…does not help the medicine go down, pal.

So, you have a sink full of dishes. The counter next to the sink? Also dishes. Basically, there’s not a clean dish to be had and it’s time to face the music.

I got you. We can do this. This is going to be a long one, but I have a step by step plan for this situation, and I’m going to share it with you.

Even if you’ve got a dishwasher: if you’re floundering I recommend you read the whole thing.

Note: This method of sink rescue assumes an able-bodied person is doing the work – if you have physical limitations that mean you can’t do a long haul like this? Then please do not! This plan can be modified for time and effort and energy expenditure to meet your particular needs. (Worst case, if you just can’t figure it out, I am happy to have a quick chat and help you establish something that will.)

To start with you’re going to empty the sink – put the dishes on the floor if you have to, you’re going to wash them anyway. Now check out the sink itself. Gross and splattered with old mushy food? Probably. Rinse it out: dump the strainer if need be or run the disposal.

Once the sink is free of gunk get your sponge or rag or whatever and give it a good wipe down. It doesn’t have to be perfect. “Make it less gross,” is what we’re going for here. If you have a double sink then you need to use some dish soap on the rinse sink, clean dishes are going to sit in that one.

Up next we’re going to sort the dishes. Go through dish mountain and find all of your plates, bowls, and silverware and stack up the big stuff into neater piles. Put the dinnerware in the wash side of the sink. If there’s too many that’s okay, put in flatware and just plates or just bowls and set the others aside.

Note: do not put sharp knives in a sink of soapy water. That’s a good way to cut yourself.

The next step is filling the sink – about two thirds full for the wash side of a double, and halfway for a single – with water as hot as you can stand it and enough soap to make bubbles. I wear gloves to protect my manicure, (vanity, I know) but I found it also means I can get the water hotter, which makes washing easier.

Don’t forget to wash the whole dish! Inside and out, otherwise you’re going to have greasy plate bottoms and nobody wants that.

Put the dishes in the rinse half as you go so you can rinse them all at once, or turn on a slow stream of water to rinse if you’re working in a single sink (this is why we only fill it half full.)

Once that sink full is done it’s time to take a break. Get a glass of water, sit down, breathe. You’ve done a lot of work already, and taking a minute to be pleased with that is a good thing. It’s tempting at this point to beat ourselves up, it’s easy to think, “if only I had…” but I want you to resist that urge. Channel those feelings into something productive. Grab your phone or some paper and make a list of ideas for building a solid dish habit. How can you prevent this from happening in the future? When is a good time of day to deal with dishes every day? Can you wash a couple of dishes at a time as you use them? Maybe teach other family members how to wash properly too.

Once you’ve finished your water and done a bit of brainstorming let’s get back to work.

We’re going to dry what’s been washed and put it away, then finish up any dinnerware if there’s some left, dry that and get it put away too.

Check your water. Has it cooled? Is it dirty? Drain the sink, wipe it out, fill it up again.

Look at what’s left of dish mountain, hopefully it’s more of a hill by now. I wash big stuff, pots and pans, in order of size. Small to large, makes it easier to stack until it’s time for drying.

The only exception is if there’s something truly gross that needs to soak. Fill that up with soap and the hottest of water and set it aside to tackle last.

Now you just start washing. Rinse as you go and set them aside to dry. Once there’s an almost-precarious pile to dry? Go sit down again, drink some more water, maybe have a snack, and look at your brainstorming list. What can you add? Can you see things that make more sense than others?

Hey guess what? It’s time to dry again. Get those things put away! At this point it really depends on how many dishes you have and how much counter space. You might be done. There may be more dishes to wash. All you’re going to do is repeat this process until everything is clean and put away. Drain your wash water as it gets gross or cools. Yes, it sucks to be using so much water but part of our brainstorming work is preventing this from happening in the future. It’s okay, really. We’re making progress and building the foundation for good habits today.

Whew. Are you done? It’s all put away? That’s amazing! Are you exhausted? I am exhausted when I have to do this kind of kitchen reboot.

So now we go and sit in a comfortable spot and relax. Maybe look over your brainstorming and ponder it a little. I bet you’ve come up with some great ideas to prevent this from happening again.

Okay so now let’s talk about if there’s a dishwasher in the house: do all the same things I just talked about except put the dinnerware and whatever else fits into the dishwasher and start hand washing what’s left. The end.

(And here’s the thing – If you still feel lost or overwhelmed or just don’t know what to do in the future, that’s a good time to call me or hit the schedule tab up there and make an appointment. I’m here to help you find your routines and build your habits, literally my job. I want to help. <3)

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