Friday, August 19, 2011

The Dreaded Dishes

I have a confession to make.  I hate doing the dishes.

No, that's not the confession.  The confession is that I hate doing the dishes so much that I bought more dishes so I could go longer without doing them.  My husband hates doing the dishes.  My kids hate doing the dishes.  That means we need more dishes so we don't have to fight about them as often.



As part of my efforts to live my minimalist desires, we have gotten rid of most of our dishes.  We used to have 2-3 plates per person, probably 3 bowls a piece, and I'd guess at least 5 glasses each.  We have seven people in our family.  You do the math.  That's a lot of dishes.

And when you hate doing them as much as we do, that means you don't do them until you absolutely have to -- when you run out of dishes.  So when you finally do them there are a lot of dishes to wash.

We now have only enough dishes for each of us to have one of each.  Each person has a spot in the cupboards.  This is where they keep their dishes.  They have a plate, a bowl, a mug, a small cup, a large cup, a table knife, a fork, a large spoon, and a small spoon.  There are a couple of extras.  One person got to keep her hot cocoa cup.  One person traded a large spoon for a fork.  But basically that's it.

And this is what that means.  Each person is responsible for his/her dishes.  Some of us wash them right after we eat, so that they are ready the next time we want to eat.  Others stick them in the sink, but end up washing them soon anyway because that's all they have to eat off of.  We wash them by hand because we are washing one or two at a time.  This means less running of the dishwasher (which wasn't as effective anymore anyway since the law required changes in dishwasher soap).  It means fewer dirty dishes stacked in my kitchen.  It means no one is relying on someone else to do their chores before they have clean dishes available.  It means fewer dishes left throughout the house.  It means no more tracking down strange smells because a dish that still has food on it is left somewhere in the house.  It means a lot more personal responsibility.

My kids are older (13 and up) so they can easily do their own dishes.  And they all know how to use the dishwasher so I don't feel like I am neglecting their instruction.

When I first presented the idea my family thought I was insane.  I planted the idea about a month before it was implemented (due to my energy level).  Then one day we went through the cupboards and pulled everything out.  People chose their stuff, it was placed in their spot, and everything else was boxed up and put away.  It's not gone yet.  Not because I'm not committed, just because I haven't made another run to the thrift donation area.  Soon.

Everyone's biggest concern was about guests.  What if we want to have someone over for dinner?

Okay, seriously, we rarely have anyone over for dinner.  When we do it's usually just one person.  I let my daughter keep an extra plate because if someone is going to be here when we eat it's probably her boyfriend.  If it's someone else, they can use his stuff.

We also kept a picnic set.  This is a plate, bowl, and cup for each of us along with silverware.  It's stored in a carrying case that is packed away.  These are emergency settings just in case and will be used when we go to a church function and are supposed to bring our own dishes.  They won't be used often.

I have not solved the problem with the dishes used for cooking.  Since we no longer have a lot of dishes our old assignments for dish washing don't quite fit.  I'm working on a plan for that.  We already don't own a lot of food preparation dishes.  That means that even if people don't wash as they go, things don't stay dirty long. 

We've only been living with this setup for about a week, but so far it seems to be a great success.  People are happy with it.  I haven't heard a single complaint.  (Before, yes.  Since, no.)  It's working.

And how can you argue with the system when it works?

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OpenID said...

Here's how lazy I am: We'll run the dishwasher (which is completely full) and instead of emptying the dishwasher right away. I just pull new dishes and utensils from the washer to use. Until eventually I have few dishes to put away and more to load. Ridiculous, I know.

August 19, 2011 at 11:30 PM  
Blogger K and D Roylance said...

Paper plates at our house.

August 20, 2011 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Dawnelle said...

There's been a war between me and dishes for many years. But I haven't been able to transfer washing them to my kids earlier. One, they've been too young (Just recently started the older two on washing). Two, I don't want to scar them like I feel I have been. Three, I hate greasy, food-flecked dishes--it's the learning curve I'm not looking forward to.

I think your new method is brilliant and I holler my enthusiasm, "Hurray for you!!!!" I now go to hand wash dishes for 10 people!

August 20, 2011 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Whatever works is right!!

August 20, 2011 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Bre And Drew said...

GREAT idea!

August 20, 2011 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

Sheer brilliance!
Finally, here is one problem I don't have--but then I live alone. I do have a friend who uses only paper dishes and plastic utensils. She works hard all day and lives alone and doesn't have a dishwasher; so why not.

August 20, 2011 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

This is an awesome system and I'll definitely have to remember it when my kids get older. This summer we resorted to using paper to have a reprieve from the stress and arguing. My biggest problem is I cook a lot of ethnic foods and have different kinds of dishes for each one. I know that's where I need to trim down and some day I suppose the insanity will push me to it.

Here's a post I wrote recently about dish duty in my house

August 20, 2011 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger Birdie said...

Great idea!

I hate doing the dishes too. I have a dishwasher now and I love it but I make my kids unload it.

August 20, 2011 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Love this idea! :-)

August 20, 2011 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger Deidre said...

I love that you're taking a minimalist approach and cutting down on stuff.

Inspector Climate and I do our dishes every night and IC even insists on drying them and not letting them air dry!

Of course we don't have kids!

August 21, 2011 at 4:52 AM  
Blogger MaggieJo said...

I first got a glimpse of this in college. Each roommate had a cup. I have started it with Chad and I. I try to keep the kids to one cup a day. I can't wait until they are older to expand it. Huzzah for you!!!

August 21, 2011 at 6:06 PM  
Anonymous Libby said...

I thought everyone lived like that! The boys have their own plates and I refuse to use anything but my own tea cup so it's already very minimalist in our house. I love hearing of your life changes.
P.S. I like doing the dishes! It was punishment at boarding school but the industrial dishwasher was just too cool!

August 22, 2011 at 2:58 AM  
Blogger Saretta said...

Sounds pretty radical, but effective! Keep us posted on how it works out!

August 22, 2011 at 4:12 AM  
Blogger Tagtraumbärchi said... sounds totally weird but I guess it could work for everyone.
If we just had the dishes we really NEED I guess we could finally get rid of at least two cupboards in our kitchen and had much more work surface...which would be awesome Ö.Ö

It's great that it seems to be working for your family.


August 22, 2011 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger LBDDiaries said...

What an amazing solution! I couldn't do that but only because I'm not ready to give away my grams and mom's crystal, silver and china. They have a place of their own and I pull them out every now and then to set a beautiful table. I might try this with the everyday dishes, tho. ANYTHING to lessen the workload!

August 23, 2011 at 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Caren with a "C" said...

I hadn't thought of that solution before! I just buy paper plates when I get too overwhelmed with the dishes, because no one likes to do them at our house... at least that is what I thought until last night my 8 year old said she wanted to help scrub the pots and pans and load the dishwaher.. so heck, I let her!
So are you going to make the missionaries flip a coin for the extra plate? LOL

August 24, 2011 at 2:59 AM  
Anonymous Kimberly at Rubber Chicken Madness said...

Brilliant! Maybe I'll try it with the boys' underwear.

On second thought, probably not such a great plan for undergarments, huh?

August 24, 2011 at 6:35 AM  
Blogger Leslie said...

This is so vet Frank Lloyd Wright! With a family of seven, mist of our dishes would be taken up as well! Great idea!

August 24, 2011 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Brilliant! Yes, Brilliant! Do you think a 4 year old and a 2 year old could do their own? I know a husband can... Love it!

August 25, 2011 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Katy said...

Way to go! Did you have to have each plate different so you know whose is whose? I think it sounds great!

August 25, 2011 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Jessica {Team Rasler} said...

Ok, I cannot WAIT until my kids are old enough so I can implement this system. They are 3 and 1, so I probably have a long way to go...

August 28, 2011 at 11:20 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

OMG, that's brilliant! I laughed at the beginning of this post because I did the same thing yesterday! Maybe it's time to change my thinking and downsize! I'm going to give this a shot. You know, as soon as I get the dishes washed so I can get rid of them!

Following you from SITS

August 29, 2011 at 1:00 AM  
Blogger Kelly Latour said...

What a great idea! We just bought new dishes, so i'm not willing to pare down yet, but we only picked up settings for 6, so the collection still isn't huge. Between the 2 of us the dishwasher runs every 2 days and my husband is the lucky one to do all the pots and pans. Our deal is that if you cook you don't have to clean and he almost never cooks!

August 29, 2011 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger Christy, Home-Mom said...

I LOVE this idea. My kids are 7, 5, 2, and 9mos but I think I could def implement this system. We are already low on cabinet space and some how after cleaning out the clutter it clutters back up.

I'm going to run this by the hubs today to see what he thinks. I do all the dishes anyways, this would help me tons!!!

Stopping in from SITS .)

August 29, 2011 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger AB HOME Interiors said...

Yes paper plates solve many problems, until you realize they go in landfills.....but I find doing the dishes theraputic. Yes I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous. But I much prefer washing the dishes in the sink, rather than the dish washer and like washing them while I think...just hate to put them away!

August 30, 2011 at 9:32 AM  
Anonymous PatriciaD said...

I love your creative solution to the "dishes" problem and wow, do I get it. I don't really HATE the doing dishes but it is by far one of my least favorite chores. Especially right now because we live in the boonies in Alaska and don't have running water, have to heat the water to do the dishes and well you get the's a PAIN in the you know what. ARGH!!

Anyway, just wanted to say thank you, thank you for visiting my blog on my SITS day last month and hope you'll visit again soon at

September 5, 2011 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Adrian's Crazy Life said...

I have often thought about doing this. It sounds like it has been a good change for you - I may have to get my family to agree to try this. I think our problem is that my Mom worked during the week, so she really only did the dishes on weekend and I see where we are drifting in the same habit - ew.

I have been reading a book called Change Anything and I really recommend it to anyone who is trying to make ANY kind of a change. I was quite impressed with it and even took a 2 day training class with these people to try and get my own habits under control. They have a website where you build and track your change plans. They just gave me a code today to share with people for a free 3 month website membership. No scam - it's totally legit. 3 months and if you don't like it, you just let it go. It is change20 at the website.

September 26, 2011 at 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Betsy @ Romance on a Dime said...

That's a great idea!! I love the minimalistic approach! I hate doing dishes too! In fact, I'm reading your blog instead of the dishes I need to do!

October 14, 2011 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Mila Myk said...

Great system!

May 28, 2015 at 4:37 PM  

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