at this link as well)

Postscript: As if this post wasnt long enough lol, but i just have to add this. Both the qoute and the image below are from Holy Experience:

"She hadn’t heard of the building permit till she had washed three weeks of meals at that sink. I was there the day the man who applied for the permit walked by, met her on the driveway, mentioned that he was going to build a shed behind her, cutting off that green skirt.

I stood in the doorway, leaned hard against the jam. Mama managed words, something about living 30 years on the farm and that view making the move to town manageable. Choked out that she wouldn’t have come if it weren’t for those fields comforting, calling.

“Money can’t buy a view.” Mr. Perkin shrugged his shoulders, turned toward the neighbor’s door and the next breaking of the news.

Wasn’t long before the neighbors passed a petition. Mama decided instead to bring cookies, flowers, to the elderly Mr.Perkin and his wife, offering her best wishes. She stayed while they showed her the plans, nodding, smiling.

She sat through the hearings at town council, and the appeal to the provincial level, the briefings of how Mr. Perkin could build in three other locations on his land at the other end of the street without interfering the view of any of the neighbors, how no other property owners had implement sheds for RVs on their lots, how Mr. Perkin had sold these lots twenty years ago with the promise he would never build behind the owners. Things change, and so does a man’s word.

The next door neighbors went west for weeks, right after the hammering began. Watching those stud walls slowly go up in front of the windows and brick up over land and trees and sky smothered. They beat a (temporary) escape.

I wasn’t expecting what I saw when I drove in sometime last week, came directly around the back of Mama’s house, wanting to see if any frayed green still clung.

Within steps of the property line, an eight foot grey fabric vapor barrier sheared off 30 feet of verdant life that just last week rolled from here down to the river and away the other side. The asphalt roof poked another 15 feet into the blue. I raised a hand, wanting to brush it all way, shake out leaves and blade and emeralds growing. I grieved for Mama.

I found her in the kitchen, at the sink. I’m not sure what to say. “Well, Mama...” She turns. “I’m sorry… I saw it, and I’m sorry. ” I’m searching her eyes.

Mama smiles, grabs my hand, and pulls me towards her and the kitchen window.

“See?” She’s beaming. I look out the window, confused. From in here, looking out the kitchen window, I don’t see a barricade clipping off life. The only view’s out on a blooming profusion of pink fuchsias.

She's giddy. “I can’t take away the shed. But I can choose my own view! Why look at a wall when I could choose flowers?” She laughs, radiant...."


There really is something so core about our kitchen window, and our inner windows too. Its funny, when i move from a place, i 've started taking a picture of the view from the kitchen window, becuase i know that's the view i will remember most from the place. And i wonder...will it be the same when we leave our earthly home? Will it be the views from the "window" we remember most? How much more vital it is then, to simplify, to beautify, and most importantly to make more prayerful our "view"...

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