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My 3 rules for staying on top of dirty dishes

Otherwise, they proliferate to the point of making me crazy.

Living with three growing boys who are constantly hungry means that my kitchen is a busy place. A lot of cooking and eating occurs over a twelve-hour period each day, which means a lot of mess. In order to prevent that mess from becoming a monumental task to clean up, my husband and I have developed a set of daily rules to keep it under control. Everyone has to pitch in and do their part, so no single person gets stuck with all of it.

1. Dishwasher gets unloaded first thing in the morning.

This is the kids' job and they are required to do it the moment they come downstairs, before they have a single bite of breakfast. One kid does the bottom rack, another does the upper rack, and the littlest is in charge of cutlery. I empty the dish rack next to the sink. We always make sure the dishwasher has run overnight so the dishes are clean, otherwise the whole routine gets complicated. We also do this because nighttime electricity is half the cost of daytime. (The kids are also responsible for emptying the compost and recycling bins.)

2. Each person deals with their own dirty dishes.

My kids eat a lot of breakfast, which means that on any given morning, each will have used a bowl for oatmeal or cereal, a plate for eggs and toast, a glass for a smoothie, milk or juice, and numerous pieces of cutlery. Multiplied by three, that's a lot of dishes that I don't have time to deal with in the mornings. So I've trained them to put their dirty dishes directly into the just-emptied dishwasher, which immediately makes the kitchen look tidier. All that remains is to scrub out the frying pan, wash knives and cutting boards by hand, put away breakfast supplies, and wipe the counters.

3. Do all the dishes after dinner.

‘Never go to bed with a messy kitchen' is a rule I stick to religiously. No matter how late it is, or how many glasses of wine I've had at a dinner party, I make a point of cleaning so I don't have to wake up to a mess. The usual rule is that whoever cooks doesn't clean, so it's generally my husband on dish duty, but occasionally I give him a hand and it can be a nice time to catch up after the kids have gone to bed. The other day, he wanted help and put on some rousing dance music that lured me from my comfortable place on the couch, so do not underestimate the power of music to get a job done. (Read: 8 ways to make washing dishes easier – and more fun)

Otherwise, they proliferate to the point of making me crazy.