Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Works For Me Wednesday ~ Conquer the Dish Monster

We finally did it. After I don't know how long since I was inspired by a story in a magazine, we finally pared-down our dishes.

We don't have a dishwasher [cue violin music]. Our entire four-person family has had some sort of a cold/infection/nastiness for the last 9 days (rendering us unable to stand long enough to do them), so our dishes were absolutely disgraceful. Like, to the point where the bottom ones had stuff growing in them. Ew. Unfortunately, this is not the first time it's gotten to that point. For those of you with dishwashers, perhaps your problem is getting your kids *coughHUSBANDcough* to put their dirty dishes in there instead of dumping them in the sink.

Anyway, fortunately, my husband recovered first (yay!) and spent over an hour tackling the leaning tower of filth on Monday while I wasted away on the couch. After getting most of the dishes clean, we decided to pare them down. We didn't want to get rid of all of our matched dishes, and some things held sentimental value, but it seemed absolutely ridiculous for two adults and a toddler to dirty so many dishes. We were also sick of all the melamine "kid" tableware that couldn't tolerate hot food or microwaving (all our other dishes are stoneware).

We divided the dishes into three categories — usable, guest, and other — and divided our kitchen dish cabinets the same way, from the bottom up.

For the "usable" dishes, we pulled out two dinner plates, two small plates, two large bowls (for soup or salad), two cereal bowls (for cereal), and two tiny bowls (for ice cream), plus a small stoneware plate, small bowl, and tiny bowl for our toddler. So each of us has one set of dishes — all we could possibly need for a meal. These all went on the lowest (most reachable) of the three shelves in the upper kitchen cabinet. The same goes for cups and mugs; each adult got one tall glass, one juice glass, and one mug. Our toddler got two sippy cups and a mug. These items are all we're allowed to use for ourselves, period. If we forget to wash our bowls after using them, we have to wash them before we can use bowls again — even if we're in a hurry or don't feel like it or something. No getting one off a different shelf "just this once" or anything. Aside from the fact that this will get us in the habit of doing the dishes regularly, it's also great to know that we'll never have huge mounds of dishes again!

The rest of the matching glasses, plates, and bowls went on the next shelf up, the "guest" shelf. On the rare occasion that we have company over, our guests will be "allowed" to use the other items that match what we already use regularly. In the case of mugs (who doesn't accumulate those?), we only put two on the guest shelf. For guest "sippys," we kept all the restaurant kids' cups with plastic lids and straws. I shudder when I think of someone else's kid chewing on the spout of one of our sippys.

The bowls that none of us like to use got put in the "other" category, as did the cups that my husband hates to wash because his hand doesn't fit all the way inside. :) The "kidware" and the sippys that we hate went there, too, all up on the highest shelf in the cabinet. The theory is, if we can go weeks or months without using those things (or in the case of the hated sippys, if our son never asks for them), it's probably safe to get rid of them. The items we rarely use (sports bottles, travel mugs) went up there too, but that's because we don't need to have them readily-accessible.

It isn't really pretty and neat to look at, since the upper shelves are more crammed than the "usable" shelf, but it's so AWESOME in the functionality department. It's so easy to see three or four dirty dishes sitting there from lunch and just wash them, as opposed to seeing three or four dirty dishes sitting there and then thinking, "Whew! I'm glad I don't have to do dishes yet — we've still got four of those plates left to use for dinner!" and letting them pile up to unmanageable levels. Plus, bonus: when we do get rid of some of the "other" stuff, we'll have more storage space!

In the original magazine story that inspired this change, the large family packed up their other dishes and had each family member personalize a bowl, a plate, and a mug (maybe it was at a paint-your-own-stoneware place?). If your bowl was dirty, it stayed dirty until you washed it (or bribed a sibling to wash it). If you wanted your bowl for soup and for ice cream at the same meal, you washed it between uses. That eliminated the "not me" monster in addition to the mounds of dirty dishes. There was no getting around it if it was your bowl left in the sink!


Kelli @ writing the waves said...

Sounds like you'll have the dish monster under control from now on! Great idea! :)

Minikin said...

It's past time for to reorganize our cabinets. This is an inspirational story!

jubilee said...

Sounds like a great plan. Now, if I can only get The Calm One on board with it!

I am loving the idea of washing your own dishes. My kids are a little young yet, but I am guessing it'll save money. And I can use the dishwasher only when we have company.