Clean Up Your Own Damn Dish!

Our home is typically in a state of perpetual disarray, but there is one room in which I try to keep a semblance of sanitation – the kitchen.

It should be easy. My motto is “If you set it down, ask yourself: Is this where it goes?” Obviously a dirty dish would not be expected to spend its lifetime rotting in a kitchen sink, yet according to my family, this seems to be its intended home.

Last week I was working beaucoup hours and my wonderful husband saved the day (correction… days) by cooking dinner every night. I’m sure in his head he was keeping up with the dishes, but when I came up for air on Friday afternoon, I was greeted by not only dishes in the sink, but also many meals-worth of dishes throughout the house.

There were multiple glasses surrounding the loveseat/throne where my husband parks himself after work. In the kids’ bedroom I found three plates with dried ketchup, but not much else on the plates since the dogs finished off anything edible (which makes me leery – what’s the culprit in ketchup that even my dogs won’t eat?). Emily’s room looked like a frat house with about a half dozen glasses, two six packs of empty soda cans, and a couple of crusted soup bowls with spoons what would need to soak in a boiling cauldron for days.

I’m kind of a freak about conserving water, so I gathered all those water glasses scattered throughout the house and started dumping them all into our potted plants. When they were drenched, I moved on to the herb plants outside. Unfortunately one of the inside dumps came from my son’s sippy cup. I was a little confused that the water was taking its sweet time coming out, which is certainly against the law of gravity as I know it. A few seconds later, out gushes the not quite liquid / not quite solid mass of three-day old milk. I swear… I almost puked right on top of that curdled mess.

It really didn’t take that much time to clear up all the dishes, which makes me wonder why my loving family didn’t just clean them up in the first place.

About a year ago, I had enough of cleaning up everyone else’s dishes, and I hung the following note over the kitchen sink:

Don’t leave your dishes here

Please rinse them and

put them in the dishwasher

Yes, I know you’re


running late

in the middle of something

planning to do it later

not in the mood

feeling special

too busy




As you can see from the photo, the paper is wrinkled and warped from water spray, and there’s a big hole where the exclamation point should be. You might ask yourself if my sign is worn from a year’s worth of water spray from my family doing their own dishes.

Nope. I think it’s mostly from me.

When I was married to my ex-husband, I didn’t hang up a note. Instead, I suffered for years with a slow-burn resentment about why day after day he didn’t just rinse his coffee cup and put it in the dishwasher. I decided to teach him a lesson.

I covered the entire sink with a layer of plastic wrap.

Did he get the hint?

No. He just thought I was crazy.

That part was probably true.

Today, I fantasize about covering the sink in plastic wrap, but my husband this decade will probably think I’m crazy too. So instead, I put up this sign that is obviously invisible to everyone else but myself.

How hard can it be?

Pick up your dish.

Rinse your dish.

Put it in the dishwasher.

I am so sooooo grateful to have a dishwasher. Frankly, it is a great use of storage for dirty dishes. And the best thing about it?

When the dishes are clean, it’s my daughters’ chore to put them away.

Ahhhh… indentured servants.

Another great reason for having kids.


Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Husband, Parenting, Teenagers

13 responses to “Clean Up Your Own Damn Dish!

  1. Only if they do the job! I hate the way dishes pile up here too.

  2. Anonymous

    This is your best ever article. I loved it. Made me glad my kids are all raised and that I have a neat freak husband. You, compulsive, obsessive?? Heck no. I’ve heard a rumor that you alphabetize your soups? any chances? This all might have happened because I took your blankey away to be washed one day when you were about two. You spent the whole time sitting next to the washer (and then the dryer) crying and patting the machine. Broke my heart.

    • I don’t alphabetize my soups, but I did alphabetize my albums. Now my albums are still in boxes and my soups are all dusty.
      I don’t remember about that blankey, mom, although you’ve told me that story many times before. Don’t beat yourself up. That one instance wasn’t enough to drive me to compulsion.

  3. Kathryn Baldwin

    Where do they think the clean dishes come from? A fairy comes in the middle of the night and fills the cabinets with dishes and glasses. Silverware magically appears in the drawer. At least this is what happened in my home, my children think. Three are married and two have children, so I think they have figured out the fairy in the middle of the night is staring at them in the mirror every morning. My husband still thinks there is a fairy!

    • Are you sure your kids didn’t just resort to paper plates, cups and plastic disposable silverware?
      I guess it’s good that you’re down to just one family member who believes in the dish fairy. Too bad he’s not the one leaving a quarter under your pillow.

  4. one recommendation someone once gave me.. put all their dirty dishes on their bed …definately gross but i heard it works, I have yet to do it with my son… but i am getting close as he has no problem eating and using a gazillion class in one day only to leave the dish until later… which eventually he will do if i ask enough times

  5. Anonymous

    Hi Kathy, I’d leave a response, but I have to go do a sink full of dirty dishes. (and I’m not kidding).


  6. You’re reading my mind, I loathe this sink having one lone dish, when everything is and can easily be placed in the dishwasher, I am going to try the sign, what a great idea.

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