The Reality of Handwashing Dishes for a Family of Five


I am one dedicated slob blogger, y’all.

Unless you’re brand spankin’ new around here, you know how I feel about doing the dishes. I don’t love it and never will, but I know for a fact (from experience) that doing the dishes is THE thing that will get any house going on its deslobification process.

And NOT doing the dishes is (logically) the very best way to produce the opposite effect on a home. The re-slobification or continued slobification of a home.

But I know that not every person in the world has an automatic dishwasher. I also know that people who don’t have dishwashers don’t like listening to people who do have dishwashers. I’ve written about that before here: 5 Truths about a Clean Kitchen that Are Still True if You Don’t Have a Dishwasher.

I based that previous post on my own week-at-a-time experiences cooking daily but not having an automatic dishwasher at my parents’ place where we stay at “the lake.”

But last summer (I do NOT know why it took me so long to write this post!), I went further and did some official research. Like, science project type research. Like, take pictures and write-down-data-after-every-meal-for-the-entire-time-we-were-there research.

I was all in.

Partly it was for y’all. Mostly, though, I just need (again and again and again) to eliminate my own excuses. I am awesome at coming up with amazing excuses, even when I know exactly what needs to be done.

And being on vacation is the very best excuse ever (ever, ever) for not doing the dishes. And being on vacation without a dishwasher (other than my own two hands) is even better than the very best excuse.

What I did:

I wrote down the meals we ate and the time it took to handwash the dishes we used for each meal. Occasionally, I also wrote down how I felt about it.


I recorded what we ate so you can get a real idea of the time required for the type of cooking. They’re all simple meals, but I don’t get very fancy at home anyway. (See my recipes here.)

Timing myself doing tasks I dislike is my very best strategy for combating my T.P.A.D. problem. Time Passage Awareness Disorder. I talk about that here.

We used paper plates and cups. I don’t use paper products at home, but we were on vacation. And I’m not that dedicated.

How Long Does It Take to Handwash Dishes?

Day 1:


Meal: Ribs and Chicken Breasts on the grill, fruit and buttered noodles.

Dishwashing time: 9 minutes (for real)

Day 2:


Meal: Pancakes and Bacon (bacon was cooked in the oven on a cookie sheet covered in foil)

Dishwashing Time: Less than 10 minutes, including drying and putting away the griddle and the cookie sheet because I couldn’t balance them on the drying rack.

Includes time spent trying desperately to balance the griddle and cookie sheet on the drying rack to avoid having to dry and put them away immediately. Also included wiping down the counters.

Note from myself: “It turned 9:30 as I looked at the clock.” I assume this means I started at 9:20. And was intent on being clear that this took LESS than ten minutes. Including wiping down counters.

Did you catch that I also wiped down counters? OK. Good.


Day 2, Meal 2 (I assume we picnicked for lunch like usual): lasagna, salad

Time: 13 Minutes. This included putting away breakfast dishes and drying and putting away two cookie sheets.

Notes to myself: I was excited about the disposable pan for the lasagna. I did NOT want to do the dishes. I wanted to go to bed.

Day 3:


Meal 1: Biscuits, bacon, and eggs

Time: 6 Dread-Free Minutes including wiping down cabinets and drying and putting away the large skillet.

Notes: “No dread, 6 easy minutes.”

Meal 2: OUT TO EAT Wahooooo!!!

Day 4:


Meal 1: Waffles and bacon

Time: 10 minutes “including washing a tray from the ‘island.'”

Thoughts: Obviously, I felt quite the martyr washing that tray. That extra tray. That tray we technically didn’t eat off or serve from. Rude tray. Dared to get dirty.


Meal 2: French Dip Sandwiches, Salad

Time: 9 minutes with help (from my kids), “including wiping up of splashed counters/floors from overzealous washing”

Thoughts: I wrote down that this dishwashing included 5 mugs which we used for the “dip” part of the French Dip Sandwiches. I assume (months later) that I had someone dry those mugs and put them away since they aren’t in the photo.

Day 5:

Biscuits, eggs, leftover sausage.

Notes: forgot to time or take photo.

But I did clean it up. And even without knowing exactly how long it took to clean up that particular meal’s dishes, I know for a fact it was way (WAY, way) less time than I’d have needed if I hadn’t done the dishes after each  meal for the previous four days.


Clarification #1: Yes, I noticed (while writing this post, obviously not before taking pictures) that the cabinet door is open behind the dish drainer in some of the photos. It happens in my world.

Clarification #2: I’d normally pull the family in on these dishwashing sessions, but I was so focused on timing things that I guess I forgot. They didn’t complain one bit about being forgotten. And honestly, it would have probably taken longer to have them help since we weren’t in “our” kitchen.

Clarification #3: We do not eat such huge breakfasts every day in our normal lives, but while on vacation at the lake, Hubby makes big breakfasts. It’s his thing, and we all love it.


I have preached the “One Day’s Worth of Dishes Takes Ten Minutes” thing so much (do you have my book?) so it was gratifying (and told-ya-so smirk-producing) to prove that the concept is still true when handwashing. Obviously, using non-disposable cups and plates would add time.

I would LOVE for you to time yourself doing one day’s worth of dishes today (however you do them) and report your time here in the comments.






Reality Check 2/29

Happy Leap Day!!!

I have three pic-heavy posts almost ready to go, but today is turning out to be wacko so they’re not going to happen until later.

And wacko = time for a reality-check post.

The short version: We’re surviving.

The slightly-longer version:

It’s Monday, so it’s Laundry Day, even though I won’t be home for much of it at all. There’s a meeting this morning for parents of incoming ninth-graders.

NINTH graders.

Like, high school. And that is seriously freaking me out. But it also happens to be the day I am shooting my book cover at a studio an hour away from my house. So I’ll come home from the meeting, have the scheduled-before-I-knew-about-the-covershoot-but-it’s-the-last-day-of-February-so-I-can’t-reschedule online hangout for patrons.

This is one of those days (they happen a lot) when I’m so grateful to have routines. And not just routines, but the understanding of the importance of those routines because I’ve lived both with and without them. It’s only because the whole family knows Monday is the day when laundry happens that we sorted clothes last night, and I have the motivation to fold the load in the dryer and get a new load going before I rush out to start this crazy day. Most likely, it will be tomorrow (or Wednesday) before Laundry Day is done, but we’re 1000x better off because Laundry Day exists.

Without it, I’d never even consider trying to fit laundry into a crazy day.

The rest of the house is officially in the familiar state of: It Could Be Worse.

I keep running the dishwasher, emptying it and refilling it, even though the kitchen as a whole is far from Company Ready.

We’ve done two five-minute pickups in the last two days, which  means the living room (don’t ask about the dining room, please) doesn’t look like our house was hit by a tornado.

No dusting or vacuuming or mopping has happened in the recent past, but really, it could be worse. I’m still amazed (after 6.5 years and writing a book about the subject) at the impact of little daily tasks.

So there you go. A rambly post for your Monday morning. And an encouragement to keep going in the Midst of the Crazy. It’s worth it, I promise.


From Our Mailbox: Timing Myself

From Our Mailbox Timing Myself at
Nony here: I LOVE this real life example of the effect of breaking through delusions by using a timer! A reader shares her real-life results when timing herself while doing daily tasks. Don’t stop reading until the end. The magic happens on Day Two. (Just like it always does with the daily tasks that haven’t been daily in a while!)
You say to time yourself just to see how long it takes to do a chore. I decided to time myself sweeping the floor.
It took about 13:30 from start to finish. (I could have been faster but I stopped to care for kids a couple times so it was more like 10-11 mins.)
From Our Mailbox Timing Myself step by step at
1) Before
2) Everything swept into a pile
3) I have a large open wood floor and I have found sweeping everything into one large pile and then putting the stuff away is easiest for me, otherwise I am running all over the floor picking up random stuff and it just makes me dizzy
4) After I put the stuff away and just left with trash and the after
5) Upon seeing the after I decided to do a 5 min pickup for my counter…still messy but better.
You are an inspiration to me. I am getting consistent with my dishes so this week I am adding sweeping my floor. I am teaching myself routine!!  THANK YOU!!!
And look what happened when she carried through with Day Two:
Yesterday I sent you an email about timing myself sweeping my kitchen/Dining Room. Yesterday it took me around 13 minutes to sweep, put away all the stuff I had swept into a pile and sweep up the actual trash/dirt and throw it away.
Jump forward to today I swept again and timed myself again and would you believe it, it only took 5 minutes!! That included stopping and talking to my daughter for like 30 seconds. It does get easier.
So far I am doing my dishes and I am sweeping my floor. I was having a really hard time with my dishes until I started loading it throughout the day, now my dishes seem to be doing themselves!! (if only)
I think my next habit will still be in my kitchen area (I have a great room so kitchen, dining and family room all in one). I think It will be clearing my counters and table daily, but first I need to get used to sweeping everyday! - From Our Mailbox
fb From Our Mailbox Timing Myself at

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