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January 2, 2009 4:59 PM   Subscribe

ChoresFilter: My fiancee and I are living together and both happy as clams - except we both HATE doing the dishes. They keep piling up, and even though I cook, I always keep putting them off. How do you manage chores like this, especially ones that both of you hate doing?

I know the simple answer to this is, "Hey, do the dishes." Yet, it's the one sticking point in our chore routine. I cook, she does laundry. We've balanced everything else out pretty well. It's just this one thing that's sticking.

We have a dishwasher and a two basin sink. I do most of the cooking, but I generally just throw the pots and dishes in there. Most of the issue comes from the fact that they sit there, and then it becomes insurmountable.

Any tips? Tricks? How do you get past these types of "chores nobody wants to do" situations? My relationship doesn't depend on this, but it would make our lives a bunch easier.

Any advice is helpful.
posted by SNWidget to Human Relations (62 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Get a cat. My cat goes right for anything unwashed so he can lick it, which is icky, so I HAVE to wash everything right away.
posted by sweetkid at 5:05 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do them as you go and let them drain on the sink. Washing two breakfast bowls and a couple of cups is a whole lot less painful than doing two days in one go. Even while cooking, there's free moments while you're waiting for something to brown or whatever, wash the knife you just used for cooking. Make it a habit.
posted by b33j at 5:07 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pack away most dishes so you have only enough for the two of you to have a meal together. They can't pile up if you need them to eat, and you only ever have to wash a few dishes at a time.

Once you get used to washing them after every meal (or every day, however you choose to ration it) you can add more dishes to your cupboard.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:07 PM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

When you cook, she cleans up. When she cooks, you clean up. When you both cook, you both clean up. When you two get take out, snack, or eat leftovers, alternate.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:08 PM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Rinse the dishes immediately. I dread doing the dishes if there's dried, caked-on food that needs scrubbing or soaking, but it's quick and painless if it's just a matter of running a soapy sponge over them and rinsing.
posted by kiripin at 5:08 PM on January 2, 2009

In my house growing up, 'cooking' includes the pre-meal dishes, at the very least. (The ones you cook with/in.) Wash the dishes while you're cooking. You're already in the kitchen. It keeps them from getting grimy, and if one is cooking several things at once, you might already have to do this. Meat goes for three minutes on a side? You can get a lot of dishes done in that time if you just do it. Your partner can, of course, do the post-meal dishes if you don't do them...the next night when you're cooking again! It depends on how often you cook.

Alternately, schedule it. That's how I finished my thesis. 7:30, say, is dish time. You have an appointment with Dawn.

(We don't have a dishwasher, and we only have a tiny sink, which prevents things from getting too bad. From what I've experienced in my last apartment, the dw only makes things harder.)
posted by cobaltnine at 5:08 PM on January 2, 2009

Dishwasher saved my marriage.
posted by Toto_tot at 5:09 PM on January 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Thanks already for the advice - my fiancee is reading over my shoulder.

I do most (95%) of the cooking. Because she does the laundry and other tidying, I honestly feel bad about her doing all the dishes.

I tend to cook at least 1 meal a day, more on the weekends. We've both had time off lately (I'm a grad student, she took the holidays off from work), and therefore we've been cooking in high gear, which had led to our dish dilemma.
posted by SNWidget at 5:12 PM on January 2, 2009

Do them together so you can have a good bitching session on how much you hate it.
posted by idiotfactory at 5:12 PM on January 2, 2009

i hate dishes too. if i were living with my boyfriend (instead of my roommate) i'd probably try to make it into a game or a contest. like whoever does the best job of doing dishes that week gets sexual favors from the other. or, you know, something along those lines. maybe put a jar by the sink, every time you put dishes in the sink, you put money in the jar. when you wash all the dishes in the sink, you keep the money. yay! or combine the two and make the jar for special tokens. tokens to buy sexual favors. you see where I'm going with this? :-)

i feel you can never go wrong by making something into a fun game, especially if it's a fun game that ends in sexual favors.
posted by lblair at 5:15 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Paper plates, plastic utensils and plastic cups, or what Inspector.Gadget said. You could also not put food on serving trays/bowls, so there will be less dishes to wash.

Otherwise, seriously, just do the fucking dishes. Consider it alone time, put an iPod on or couple time where you two talk, whatever, just do'em, 'cause you're making life difficult by not doing them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:19 PM on January 2, 2009

In our household, the non-cook is the one who does the dishes/loads the dishwasher. We both do some cooking (though I tend to do dinners more than Mr. gudrun), but the rule is that whoever is the non-cook is the one who is on cleanup duty. That said, the cook generally tries not to leave things a total mess for the non-cook (neat stacks of dirty stuff, some wiping up). Our other rule is that dishes don't get left undone overnight.

Not sure why you are linking up the laundry to this issue, as I am sure there are more household chores than just cooking, dishes and laundry that you could portion out so that the workload of chores is distributed evenly ... or you could just taking turns doing the laundry.

As for coping with the "chores nobody wants to do" - we share the misery. Doing stuff together, joking around, listening to music while cleaning, etc. etc., goes a long way toward making this stuff tolerable.
posted by gudrun at 5:20 PM on January 2, 2009

Yeah, are you looking for solutions that accommodate your special relationship? Or are you looking for cheap tricks that roommates use?

Cheap trick: I have two friends who strictly alternate doing the dishes, but there's no rule on when they have to be done. So if they get on it right away, they might only have to do a few plates. If they wait longer, dishes pile up and it's still their job. They say it's fair and there's an incentive to wash dishes super quickly.
posted by Sfving at 5:23 PM on January 2, 2009 [6 favorites]

If you've swapped dishes for laundry, than the "he who cooks does not wash" rule no longer applies.

You should draw up a schedule and swap every other day. One day you load, one day you unload. Whoever loads also washes up anything that won't fit or isn't dishwasher friendly.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:24 PM on January 2, 2009

Here's what we do. He cooks most of the time. Nearly everything is washed in the dishwasher, even pots and pans, except our nice knives which he washes immediately and wine glasses (which I wash because he hates hand-washing things).

He loads up and runs the dishwasher (easy to do). I empty the dishwasher and put everything away (which is easy to do). If there are dishes loading up, one of us is slacking and gets ragged on. That's pretty much it. Sometimes it breaks down but eventually we get into a pretty good rhythm.

In other words, start using your dishwasher a lot more than you currently do. For two people, you should be running about one load a day, unless it fits less than two pans, 4 plates, and a bunch of cups and bowls.
posted by muddgirl at 5:28 PM on January 2, 2009

We have a dishwasher and a two basin sink.

Put 'em in the dishwasher and press a button. What am I missing here?
posted by JackFlash at 5:31 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sfving: I'm looking for both tricks that roommates can use and stuff that work for relationships.

I realize that living with a significant other of any sorts and living with roommates are two different animals - I'm just looking for any sort of advice.

Good information from all, though.
posted by SNWidget at 5:31 PM on January 2, 2009

Do them together so you can have a good bitching session on how much you hate it.

Yes absolutely, but you'll need to actively and everlastingly not want to lose your tempers while aboard. Otherwise the bitching will turn personal in week 2 at the latest.

If you can't make yourself pre-rinse (I can't, for some reason), at least soak stuff that will otherwise cake, like potato mash residue and cereal bowls.
I do wash big things while cooking (if there's time), especially cutting boards and frying pans. These two things help a little.
Of course, the Zen answer would be 'just don't hate it'. Yeah.

(yes, uh, and what JackFlash asks)
posted by Namlit at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2009

The same thing happens here, and I absolutely *HATE* doing dishes. But I find that if I get into a routine of filling the dishwasher and putting it on before I go to bed, then emptying it first thing in the morning (before I can even be awake enough to despise the chore), I'm better about putting the dirty ones in the dishwasher. It then becomes cyclical in nature.

I have a big kitchen, but not a lot of counter space, so I don't have a lot of room for dishes/pots/pans to sit around. If I'm cooking a ton of food and have to do more than one load of dishes, then I just empty/load the washer quickly and keep it at a quick pace. I'm one of those people that can't cook in a dirty kitchen. Or at least I have to *start* with an empty sink.

Rinsing dirty dishes of food and ick then stacking them nicely in the sink goes a long way in making them look presentable until there's room in the dishwasher for them. One of my pet peeves is a shitload of dishes precariously thrown in the sink with all kinds of dried food, cereal, etc. on them. It looks nasty, smells, and is just pretty gross. Besides, I've lost more than one piece of silverware to the food disposal because of that sort of thing.
posted by dancinglamb at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2009


As stupid as this sounds, we get backed up with the dishwasher. We'll load it, run the cycle, and then not put up dishes from the dishwasher.

Again, the obvious answer is "Put them up," as the obvious answer to losing weight is "get off your ass." I'm looking for how other couples have dealt with this.
posted by SNWidget at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2009

The first couple or 20 things you try might not work, so first come up with plans A, B, C, D, E.... as many as you can. Try things that seem a little illogical, even. As soon as it's clear one isn't working, go to the next one. Whatever else, quit putting dishes in the sink, because they're going to be in your way at some point.

First, see if you can name the things that interfere. Dishwashing is boring. Detergent makes your hands itch, you never have enough dish towels, you hate to leave a good TV show to clean up. Maybe you need to try a new scrubber sponge or a brush.

Time yourself. When I found out that emptying the dishwaher only takes 7 minutes, I quit putting it off.

Would any of these help: The non-cleaner has to hang out in the kitchen keeping the other company. Decide that cleaning up is part of dinner, and it has to be finished before you both move on to something else. Or the non-cleaner should do some other chore while the dishes and pans are being washed. Flip a coin every evening. Vow not to go to bed if the kitchen isn't spic & span.

Just try one thing at a time, and if you run out of ideas, go back to the beginning and cycle through them again. I hate kitchen duty, but I like how the kitchen looks when we get up and have coffee.
posted by wryly at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

I wash even pots and pans in the dishwasher (I work full time so, hey, that's what it's for.) Shoot, I even put the knives and the wineglasses in! (I sharpen the knives, and so far, it hasn't ruined my wooden handles. Bleached them, a little, I admit.)

I suggest you try to do the dishes as a shared activity. As for putting them away, I cheat. I have an adult daughter at home and I make HER do it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:43 PM on January 2, 2009

As stupid as this sounds, we get backed up with the dishwasher. We'll load it, run the cycle, and then not put up dishes from the dishwasher.

Ah, then. That is an entirely different question and few of the answers so far (how to wash dishes by hand) have anything to do with it. Your question more properly is what to do about the clean dishes in the dishwasher so that it is available for more dirty dishes.
posted by JackFlash at 5:43 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

One washes, the other dries. Alternate nights.
posted by JujuB at 5:44 PM on January 2, 2009

Ah. So the problem is nobody wants to put the dishes up.

Honestly, in the spirit of creative thinking and the laziness that inspires it, have you thought about doing fewer dishes? Often the problem is that you're just thinking about it all wrong. You say you get backed up, and that you get a bunch of dirty dishes that need to be cleaned in the sink while the dishwasher is full of clean ones. Do you have a lot of different kinds of dishes, or just mostly the same?

To be blunt: stop pulling dishes from the cupboards. Get in the habit of pulling your clean dishes from the dishwasher. "Hey, I need a clean plate to stick dinner on," bam, pull one out of the dishwasher. "Hey, I need a pan to cook this in," bam, pull it out of the dishwasher. I'm a guy, yes, and we tend to think this way, but theoretically two partners shouldn't have to use more than a dishwasher full of dishes at any given time, and if you just keep pulling dishes out of the washer instead of the cabinets, then when somebody actually does have to empty the fucker (which will never happen, fingers crossed) it'll almost be empty already.

If, of course, you wish to descend further into the lazy-bachelor-guy world which I still remember with fondness, then do as I did long ago: establish between you the dirty side and the clean side of the dishwasher. When you've finished dinner, and you find yourself with a stack of dirty plates and a half-empty dishwasher (because you've done the take-from-the-dishwasher method above, natch), you simply arrange the clean dishes on the clean side of the dishwasher and put the dirties on the dirty side. This has but one drawback: dirty dishes are sitting there sort of next to clean ones. But if you play your cards right, they can be pretty far away from each other, and if you have a towel on hand to wipe the cleans as they come out to get used, well, who'll be the wiser?
posted by koeselitz at 5:48 PM on January 2, 2009 [5 favorites]

Here's what we do: Each of us is responsible for doing the dishes on alternate days. They are to be done in the evening after dinnertime (so that one of us can't do them at 4:00 and claim to have done our dish duty for the day). If the person whose "dish night" it is doesn't do them, they slide into "dish debt" and must still wash all of the dishes in the sink, and the fact that they really start to pile up after a day tends to dissuade either of us from shirking dish duty. Furthermore, when he is in dish debt, I tend to want to cook really elaborate entrees that utilize lots of pots, utensils, and bowls, so as to really stick it to him. We have a somewhat unspoken rule that if whoever is responsible for the dishes has really let them pile up to the point that there isn't any more room in the sink, the other party can ask for the dishes to be done. The dish debtor must do them immediately because they know there's no justification for making such a mockery of the sacred "dish night" system.

Typing this all out makes it sound really crazy. But, honest, it works for us.
posted by kitty teeth at 5:49 PM on January 2, 2009

I am now married, and we do not possess a dishwasher, unfortunately.
posted by koeselitz at 5:50 PM on January 2, 2009

You need another job in there to divvy up, perhaps - in our household of 2 we have a food and laundry person, and a money and dishes person, which works perfectly for us. Each of us gets a big, interesting, important task according to our skills (which may be different for you) and a boring everyday task. This set up also provides equal opportunities to yell at each other becuase there aren't any plates or underwear. Can you find another equally hated task and divvy it all up more equally?
posted by goo at 5:50 PM on January 2, 2009

Maybe I did ask the wrong question initially, but I think both parts still apply.

Yes, we have dishes pile up in the sink. Yes, we do eventually manage to get some in the dishwasher and run it. And then we don't unload those.

I like a lot of the creative ideas. My fiancee and I are going to clean up the apartment this weekend as part of our New Year's clean, and I think we'll try to put some of these into effect. And like someone above said, if not A, then B, then C... down the list.

Keep the ideas coming, though, even if they don't relate directly to dishes.
posted by SNWidget at 5:58 PM on January 2, 2009

start breaking dishes. you just have too many. if you only had two, three plates, you'd constantly be cleaning them just so you wouldn't have to eat that damn soup out of the can again.
posted by krautland at 5:58 PM on January 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Put a dishpan in the sink. At the beginning of cooking, fill it with hot water and some soap. Put your cooking implements in there as you cook. Later when you go to load the dishwasher with them, they will be way less gross.

Good times to empty the dishwasher: while waiting for water to boil, tea/coffee to brew, frozen stuff to thaw in the microwave, sauce to reduce.
posted by xo at 6:04 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite] adults... this is not that hard...

And, whoever cooks, does the dishes... it is really more fair that way... if you don't like doing dishes, you'll be careful about how many you use to cook......
posted by HuronBob at 6:12 PM on January 2, 2009

simple answer: two dish washers.
posted by parmanparman at 6:18 PM on January 2, 2009

I do most of the cooking, and my partner does the dishes from the night before while I am making dinner. That way we can talk and catch up on the day. Our kitchen is really isolated from the rest of the apartment, and neither of us like being in there while the other person is off doing something fun or interesting in the other room. It's a lot easier with someone else there!

It is so, so much easier if you just stay on top of them. Seriously. We used to do the dishes every few days and it was nightmarish. Doing them every day is much better.
posted by apricot at 6:19 PM on January 2, 2009

Get another dishwasher. Remove clean dishes from one, use them, and load them straight into the other one. When you can't fit any more dirty dishes into the one you're loading up, hit the button.

If you can't afford a second dishwasher, or the decadence of this solution revolts you, then listen to HuronBob, who is wise.
posted by flabdablet at 6:21 PM on January 2, 2009

This is my husband and me. But I do 100% of the cooking. So he LOADS the dishwasher, which I hate more. This includes any rinsing, any handwashing of larger items that don't fit in the dishwasher, and a quick wipe of the counters and range top. He usually does this late at night.

The next day, usually right after I get home from work, I unload and put away. If there are any plastic items that are still wet, I dry them and put them away. You'll still have to commit yourself to keeping up with it - we do a load nearly every day.
posted by peep at 6:29 PM on January 2, 2009

My wife cooks. I do all the dishes and cleanup. I do get to eat the food she prepares so it is a fair trade to me. And dish washing (we do have a dishwasher) is not unpleasant if you get it organized. And I empty the dishwasher in the morning after they have become cool. I just don't let it become a problem. I can see the TV while doing the dishes and the time just flies.
posted by JayRwv at 6:59 PM on January 2, 2009

I should post anonymously, as my husband's a member here, but what the hell... He's the cook and I'm the clean-up team. I am also the baker (and the clean-up team) and the prep woman (who cleans up as my husband cooks).

We both HATE dishes. He hates to do dishes. I hate it that he's at the computer, or playing with the kids, while I'm alone in the kitchen feeling like The Help. Getting a dishwasher has solved much of the time alone problem because loading up the dishes doesn't take all that long (seriously, set a timer for five minutes. And then see how many dishes you can rinse off and put in the dishwasher. Five minutes! You can do most anything for five minutes! One person washes a pan or two while the other loads.). Make this a time when you talk about your next-day chore list, or anything else that is discrete and can be covered in a few minutes with little attention (read: not the time to discuss emotional issues). If you love music, take turns playing one new song for each other. Make it joke-telling time. But--and I cannot stress this enough--anchor this time for something you do together, with the dishes being incidental.

I love the Fly Lady idea of the clean sink every night but I'm happy if dishes are done and the dishwasher is running. Next morning, using a trick from some ADD/ADHD board, I take on the kitchen as I feed the kids: Starting at a given point, I straighten and put away and work my way around the room. No cheating, except for the sink. I come back later and the kitchen is pretty tidy...and the sink doesn't look like such an overwhelming task.

When the task is something we both hate, my husband and I slip into neutral language: "Hey, the chicken coop really should get mucked out." This is the beginning of a negotiation over who will muck and avoids the accusatory "You have to." It's our private signal and we always end up bitching and laughing before we make a decision about assigning responsibility. Part of the negotiation is that one of us accepts the immediate hated task but the other accepts a future hated task. Then neither of us feels cheated. It beats the hell out of one-upsmanship and keeping score.

Do not let the dish war become a proxy for other issues in your relationship. Talk it through with your fiancee. Good luck.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:03 PM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Replace all your pots, pans, and knives with the dishwasher-safe kind. Yes, dishwasher-safe pots, pans, and knives aren't as good and need to replaced more often than high-quality pots, pans, and knives, but if washing them is such a hassle for you then it seems like an acceptable trade-off. Going forward, only purchase items that you can put in the dishwasher.

Develop three new habits:
1. Put all used dishes, pots, cooking implements immediately into the dishwasher, never the sink, after use.
2. Run the dishwasher every night before bed, even if it's not full yet. (Wasting a little detergent and water is a small price to pay for a clean kitchen.)
3. Unload and put away the dishes first thing every morning so they are ready to use again.

Put up signs to remind yourselves to do these things until they become habit. Maybe also put up a little calendar in the kitchen to check off when you actually follow through and whenever you get to X days in a row doing this every day reward yourselves with a shared treat, like a night out at your favorite restaurant (and no indulging in this treat until you have actually achieved your goal!).

If you find that you have to spend a lot of time pre-washing your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher if you want them to come out clean, experiment with different kinds of detergent. I thought that I just had a crappy dishwasher until I tried a free sample given to me at Costco and my dishes came out tons cleaner than usual.

Normally I recommend hiring a cleaning service for chores that both people hate doing and fight over (it's much cheaper than a divorce/splitting households) but that's not really practical for a daily chore like dishes. However if there are any other less-often chores you two fight over (bathrooms, floors, dusting, etc.) then I strongly recommend hiring someone else to do it. Check Angie's List for recommendations for your area. If you just want a few hated chores done instead of a full-house clean you might be able to get the cost down to $50 per visit, twice a month -- totally worth it for a clean house and reduced-conflict relationship.

Also, here's a fun way to keep track of whether someone is doing their fair share of chores: My husband and I used it for a while and went from being total slobs to competing to see who could do the most housework and level up the fastest.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:25 PM on January 2, 2009

Don't hide dirty dishes, pots, utensils in the sink. You just have to take them out again to either load them into the dishwasher or plug the sink to handwash. If you can't put dishes or utensils immediately into the dishwasher (something on the stove must be continually stirred?) or the items must be handwashed, stack them neatly on the counter. There's no need to rinse things before putting them into the dishwasher, and you shouldn't run less than a full load. Either of these things wastes water and energy.
posted by Joleta at 8:06 PM on January 2, 2009

I use my mp3 player to get through most hated cleaning tasks. It gives me something Else and enjoyable to focus on.

Being in the same room is nice, too. My husband does most of the heavy lifting (dishes-wise) in our current situation, and he reports that even if I'm just hanging out and chatting while he works, the task isn't such a chore.
posted by itesser at 8:28 PM on January 2, 2009

We had the same problem. Nobody wanted to take the clean dishes out of the machine, so there was no place to put the dirty dishes, so we piled them in the sink. Then they would get nasty, and the job was even worse. When both sinks got full, we'd start eating out, and that worked until the cat water needed to be filled and it wouldn't fit under the faucet and ... wait what was the question?

The thing did a crappy job washing dishes anyway, and finally it stopped altogether. That was two? three? years ago and there are STILL clean dishes in it, last I looked. They will be there when we move out or die, I suppose.

Since it croaked we have had no problem. We wash after dinner every night, and enjoy the time together. It's easy to wash one meal's worth of dishes (plus the morning cereal bowls or whatever). It's our habit to do it right after eating dinner. My advice is to try not using the machine, and enjoy the few minutes together with no obligations other than making dishes clean, then dry, then stacked neatly away. It's simple, rewarding work.
posted by fritley at 8:34 PM on January 2, 2009

You can't change people, including yourself. Give (both of) yourselves a break! Hire a maid, and be happy.

Seriously, it's the best 75 - 100 bucks American you will ever spend in your life. If you can afford it, have her/him/them come every week -- it doesn't mean you can pile the dishes up in the sink all week, but I suppose you could. It certainly means that someone else will do all the "other" housecleaning you're using as leverage/guilt over the dreaded dishes.

It's not elitist or indulgent to pay for a service that you hate to do yourself -- especially one that is so simple and mundane yet causes so much mental anguish and threatens to spoil (apparently) an otherwise healthy relationship. Do it, and don't look back!
posted by turducken at 8:55 PM on January 2, 2009

A propos nothing, but I don't mind doing the dishes, as long as I don't have to dry them/put them away. My wife has a conniption at the sight of "drain stopper gunk", so we split it up, I wash, she dries. Or she leaves 'em to dry, and puts them away later.
posted by notsnot at 8:59 PM on January 2, 2009

I'm late to the discussion, I know. That said, after 23 years of marriage, I'm bookmarking this thread as essential reading on marital relations. How a couple manages cooking vs. dishes.... wow!

Next up- competitive dishwasher loading!
posted by TDIpod at 9:19 PM on January 2, 2009

I don't have a dishwasher. I have little counter space. I do a lot of intensive multi-pan cooking and baking. Sometimes it seems like I am washing dishes all the time. When there are dirty dishes in the sink I wash them while other things are waiting to happen. Coffee pot going-- wash all of last night's snack bowls. Microwaving water to make tea-- I have 6 minutes to wash as many things as possible.wash something in the sink. Also, when there is a big mound of dishes and I just can't bear the idea of washing, I tell myself "20 pieces" or 10, or 43, and I wash that many pieces. By the way, I also do this when I am pulling weeds out in the garden; I tell myself "100 weeds" and count them as I grub them out. That's another time when I wash dishes-- when I come in from the garden with muddy hands. I wash my hands and do some dishes as well. Especially if my hands are cold, it can be blissful to get them in hot soapy water.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:27 PM on January 2, 2009

As was said above: have less dishes. Put at least half of your dishes in storage - keep no more than 2 bowls, plates, knives, forks and spoons per person. If you want to eat, you will do dishes - and it won't take very long, either.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:40 PM on January 2, 2009

Well, tonight, we tried doing it together, with a bit of music on in the background - a bit of silly Europop bubblegum. Much better. We also agreed that every evening, we'll try - TRY - to make sure that we have everything in the dishwasher and run it. We'll see how unloading goes.

Thanks for the advice Hivemind. If that doesn't work, we'll be on to plans B through Z.
posted by SNWidget at 9:45 PM on January 2, 2009

Sounds already better. 'Together time' which is so much better than lost time.

But then: We'll see how the unloading goes.

This is the crucial bit really: one has to do the dishes completely at least once including putting all of them away down to the last item (usually some potato peeler that soaks in a pool of opaque water someplace out of sight) and cleaning the workspace.

Only now you can start on a smart routine using fewer items or a rigorously organized regime of loading/unloading or whatever else. You could also arrange that, in cases of everyday failure, such a rigorous cleaning session happanes at least once a week. Purgatory time.

I once lived in a relationship where the dishes were done about halfway, upon which someone would leap off to happier pastimes, like cooking (and producing more dishes and an awful heap of vegetable peels somewhere in between) leaving soap water with a few icky items cooling off in the sink to be taken care of by the other. From this experience I kept the strong feeling that we don't so much hate the dishes but rather the mess and the messy behavior that surrounds dish washing, and the feeling of never-ending-ness. We can't do much about dishes being one of the eternal circle things, but we can create short moments in our lives where there there are no layers of old and new mess on top of each other.

[and it does help to watch the beginning of Wallee a few times...]
posted by Namlit at 3:34 AM on January 3, 2009

happanes uh happens. No 'pan' in that one, dirty or clean. Thanks, Freud
posted by Namlit at 3:36 AM on January 3, 2009

I've figured out that I get daunted by too many small dish items to put away - so it behooves me to load up the dishwasher with pots and pans first immediately after cooking, then empty it and load it with the dishes from the meal which might then not be emptied quite as quickly (until I cook again). Since most meals have some element of heating-up-the-oven time or rising-the-dough time, I use it to empty the dishwasher of its current load before I am fully in the swing of cooking. Namlit is absolutely right, it's critical to do the dishes completely, down to the weird china that can't be put through the dishwasher and has to be handwashed (and therefore ends up sitting on the counter for days until I remember, hey, that's my job). One item left behind seems to breed other items until the countertop is once again overflowing.

Sometimes I have to put my iPod on to get the dishes rolling. Sometimes I shake my fist at the sky that an hour of my life every day is spent elbow deep in old food - ew. But, we cook 99% of our meals at home, and that's the trade off for good homecooked meals. Dishes to wash.
posted by annathea at 3:41 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow. I didn't realise dishes were this much of a challenge. Anyway...

My first advice would just be, as has been said, "Just Do It!". If that doesn't work, I also have some suggestions.

-It is much easier to do dishes (wash in sink/stack in dish washer (lucky you!!!)) when there is someone there to talk to. If both people hang around while one stacks (or better yet, one stacks, other rinses), it goes much faster.

-I've found it unbelievable how much easier it is to do dishes after only one meal, compared to 3 days worth. 15min vs almost an hour (hand washing). Seriously, do them as you go, and it hardly needs to be worried about.

-Take clean dishes from the rack/dishwasher if at all possible, as mentioned above. It's just easier.

-If there is more than one person, rotating the dishes means less chance of dish-washing-burn-out (trust me, it exists). Everyone gets nights off.

-Finally, the most important thing would be... dishes are a requisite part of living in a house. Unless you use plastic table-ware all the time. Get into a routine, use the smallest amount of dishes you can (putting any extras into storage, as mentioned above, is a good idea), and turn it into something done together.
posted by cofie at 4:11 AM on January 3, 2009

I read somewhere about a great system: Just buy another dishwasher. It's the professional version of the clean and dirty side system koeselitz wrote about: You fill one dishwasher with dirty stuff, turn it on, and then not empty it but use it as the cupboard, taking out dishes as you need them. The now dirty ones go into the second dishwasher, and if that's full sides switch.

Thats one of the things I always wanted to do once I'm rich. Too bad it doesn't work for clothing. Hmm, but with washer/drier combo machines...
posted by Lynx at 6:28 AM on January 3, 2009

As stupid as this sounds, we get backed up with the dishwasher. We'll load it, run the cycle, and then not put up dishes from the dishwasher.

Just wanted to say---you're not alone in this.

posted by leahwrenn at 6:35 AM on January 3, 2009

Your mission is to use less dishes and pans in the first place and get rid of anything that isn't a necessity.

Get rid of some dishes. Pare down to necessities. Having multiple dishes and tons of glasses is inviting you to be lazy and grab another dish instead of washing the ones you need to have a glass of water. If you have a dozen or more water glasses at your access, you're doing it wrong.

Give yourself four of everything (dinner plate, coffee cup, cereal bowl, drinking glass, salad plate) and get rid of the rest. I know you're a family of two, but four of everything is realistic and you won't be caught off guard if a friend drops in and wants a cup of coffee. Put the rest away. Box them up and put them in the attic or the basement, or somewhere where you won't be tempted to grab one when your four are dirty. When you entertain you can pull them out, use them, and put them back. This is a good time to get rid of anything that you don't need. If you have 18 mismatched dinner plates get rid of some for good. If you have tons of Tupperware or Corning Ware that is redundant or missing lids, get rid of this as well. If you have four measuring cups, you're more likely to grab another instead of washing the one that is dirty. Keep your best one and get rid of the rest. Go through everything and assess if you really use it. You want to make you cabinets as spacious and user friendly as possible. If your cabinets and drawers are jammed with crap and not organized, putting dishes away can be a real chore. Also, assess your gadgets: garlic presses are a pain in the ass to clean if you let the garlic dry on the press. A jar of minced garlic and a teaspoon is easy peasy. Make things easy. One cutting board, one or two good knives, a good skillet, four matching white plates and coffee cups and you're set.

Look into making one skillet meals most nights of the week (or baking in one casserole dish). There are tons of recipes on the internet. One pan to wash isn't that big of a deal. Get rid of redundant pans. One big skillet with a lid will do most nights. Don't pull out the sauce pans, the cast iron pans, and the stock pots every night if you're lazy like me. You're setting yourself up for failure.

The good environmentalists on AskMe will kill me for suggesting paper plates, but just do it if the above tactics don't work. Buy the cheap white paper plates (not Styrofoam or plastic) and use them when you don't have meat to cut.
posted by Fairchild at 6:58 AM on January 3, 2009

Wow, there have been so many suggestions already -- but my way to get through dishes (my host family does not have a dishwasher, though fortunately I don't have to dishes very often) is to either listen to music, as others have mentioned, or to sing my favourite ballads. Seriously, nothing can be that horrible when you're belting "The Mariner's Revenge Song."
posted by fantine at 7:48 AM on January 3, 2009

I'm usually best at getting them done when I'm staggering around the kitchen in the morning waiting for the coffee to be ready.. because then I'll be right there when it is ready.. also lacking caffeine I seem to be not quite awake enough to remember how much I hate doing the dishes. I think that helps, to find a way to just not think about hating it, which is really what the problem is here. Or maybe what helps me is, the fact that I'm stuck in the kitchen waiting for something (could also be waiting for food to cook) so it gives me something to do while I'm waiting.

Alternately when a relative calls and goes on and on and on, but I listen anyway out of politeness, that is a good time to wash some dishes, because it keeps me occupied but not tuned out enough that I'm not ignoring what they're saying.
posted by citron at 8:23 AM on January 3, 2009

Hey, why not hire someone to wash your dishes. There are professional housekeepers who would be delighted to make a little extra at the end of the day while you two are relaxing in front of the TV.
posted by Joe13 at 8:26 AM on January 3, 2009

We both cook (I tend to do the hour-and-under meals, ersatzjef does the day-long-braise kitchen-bombs), he largely does the dishes, I do the laundry. Everything else is "joint responsibilitly". I say he "largely" does the dishes because I'm a clean-as-you-go person due to college waitressing background, so I scurry a bit behind him if he's igniting a kitchen bomb and clean some thing up.
posted by ersatzkat at 9:09 AM on January 3, 2009

Get a housecleaner. My partner and I both hate doing the dishes, what we are willing to do is rinse them, so they get rinsed and put in the sink, and a very nice lady from Peru comes over and cleans them every week.

Relationship problem solved- VERY much worth it.
posted by arnicae at 9:33 AM on January 3, 2009

i hate doing the dishes, too. i live alone. sometimes i will wait a full week to do the dishes. the sight of an empty white sink is so rare and so beautiful.

ditto to others' ideas:
--having someone to chat with is good
--if you like to sing (even if you're not good at it, like me), it's fun to put on a record or whatever and sing along. takes your mind of what you're doing
--listen to the radio (if some interesting show is on...i like coast to coast AM but it's not on until midnight)
--wear rubber gloves. this has really helped me in three ways: i don't have to touch nastiness, my hands stay dry and unwrinkly, and i can use hot hot water without burning myself.
--use a nice detergent that you like the smell of (this would be for handwashing stuff)
posted by sucre at 5:02 PM on January 3, 2009

This is the best thread, because I have this issue too (everyone here would rather scrub the bathroom with a toothbrush than do dishes, for some reason). I deal with it mostly the koeselitz way, which would be foolproof except my roommates never take this approach themselves (You just drank water from that cup and you're getting a new cup for another glass of water? Seriously, guy??). We have a ton of dishes for when company calls, but I can count on my hands the dishes I use regularly--1 coffee cup, 1 cereal bowl, 1 saute pan, 1 sauce pot, etc. And I try my damnedest to do the dishes while I cook. It's the dishes we use during the meal that pile up and drive me crazy. I'm breaking down soon and getting a dishwasher--I can't handle it much longer. It'll be worth it, every penny and inch of space it takes up.
posted by ifjuly at 12:32 PM on January 8, 2009

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