The Dish Dilemma

So a few years back, my older set of kiddos all had a case of the “my life is soooo hard” and couldn’t quit whining to save MY life. In one of my more creative moments of discipline/I’m-losing-my-mind moments, I gave them each a poster board and an assignment: create a chart on the total number of loads of laundry washed and folded, loads of dishes washed and put away, trash bags taken out, floors cleaned and beds made by themselves and then tabulate one for me, on a monthly, annual and lifetime basis. When they were done creating their props, they were to give a presentation on their productivity level in the house in comparison with my own. In my ragged state, I thought it would distract everybody from their incessant complaining, provide a summer time opportunity to practice some math and writing skills, and just might lend everybody some perspective to counter their attitude. Well, the projects went over better than expected. Everyone enjoyed creating and decorating the poster boards. Tabulating the numbers was interesting to say the least, since my kids have a profound interest in comparing everything from shoe size to cheeseburgers eaten. The presentations were creative, funny and a blast to watch as I kicked back and let my children entertain me. It was also eye opening and hilarious to see their reaction to the true volume of chores being done around our house. But at the same time, it was somewhat appalling to see the number of loads of laundry and dishes dominating my daily routine. In a moment of inspiration, I decided to do something. I couldn’t really reduce the amount of laundry unless I made everyone go naked, so I turned instead to the dish dilemma. On any given day, I probably wash an average of five loads of dishes (did I mention we don’t use a dishwasher?) and that doesn’t even factor in holiday or Sunday supper extreme usage days. I would estimate half of the dishes I wash are cups that my children, middle-aged and growing, grab out of the cupboard every time they need a swig of water. Tossing that cup into the sink, doesn’t even give them pause for concern, because everyone knows good old Mom is a dishwashing professional. Well I had a solution…. The cup collector. I had seen similar ideas to reduce countertop clutter and pretty up kitchen surfaces, but nothing that strived to reduce dish load for a family as large and consumptive as ours. So I played with the idea, stole some materials from my hubby’s garage, plus a few things from the local home improvement store and craft store, and added the required paint and pretties, to make my masterpiece/mind-saver. Here is the finished product! Ahhhh…..let’s bask in the glory of this Palmolive-free moment. CUP-HOLDER So, if you are looking to strike back against your dish washing demons, let me offer a few pointers I learned along the way. DISH-CLUTTER To begin with, I stole a piece of wood from my handyman’s stash collecting sawdust in the garage, but you can easily find a piece of wood at your local craft or hardware store. I estimated my length based on coasters (or 4×4 tiles) needed. I needed 7 tiles, at 4 inches each is 28 inches, plus ½ inch in between, added an additional 3 1/2 inches. Then I added 4 1/2 inches for creative license and estimating errors (uuuhhmmm…I had originally planned on having only two kids). So I used a board roughly 36 inches long by 6 inches wide. Feel free to adjust yours per number of kids/estimating errors at your house. Next, I purchased some wooden candle holders in the unfinished wood aisle at the craft store. They come in little bags of 4 to 6. I used 6 for the legs on my larger board, so you can pair up or down as needed. At the hardware store, I also picked up 2 drawer handles that suited my more rustic taste. My hubby happened to have a pile of travertine shower tiles hidden away in another dusty corner of his garage, but any type of 4 inch by 4 inch tile in the flooring section of the hardware store will work. Plus, they are relatively inexpensive. (Let your imagination run wild, but more porous tiles – stay away from the super glossy ones – will work better with stencils and absorption later.) Finally, I had stencils in my craft bin at home, extra sample paints in my hall closet, a spray can of clear coat, and a black Sharpie, but if you’re not as well stocked grab a couple while you’re out. On to assembly, this is way simpler than I anticipated. I painted my board the night before with two paint colors. I did a base coat in barn red using left over sample paints I keep for just such occasions (don’t forget to paint the wooden candles holders like I did). After air drying under a fan for 30 minutes, I dry-brushed on some flat black to give it that rustic barn look. Finally, after that all set up (‘bout thirty minutes again), I applied a quick clear coat to seal against major stains. You can use any spray clear coat in the spray paint section, just decide which sheen you prefer (I like satin…looks older!). Now, to sleep and revisit for the fun part in the AM. Next morning, I sat down with stencils first, to initial each coaster. I laid mine out in age order and picked the appropriate letter. We had a few letter repeats, so I used capital and lowercase. You could also be creative and utilize nicknames! I put my handy-dandy Sharpie to work and filled in the stencils. Voila! HANDLES Next, I laid everything out on my board to gauge distances accurately before I affixed anything permanently. I placed a handle on either end and spread the coasters out evenly. With a pencil I marked where each item was placed, and then removed them. The first thing you will want to mount are the handles. I used a push drill to make holes and screw on the handles, but you can use a drill if one is available. (Oddly enough, despite living with a professional contractor, there is never a drill when I need one!) After that, heat up your hot glue gun and place the candle holders on the bottom of the board. I put one in each corner and then two in the middle to brace for extra weight. Finally, glue your coasters into to their designated spots and let the whole thing set up for a few hours. ALMOST-DONE The final step is to give an informational how–it works presentation to the dish users in your house; for my gang, they enjoyed the explanation so much we repeated it a few times. Eventually, everyone mastered the art of the drink caddy, and the only thing I would do differently if I could, would be to add a few blanks for visitors. The friends that drop in regularly around our joint, enjoy it is as much as my gang and would love to have their own reserved spot. FINISHED-PRODUCT

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