This one’s really fun! If you have a lot of people in your house, I’m going to encourage you to take an extra step in this system. There’s only four of us and the crux of this entire system revolves around one thing and one thing only: every single morning, your dishwasher needs to be ready to receive dirty dishes. Every morning, from now on.
What does that mean? For those of you with a lot of family members, that means every night you need to run your dishwasher. For us, we could run our dishwasher every single night, absolutely, and maybe you’re fine with that even though it’s not full. But for Blaine and me, we like to save on dishwasher pods and water, so we don’t wash until the dishwasher’s full.
Let me walk you through this system because this has been really successful for us. We don’t do it 100% of the time. And when we don’t do it, we get caught up in the stupid cycle of dishes in the sink, tons of dirty dishes, and I hate it. But I’ve been doing this specific system long enough to know that when we do it, it is unbelievably successful! And like every system that I teach, you have to DO the system for it to work. It doesn’t just work for you.
I’m still working on getting everyone on board with this system, specifically because there’s four of us contributing to the dirty dishes and two of those people are kids and Blaine is not home all the time. But here’s how it goes, you start out with a brand new, fresh, clean kitchen. There’s no dirty dishes anywhere. You have a small, and I’m talking tiny, dry rack. I have one that’s maybe 12 inches squared that looks like a little square of grass that I absolutely love, and everything needs to be put away out of it. If you don’t use a dishwasher, that’s fine, you still can do this exact same system. Start there at the dry rack with a clean slate.
Then there’s one rule and one rule only to this entire system, and everyone in your family has to understand what this new rule is. You are not allowed to put a dirty dish in the sink or on the counter. Ever. It does not live there. If it’s dirty, it either goes in the dishwasher or it’s a hand wash item and it gets washed immediately and gets put on the dry rack. Done.
This is what I say, “You’re not allowed to set it and forget it. You cannot put it in there.” Blaine’s favorite thing to do when he’s done with his coffee cup is to rinse it out and set it in the sink. And what that does is that cues to everyone that this is a holding basin for dishes. And the next person comes along and they put their dishes in there too, and the next person, and the next, and then you have a monstrosity of dishes sitting in the sink and there you are in that cycle.
So the person that is responsible, the person that starts the chain reaction whoever that is, like when Blaine puts his coffee cup in there, if somebody else comes behind him and puts dishes in there too, Blaine is responsible for washing every single dish. This is the game we play in our house. That triggers people to think, “I don’t want to wash everyone else’s dishes, I just want to wash my one dish. so I’m gonna wash my one dish or it’s going to go in the dirty dishwasher.”
Here’s the other reason why I said this whole thing hinges upon you having a dishwasher that is ready to receive dirty dishes, because if you have a dirty dish and it belongs in the dishwasher, but the dishes haven’t been unloaded, where are you gonna put it? You’re gonna set it in the sink. So you have to make sure that every single night the dishwasher is either going to be clean in the morning and you’re going to unload it or there’s room to put dirty dishes in it the next day.
So how do you make THAT happen? How do you make sure that every single night this happens? Because you go through dinner and it becomes hectic and it becomes a hassle, what happens then?
So, this is what we do. When I’m cooking dinner, I ALWAYS clean dishes as I go. I’m constantly cleaning dishes while I’m cooking, the entire time. Then, this is what you need to do friends, you need to implore little helpers. Your husband and your children should be helping serve the food and set the table. That should be their job. And guess what I’m doing while they’re doing that? I’m cleaning the kitchen. So that way, whenever we’re done, the only thing left is for every person at the table—my 3 year-old does it, by 8 year-old does it, my husband does it, and I do it—we get up, we take our dishes, we hand wash the ones that need to be hand washed, and we put the other ones in the dishwasher. They DO NOT go in the sink.
And then, if there’s a few pots, if there’s a few pans (which there normally are because there’s a little food left over), we put up the food in a container. And while everyone else in the family is putting the table back together, cleaning the crumbs off and picking up from dinner, I’m washing those pots and pans. BOOM, done! There are no leftover dinner dishes. I’m not coming down after we put the kids to bed to clean the kitchen; that’s not what we’re doing.
Then you’re either going to start the dishwasher because it’s full and it’s ready, or there’s plenty of room for you to go another day of putting dirty dishes in there.
Now, you say, “Chelsi, every single morning the dishwasher has to be ready to receive dirty dishes. I just ran the dishwasher, I’m gonna wake up in the morning to clean dishes. Now what? Now you’re telling me I have to unload the dishwasher every morning?”
I am telling you that. But I’m not telling you that you need to do it alone. Divide your dishwasher into zones by how many people you have in your family. If every single night you are running your dishwasher and you have four kids, divide the dishwasher into four zones. You have the top shelf, the bottom shelf, and the silverware, right? So maybe the hardest or the fullest (ours is always the top shelf because it has all the little random things) can be divided into two. So two kids get to do the top shelf, another kid does the bottom, and another does the silverware. Done. That’s their job in the morning.
And guess what? There is incentive for them helping out with things like that. For me, it’s the incentive of how I help them get through their morning. If I know that something’s hard for them, like getting dressed or making their bed, I’m more than happy to go help them with something because they helped me with something. That’s the way we build super supportive, real equal relationships in this house where it’s not mom telling you to do it, but mom needs your help with this and you need mom’s help with that. How awesome!
We communicate, we talk about it. And I don’t force chores on my kids, which leads me to the third thing.