How Creating a Simple Routine Helped me Win the Battle Against Dirty Dishes …

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Doing the dishes is one of those tasks that’s necessary but not a whole lot of fun. I’m sure everyone you talk to will have a different method and routine but if there’s one thing everyone will agree on … the dishes can’t be ignored!


Now, I definitely don’t want to spend the entire day chained to the kitchen sink but I also don’t want everything piling up on the kitchen bench either, so for me, it’s about finding some balance, creating a routine or a process and keeping that routine simple. Here’s what works for me:


  • I am fortunate to own a dishwasher and I’ve developed the habit of always emptying it either last thing before I go to bed or first thing when I get up in the morning … even if that means I go to bed 5 minutes later or I have to get up 5 minutes earlier. Doing this gives me a positive, fresh start in the kitchen and is probably the single most important thing that keeps me on top of the dishes and general kitchen clutter every day. I’ve found from past experience that leaving the dishes until the next morning because I’m too exhausted, simply doesn’t work and just leaves me feeling grumpy and overwhelmed. I feel like I’m “on the back foot” all day long trying to play catch up. Leaving dishes overnight also allows food to set and harden, making it more difficult to remove and often taking twice as long. More alarmingly, leaving dirty dishes in the sink covered with traces of food, encourages cockroaches and other nasties … yuk!


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  • With the dishwasher empty, all glasses, plates, dishes, cutlery, utensils, pots, pans, etc. can now be placed in the dishwasher straight away rather than becoming dirty clutter either in the sink or on the kitchen bench. Personally, I like to rinse my dishes quickly before placing them in the dishwasher, although some people may feel this is a waste of time and water and defeats the purpose of using a dishwasher in the first place. I’ve just found in the past that certain foods like avocado, melted cheese, cereal, some sauces and rice for example, won’t necessarily come off, particularly if they sit in the dishwasher for a while and these food scraps harden on the plate … so I guess it’s a personal choice. If the dishwasher isn’t full, I might run a quick rinse cycle but as soon as it’s full, I turn it on! Usually, I only need to run it once a day but very occasionally, if I’ve spent a day baking, I will run it twice (although this is rare).


  • If I have any dishes or pots or pans where the food is really baked on, I usually fill the sink with very hot water, add some dishwashing liquid and allow them to soak for half an hour or so until the baked on food softens and is easier to remove. For really dirty pots and pans, I will also add some water and a small amount of dishwashing liquid and put it back on the stove. Bring to the boil (making sure the dishwashing liquid doesn’t froth over the top), reduce the heat to simmer gently for 10 minutes or so and most of the remaining baked-on food will simply wipe off or just need a gentle scrub. Do be careful though not to burn yourself, as the water and the pot will be extremely hot. Just don’t forget you’ve left the pot on the stove simmering either or it might boil dry! Once finished, the pot or pan can then go in the dishwasher.


  • Each mealtime (but only if needed), I fill the sink with hot, soapy water and wash anything straight away that won’t go in the dishwasher e.g. things like Tupperware or other plastic items. These are then placed on the sink drainer to “air dry”. Having said that, I personally put most of those things in my dishwasher but usually only on the top shelf, as it doesn’t seem to get quite as hot. Some people prefer not to in case those items bend or warp in the heat. That’s not been my experience, so for me, the less I have to wash by hand the better. For this reason, I’m extremely reluctant to buy anything for the kitchen that isn’t dishwasher safe and friendly. Any items I hand wash and leave to “air dry”, usually get put away first thing in the morning. I also wash anything that won’t fit in the dishwasher so that we start the next meal time with clutter-free benches.


  • As soon as the dishwasher is finished it’s cycle, I try to empty it as soon as possible. I always unpack the bottom rack first so that drips or spills from the top rack don’t wet the things that are already dry on the bottom rack. Having the dishwasher empty means I can keep bench top clutter to a minimum, which in turn means I work more efficiently in the kitchen. This gives me more time to do the things I want to enjoy.


  • The job of unpacking the dishwasher is also a great chore that can be given to one of the kids. My kids did this from around the age of 8 but it’s up to you to decide an appropriate age for your own child or whether it’s a job you want to give them at all.


  • I have organised and decluttered the cupboard under my kitchen sink so that everything I need to do the dishes and use for the dishwasher is accessible and you can catch up on that blog post here.


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This is a very simple routine that works for my family. Tackling a small number of dishes at each meal saves me a lot of time in the evening. The last thing I want is for my kitchen to look like a “disaster zone” all day and I also don’t want to spend ages in the kitchen in the evening when I’m tired and would rather be spending time with my family.


If you find your current routine isn’t working, consider finding ways to change or improve it. The goal is to get the job done as simply, quickly and efficiently as possible with the least amount of stress. If you do decide to change your routine, make sure you give it time to work because creating and getting used to new routines can take time, often as long as a couple of months. During that time you can tweak or fine-tune your routine until it totally works for you and your family.


So tell me, are you happy with your current routine in the kitchen or do you think you could make some small changes that would save you time and energy?

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