A $7 tool that means not having to ask “Are the dishes clean or dirty?” a million times a day

I always think of dishwashers as argument enders. There’s really no point in fighting over dishes if you have a machine that cleans them for you. And while I believe everyone in a household should put dirty dishes into the machine as soon as they’re done eating, having a dishwasher means that even if I do have to do someone else’s dishes (or if they have to do mine), the task is just not that onerous.

And yet.

I have a toddler who eats five times a day in our kitchen, with various plates and bibs and cups as well as her own tiny utensils, and it started to seem like it was impossible to keep up with all the stuff that needed washing and putting away. This meant my husband and I were often grabbing clean dishes right from the dishwasher and closing it, which would turn the indicator light off, which then meant we would inevitably forget whether the dishes inside the dishwasher were clean or dirty, which meant not being sure if we could unload the dishwasher at any given moment, all while dirty dishes piled up in the sink. We weren’t arguing about dishes — but we were definitely frustrated.

In a blitz of self-improvement energy a few months ago, I tried to zero in on what, exactly, would solve this problem. I googled “dishwasher clean sign” and found this magnet. I wish I had thought to do that months, if not years, ago. It’s so much easier to get back into the habit of loading dirty dishes as soon as I’m done using them now that I know the dishwasher is ready to accept them. As soon as I turn the dishwasher on, I flip the sign to “clean.” As soon as the last clean dish comes out, I flip the sign to dirty. It’s one of the few organizational systems I’ve tried that truly doesn’t require any extra work or time.

I will not lie and tell you that thanks to this magnet we never have a dish pile. That’s just not possible when you’re cooking several meals a day in the small kitchen of the apartment where you live with a toddler in a still ongoing pandemic. But we have, finally, stopped having to ask “Are the dishes clean or dirty?” a million times a day. We have, finally, been able to simply load or unload the dishwasher whenever we have a minute. We have, finally, stopped having feelings about dishes.

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