Not enough cooks in the kitchen

Collaboration makes boring tasks bearable


Madison Geering

Dishes in senior Madison Geering’s kitchen. She cleans up alone after dinner every other night.

Madison Geering, Editor-in-Chief

Seven people live in my house. That’s a lot of dishes to do.

Bustling through the kitchen, wiping down countertops and scraping food off of plates is a job that takes me about 30 minutes to do properly. My brothers, all under the age of 6, aren’t old enough to contribute to the kitchen-cleaning process. But they sure do know how to make a mess.

And I get lonely cleaning it up by myself. 

But it wasn’t always that way. Two months ago, my sister and I shared the responsibility of tidying the kitchen after dinner. However, we both complained that the work was divided unevenly, and argued disgruntledly as we cleaned. Since our parents were tired of hearing us bicker (and aggressively throw dishrags at each other), they decided that our collaboration would come to an end.

Now, every night, we rotate the duty of cleaning the kitchen by ourselves. At first, it seemed much better. I didn’t have to deal with my sister’s constant complaining. However, I’ve come to realize that times were better when we worked together.

Balancing plates on our arms, we would support each other by dividing up the work. I would rinse the dishes off while she put them in the dishwasher. I would clear the placemats while she scrubbed the table. And, to pass time, we would sing songs together and crack jokes.

Neither of us particularly liked cleaning the kitchen, but keeping each other company made the experience bearable. When you’re with people you love, almost anything can become something special.

In the absence of each other, the process took twice as long. Most nights, one of us was left alone, dejectedly sweeping the floor and gathering empty plates. I’ve started to feel guilty when my sister has to clean up on a night where we have a large dinner, and I sympathetically rinse off my own plate.

The whole dilemma got me thinking about the way I interact with other people. I’ve always been the Type A, do-it-yourself kind of person. Group projects stress me out because of my need for control and organization; it always feels like there are too many cooks in the kitchen. 

However, is it really better to work by yourself and avoid conflict, but feel lonely? Or is there an intrinsic value of working together that my sister and I never fully acknowledged?

I’ve begun to believe in that intrinsic value, especially on nights where I’m left by myself at the sink. Maybe that was the point of separating us in the first place. Maybe my parents wanted us to recognize that when there’s a mess to clean, it’s best to have someone by your side every step of the way.