Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The One-Dish Method

Washing dishes might be my least favorite chore. After ironing. Which I don't do. The only thing I like less than washing dishes, is having them piled up in my sink and on my counters. In the heat of the Louisiana summer, dirty dishes can lead to very bad nastiness in an absurdly short time.

I cook all of our meals and with a family of 6, dishes pile up at light speed. Some days, I felt like I never got more than 3 feet from the sink all day, and they just kept coming!

I had a couple of problems:

#1. No dish washer. No where to hide the dirties, and all the labor is manual.

#2. A huge sink. I love my triple sink, but it can hold an enormous number of dishes.

#3. Very little counter space. Real estate is so limited that a single stack of plates takes up half my workspace.

#4. An almost unlimited supply of dishes. We have over 3 dozen plates alone. We won't even discuss my collection of antique glass bowls, platters and bake ware, all of which see regular use. And, of course, there are cups, glasses, jars, plastic storage, pots and pans, and so on and so on and so on. You get the idea.

I triple sparkly heart love my dishes. Truly. Sometimes I just gaze at them in admiration.  We don't use paper products, even for guests and holidays. Our friends tend to have as many kids as we do. We really do have a use for all those dishes. So those are staying. I may not add any more (many more?) but I'm not not giving them away.

I'm not adding more counter space. I don't need MORE mess.

I love my sink. I would like it to be usable.

I don't like dishwashers. I would rather wash by hand.

I needed a solution to tame the insanity without a major overhaul of our lives.

So, I devised the One Dish Method.

I started off with the cup problem. I sat down with the 2 oldest kids and we did a little math. Our family was using more than 40 cups each day. A bit excessive, wouldn't you say?

I assigned each family member a reusable water bottle. ONE. They are washed and refilled repeatedly throughout the day as needed, and live next to the water dispenser. No more lost cups. Ever. Each person has his own color or name written on the bottle in sharpie. Everyone is responsible for their own bottle. Even the 1yr old keep track of his own bottle.

Juice, soda, coffee, etc, we do use a regular cup. These are for water only. But, we are almost exclusively water drinkers, so this has nearly eliminated the cup problem.

Here are a random sampling of bottles, hanging out in their home, waiting to go to work.

The water bottles worked so well, I decided to expand this program to include dishes.

I pulled out one plate per person-2 adult sized dinner plates for myself and my husband, 3 divided plates for the kids, and one enamelware plate for the baby, one bowl each-ceramic cereal bowls for the grownups, small glass bowls for the kids, and an enamelware bowl for the baby, and one appropriately sized fork, spoon and set of chopsticks per person. Actually, I used generic chopsticks. I didn't want to deal with matching them. I stacked everything neatly in middle of the table, with the utensils in a mason jar. Done! These are all the dishes we need for any given meal.

When it's time to eat, the kids hand out the necessary items. After dinner, everyone carries their own stuff to the sink. The kids wipe down the table. I wash and replace, and that's it.

AH. So much better!

We still have access to all of the dishes. I didn't pack anything up. They are available if we need an extra plate of whatever. I did sift through all of the chipped and cracked dishes that I had been hanging on to just in case. We no longer need them.

Sometimes less is more.


  1. Good idea! This helps your kids see how much work it takes to keep everything clean and tidy too!

  2. The 6yo is in charge of putting clean dishes away. He was quite put out that he had to keep coming back to do another load, and another and another. Now it's once and done, freeing him up for more robot construction.