Ask UfYH

Ask UfYH: 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 a few years 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.

[This column originally appeared in May 2012]

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