Dishes are complicated

In general I try to avoid the whole “and now let us brag about the wonderful presents we either gave or received, be they expensive or The Most Thoughtful Item ever or preferably BOTH” thing, because 1) NO1CURR, as my children would say, and also 2) I don’t want to be that asshole. I mean, I figured there are plenty of other annoying things about me without any of that going on.

Nevertheless, I am now going to be That Asshole and brag, because Santa knocked it out of the park with this double-sided magnet that showed up Monkey’s stocking this year:

Fred Dishwasher Magnet

Every teenager’s dream, AMIRITE?

Listen, Otto and I have now been married for… hang on… seven and a half years (!!) and there are certain fundamental character differences we’ve learned to accept in each other. For example: He does laundry and then puts everything away as soon as he’s done. I, on the other hand, do the laundry, fold everything neatly in the basket, and then trip over the basket in the bedroom half a dozen times before I run out of clean underwear, live out of the basket for a few days, and finally decide it’s time to put the laundry away. Stuff like that. Similarly, when Otto has a dirty dish of any kind, he places it directly in the dishwasher, if the dishes in there are dirty. I, however, place my dirty dishes in the sink IF I AM ACTIVELY COOKING and then take care of the dishes (loading the dishwasher and hand-washing as necessary) when I’m all done. This makes Otto slightly insane, because sometimes he comes along and tries to help while I’m still cooking, and he believes that you cannot wash dishes while dishes are in the sink. I, however, believe that leaving dirty dishes on the counter when the sink is RIGHT THERE is an abomination.

Fortunately, Otto and I can join together and fully express our love and exasperation when it comes to one darling Monkey, who believes himself utterly incapable of determining whether or not the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or dirty. I mean, how would you know? IT’S A MYSTERY! So every night after dinner, even though we’ve been eating dinner together for seven and a half years and for seven and a half years the protocol for a child at the table is to 1) ask to be excused and then 2) GO PUT YOUR DISHES IN THE DISHWASHER, Monkey will get up, fold his napkin and put it back in its spot, and then either leave his dishes on the counter (raaaaaaaaaage) or stand there, staring at the CLOSED dishwasher, and ask if the dishes are clean or dirty (RAAAAAAAAGE).

“You’re silly,” I said, the first few times. “Open it and LOOK.”

“I can’t tell,” small Monkey would say, peering into the dishwasher as if it was the very Chamber of Secrets itself. Because an error in dish assessment could be fatal.

For a while we challenged him to figure it out. Dirty dishes were crammed in-between freshly washed ones on more than one occasion. “CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT THESE DISHES ARE—FINE, WERE—CLEAN???” I would bellow.

“I can’t tell!” he would insist, tears filling his eyes at my raised voice, because I’m an asshole who yells at small children about dishes.

Over the years, things have improve a bit. Teenaged Monkey has come a long way. Say there’s just a dish or two in the dishwasher; he’s able to infer that dishes have recently been emptied and the remaining ones must be dirty. Sometimes he’ll say, “There’s no room in here,” and then realize that means they’re clean and need to be put away. And when in doubt, now he’ll say, “Hey, what’s that?” while pointing out the window, and when we turn to look, he’ll LEAVE HIS FUCKING DISHES ON THE COUNTER ZOMG and run upstairs.

I’m willing to leave some room for the possibility that this is one of those things which is inexplicably more complicated for him because of autism—he is terrible with facial recognition, for example, and often oblivious to messes that make me crazy, so maybe he truly somehow is not registering the drippings of all those dirty plates on the dishwasher door—but it’s crazymaking. Because JUST LOOK at the dishes. FIGURE IT OUT.

We’re nothing if not problem solvers ’round here, though, hence Santa’s brilliant, BRILLIANT decision to gift Monkey with the holy dishwasher magnet. No more confusion! No more guessing! When the magnet says CLEAN, the dishes are clean (please unload). When the magnet says DIRTY, the dishes are dirty (please put yours inside the magical machine). This magnet would singlehandedly restore peace and harmony to our home.

The magnet arrived on Christmas (December 25th). Today is December 29th, so we’ve had it for four days. Someone (not naming any names, oh no, I would never, and wouldn’t it be funny if I had one kid who couldn’t see and ONE KID WHO APPARENTLY CAN’T HEAR?) has—TWICE!—flung open the dishwasher WHILE IT WAS RUNNING because “it said CLEAN!”

I have proposed turning the magnet sideways while the dishwasher is running. The children have countered with a proposal that involves them never touching the dishwasher ever because clearly it’s beyond them. At that point I may have mentioned an altogether alternate application of the magnet and then Otto said something about how I’m supposed to be the adult in this situation. WHATEVER.


  1. Flea

    GAH! GAH! GAH! I have three near-adult children and GAH! Yes. Clearly the only rule in parenting is, I can’t kill them.

  2. Jen B

    Best solution? Each child hand-washes, dries, and puts away his or her own dishes immediately after using said dishes!!!

    • Mir

      I’m not sure I’m prepared to deal with the whining that might accompany such an edict, but I do like the way you think!

      • Billie

        ZOMG! The WHINING! For real! Teenage whining KILLS me!

  3. Amanda

    Don’t hate me. I empathize with the kids. We’ve had a magnet like that for several years now, and I still put my dirty dishes in the sink, only loading the dishwasher when we run out of forks. I hate dishes. You can tell when my husband has had vacation days because the sink is clean.

  4. Tenessa

    My Hubs does the dishes since I do all the cooking. That was the deal we made when we moved in together and it stands to this day, 18 years later. I’ll load and/or unload the dishwasher on the occasions that Hubs has been working extraordinarily long hours, and I’ve recently taken to trying to get the kids to load the dishwasher. They unload it pretty well, meaning they put things generally where they go (aside: WHY AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO KNOWS WHERE THINGS ARE IN MY HOUSE?!?), but they SUCK at loading (They are 13, 9 and 7 years old with the oldest being an Aspie. Which I have to say, changes the whole dynamic of the older sibling/younger sibling relationship. He’d great at teaching them Math or video games or all the stats of all the Pokemons in all their evolutions, but my 9 yo is better at the household chores.) They can make 4 plates, 3 spoons, 5 cups, and a bowl fill the whole dishwasher. It’s amazing really.

    • Karen R

      Three adults here, one autistic, one with a major case of inattentive ADD. And they are both wonderful people. But why, oh why can’t they understand that if they know where to find an ice cream scoop, they really should know where to put it back when it is clean?

      • Mir

        YES. Also I really should’ve included the pic of the inattentive ADD person’s pill case inside the dishwasher. That was a fun day.

      • Jean

        Karen….Hear, hear on the ice cream scoop (and similar items)! Seems simple enough to me!

    • Jean

      Tenessa, same circumstance in my house….I seem to be the only one who knows where things go. Goes along with being the only one who can find anything….even if it’s lived where it lives forever and a day.

  5. Jessica (the celt)

    The dishes-in-the-sink or on-the-counter argument is alive and going strong in our household as well. If the sink is empty, dishes go in the sink. If the counter is empty, then we can DO things on the counter — but we can’t if the counter is full of dirty dishes. Why is that so hard to understand? There are no negative consequences of dirty dishes in the sink, particularly when you have a two-sided sink!

    • Jean

      Well…….in my house, I absolutely HATE when stuff gets loaded in the sink, because I just have to EMPTY the sink again in order to fill the basin with fresh water and do the dishes. To each his own. Having said that, most of the dishes we eat off of go directly in the dishwasher (or should!) and most of the sink dishes are pots, pans and utensils that might be needed before the dishwasher runs again. And we only have one main sink with a tiny side sink (designed for what?!).

  6. Brenda

    We remodeled our kitchen last year and now have tons of counter space, but my husband and kids don’t put the dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher or even all the counter space we now have… They teeter them on the tiny bit of counter in front of the sink. It makes me crazy.

  7. RuthWells

    Ah, the literal mind of the Aspie. My sympathies. Also, LOL.

  8. Brenda

    I don’t have a dishwasher, and I leave all my dishes on the counter. This is because I wait so long to wash them, and I can’t use the faucet properly if the sink is full of dishes. If I had a dishwasher, I would probably leave the clean ones in there and only pull out what I needed, stacking on the counter when I was done. I do my laundry very similarly to how you do. Clean, wrinkle-free, but stacked all over my apartment.

  9. Kellie S.

    Ha! I have a husband who regularly puts dirty dishes in with the clean ones. I thought that the new dishwasher, with a light to let you know the dishwasher has not been opened since washing, would solve that – nope! Gah!!!

  10. Katie in Cali

    We have a dirty/clean magnet. My husband generally does the dishes, and forgets to change the magnet.

  11. Brigitte

    I do laundry like you, and do dishes the same way – the clean ones stay in the washer until the double sink is overflowing with dirty dishes and we have no utensils. Makes hubby mental, but I don’t see him volunteering to put stuff away! :-D

  12. Katherine

    My DH is the biggest culprit in not noticing if the light on the DW is on. He will open the DW and wonder if it is clean. Our system is if the DW is clean and needing to be emptied (but maybe not all the way dry yet), we hand a dish towel over the edge of the door. This still doesn’t solve getting people to actually put dirty dishes in there… The 15 yo boy is pretty good at loading on his own and the best at unloading without having to ask where things go. DH and 18 yo don’t tend to load or unload, driving me batty.

  13. Crickett

    With our dishwasher, since we don’t use a heated dry cycle, if there is water on top of the glasses in the top rack…they are clean. Otherwise, they are dirty. Seems to work for both my husband and my 10yo.

  14. Mary K. in Rockport

    My complaint is somewhat different. Our dishwasher broke years ago, and we have not yet replaced it. My husband is very prompt about washing the supper dishes, sometimes before we have quite finished eating off them. I would prefer that he leave them in the rack to air dry, but NO. Thus, our china cabinet and nice wooden shelving are marred with many, many circular water rings, and the iron pots and pans get rusted. “PLEASE, don’t put the dishes away wet” I plead. “I don’t” he responds, “I don’t know what makes you think I do.”

    • Jean

      I feel your pain.

    • Pauline

      … I missing something why don’t you dry them before putting them away ?

  15. Daisy

    I couldn’t make that work here. We do have a young adult who can’t see!

  16. Jean

    Welcome to the world where what seems like a very simple solution is still complicated. My family can turn any seemingly easy plan into a world crisis unsolvable by anyone.

  17. diane2

    Oh, Mir. I just ordered this magnet from Amazon. Thank you.
    My sweetheart hasn’t lived in an apartment with a dishwasher for a very long time. It’s like, he doesn’t even know what it DOES! So, even when there are dirty dishes in the dishwasher, the dishes will start to pile up on the counter which also drives me insane. GROSS!!! (his argument is that they go on the counter when the sink is too full–if the sink is too full, then something needs to be done about the dishwasher and also AGH! & ARGH!!)
    I hope the magnet will at least serve as a reminder of what the dishwasher is there to do.

  18. Sassy Apple

    My 55 yr. old DH does dishes when I cook, but his timetable and mine do NOT agree. Part of his routine is to let the dogs lick the plates, bowls, pots & pans…..and then just leave them there on the floor. RAGE!

  19. Dana

    Our neighbor invented this great thing that you leave INSIDE the dishwasher that allows you to tell if it is clean or dirty. The thing is like a little narrow plastic cup that clips on the rack and fills with water when the dishwasher runs. When you empty the dishwasher you dump the water, so the only time dishes are clean inside is when it is full of water. This thing is great because you don’t have to worry about whether someone set the sign on the outside right or not. I looked online but don’t see it for sale, I would guess you could make up your own version though.

  20. Laura

    The strategy that we have at our house is: If the dishes are clean, the soap dispenser is open. If the dishes are dirty, the soap dispenser is closed (with soap inside). As soon as the dishes are done being unloaded, we add soap, whether or not we add dirty dishes. Just so it’s clear.

    But your magnet is way more fun :)

  21. Chuck

    We had moved a blackboard from my room into the kitchen by the time I was a teenager. Whenever the dishwasher needed emptying my mother would write MT-DW on the blackboard. I never had the issue of telling whether the dishes were clean or not though.

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