We’ve come up with a foolproof way to end all dish mounds. Over the years, we’ve tried a number of models. For a period, we assigned ourselves respective responsibility to clean either the kitchen or the bathroom every night, but this soon failed because we’re both so tired in the evenings. But we still want to start each morning with a sparkling, clean kitchen, so what to do?
What I’m about to describe is the only model that truly works, simply because there is no possibility of failure; there is no wiggle room or willpower built into it. Unsurprisingly, it’s also the most minimalist take on doing dishes I know of. If you never want to face a magically reappearing mound of dishes ever again, do the following:
1. Decide on a small number of items you need each day. Initially, we chose two big bowls, two smaller bowls and two plates along with a fork, a knife, a spoon and a coffee spoon each. We also chose one, big drinking glass each. The important part here is to be very strict. There are to be no spare bits and no “just in case” items. Our calculation is based on what we eat: usually some kind of stew, soup or fry up with a side salad, so we decided we needed two bowls for each meal. We also noted that we never drink two different beverages at the same time, and thus decided on just one glass per person. After all, they do contain all kinds of liquid – or so we thought.
After a while, we realised that the vintage drinking glasses we intended to use for all liquids (water, coffee and tea) were unsuitable for hot beverages, so we added a couple of tea cups. Another option is, of course, to go with glasses that can hold boiling water. Our 1940’s glasses didn’t. We also realised we’d been too lenient when including plates; after all, we never use both a plate, a big bowl and a small bowl at the same time. The plates were then excluded.
The decision process is quite interesting. Most tiny, domestic minimalist experiments are a way of exploring bigger, existential questions. It’s easy to assume you need more tableware than you actually do. This realisation is translatable to most aspects of life. In addition, there are two ways of deciding what you need: either, base the tableware calculation on current eating habits, or walk the more extreme minimalist path and do the opposite: adjust your eating habits to the number of items you’d like to own. Instead of keeping two bowls, then, we’d might settle for the one and just eat the main dish and the salad in sequence. This is a probable development in our household.
We’re spending as little money as possible and refuse to buy anything new, but if we were, I’d be seriously tempted to go with a steel tray covering all needs.
2. Use the dish stand to store your small selection of everyday tableware. Since there is so little of it, it’ll look neat. You won’t have to dry the dishes or put them away, unless you want to. That saves you a bit of domestic effort. The advantage of this is that you’ll start to consider the items in the dish stand as part of your everyday routine, while everything else is off limits. This is our dish stand (although not usually sitting on the table):
3. Store the rest of your tableware in the kitchen cupboards, which now serve as a storage space for items you may need if you’ve company or do something out of the ordinary. Or, if you think you’ll be tempted to start nagging at the cupboard reserve, put the tableware in boxes and store them externally. I collect vintage tableware and have a lot of it, so we keep some in the kitchen cupboards and some in the basement.
The point of this is that you’ll be forced to do the dishes after (or before) every meal. Worst case scenario in our case is having to wash up a total of four bowls, which hardly qualifies as a mound of dishes. So far, this is the minimalist experiment that has had the most direct and noticeable effect on our everyday life. Do try it at home.