Not My Dishes

dirty dishes

At my support group for women with ADHD the topic of doing the dishes came up and everybody had something to say about that.

Unless you use paper plates and plastic utensils or eat with your hands and never cook dirty dishes will multiply. Even if you live alone your dirty dishes can cause negativity and prevent you from doing things you would like to do like enjoy a home cooked meal or have a friend over.

Many salvageable relationships have ended over dirty dishes. Just notice your brain chatter the next time you see a sink full of them.

I bet you hear the following: (The curse words have been edited)

  • These are not all my dirty dishes. I should only have to do my dishes.
  • These are his or her dishes.
  • They never do the dishes.
  • If they loved, respected or cared about me they would do the dishes.
  • I hate doing the dishes. Doing the dishes is boring and takes too long.
  • Why am I the only one to load, run or empty the dishwasher?
  • Why can’t he or she put the dishes into the dishwasher not near the dishwasher?
  • How come he or she can’t clean the sink when they finish the dishes?
  • Why am I the only one to even notice dirty dishes in the sink?

These negative thoughts tend to escalate with the amount of dishes in the sink and how long they’ve been there.

Make peace with the dishes. They are a fact of life. Find a system that makes doing the dishes bearable and practice it.

Here are few suggestions:

  • Find the dish soap you like the feel and smell of. Notice the lovely bubbles.
  • Find a sponge you like to use.
  • Put on some music you like.
  • Never wash more than 20 items at a time and remember a spoon counts as much as a dish which means you could potentially be done in 2 minutes.
  • Never commit to washing dishes for more than ten minutes at a time. Use a timer and try to be done before the timer goes off.
  • See how many dishes you can wash while standing on one foot.
  • Edit the amount of dishes you own. If you live alone or with one other person you don’t need more than four of anything. Four plates, four bowls, four cups, four glasses etc.

Give yourself a little reward like a piece of chocolate every time you finish washing the dishes. Try to make it fun.

Kathy Sussell is an ADHD coach in Brooklyn, NY. She helps teens, college students and adults with ADHD with time management, planning and prioritizing, getting started with and finishing tasks, organizing paper and objects and improving social skills. She is the organizer of the ADHD Women’s Meetup Group that meets every month in downtown Brooklyn. For more information visit her website: or email Kathy at

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