Dishes in the Closet

photo of closet with dishes stacked inside

A few months back I was trying to prevent an emotional breakdown from happening…

so naturally I started to try and control others.

This issue I focused my effort to control was the dirty dishes. I had been so angry with my family for using cups and not reusing them throughout the day, or even bothering to put them into the sink, let alone the dishwasher. Picture this, at the end of the day, there is a sea of half full cups on my counter. I asked them nicely to clean them up. I asked them again. I begged. I moaned. Nothing seemed to get my 4 housemates to take some personal responsibility!!!

After a hard week I got a got a great idea!

I could force my family to clean up after themselves if I just took all the dishes away. And that, is exactly what I did. We each got an assigned color of plate (thank you Fiesta ware). I hung up a big sign in the kitchen announcing the new plan.

How do you think that went over?

Yep, just like you guessed. My whole family hated it and revolted by whining at every single meal and snack. Even my husband was mad at me and somehow (I still don’t know exactly what happened) I ended up doing most of the dishes anyway!!


Didn’t they understand. I’m sure that they want to be on the side of logic for once? Why didn’t they want to help me out?

Nope. They did not.

After a few days I realized that none of them will ever possibly know what it is like to be me. At the moment I packed up all of the dishes into Trader Joe bags and stacked them next to my worn out shoes I was lost. They will never have the same chances that I have had to (again) postpone my professional aspirations so that I can spend my days and nights cleaning up the cup they leave around the house.

In turn, I will never know what it is like to be them, a teenager not allowed to see my friends, or to be forced to learn about subjects at ARE NOT relevant to our current world, from people who have little power to improve the situation, in front of a tiny screen ALL DAY. I will not understand what it is like to be a husband, who must hold the burden of knowing that his wife is pausing the work that she loves, to allow for him to work, to ensure the bill will be paid.

There are two more family members who I will spare you the details about, but when I feel into what they are experiencing and set my own problems aside, I see a few things a lot more clearly.

1. I am so very lucky to have these people in my life.

2. Good fortune has allowed me to have a job I love and will be able to go back to.

3. It doesn’t take too long to wash the cups for me either.

When I see my family with compassion I say “to hell” with my ideas of forcing a clean house as a way to prevent an emotional meltdown. Maybe at this point what we all need is the unconditional love and freedom to have our emotional meltdowns. Our jobs as family members is to be here for each other in good times and in bad. To behold and stand by one another even when we don’t understand.

Some of the dishes are back and I’m again running the dishwasher a few times a day. This time joyfully.

Thank you for taking a moment to peek into my soul. I can’t wait until we can hug and share droplets safely in-person again.

About Amity Kramer

Amity Kramer has been helping families cultivate unconditional love since 2008. She is a Birthing From Within Mentor, Certified Gottman Educator, and founder of Thresholds. Amity leads soulful workshops for families in transition. She also is a practicing birth and postpartum doula which gives her a unique window into the joys and struggles of family life.

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