Wednesday, October 26, 2005


When I was in college, getting the dishes washed on a regular basis was always a challenge. Over the years of living with different people we tried all sorts of different systems to try to distribute the workload across all housemates. None really worked all that well.

My sophomore year, when I lived with Bill and two random people (Gregg and Jeff, for the record) we tried a rotating week schedule. Each person had responsibility for washing all the dishes generated during the week. They could wash the dishes as many or as few times as they wanted, as long as the dishes were all washed by, say, Tuesday evening, or whatever day of the week we 'switched'.

That system worked OK as long as people remembered who's week it was, but more then one time there was someone out in the kitchen at 11pm on Tuesday night frantically washing the huge pile of dishes that had accumulated during the week they thought someone else was supposed to be doing them.

Another year, we tried an even lazier rotation system. We cycled through everyone in the house after each time someone washed all the dishes. The only requirement was that you had to go at least three days before washing the dishes, so as to prevent someone from using one cup, washing it, and having their 'turn' be up.

The problem with that method was that there was not really an upper bound on how long you could go without washing the dishes. We had tried to account for this by instituting a rule that if it was more then a week between the dishes being washed, you owed the house a case of beer as a penalty.

That didn't really work because once you had hit 7 days and bought the case of beer, there wasn't any further incentive for actually ever doing the dishes. At least in the mind of a young male college student.

Even worse, at some point we would start running out of dishes; everything would be dirty. So leaving the dishes for anything beyond about 7-10 days was all basically the same, because every single item was already dirty. In fact, it might even have been better, if someone had gotten frustrated and washed a few things by hand.

My friend Ben held the record for longest procrastination that year, at somewhere north of 2 weeks. I don't recall the actual length of time, it might even have been more then 3 weeks. He dutifully bought the case of beer at a week, and then settled in to see if he could outlast the rest of the house in not actually doing the dishes. Eventually I think he got a girl to come over and help with the dishes (now that's a talent).

Gross? Yes, but kind of funny at the same time (mainly to everyone who came over and heard the story, but didn't have to live there).

All I know is that when I finished college and moved back to the Twin Cities and was looking for apartments with Brenden, my strictest requirement was "Must Have a Dishwasher".


Brenden Johnson said...

Hear, hear. Of course, I can be lazy even with a dishwasher around.

Steve Eck said...

Heh, yeah, but so can I. Its just that it's hard to be *as* lazy, with a dishwasher around.