Basics of Keeping House for 30 Year Olds Who Still Don’t Have Their Stuff Together: the What and the Why

Guys, I need some help. I turned 30 this year and still live my life in the midst of piles of dishes, laundry, and paper clutter. And so I’ve decided to start a new series of monthly posts to ask you for advice and to ask you to hold me accountable to getting on top of this (hopefully once and for all). I’ll be researching, trialing, and writing on different problems areas around the house.

First you need to know: this is in no way written to criticize or heap guilt on those of you who don’t have spotless houses (because honestly who has time for that?) and I absolutely do not want you to feel that this is something you need to have together. Life is full, I know, and sometimes (or often or always) these things take a back seat for various reasons. I will not judge you if I show up at your house and your piles of laundry are higher than mine, honest!

Here is my why in all of this:

  1. I’ve learned that less clutter in my house equates to less clutter in my brain, leaving me freed up to better focus on what I’m doing or who I’m with.
  2. I believe that if I stay on top of these things as opposed to letting them build up, they will take less time overall and I’ll have more time to do other things that I enjoy or that I need to get done (that said, there may come a time where I wash the dishes by hand so I can spend time chatting with my son when he’s older, in which case time spent doing dishes would become a priority).

Kinfolk magazine (my absolute favorite by the way, I could just crawl inside and curl up, breathing deeply for awhile) recently published the Essentials Issue. I loved the idea of essentialism, which isn’t about seeing how little we can get by with, but figuring out what we can’t live without. This is how I want to live: discovering what is essential in my life, what brings joy and gives purpose, and do those things, have those things, be those things (currently housework, although necessary, is not those things; however, having it done is).

And so. First up: dishes. This is my kitchen sink and counter (except maybe if you’ve called ahead of time to let me know you’re coming over… maybe).


Stephen and I were talking recently about why it is our dishes pile up like this. It turns out that I always thought dishes should be done after meals and he believed the best time to do them was while you are prepping meals (clean as you go and finish up last meal’s dishes). This has resulted in me expecting to do them after, but as soon as the meal was done Stephen wanted to go out for the evening or sit down and relax after the long day, so we’d just add them to the pile. So simple, right? How has it taken us over 5 years to figure this out?!

So, friends, there’s got to be some of you who are fantastic at this! How do you stay on top of the dishes? What are your favorite dish cleaning products (anyone have a dishwasher soap that doesn’t leave a fine grit on glasses?)? And how do you make it fun? As well, feel free to post any other dish-related questions you may have!

21 thoughts on “Basics of Keeping House for 30 Year Olds Who Still Don’t Have Their Stuff Together: the What and the Why

  1. Let’s be honest….there’s no way to make dishes fun! Until dishes start dancing and cleaning themselves, I will go to my grave with that belief. 😉 I throw as much as I can into the dishwasher…and all the rest of the dishes are done as soon as the little guy goes down. Once they’re done, Mama can finally rest and relax! Dishwasher is unloaded in the morning or when we get home from work.

    1. If only they WOULD dance and clean themselves! I find I have so much to do when kiddo goes to bed that if I did it all I’d never get any down time. It’s about prioritizing I guess hey? And if I did the basics every day I wouldn’t get to the place where they become a big thing…

    2. Hi! Just want to say that you have a challenge I havent had for yrs… a lot of counter space. My counter space is limited and so it forcesbme to clear the deck for the next meal.I find that as I cook if I just slip things in the dishwasher then there’s less at the end of the meal to deal with. And of course emptying out the clean dishes while I’m cooking so that dirty dishes can find their place in the dishwasher. My challenge in all that….to keep the backs of the counter not so crowded. I like to have things I use often “at hand”. And today there will be no pix of my counter.:) you have set yourself a noble goal. God bless you with success! Connie

      1. It’s amazing how, no matter how much space you have, it tends to fill up with things. Sometimes I think a smaller place would be easier to keep cleaner. And you’re right it’s tough keeping the counter free because there’s a lot of things that are nice to have at hand! Time to start looking on Pinterest for storage solutions… 🙂

  2. A long times ago I lived with a guy who assumed that I did the dishes every night. In reality I was throwing them out the window into the forsythia bush below. Then fall came and the bush dropped it’s leaves to reveal 12 dinner plates. We broke up by spring.
    I often get overwhelmed by the pressures of domestic duties. The real bummer is that women are often judged for the state of the household.
    My cheat is that when life gets crazy or I get lazy I use paper plates and eat foods that don’t need pots
    or pans to prep. Also, I leave ‘his’ dirty dishes outside by the back door.

    1. That’s hilarious! I love it! We have used paper plates etc for when we have a lot of people over sometimes but I never thought of it as an option for just a regular day when you don’t feel like doing dishes. I’ll have to remember that.

  3. Hi Emily,
    Keeping house has never come natural to me, but this is what I found really helpful. Have to confess I don’t always stick with it, but at least I know where to start when it piles up. BTW, dishes after dinner is the way to go if you ask me. Then there is room and the utensils needed for the next meal…

  4. Hi Emily,
    Keeping house has never come natural to me, but this is what I found really helpful. Have to confess I don’t always stick with it, but at least I know where to start when it piles up. BTW, dishes after dinner is the way to go if you ask me. Then there is room and the utensils needed for the next meal…

  5. Teamwork and habits!
    My “cheat” is that my kids are in school so the dishes don’t pile up during the day (but I ran the dishwasher twice a day over the summer because my oldest discovered baking)
    So, I do just let things kinda accumulate till after supper. Then when the girls are getting ready for bed I load up the dishwasher and clean the counters. When I come down in the am the kitchen looks so welcoming. Best of all…my husband unloads the dishwasher in the am before he goes to work. (Yup…he’s a keeper). 😍

    1. Having people out of the house would definitely help :). Stephen works from home so that’s all our dishes from every meal that need to be done. So nice to wake up to a clean kitchen hey? Kind of like going to bed in a bed that’s been made. Ps Sounds like you landed yourself a good one!

  6. Hey Emily! It’s wonderful being organized. I’m happier and can think clearly. This doesn’t always happen as i would like but i try. I’ve found that after dinner the hubby plays with the kids and i just clean up till done (or the other way around) It’ the best feeling going to bed knowing your house will stay tidy for at least 8 hours 🙂 and if you run out of time you can buy or make a sign that says “excuse the mess we live here’ . Happy cleaning!

    1. That’s cute! And so true! Houses are made to be lived in and life is messy. I would like to be a little more organized but it’s good to remember to give myself some grace too.

  7. Hi Emily,

    I’m almost 40 and I still have a hard time getting dishes done. I’m the only one who does them, but throughout the day I clean up the dishwasher dishes and let any that I wash by hand (pots, wooden stuff) pile up. I’m usually tired after dinner and busy with children so I do them in the morning!! And they soak over night, so super easy to wash.

    1. My problem is that my dishwasher isn’t empty in the morning (haha my fault I know) so ALL my dishes pile up on the counter. Soaking is a good idea too that’d be so quick to clean later!

  8. Thought I should weigh in. My best work is done with Netflix playing in the background. Takes my mind off the monotony. Plus everyone disappears when I start cleaning, so I don’t get interrupted. I don’t necessarily stay on top of it during the day, but everything is put in order after dinner. Good luck Emily, you will find your groove. I do make sure dishwasher is empty/clean for evening clean up.

  9. Hmmm The only way I can keep them from forming the pile that is currently on my counter, haha, is to make sure the dishwasher is always unloaded and rinse and put the dishes in there as I use them or immediately when I’m done with them. I think that takes incredible discipline … buuuuuut it is nice to have clean dishes available when I want them!

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