Year on Purpose: Finding healthy rhythms, how to keep the dishes clean

The biggest bang for my family’s buck was getting into a rhythm of keeping the dishes clean. This was a huge task for me because not only had I never been in a good rhythm for cleaning the dishes anyway, but we were also trying to cook from scratch.  Every meal required what seemed like the whole stinking kitchen. Every mixing bowl plus some cereal bowls, all the mixing spoons, Mt. Measuring Cups would be falling off the counters, dirty pots, pans, cookie sheets… every single counter covered with ingredients, spillage, and dirty dishes. And flour…goodness the flour… flour on the counters, in the sink (that turns into cement), on my shirt, on my pants, on my feet, on the floor, in the air, flour EVERYWHERE. Starting small was the key to getting free of the mountains of dirty dishes.

stack of dirty dishes on counter and in sink of kitchen

How to Keep the dishes clean

  1. Start with small achievable goals
    1. Rinse dishes immediately
    2. Do hand wash only dishes as you are cooking
    3. Run your dishwasher every night and empty every morning
  2. Celebrate your victories
  3. Give yourself lots of grace
woman washing dishes in sink

Start with small achievable goals

Rinse Dishes Immediately

Determined there must be a better way, I decided to make some goals and stick to them. Knowing myself well, I went with small achievable goals first. The first thing I did was to simply rinse off dishes as we were done using them. I didn’t care if everything was washed or if the dish washer was run every night and emptied every morning yet, just keep the dishes rinsed and stacked somewhat nicely on the counter ready to be put into the dishwasher. Even just a nicely stacked and rinsed dirty dish pile looked way better to me than the food crusted mess of dishes I usually had. It was super motivating to me.

Do hand wash only dishes as you are cooking

Once I had this somewhat under my belt I began to wash hand wash only things as soon as I used them. I had to do this very intentionally at first. I got into a rhythm of having clean soapy water ready to go every time I made a meal. This was life changing… and honestly not hard. Not like when I would have to put aside an hour (or more) to wash allllll the hand wash only dishes that piled up over the last few days. That was overwhelming. When I wash as I’m waiting for the next step in a recipe it’s like I just got hours of my life back. I get these dishes done as I’m cooking for the most part with only a couple to clean after we’ve eaten. It only takes a couple minutes to clean the pan or pot and I’m done!

Run your dishwasher every night and empty every morning to keep the dishes clean

The first two rhythms honestly lead into a natural progression of the dishes just getting done pretty much every day. There weren’t mountains of dishes anymore and the dish washer just seemed emptier more often and I could put dirty dishes in right away. But the third step in my plan was making sure I ran the dishwasher every night even if it wasn’t completely full and emptying it every morning. I also envision handing this chore over to my children one day very soon :). Woohoo!

clean sink after doing dishes with a window behind sink, white cupboards, granite counter, and white subway tile

Celebrate every victory on your way to keeping the dishes clean!

Having fun is important to me, so wherever I can, I sprinkle (pour) it in. I have learned how to make chores like dishes more fun over the years. Praying, listening to music, podcasts, or books all help. But since I was setting goals for myself I wanted to reward each little victory (because why not, right?!?). This could be something so small like setting 10 minutes aside one day to think about how well you did and drink a hot cup of coffee. If you have the budget, you could buy yourself something like a book you’ve been wanting or a special handmade soap you’ve been dying to try. I chose to be crazy and get more dishes dirty by making my favorite desserts! Totally worth it. And since I got into a healthy new rhythm… it wasn’t a huge deal to clean up after anyway.

Give yourself lots of grace

Not every day is going to go as planned and that is okay! There are going to be days when you are just exhausted, or God interrupts you. We need to be open and sensitive to that as well. If I can stay up on the dishes at least half the week, it is much more manageable for my family. It is very important to never tear yourself down. Spin a bad dish day into a positive. Celebrate and feel good in your decision to have victory of your sink full of dirty dishes. Find joy in the fact that you have made progress (even small ones!). Do not let one (or more!) bad day derail your plan. Give yourself lots of grace and start again the next day.

Let me know if you have any tips or tricks on how you keep your dishes clean. I’d love to hear them!

Two weekly cleaning schedule checklists

For a free weekly cleaning schedule check out my post on creating and keeping an easy cleaning schedule here.

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