During the day, the various members of our household are mostly at work or school, so it is puzzling when I come home to find the kitchen counters filled with dirty dishes. It’s like a bunch of thirsty elves sneak in and use every glass in the house.
“How can this place possibly be such a mess?” I asked the other night in frustration.
My husband looked up as he dumped pasta into a strainer. “Well, we’ve got so many people using the kitchen, and everyone with different eating habits.”
He’s right. When Shaggy Hair and Smiley Girl are here, they’ll often tackle the box of veggies we get from our CSA farm, cooking up squash or fresh potatoes or those oddly shaped root vegetables that mystify me. With-a-Why and his girlfriend bake cookies and once, an apple pie. My husband makes goulash: that’s pretty much his go-to meal. I’m mostly likely to make a big pot of soup from whatever veggies we have on hand, with the idea that it can be eaten for any meal or even as a snack. Tall Boy seems to make pork chops a lot, which excites the cats, who swarm to the kitchen at the smell of cooking meat. Blue-eyed Ultimate Player specializes in macaroni and cheese, or any meal that can be heated up in the microwave. When Boy-in-Black is here, he mostly eats granola, fruit, and yoghurt.
“No one ever knows whether or not the stuff in the dishwasher is clean or dirty,” said With-a-Why. “It’s confusing.”
“THAT’S the problem?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. “We need some kind of signal to let people know.”
The next thing you know, he was sitting on the floor in front of the dishwasher, creating a color-coded system with index cards. Blue means dirty, pink means clean, and white means in process. Then he began writing up rules. The general ideas was that all members of the household were expected to clean up after themselves, but he had a precise formula for each situation:
If there is no room for your dish in the dishwasher, you are obligated to run it. In the meantime (while it is running), rinse your dish and put it to the left of the sink.
If the dishes in the dishwasher are clean, unload it and then put your dish in. You are obligated to unload it if you need to put your dish in and it’s clean but not running.
If you ABSOLUTELY do not have time to unload the dishwasher when you are obligated to, you may either get someone else to do it with their consent, or you may do it when you have time. If, when you find you have the time to unload it, you find someone else already has, you must seek out said person and make it known that they can now make you unload the dishwasher at a time of their choosing.
Big dishes must be cleaned and put away in a timely fashion by he who has dirtied (cooked in them).
If cooking for others, you may make them clean the dishes, as you have cooked. They are obligated to obey this request if they ingest any amount of the food.
You are obligated to move your dishes to the appropriate area (rinsed out) in a timely fashion. No leaving them around the house for extended periods of time.
He kept adding more rules as he thought of every possible situation. Pretty soon both sides of the folder he'd taped to the dishwasher were full. Then he looked up, “Do you think it’s sufficient to use the phrase in a timely fashion? Or do I need to be more precise?”
“Um, I think that’s probably good,” I said. I had just read the rule at the bottom, which was: We reserve the right to make anyone who does not abide by these rules clean the kitchen.
He added another sign over the kitchen sink, informing all members of the household that they needed to read the rules and sign them. Then he went back to over to his spot on the couch and opened his computer to finish his homework.