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August 4, 2014 9:45 AM   Subscribe

We host a lot of younger people who invite themselves over for dinner and then do not help clean up. I'm not mad or anything, but I am going to start politely asking them to help with dishes. I'd also like to commission a sign that says something along the lines of, "Guests are loved and welcome, and clean dishes are very appreciated." I need ideas.

We host a LOT. I love to make food for my friends, and do so most often for our younger cohort of 20-somethings who have recently moved to NYC and subsist off ramen and cheap beer. Most of them have started inviting themselves over at this point, which is fine, because I don't want them to die of scurvy.

However, I think that by the time you're inviting yourself over for free food, you gotta pull your weight.* For most of these kids, it just doesn't occur to them to help with dishes. I've started telling them up front that they will be expected to help clean up. I want a framed print to hang over the stove that has a clever encapsulation of this expectation. Any ideas?

*No, I do not expect guests at a dinner party or formal occasion to help with dishes, and no, I am not just hoping the sign will do all of the communication - I will outright tell all friends this is my new policy. The policy will only be enforced on guests who invite themselves over and request their favorite dish which happens to be a complicated Julia Child recipe that requires every pan in my kitchen, etc etc.
posted by zoomorphic to Home & Garden (49 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Don't put up a sign, just tell them. If they're not total assholes they will do it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:49 AM on August 4 [44 favorites]

How do they invite themselves over? Do they say, 'can I come over for dinner tonight?' When they ask, you could say something like, 'yes, but the new deal is if I cook, you have to clean.' And remind them when dinner's over. Agreed that you don't need a sign.
posted by three_red_balloons at 9:52 AM on August 4 [29 favorites]

"Hey, so if you wash the dishes, I'll dry them."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:52 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]

I think friends at a dinner party should definitely help.

Just stand up and start clearing, and say, "John, could you help me carry the plates to the kitchen?" "Sarah, do you mind helping get started washing dishes while I put these leftovers away?" "Tim, could you wipe down the table with this washcloth?" "Steve, here's a towel- it would be great if you could dry those pots over there. They go in the lower cabinet."
posted by amaire at 9:54 AM on August 4 [11 favorites]

The policy will only be enforced on guests who invite themselves over and request their favorite dish which happens to be a complicated Julia Child recipe that requires every pan in my kitchen, etc etc.

"Guest, that is a very complicated recipe that requires every pan in my kitchen. I don't mind cooking it for you and your friends, but you need to do all the dishes afterward. Deal?"

(I had a friend respond to a similar request by saying, um, grilled cheese is fine, whatever's easiest for you...)
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 9:57 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]

I am going to start politely asking them to help with dishes

I am not just hoping the sign will do all of the communication

I will outright tell all friends this is my new policy

I am not asking about how to communicate this verbally. I am comfortable outright telling them they'll be expected to do dishes. I am also not going solely rely on the sign, which would be the height of passive aggression.

I'm looking for a sign along these lines that is sort of ... strict but playful.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:03 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]

I agree that you don't need a sign; you need to delegate! Most people are probably just being thoughtless. Get up, take one dish to the sink, and say "can clear off the table and wipe it down while I do dishes?" Or vice versa, depending on your preferences.

For the ones that are actually freeloaders, I'd either start only cooking for two (if they are popping in uninvited), or go with "hey, last time you came over I had to do a bunch of cleaning. How about you pick up takeout instead?" You'll figure out quickly who is a genuine friend.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:03 AM on August 4

There's "Wishes won't wash dishes." There's also Margaret Mahy's “People can say what they like about the eternal verities, love and truth and so on, but nothing's as eternal as the dishes.” There's also Marilyn French: “''I hate discussions of feminism that end up with who does the dishes',' she said. So do I. But at the end, there are always the damned dishes.”
posted by yoink at 10:07 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]

There's cute sign but I think this vinyl decal is nice as well.
posted by librarianamy at 10:08 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]

"Be The Clean Kitchen That You Want To See In The World"

"I Cook, You Clean" or some meme-ish variant (meme1, meme2, New Yorker, trendy towels)
posted by jessamyn at 10:09 AM on August 4 [8 favorites]

"Clean dishes, clean conscience"

On review, that might be a tad too judgey.
posted by rhythm and booze at 10:11 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]

My mom says, "Anyone who does dishes gets invited back."
posted by dywypi at 10:20 AM on August 4 [21 favorites]

How about "I love to cook, but hate washing the dishes." with a fun/cute/meme pic?
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:21 AM on August 4

I really love dywypi and librarianamy's ideas so far! They're excellent. I especially like dywypi's idea because the implication is that those who help with dishes will be noted and appreciated, but no one is getting un-invited about this.

For everyone else who dislikes this idea and feels compelled to share it instead of answering, consider your opinion heard and your area completely covered. Thanks.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:26 AM on August 4 [14 favorites]

The only sign I can think of that would make me want to help without being a bit offended would be a cute cartoon version of sad anthropomorphic dirty dishes in a sink, and the dishes saying, "Help us be clean!" or "We want to be clean!" I wonder if you could commission the artist librarianamy linked to? Or even use that same illustration and change the wording?
posted by umwhat at 10:40 AM on August 4

posted by phunniemee at 10:43 AM on August 4 [51 favorites]

Cleaning up afterward is half the fun.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 10:53 AM on August 4

"Help the plates escape back into the cupboard!"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:56 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]

Kinda overplayed at this point, but maybe "Keep Calm and Do the Dishes"?
posted by aka burlap at 11:05 AM on August 4

Is it possible that instead of being thoughtless that your friends don't know exactly how to help or are intimidated? In my kitchen (and where I live), clean up can get complicated. There's compost (What can go in the compost? Meat? Fruit/veg only? Bones? Paper napkins? Where's the bin? What do I do if it's full?), recycling (similar questions), and garbage (almost nothing goes into garbage). Then questions of what can go in the dishwasher and what can't - and I'd hate to ruin someone's pot/pan/dish because I didn't realize that it's not dishwasher safe. Where are you containers for leftovers? Etc, etc, etc.

I wonder if some printed instructions/labels in appropriate places might be more effective than a general sign if you suspect your guests might be having these issues. For example, a short list of what can and can't go in compost on the inside of the lid and where to find new liners (if you use them). Same for recycling. You could leave out tupperware for leftovers before dinner and just say leftovers go in the tupperwares on the counter, don't worry about getting them into the fridge (or put them on the middle shelf). A small sign/note above the sink that says no pots/pans/wooden utensils in the dishwasher or only plates, cups, and silverware in the dishwasher could be helpful too.
posted by tealcake at 11:06 AM on August 4 [13 favorites]

Clean dishes make for a happy cook.

Put some pork on a clean fork.

Everything tastes better off a clean plate.

Is it mean to ask you to clean?

Clean a plate before its too late!
posted by herox at 11:08 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]

From the sink of a local coop: "Dishes are like boyfriends: do your own!"
posted by susanvance at 11:16 AM on August 4 [14 favorites]

In Tibet there were practitioners in retreat who so strongly reflected on impermanence that they would not wash their dishes after supper. -Paltrul Rinpoche's Sacred Word
posted by entropone at 11:16 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]

We had a variant on this one at my old office. I found it funny and not passive-aggressive. I think it would be OK since its not specifically referring to cleaning the dishes in exchange for food, just the general topic of helping out.
posted by Joh at 11:24 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]

Rosie The Riveter "We Can Do It" with "Wash Those Dishes" added below?
posted by RainyJay at 11:35 AM on August 4

I vote for


That's fabulous.
posted by zennie at 11:37 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]

I read a book as a kid where there was a sign that said "If you can't wash dishes, don't eat.".

It's probably not as playful as you're looking for, but since I have remembered this in an otherwise unremarkable book for 20+ years, it might stick with others too.
posted by zug at 11:44 AM on August 4

I wouldn't get a sign specifically for it, I would get a dry erase board and write a new one of the suggestions you get in this thread each time, because it is easy to ignore a sign that is always there after you see it a few times.

Treat it like the menu boards outside coffee shops and write something silly but to the point each time.
posted by elizardbits at 11:47 AM on August 4 [21 favorites]

If you get a sign that references "clean dishes", make sure it's clear that you want dishes washed, not that you expect them to "clean their plate" i.e. eat everything they're given. Unless that's also something you expect.
posted by WasabiFlux at 11:54 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]

[Just a reminder, folks - the question isn't about the existence of the sign, but what it should say. Please stick to that. Thanks.]
posted by restless_nomad at 11:59 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]

Okay, one of my two favorite guesthouses in the whole world had a hand-painted sign over the sink, THE DISHWASHER'S HANDS HAVE BEEN CHOPPED OFF, SO--. It had been translated into English so possibly it was more brusque than intended.

Awi's Yellow House. Not actually yellow.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:09 PM on August 4

+1 to a chalkboard so you can change it up frequently. Plus, some guests might contribute their own humorous reminders which would certainly be handy! At Thanksgiving you can turn it into something about gratitude, on Valentine's Day you can say "Clean dishes are for lovers" and so on.

I also love this WASH YOUR OWN DISHES socialist/marxist/neoliberalism/nationalism poster. Takes away all of the excuses ;-)
posted by barnone at 12:12 PM on August 4 [13 favorites]

The sink at my nieces daycare has a big Jolly Roger with the slogan: loot, share, pillage, and play... Now let's clean it all up and put it away!
posted by spunweb at 12:55 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

Maybe don't use You nosh, you wash if any of your likely guests are British...!
posted by penguin pie at 1:11 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

A bit specialised, but maybe useful if the circles you run in are like mine: last year I volunteered at an open data conference and we needed signs to tell people working in the hackspace to clear up their own mess. We went with something like, "We're crowdsourcing our cleaning efforts! (Please put your rubbish in the bins.)"
posted by daisyk at 1:19 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of the chalkboard/whiteboard! You can use it as a menu board + house news+ a little extra line to get people helping with clean up.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 2:04 PM on August 4

J K Rowling used nosh in its food context in HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
posted by brujita at 2:18 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]

I like the whiteboard (or chalkboard) idea very much.

Re the not knowing how to help/where things go issue:

Is there one of your frequent guests who would be most amenable to this idea and could be put in charge of the others? Like, if you know Dan would help out the minute you asked, talk to him beforehand, show him where things go in the kitchen, and put him in charge. Then at dinner, he announces, "Guys, it's not fair for zoomorphic to feed us and clean up after us too. I know where everything goes in the kitchen; let's take care of these dishes and let her enjoy a glass of wine on the couch."
posted by emjaybee at 2:25 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

The sign over the sink at work says:

You have 24 hours to wash your dishes if you want to stay alive. By now, a small toxin has been absorbed by your skin.
The only way to save your life is to clean up after yourself.

Thanks and good luck!
posted by aniola at 2:36 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]

Love Too Washing My Plates In The Sink
posted by Greg Nog at 3:14 PM on August 4

The golden rule: She who cooks does not clean up
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:22 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]

Good guests say "Thank You."
Great guests say "Pass the sponge"
[with an image of a sinkful of soapy dishes]
posted by Mchelly at 3:40 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

Exactly, LobsterMitten. That has always been the rule anywhere that I lived.
posted by Splunge at 3:42 PM on August 4

Riffing on the changing chalkboard/whiteboard idea, you could put your own quotes on different movie stills (maybe superimposing a sudsy plate into the character's hands), a la:

Go ahead, make my kitchen clean
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, this is the one where help cleaning up is AWESOME
I love the smell of clean dishes in the morning
I have always depended on the kindness of people who help clean up after a wonderful meal together
Wash one for the Gipper!

posted by argonauta at 6:13 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]

You could always do an artistic rendering of the toddler classic:

Clean up, clean up
Everybody, everywhere
Clean up, clean up
Everybody, do your share

With any luck, they'll see the sign and start singing the song, adding another layer of subtle encouragement.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:37 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]

i can't help it....

posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:43 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]

If you've got a really old-school, sci fi geek group:

with a picture of a sponge (and dish soap) under it.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:43 AM on August 5

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