Five Truths about Cleaning the Kitchen that are Still True If You Don’t Have a Dishwasher

Five Truths about Keeping the Kitchen Clean that are still true when you don't have a dishwasher at

Here we go.

One of those posts.

The back story:

Almost every time I post something on Facebook about running my dishwasher, or about how irritatingly important it is to empty it, or about how finally grasping the routine of running it each and every night was the game changer for my kitchen, someone bemoans the fact that she does not own a dishwasher.

I get it, y’all.


A gut reaction to a post mentioning a dishwasher being frustration that you don’t have a dishwasher is something I understand.

I’ve lived with and without dishwashers. When I didn’t have one, I was the QUEEN of believing that if I only did have one, my kitchen would be clean. I could have argued you to the floor on this subject. The sheer logic!

Yet, once I had one, my kitchen wasn’t clean. In fact, it was worse.

And I was MORE frustrated.

If you think it’s frustrating to have a messy kitchen because you don’t have a dishwasher, just know it’s sixty-seven times more frustrating to have a messy kitchen when you do have one.

It’s not about the dishwasher. It’s about the routine.

Really. It’s about washing the dishes each and every day (at whatever time makes the most sense in your home) and putting them away.

With the routine in place, a dishwasher does help. I’m not saying it doesn’t. I have a bit of an obsession with mine. But the key thing to understand is that without a routine, a dishwasher doesn’t help like you think it would.

A dishwasher doesn’t keep your kitchen clean. You do. A routine is how you do it. A dishwasher is a tool.

Whew. This is one preachy post so far, huh?

Now to the point. We spend a week at a time at my parents’ lakehouse. It’s nothing fancy, but we love it. We are incredibly grateful to have a place to go (for free!) where the kids can ride bikes, go exploring, play basketball for hours at a time, etc. Oh, and there’s a golfcart. Golfcarts make life fun.

But there is no dishwasher.

Every time we go, I think about writing this post. This time, I’m actually writing it.

fb five truths about a clean kitchen that are still true if you don't have a dishwasher at

Things That Are Still True About Keeping a Kitchen Clean Even Without a Dishwasher

1. Dirty dishes defy mathematical logic.

One day’s worth of dirty dishes can be washed in X amount of time.

Two day’s worth of dirty dishes require 4X time.

Three day’s worth of dirty dishes require >7X that time.

Please don’t analyze my algebraicish equations. Just get the point. The time required to clean the kitchen daily is SO MUCH LESS than if you let it go for even one extra day.

One day’s worth of dishes can generally go smoothly through the process. One day’s worth is usually ONE dishwasher load for our family, or can mean (if washed in the proper order) one dishpan of hot, soapy water.

Two days’ worth of dirty dishes means there are still dirty dishes on the counter when the dishwasher is full. Or the dishwater gets cold and disgusting before you’re anywhere near done and has to be changed multiple times.

More dirty dishes means more moving around, more adjusting, higher-and-significantly-more-precarious piles that threaten to come crashing down.

Two days’ worth of dirty dishes is significantly more visually overwhelming. This increases the risk T.P.A.D. (Time Passage Awareness Disorder) will kick in and turn it into three (or four or five) days’ worth of dirty dishes.

Β 2. There are sixty things I’d rather do at any given moment than clean the kitchen.

Not a lot of explanation needed. Just know that after the first week of a new dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen goes back to being the dreaded chore it always was.

3. Putting dishes away is as important as washing them.

I’ve said many times that emptying the dishwasher is (much to my chagrin) as important as running it. When I empty it first thing in the morning, there’s room to put dirty dishes in it throughout the day, which means that night, I only have to add dinner dishes and start it.

When I’m living without a dishwasher, it’s equally important to empty the dishdrainer, even if “the dishdrainer” is only a towel spread out on the counter. The dish drainer/towel/super-absorbent-dish-drying-mat-thingy (<-affiliate link) is a space designated for clean dishes to dry. When it’s empty, it’s psychologically easier to start washing the dishes because there’s nothing that has to be done FIRST.

“Before I can do this, I have to do that” is one of the most self-pitying, sigh-inducing, logical-excuse-producing phrases in my Slob Repertoire.

Another crazy thing happens when the drying spot is available. Washing one dish “real quick” actually enters my brain as something worth doing. A mostly-clear space triggers the desire to keep it mostly clear. Just like an empty sink (because the dirty dishes are already in the dishwasher) triggers the desire to take the extra 2 seconds required to open the dishwasher and place a dirty dish in it instead of dropping it in the sink.

4. One day’s worth of dishes requires less energy (and elbow grease).

After years of arguing bantering about this issue with my husband, I finally won the pre-wash war when I started this blog. Running the dishwasher nightly meant food didn’t harden/petrify onto the dishes and would usually come off in one wash.

It’s the same with handwashing. Doing dishes every night means food doesn’t get the chance to become one with the pan. Even things that need soaking can soak while the other dishes are being washed.

5. Removing the decision is key for my personality type.

As a chronic over-analyzer, I am a master at coming up with logical reasons why it makes more sense to wait until “later” to do the dishes. I’ve had to remove decisions/create non-negotiable tasks. Removing the nightly decision about whether I should do dishes removes stress. And keeps my kitchen clean.

I tried to have the same-old-same-old conversations with myself last week. I tried to reason that a few dishes weren’t worth my time.

I can’t let myself make those decisions. I just can’t. It HAS to be a routine. Wishing I had a dishwasher doesn’t get the dishes done. I have to do them.

Bonus Reason: The best kind of inspiration is the kind that passes out hope a little at a time, over and over again.

Life is easier when your kitchen is clean. I’ve always known this, but I still have to be reminded. Waking up to a clean kitchen means making breakfast/sack lunches is easy.

I can just do it. Without having to FIRST clean up (or at least shove to the side) yesterday’s mess.

This inspires me to keep going.

Doing the dishes even though we had sandwiches for dinner and there really aren’t that many lets me experience the pleasant surprise that it wasn’t as bad or miserable or time-consuming as I feared. As I always fear.

Every time, I’m surprised. Every time, I get a bubble of joy over how easyΒ it was to clean my kitchen. Those moments of joy help me do the right thing the next time.



I’m not saying you don’t need a dishwasher. I love mine. It makes my life easier. I consider it a worthy investment. But it’s not magic. Routines are where the magic is. If you have my e-book, 28 Days to Hope for Your Home, you know the instructions say to “do the dishes” not to “run your dishwasher” because it’s a fact. Doing the dishes (however you have to do them in your unique home) daily is THE KEY to getting an out-of-control home under control.

If you don’t have that e-book and need step-by-step instructions for getting your home under control, you should get it.

I’m not complaining about the people who complain about not having a dishwasher. We’re all at various points in this deslobification journey.

My reaction is not that of a Housekeeping Expert: Seriously, people! You have to do the dishes whether you have a dishwasher or not! Duh!!

It’s more like a Slobs Anonymous leader who nods knowingly because she’s been there and knows this person is going to have to come to terms with this reality on his/her own.

If you have a larger or smaller family, your dishwashing times might be different. Maybe you need to wash every other day or three times a day. The point is having a routine that actually works. For you. In your home.

I have a podcast on this subject, with other tips for developing your kitchen routine. Listen to it while you do the dishes.





Β iTunes listeners click here.


Does even the thought of decluttering overwhelm you? Sign up for my newsletter and get my reality-tested decluttering solutions delivered to your inbox for free.



--Nony get-how-to-manage-your-home-without-losing-your-mind-wherever-books-are-sold


  1. 1

    I’m completely with you on your dishes-math! Same goes for laundry and so many other household chores! (Litterbox, anyone? Neglect to scoop for one day and you might as well scrub the whole thing down with bleach, ughh… )

    The “Slobs Anonymous leader” made me giggle, you should start wearing a badge and everything, hihihi πŸ˜€

  2. 2

    So true. So true. So true. I’ve had to learn that lesson the hard way, and still struggle, but am doing better.
    This is embarrassing to say, but I wouldn’t mind doing dishes so much if it didn’t wreak havoc on my fingernails! πŸ™‚

  3. 3
    Marybeth S says:

    I have a dishwasher but it broke.Now I have a extra large dish drainer.Neither one has helped me keep my kitchen clean because I hate to do the dishes. I would rather be outside working in the yard but I have finally forced myself to do at least one load of dishes every day which keep’s at least one side of the sink empty.You and your slobification facts have helped me face reality better than anything else I have read. My house is not mother in law clean yet but I am getting there slowly but steadily,one day at a time.

  4. 4

    My dishwasher broke down several years ago. Just did not think it was worth replacing at the time. As a result, there were issues with dishes – the worst being dishes in the sink after supper, that didn’t get done right away, sometimes being left overnight – ugh! 2 years ago, the closest I came to a New Years resolution was to promise myself to do the dishes after every meal – no exceptions. Really, it is the routine, because now, I don’t even think twice about it – I just do it. Instant gratification. Now, if I could put that in place with all the other things that need done around here! Heh πŸ˜‰

  5. 5

    This is so true! But I have to say, I love my dishwasher. It wasn’t working for a few months, and the rest of my house got messier and messier because the time I had previously spent straightening up I had to spend washing dishes. I’m so pleased that it works now!

  6. 6

    Hi my name is Jen and I’m a slob. <<<<>>>>>

    I really needed this post today. now someone please tell me to stop reading blogs on not being a slob/getting the house in order and actually GO DO IT!

    • 7

      GO DO IT!! πŸ™‚

    • 8

      I have (for several years now) been hunting for the one thing that will snap my house into shape. Guess what? Dana ain’t gonna do it for me, FlyLady ain’t gonna either. I now know that they will help ME complete the tasks I need to do to finish making my house a home. Use he podcasts and just get er done.

    • 9

      “Hi Jen” said the members of slobs anonymous in unison. πŸ™‚

      I too am a slob. Not from lack of planning and research, (thanks Dana & Flylady) but from lack of implementation.
      I have every reason/excuse in the book. I’ve been in a walking boot since Dec., I have 2 girls and am a single mom, the baby has special needs and requires all her foods to be homemade, I just had emergency surgery last week that left anen incision in my chest that requires daily trips to the Dr to have it repacked and checked for signs of infection and makes lifting,carrying, or bending near impossible. Oh yeah and I don’t have a dishwasher or washer/dryer hook ups. Lol

      My point in all this is I have just learned in the PAST WEEK do a little bit at a time. While I’m waiting for the babies formula to warm up I wash out her used bottle and any other dishes that mysteriously “appeared” lol. Same thing when I’m heating up the teapot I clear off and wipe down the counter(s). When I check the mail I empty the diaper pail (grocery bag in a tiny trash can) in the dumpster. Is my kitchen spotless? No Way! Would it pass the “mother test”? Nope! But do I feel better knowing there’s a clean bottle for a midnight feeding? Yep! Do I feel less stressed knowing there’s not a week old oatmeal bowl that needs scrubbing before my oldest can have cereal? You bet!

      As for laundry I could pay $10-$20 a week to do it at the onsite laundry mat. Or I could plan ahead and take a load or two to my sisters every few days. Neither situation is ideal but it’s better than hearing the morning of “Mom! I’m out of underwear!”. My solution is a little red wagon by the front door that I put 3 pop up hampers in. My oldest (9 yrs) is responsible for taking the upstairs dirty clothes basket and sorting it into the hampers. Then when it’s laundry day I can either pull the wagon to the laundry mat or to my vehicle where I can roll the fullest hamper or two into my trunk.

      Are their parts of my house that are neglected? Sure, but my kids are bathed, clothed, fed (wholesome foods) & loved! If my TV stand has an inch of dust then the world isn’t going to end tomorrow! Lol πŸ™‚ Good Luck from one anonymous slob to another πŸ™‚

  7. 11
    Becky Ussery says:

    We are a family of 5. Our dishwasher has been broken now for about 4 years. I think about how nice it would be to have a working dishwasher and having everyone responsible for putting their dishes in the dishwasher when they finish eating.
    Then, I realized that we could do the same even though we don’t have a dishwasher. I have learned that if I wash dishes while I cook (bows that I have mixed something in, plates that I used for cutting items, etc) that it is much easier to clean the kitchen after we finish our meal. Right before we eat, I run a fresh sink full of hot soapy water. Then, as everyone finishes their meal, they wash their own plate and silverware and cup. Then put it on the drying towel. This has helped a ton! I am still hoping that we can get a new dishwasher though πŸ™‚

  8. 12

    Thanks for the butt kick I needed today to “just do it”!

  9. 13

    While we lived in overseas, we didn’t have a dishwasher. Here are some of the perks of the dishwasher-less life:

    1. The dishes were done after every meal. The insect problem was a real motivation. It felt good to have clean dishes 3 times a day.

    2. We owned fewer dishes. We had just enough dishes for us and a few guests. We had 7 family members at the time. 8 cereal bowls, 6 kid plates, 6 adult plates, 8 kid cups, 6 adult cups, etc.

    3. The kids could help with dishes because it was a small chore.

    Now that we are in the states, we have a dishwasher. The perks:

    1. I’m not washing dishes.


    1. We need more dishes. I run the dishwasher twice a day (big family). I need enough bowls, plates, cups, and silverware to last 2 meals. It’s sort of annoying to have so many dishes.

    2. The kids do not like to unload the dishwasher. It’s just SO many dishes. Of course, they still do it (just not willingly).

  10. 14

    I woke up to a dirty sink with dishes in it today. I had this strange new sensation of a sink full of dirty dishes actually irking me. I wondered why I didn’t get them done yesterday…turns out hubby working from home 2 days a week has my routine out of whack and I need to refactor everything. Or maybe that’s just an excuse. I still resist doing them even though I know what an impact having them done makes. You taught me that.

  11. 15

    I always listen to you while doing dishes. Sometimes you talk about dishes, sometimes about packing for a trip. Timing was perfect for our spring break prep!

    • 16

      Okay, vacation is over πŸ™
      While in Gatlinburg, our cabin had a wonderful machine in the kitchen. We used it. It was wonderful. The kids never once complained about doing the dishes.
      I must have one!
      Now to convince my husband that it’s smart to destroy over a quarter of our kitchen cabinets to get one. (We have a TINY kitchen.)

  12. 17

    LOL after reading your post, I just got up and unloaded the dishwasher – now it is ready for the day ahead! πŸ™‚ PS – it took all of 4 minutes!

  13. 18

    I found your blog tonight because I need a kick in the pants to keep my house clean, and I had to comment on this post. I bought a countertop dishwasher a month ago, and it’s still sitting in my living room. Why? Because I can’t get my butt in the kitchen to clean and declutter the only spot where it can go! Lol. Your style really speaks to me, I just bought your ebook set, so I’m gonna start some laundry and start reading!

  14. 19

    I’m dishwasher less, just moved and can’t find the dish drainer! Ack. But this too will pass.

    I dreaded for a whole year the point at which I would no longer be able to keep my son from the sink because he could drag his own chair over when I wash dishes, but it’s turned out to be a blessing for a few reasons:
    a) I can’t let the sink get so full he can’t help.
    b) He asks EVERY SINGLE MORNING to wash the dishes. If it gets too late and I haven’t started he starts saying “Mama, wash! Wash with water!” in his adorable toddler way.

    Now I know I’ve got to get better at remembering MYSELF because he won’t be such a good helper forever, and it’s been so nice to have clean dishes all the time lately.

  15. 20

    It does not matter if you have a dishwasher or not. It takes X to load the dishwasher for one day and so on. If you don’t do the work, (put the dishes in the dishwasher everyday) the next day, day 2, your still looking at 4X!

  16. 21

    I didn’t have a dishwasher for many years and I am way to absentminded to hide my dirty dishes in the oven like my sister-in-law did. I kept a bin under the sink for the rinsed dishes to wait until they got washed. Even with a dishwasher for many years now…we still have a bin under the sink for those items that don’t get washed in t

    • 22

      Weird the computer reset before I finished my post.
      Anyway my point was it helps to have a place (not the counter) for dirty dishes.

  17. 23

    Love your posts, Nony. Your book, no joke, helped me understand the importance of keeping a decent house and to ser that it was attainable. It is still not up to my mother’s (& mothers-in-law) standards. However, thanks to your logical explanations and your ability to speak to me in my language, the dishes get done & I’m not so terribly embarrassed when people come over unannounced. Thank you for that. I appreciate that you have taken the time to help your fellow slobs. πŸ™‚

  18. 24

    Great article. I don’t have a dishwasher, by choice. However, it’s only my husband and myself and we’re retired so we don’t have as many dirty dishes as a family with children does. I’m old enough to remember the days before dishwashers, actually my sister and I WERE the dishwasher/s. It would take me as much time to rinse, load the dishwasher, remove and put away the dishes as it does for me to just wash them in the sink. This is just my personal preference. There are times I miss the dishwasher, especially after family gatherings when the dishes are piled to the ceiling. My thoughts also run along this line, what you’ve said about staying ahead of the dishwashing applies to every room and every chore in the house. The longer you wait, the longer it takes, except maybe the chore of making the bed, which I choose to do first so my room looks cleaner to me. Thanks for a great little article! Now if I could just keep that laundry folded and put away. That’s my slob area.

  19. 25
    Mary Ann says:

    I must be either weird or OCD because I’ve been keeping a clean kitchen for 42 years ! My mother-in-law has actually complimented me for it. My husband grew up in an immaculate home (with 5 brothers and sisters ) and I wanted to impress my mother-in-law with my housekeeping skills as a newlywed . I grew up in a household with a spotless kitchen . My mother was a slob about everything else , but she was a fanatic about a clean kitchen . All those years ago , there was no such thing as a dishwasher . When my children were babies , we boiled bottles to sterilize them. Before the sterilization process , the bottles were scrubbed with a bottle brush . That’s what the Dr. Spock book said new mom’s were supposed to do. Nothing was disbosable!! Dishes were done every night after dinner . When you get into the routine of doing unpleasant chores – dishes , laundry , dusting , etc – it becomes routine and it doesn’t seem so bad . Routine is everything . It makes life easier . And .’s really nice to wake up with a clean kitchen ! By the way , did I mention I had a full time job as well ? But , I did have a wonderful husband who helped me A LOT ! !!!

  20. 26

    I’ve been reading your blog for a bit now (backwards) and have listened to all your podcasts. I’ve only been able to make dishes my one non-negotiable because I have too many excuses to add another (yet). In any case, after doing the dishes nearly everyday for about 3 weeks, my philosophy of only a few items left in the sink ahs gone from “why bother?” to “why not!” Thanks Nony!

  21. 27

    so true! I was thinking this. I miss paper plates. dishes are endless. no dishwasher. but the same things are true. I have to put away the dishes from the draining board etc so I can wash the next batch. I was also wishing that I would have a washing machine instead of needing the Laundromat. but if I had a machine I would still have to be on top of the laundry situation.

  22. 28

    I have a dishwasher that never gets the dishes as clesan as I’d like & it can’t be fixed (I’ve tried) or replaced… So, I’ve gotten into handwashing the dishes in the morning & evening. Now I use the dishwasher for storage!! I put the big pots & the crock pot in it. It’s so much easier to get to them & then put away after I use them. And, there are fewer things out on the counters or stovetop, waiting to be put in lower cabinets. I have back problems & bending is sometimes painful so this works for me! I love the less cluttered look if my kitchen now. πŸ™‚

  23. 29
    Catherine Sultana says:

    I agree it is the routine. And gawd, how I resist routine! Life long issue.
    I also think we need 2 dishwashers, to use as storage for those clean things normally removed to a cupboard prior to use.
    That said, until I get any dishwashers/dish storage machines, I have a new method for hand washing. I put the washing up dishpan on the counter next to the sink and have my racks, yep 2 sinks, so 2 racks, IN THE SINKS. No more Topple Over anxiety. And I get to maximize my racks. I do rinse all dirty dishes after they are made so I don’t have food encrusted silverware/dishes/pots hanging around. This method is easier with a hand sprayer next to my faucet for ease of rinsing the soap off. I also use multiple dishpans to sort of bundle up my loads so when I have time, I just go wash a panful at a time. I find I have enough energy to either prep and cook OR clean-up and put all clean dishes and tools away. So when I cook, it’s for multiple days’ meals and when I wash dishes, it is unfortunately for multiple meals. To reduce the volume I have reduced our cups and dishes in the cupboard so I won’t have 12 place settings accumulated to clean…Thanks Nony for putting this back in the front of my mind…will work harder to get that bubble of joy, I promise!

  24. 30

    My partner is an old country boy who wants EVERYthing fried. What a mess it makes! I don’t know where to dispose of the grease so pots & pans pile up with grease in them [and the stove] all over the kitchen till i nearly lose my mind! I don’t mind washing any other kind of dish [although silverware is annoying] but i despise greasy pots and pans. I either wash by hand or in the dishwasher everything except the greasy stuff which has to be washed by hand – ugg! If not for the saving grace of rubber gloves i’m afraid my partner just might would have to starve LOL.

  25. 31

    I think about this all the time. I technically have a dishwasher, but it is one of those non-permanent jobs that you have to move close to the sink, hook up, plug in and then wait 5 years for it to work its muddled magic. It also sounds like a 747 landing in your house, so I do not want to EVER run it at night. For this reason, my dishwasher is actually a dish dryer. It is a handy place to put newly cleaned dishes so that there is room on the counter for other types of clutter. Like dirty dishes…
    Lately, I have been trying to be good about doing dishes and “loading” the dishwasher every night. Then, we unload it in the morning, so it is ready for the next day’s dishes. This process really helps. Even though my husband and I don’t have kids, there are 10,000 other things that keep us busy and like you, we would rather do almost anything than clean the kitchen! We are trying, though. And we both are very grateful to read about someone else who has the same cleaning aversion/ADD that we tend to have!

  26. 32

    Thanks, Noni! I needed to read this today, as I was “too tired” to unload the dishwasher. I got to the section of this post that said “Putting dishes away is as important as washing them”, I literally stopped everything, got up and unloaded that dishwasher. Thanks!

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