When I was at one of my lowest (mental) points in life, I couldn’t get out of bed some days. I had no energy or motivation and was barely getting by.
I had therapy once per week, and on this particular week I didn’t have much to ‘bring’ to the session. He asked how my week was and I really had nothing to say.
“What are you struggling with?” he asked.
I gestured around me and said “I dunno man. Life.”
Not satisfied with my answer, he said “No, what exactly are you worried about right now? What feels overwhelming? When you go home after this session, what issue will be staring at you?”
I knew the answer, but it was so ridiculous that I didn’t want to say it. I wanted to have something more substantial. Something more profound. But I didn’t. So I told him, “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.”
I felt like an idiot even saying it. What kind of grown woman is undone by a stack of dishes? There are people out there with actual problems, and I’m whining to my therapist about dishes? But my therapist nodded in understanding and then said:
“RUN THE DISHWASHER TWICE.”
I began to tell him that you’re not supposed to, but he stopped me.
“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, so stop giving yourself rules.”
It blew my mind in a way that I don’t think I can properly express.
That day, I went home and tossed my smelly dishes haphazardly into the dishwasher and ran it three times. I felt like I had conquered a dragon. The next day, I took a shower lying down. A few days later. I folded my laundry and put them wherever they fit. There were no longer arbitrary rules I had to follow, and it gave me the freedom to make accomplishments again.
Now that I’m in a healthier place, I rinse off my dishes and put them in the dishwasher properly. I shower standing up. I sort my laundry. But at a time when living was a struggle instead of a blessing, I learned an incredibly important lesson:
THERE ARE NO RULES. RUN THE DISHWASHER TWICE!
This is a wonderful story about finding freedom from arbitrary rules we impose on ourselves. When we’re struggling mentally and emotionally, little tasks can feel monumental and debilitating. The dishes represented more than just dirty plates – they had become a heavy burden weighed down by made-up rules about how they “should” be done.
With a simple, liberating reframing from her therapist – “Run the dishwasher twice!” – those restrictive rules melted away. Suddenly there were options instead of one “right” way fraught with anxiety. This allowed her to regain a sense of accomplishment from small victories. Over time, as her inner resources replenished, she naturally returned to more orderly habits. But the underlying lesson remained: she now had power to write her own rules.
What a compassionate therapist, to meet her where she was emotionally rather than dismissing her struggle as trivial.
This teaches us to extend that same grace to ourselves. Now when facing daunting tasks, we remember: there are no rules. The housework will still be there tomorrow; just do what you can today. Simple, but so freeing!
Please share this post if it resonated with you.