Unf*%& Your Habitat: Dishes? Really?

Yup. Dishes. Everyone has ’em, everyone hates dealing with ’em, and they’re the #1 thing that makes your kitchen look gross. So let’s all put on our grown-up pants and deal with our damn dishes.

So, why are dishes such a big damn deal anyway? I’m still trying to figure that out, but I can tell you that even in my house, where I try to live by UfYH principles and not be a giant hypocrite, I still end up absolutely dreading dealing with dishes. I’ve seriously considered having only two of everything, one for each of us, so that there’s no possibility of there being nine drinking glasses in the sink needing to be washed. For more than a decade, I didn’t have a dishwasher. I just got one of these magical machines about a year ago, and while it certainly helps the dish situation in a lot of ways, it still needs attention: you have to load it, you have to run it, and you have to empty it in a timely manner so that your next load of dirty dishes isn’t piling up in the sink, waiting for a spot in the dishwasher. Long story short, I end up having to deal with dishes just as much now that I have a dishwasher as I did when I washed everything by hand. So here are a few of my tips for making sure that you’re the boss of your dishes, and not the other way around:

  • Doing the dishes is not difficult. It’s often tedious, and sometimes overwhelming, but it’s not hard. Suck it up and do them.
  • If you’re facing a mountain of dishes, deal with it the UfYH way: 20 minutes at a time. Wash for 20 minutes, then take a 10-minute break to let things dry a little, come back, start your 20 minutes again by drying and putting away the clean dishes, and keep going.
  • If you have a sink full of dishes, try (if you can reach the drain) stoppering up the sink and filling it with hot soapy water and letting it sit for an hour or so before you get going to loosen up some of the crud.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher, do not let your clean dishes languish in it while your dirty dishes pile up in the sink. Run it overnight? Put it away while your morning coffee is being brewed or your toast is toasting. Just like with laundry, “put it away” is a crucial, yet often overlooked, step for dishes.
  • Before you start cooking, fill your sink with hot soapy water. As you go along, toss your prep dishes in there. When there’s some time (boiling time, or after stuff is in the oven), wash what you’ve used so far. Your goal is to have your prep dishes done by the time your food is finished cooking.
  • Once your dish situation is under control, try to make it a goal to never let dirty dishes touch the bottom of the sink (and I don’t mean because there’s so much else in there!). Breakfast dishes, coffee cups, snack dishes, whatever: take the five seconds to wash them or put them in the dishwasher RIGHT THEN rather than using your sink as a waystation.

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[E] Rachel

I punctuate sentences with Oxford commas, and I punctuate disagreements with changesocks. Proud curmudgeon. Get off my lawn.

17 thoughts on “Unf*%& Your Habitat: Dishes? Really?”

  1. My new apartment does not have a dishwasher and I actually haven’t missed it.

    Disclaimer: I live alone so my opinion toward dishwashers is different now than it was when I was married/had children at home. It’s just me, it’s just a few dishes and I’m a little obsessive about keeping things neat so it’s not that difficult to spend 15 minutes after dinner washing them.

    The first time I cook for more than just me, I may change my mind about missing that dishwasher, though. *lol*

  2. Ah, wonderful advice. My usual route is to fill up the basin with hot water and washing-up liquid, and let the whole lot soak for ten minutes, then the actual washing is super easy. Also? For super-scary burnt pans and roasting dishes? Biological laundry powder/liquid is amazing. A little water, a little powder, a little heat and within five minutes or so, even the scariest of burnt food should be lifted from the pan.

  3. Oh, how such a little thing can be so frustrating! We have a small kitchen and boyfriend Freckle easily uses up every clean plate before thinking about the dishes. This makes me act like a ten-year-old (“if he’s not gonna, I’m not gonna!”) but still makes me feel dirty when I leave without cleaning them.
    While it’s such little work and always a bit meditative to clean them. Starting is always the hardest part.

  4. I’ve been trying to incorporate some unfuckedness into my life lately and it’s been a huge help. I’ve been making my bed every. single. morning. It’s amazing how small of a chore it is and how much better it makes me feel. Doing a few 20/10’s a day has really helped with the clutter and upkeep that felt overwhelming before. Two areas are still creating some major side-eye – laundry and dishes. I think I hate laundry more than dishes but I loathe folding laundry with a passion. So my next focus to pull into my new good habits is dishes.

    I’m generally good at rinsing them off so they don’t grow mold so I’m hoping I can just up that to pulling out the damned sponge and washing them. I do have a dishwasher but with only me it takes quite the meal (or days of spectacular laziness) for me to want/need to use it. And then I never empty it – just pull dishes out and leave fresh dishes piling in the sink for the next cycle. I should go empty it now, in fact. It’d be nice to include dishes in my unfuckening… and then…. laundry. UGH.

  5. The dishes were the biggest source of roommate strife in my apartment. Clean freak roommate was of the opinion that the second the food that has been cooked in/eaten from the dish has been finished, all the involved dishes should be washed. I am of the opinion that I want to continue watching tv and relax after cooking my dinner, thank you very much, I’ll wash that shit later. We eventually compromised with a 24-hour-after-use rule that I mostly was able to stick to.

    The funny thing is that I don’t even mind the actual washing of the dishes that much- it’s the timing that bothers me. I really hate doing dishes in the evening, and I get really immaturely resentful when someone else demands that I do them on their schedule. When I do the dishes when I choose to, I actually kind of enjoy it.

    1. My old roommate was like that.  He also wanted to wash the cooking dishes while our food sat there and got cold.  I hate doing dishes right after I eat.  I’ll do them in like an hour or two but not right away.  Of course there was another roommate who left a half a pot of canned gross beef stew on the stove for 5 days.  I’m glad I live alone now.

  6. Hey! I’m not the only one who gags at dishes! I used to not even be able to handle them at all (laugh if you must, but it was right up there with major phobias) but I’ve progressed. I wish I had a dishwasher. I’m actually good about putting the clean dishes away, but washing them is just so, so gross. The mister does them most of the time, which is nice, but one day I’ll have a dishwasher again.

  7. I am obsessive about dishes being done, to the extent that dirty dishes once was the straw that broke the camel’s back (of an already stressed to breaking point camel) and I had a full on tantrum in the kitchen over dirty dishes (screaming and throwing of rice cooker pots included). I’m a huge proponent of Clean As You Go and I cannot watch Mr. Cesy cook because his style is make a mess then clean it up. It’s the one thing I insist has to be done every night.  It just makes the kitchen look tidier. Also my 7 years in food service probably has something to do with it as well.

  8. I have finally conquered the dishes. They have been under control for over a week now. It makes such a difference – things look so much cleaner, it’s easier to prep food when there’s no shuffling of dirty dishes off the counters, and I don’t have to worry about weird smells or mold forming while things sit on the counter.

    It feels amazing and I am going to stick to it.

  9. I hate doing dishes as well. Touching dirty dishes, especially if they’ve been sitting in the sink for a day or two, is enough to make me gag. I ended up buying a drying rack that actually hangs inside the sink (rather than on the counter top). It was perfect! When I bring my dish to the sink, I immediately wash it, and leave it in the rack to dry. When the rack gets full (maybe 4 plates and 4 glasses), I put them away. I only use the dishwasher if I’m washing pots and pans, or if I’ve had company over.

    It wasn’t this exact one, but something similar: http://www.target.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/p/Polder-Stainless-Steel-In-Sink-Dish-Rack/-/A-10399085

  10. The things (re: excuses) that keep me from doing the dishes:

    I hate having my hands get all soggy, and I keep moving my gloves up to where hair dyeing occurs. Plus, I am determined to use the dishwasher more because of all of the articles I read about it’s so much less wasteful/uses less water, so in theory I shouldn’t need the gloves. But then I don’t want to do them because of the lack of gloves. See: circle.

    I have a strong gag reflex sometimes right after eating, and definitely have one with many foods if they’ve been sitting for a bit. So the thought of doing them will start weighing on me, thinking of how sick I’ll feel.

    My husband is very fond of saying things like “I’ll clean the kitchen” or “I’ll do the dishes” but his idea of those things differs from mine (i.e., mine involves actually doing them). So sometimes I do the horrible spite-leave to see how long it’ll take before he gets around to it. I also have to fight back the urge to care about HOW he does it; after all, doing it is better than not. But he does want to pre-wash everything (despite me pointing to several articles by experts saying it’s wasteful and unnecessary) and then put it in the dishwasher. I mean, if he wants to hand-wash, why put them in the dishwasher too? Aarrg!

  11. I have a dishwasher, but most days I think I would be better off using it as a large drying rack instead of a washer. I am a big fan of washing cooking dishes while you cook, the only thing that screws me is having to let sauté pans cool first, they end up being left till morning more often than not. It is something to work on.

  12. I have a dishwasher – for all of me that lives in the house. And yet, I still suck at doing the dishes.

    Usually, I move things from the sink to the dishwasher in the mornings before work but my morning is so pressed for time anyway that progress is rarely made. I’m thinking I should really try to get the dishwasher loaded The Night Before (brilliant!) and then run it in the morning. I don’t run it at night because I usually take my shower before bed.

    Here’s hoping it works. This seems like such a simple task… and yet…

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