Reader suggestion: No more dishwashing dilemmas

Reader Daniel sent us the following suggestion:

Hi! I just want to share with you a little project I did after a huge amount of motivation from this blog. The thing is I really wanted to diminish the presence of dirty dishes in my apartment. We are two people here and have very little spare time, so cutting on dishwashing time was a very tempting thought. The thing is, we took a drastical step, putting away every piece of dishware not strictly necessary for us both. We ended up with two plates, two spoons, two forks, and so on. Everything else is now in a place uncomfortable enough not to tempt ourselves to grab a hold of them, but accesible enough to reach if someone comes to have dinner or something. The result is great. The worst scenario right now is to clean a few dishes and that takes a minute. The kitchen hasnt been as clean or as neat before and we really cut off the clutter on our very, very small kitchen. I hope you can appreciate my thankful words and once again my appreciation to you guys for the inspiration.

I love this idea, especially for people without dishwashers in their kitchens. Thank you for the terrific suggestion, Daniel!

19 Comments for “Reader suggestion: No more dishwashing dilemmas”

  1. posted by Spark on

    But what do you do about the pots and pans?! I can’t pack all of them away cause then I won’t have anything to cook with….well I won’t have anything to heat food up in.

    But the idea is great. I’ve kind of done this for myself, by accident though. I keep breaking dishes! (I’m very clumsy and my kitchen is teeny tiny. I tend to knock stuff off the almost non-existent counters.)

  2. posted by steve on

    i can attest to this, my wife and i have reduced all dishes (except cookware) down to 2 pieces of each item and it has been SO helpful. combine that with a “clean as you go” attitude and our kitchen is always at most 5 minutes from being clean. an added bonus is that with the extra time, we can move on to clean more regularly those things that we used to clean only once a season (refrigerator, wash walls, wash cupboards, wash drying rack, wash utility drawer, wash floor, etc)

  3. posted by Jenlo on

    I notice when we go camping, we take just four of everything (one for each of us). It is amazing how easy it is to keep everything cleaned up. I should try it at home!

  4. posted by tadeusz on

    Sounds fun. The problem is that this idea has to be accepted by all the family members prior to implementation. Long way to go with my wife.

    Spark: as of pots and pans you can easily determine how much do you use them. For example: store _all_ of them as spare and rarely used. Then during one week get some of them as needed back to your kitchen. The chances are that that week had typical pots/pans usage and you can make it without items that you haven’t used in that week.

  5. posted by Marina @ Sufficient Thrust on

    I keep a small apartment near one of my out-of-state clients that has no dishwasher. As an efficiency consultant, I could only approach that situation one way: paper plates 🙂

  6. posted by MadMolecule on

    I wonder if I can talk my wife into doing this…

  7. posted by Mags on

    When I left home for a bedsit, my mother insisted I have three of everything (three plates, three mugs etc) as that gives you two for use and a spare for guests/breakages.

  8. posted by CM on

    For every day use, my family of four each has a set of dishes (plate, bowl, mug and glass) in a different color that we store within easy reach. When a plate is left out, it is obvious who left it and needs to clean it up. Dishes for guests are stored on a high shelf.

  9. posted by Spark on


    But I hate to create the additional waste! In your case though, your efficiency being more of a hotel room, it might not be so bad. But if I started using disposables everyday, I’d have a ton of trash. And recycling where I live…they don’t generally take paper products with food stuck permanently in the fibers of the paper.

    Perfect suggestion on the pots and pans. I keep what I can stored. But I’m completely out of storage. My pots hang above my range on cup hooks, as that’s the only place I could find to stuff them. And they are in such a convenient place, I tend to grab a clean pot instead of washing the one I used before. I know, it’s more about self discipline than anything. I’m working on it.


  10. posted by Anonymous on

    Two thoughts: (1) Remote storage is a curious thing. On the one hand, it reduces the clutter in your most active living/working spaces. But on the other hand, it generates extra work when you actually have to go fetch the item to use it. There’s a fine line there.

    (2) There are certain efficiencies of scale when it comes to washing dishes. Reducing the amount of tableware you have out will certain reduce cabinet/counter clutter, but I can’t see whereas it would reduce dishwashing time. In fact, it’s undoubtedly faster to wash 4 forks 1 time rather than wash 1 fork 4 times.

  11. posted by RadiantMatrix on

    This is hardly a new idea, it’s called the “One Fork Rule”

    My first roommate and I did this nearly 10 years ago, and it’s even been mentioned on Merlin Mann’s site ( )

  12. posted by hazygirl on

    What do you do when your meal requires more than one plate per person?

    My dilemna does not involve the eating dishes and utentsils as much as it does the preparation pots/pans/utensils. Try as I might I can’t make even the simplest meal without dirtying multiples of everything: mixing bowls/spoons, pots, pans, skillet, measuring cups, spatulas, serving dishes, serving spoons/ladels/forks, etc.

  13. posted by Debbie M on

    hazygirl, there are a few tricks you can use.

    For example, when baking, they always want you to use at least two bowls, one for the dry ingredients and one for the wet ones. But you only need one. For example, for banana bread (which could easily use four bowls), start with a big plastic bowl. Put the butter in and melt it in the microwave. Add all the liquid ingredients and beat well. Throw in the bananas, mash them, and mix them in. Then add the flour, just piling it on top. Put the other dry ingredients on top of that. Then mix the dry ingredients as well as you can without mixing in the wet ingredients (because once the baking powder and baking soda get wet, they start reacting and you want to put this off as long as possible). If two of the dry ingredients are different colors (like whole wheat flour and baking soda or like anything and cinnamon), you can tell pretty easily how well you are doing. Then mix it all together. Use only a fork for all of the above actions.

    Try to think creatively about your other cooking to see if you can reduce dishes in similar ways. Think of it like a strategy game. Also, look into more one-dish meals.

    Finally, you can do dishes during any down time (while water is heating, things are baking, etc.) to help you keep up.

  14. posted by Erin at Unclutterer on

    @hazygirl — I love the fall because that’s when I put my crock pot to serious use. One dish — LOVE it.

  15. posted by Valeria on

    Crockpot is not really one dish: you have to dice the meat on the CUTTING BOARD with the KNIFE(then wash them), brown the meat in the SKILLET, chop the veggies on the CUTTING BOARD again, then measure your ingredients in all the various MEASURING CUPS AND SPOONS. Unless you buy a prepackaged frozen crock pot meal from the supermarket, not to mention that you still have to make the side dish either on the stove, in the oven, or in another crock pot, or a bowl if it is salad.

  16. posted by bobbquackenbush on

    For 90% of my home serving needs I use a camping mess kit for one. With that I have a small rice bowl, and a ceramic cup. I cook with a slow cooker, a one quart covered pot, a 12 inch cast iron skillet, and a rice cooker. That is all. I make multi course meals with very little waste or large batches for the freezer. Works just fine.

  17. posted by Jan - queenofkaos on

    This is a fantastic idea, if find it works wonders as well.

    I especially like to use it with my kids. If you get them their own set of dishes, so that they are each different, there is no question as to who is leaving their dishes laying around and there are far less dishes to deal with, no more counters full of dirty cups etc.

    It also encourages rinsing and reusing instead of just grabbing a new one.

    I like the idea so much that I have written an article about it

    Another thing that I find helps is to store things I don’t use often in another drawer.

    We have a baking drawer where I put our measuring cups and any utensils for baking so that it doesn’t clutter up the rest of our drawers and cupboards.

  18. posted by dancing monkey on

    I am tempted to buy something from this line of Bodum mugs and glasses, which perform double duty by holding both hot and cold drinks. I wonder how breakable they are, however …

  19. posted by alisonann on

    We did this while remodeling our kitchen, since washing dishes in the bathroom is a big pain. It worked great. We talk a lot about what a great idea it was, so maybe its time to try it “full time.”
    At the very least, we did get rid of our “everyday” dishes and now use our wedding china all the time, it makes even a bowl of cereal feel fancy.

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