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Cleaning up Dishes 

 September 19, 2020

By  Oak Norton

Family clearing the table

Who loves doing dishes after a meal? Nobody, right? Once dinner is done, people scatter or if they do dishes, it takes a long time.

One night at dinner, we discussed the concept of optimization and how to do things efficiently. A single trip from one point to another is more efficient than multiple trips (as long as it’s safe and you’re not overloaded).

Also, when people don’t cross paths and have to wait for someone else it’s more efficient than if you do have to wait for someone to finish a task. That’s called “bottlenecking” in optimization strategies.

Think of a bottle of soda (not a can). At the top it gets narrow because we want to control the flow of the soda into our mouth. It slows down the soda to a more manageable rate. When we optimize a process, you look for bottlenecks and try to compensate for those things. For example, if all dishes have to be rinsed before being put in the dishwasher, that means multiple items have to go through a single station. One way to speed that up might be to have one person assigned to sink duty to rinse plates as people hand plates to them, and another person to take those plates and put them in the dishwasher so one person doesn’t have to do two things that are bottlenecks.

When our family did this, we cut dinner cleanup time from about 20 minutes (and not everyone participating fully), to 3 minutes working together with a plan.

Discuss: As a family, discuss over dinner how you will clean up the table as fast as possible after dinner (without breaking anything :)). Then do it and time your family.

Discuss: After finishing, quickly discuss what challenges you experienced and how to solve those issues for the next mealtime.

(Featured image by Cathy Yeulet  @123rf.com)

Oak Norton


Father of 5 children, husband to 1 amazingly patient woman, entrepreneur, and education advocate.

Calm and collected but sometimes outrageous. Check out my website for more info!

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