Keeping Up With the Dishes


For a family of six who loves food, drinks, and hosting friends, the stream of dirty dishes can seem relentless. In the past, a sink full of dishes meant frustration and division. Now, our commitment to keeping up with the dishes unites us and decreases household anxiety and stress.

A scrub and a scrubber

When I (Mark) was in college, I moved out of the dorms and lived with eight other guys. We didn’t have a dishwasher and NO ONE wanted to wash the dishes by hand. So, the dishes sat in the sink and around the kitchen, until the only “type A” guy in the house got annoyed enough to just do it for us. Despite the notes he left on our beds, telling us we needed to do our own dishes in the future, we never did.

On the other hand, I (Nicole) am a “type A” person who loves having a clean house and going to bed without any dishes in the sink. When we first got married, Mark wasn’t quite as neglectful of the dishes as he’d been in college, but he only washed them every three or four days. As a result, I felt like I was carrying out a huge portion of that work. I had barely any help. Plus, I wasn’t recognized for the work I was doing.

It wasn’t that I (Mark) didn’t care or I wasn’t appreciative. It just wasn’t on my radar until one night, when Nicole had a meltdown. I had NO IDEA what was going on. From my perspective, this was coming out of nowhere, after a decent day together. I didn’t get it, because I didn’t realize how important keeping up with the dishes was to her.

Joining forces

When the dishes are done every night, I (Nicole) have one less thing to worry about the next morning. I feel peaceful at night, knowing the house is in order. I really value feeling on top of things when I wake up the next morning. So, we fought a little, and talked A LOT about how we could approach this as a team, instead of it just falling on me.

Once Nicole explained it to me (Mark), it made so much sense why the dishes were so important to her. I wanted to support Nicole and meet this need. Plus, keeping up with the dishes means our days are smoother, we argue less, and we spend more time together.

We fit this into our daily routine and made it a priority in our household. Now, no matter which of us is home in the evening, we SHARE the urgency to wash the dishes. We both know that, after dinner, our goal is to get the kids to bed and finish the dishes. The first person to finish with the kids will go straight to the kitchen to start the dishes. The other person joins as soon as they can. We tackle the dishes as a team because the quicker we get done, the more time we have to relax at the end of the day. A clean house and clean dishes bring closure to our day, sets us up for the next, and contributes to the overall peace to our family.

Staying ahead, as a team

Because this is our routine, our kitchen is usually tidy and ready for the next day in 20 minutes or less. Even when we invite others to dinner, we both know to start tidying up in the background as we’re hosting. Our strategy means that we are not left with a pile of dishes in the morning, and we’re not caught in the cycle of resentment because one of us feels like we’re carrying all the weight.

If this approach appeals to you, check out our free 3 strategies that took our life from surviving to thriving! (Yes, one of them is keeping up with the dishes!)

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