Introduction: Simplify Doing the Dishes

About: EmmettO is a general mad scientist, blacksmith, metalcaster and former Unix admin. Now he fixes darn near anything that people throw at him and breaks things that need to be broken.
At my house we hate doing dishes. Doing laundry is considered slightly less painful. We have a dishwasher but because we almost never eat out and frequently have to make food from scratch we have LOTS of dishes and the dishwasher can't keep up. We've even seriously considered having two dishwashers.

The point of this instructable is how we, very easily, simplified the task of doing dishes in our house.

This would also work great for people that don't have a dishwasher.

Step 1: Examine Your Sink

Look in your dishes pit (aka sink) and look at what takes the longest to wash by hand. Pots and pans usually take up a lot of space but unless food is really stuck on, they wash up pretty quick. We would have a lot of silverware floating around in there to but we could easily process it all in one load in the dishwasher.

The thing that took the longest was the bowls, plates and cups. Plates and bowls can be pretty messy and they would build up during the day. We would have had to wash dishes three times a day (or more when you count dessert) to keep up. That was too much for us or was it?

Step 2: Ration Your Dishes

We decided that there were too many times when we and the kids would grab a bowl or plate or cup, use it for ten minutes and then toss it in the sink. They would build up over the day. We would try to use a cup for water or juice throughout the day but we would forget or two of us would have similar cups and we'd loose track of which one was which. We even tried each of us having a place where we kept a cup. That didn't work at all.

Realizing we would have to eat and drink far less or actually keep up with the dishes we set out to find a way to enforce doing the dishes.

We decided that everyone would have their own bowl and plate (we recently added our own cups). Unless company was over and we were eating with the fancy dishes, no one is allowed to use anything other than their assigned dishes.

We got unbreakable plastic dishes from a local grocery store because we have young children. Using a Sharpie marker we write the first initial of each of us on the bottom of the dish.

Step 3: Wash As You Go

Now everyone has to wash their dish in order to eat the next meal. At first the kids would still throw their dishes in the sink and then have to scrub them when they wanted to eat again but they've learned the value of washing immediately after eating as the food is not stuck on yet. 

Really the main thing this does is enforce the dishes being washed. If anyone comes to the table without their designated dish it's obvious and asked why they didn't use their designated dish. However it does do two other things that helps make washing dishes less painful.

1. It spits the job among the whole family. Instead of one or two of us tackling a mountain of dishes after dinner, everyone does dishes for a minute or two several times a day. 

2. Allows the job to be done faster because of the reduced number of dishes that have to be done (only 1-3 per person).

Using this simple method we've greatly reduced our dishes disorder.

Step 4: Adding Silverware to the Rationing

If we didn't have a dishwasher we would definitely ration silverware. We already have these foons that we use when packing a lunch. Everyone has a color to identify who's foon is who's. 

These foons are from Light My Fire, we found them in the camping section of a store and are quite durable. We've been using two of them for over two years, the other two we got within the last 6 months.

Step 5: Tackling Pots and Pans

We still hate having to wash pots and pans. I haven't figured out a way of reducing them yet. They don't get used the way dishes do. For now they're either put in the dishwasher or done later in the day.

If anyone has a suggestion for simplifying a stack of pots and pans leave a comment on how you would do it.