Who used that bowl and didn't wash it?
Nobody lived in my home from the time my kids became teenagers until the time they moved out. And, as you might have guessed, nobody used anything that required washing. As a result I thought NOBODY would mind me throwing everything in the shed, since NOBODY was using anything anyway.
Every day I watched the sink pile up with dishes that nobody used – interestingly, in direct correlation to dinnerware disappearing from my drawers and cabinets. Though I couldn't recall naming any of my children, "Nobody," he or she was obviously the culprit since nobody took responsibility for using anything.
Tired of washing a thousand dishes a week, because we had no dishwasher, and even if we had, I'm sure NOBODY would have emptied or filled it, I decided to hide every cup, glass, dish, bowl, spoon, fork, and knife in the shed. I did, however, purchase one of each, color-coded for each child with instructions: if you want to use it, clean it.
I hadn't foreseen the impending problem – that they would blame their sister/brother for using THEIR plates so they wouldn't have to wash them.
Dr. Phil's, "So how's that working for you?" comes to mind. Answer? – Not at all. The dishes continued to pile up in the sink, because nobody used them.
I was also tired of the accumulation of garbage. How hard is it to throw a plastic bag in the receptacle outside? Garbage was everywhere. Instead of making sure the trashcans in their rooms were empty or even that they had enough space to accept more garbage, the kids threw wads of gum wrapped in paper, along with tissues, cans, ruled paper, and candy wrappers in the general vicinity of the can. Sometimes I couldn't even find the bin, because it would be so overflowing with trash, the only thing I could see in a five-foot square radius was garbage.
And then I came up with an idea (actually I think I learned it from one of Oprah Winfrey's programs back in the 80's or 90's). While I was the designated driver to all school functions, parties, friends' homes, and special events, because only one other parent volunteered to help with all the driving, it occurred to me that NOT driving them ANYWHERE until AFTER they cleaned their rooms might work.
I learned one thing, though. I learned NOT to start my sentences with, "If you don't do (whatever), we're not (whatever)." – So negative. – I learned to say, "After you finish (whatever), I'll take you (wherever) or let you borrow the car."
That worked. No threats, just a decision that when they finished cleaning their plates and emptying their garbage, then – and only then – would I grant their wishes.
Fast forward to now: They are living with their own families or alone, and they are all surprisingly neat and clean.
I have a sinister desire to grab their trash, empty it into the corners of their rooms, dirty every dish in their cabinets, and throw them into the sink before I jump into my space ship and head back home.