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One Man, One Bowl: The Ultimate Heuristic for Dish Management

When living with other human beings, it can become very difficult to make sure everyone takes care of their respective dishes. In fact, while everyone may agree on a strategy and plan, the agreement are generally forgotten or ignored within a few weeks. At college, I live in a flat with three other geeks. We have all agreed not to let dishes go unwashed for more than 24 hours. With a few minor exceptions, this keeps our kitchen fairly tidy. In fact, it may even be that the messier bits of our kitchen are caused by the food-preparation processes and their byproducts. Still, having visited the kitchens of others, we are constantly reminded of how nice it is to have a clean space. In fact, our success was pointed out by our friend Fred who came over last week to play some StarCraft. As some of us went to grab our dishes to eat some of the veggie stir fry we had just prepared, Fred pointed out the reason for our continued cleanliness: One man, one bowl. The inner workings of the system are profound yet elementary. Every person, being a poor college student, has a severley-limited selection of dishes. Therefore, we may assume they will most likely default to using the most versatile dish, which is none other than the common bowl), the most often. As such, there is one bowl per person. While this may seem insignificant at first, consider the implications. First, everyone is responsible for one piece of dish ware which makes keeping one’s implements clean a much more manageable task. Second, because people need to eat multiple times a day, the dish must be used multiple times a day. In order to use the dish again, it must be washed. This heuristic is still dependent on personal initiative. The time, T, a dish spends in a non-clean state can be defined by the summation 1m1b-formula where n is the number of meals per day, m is the duration of the meal, b is the time between the end of the meal and the beginning of the cleaning phase while c is time between the beginning and the beginning of the next meal. This means that if a person puts off washing the bowl until it is needed for the next meal, then the bowl will spend most of it’s time in a non-clean state. However, even with everyone leaving bowls unwashed until required next, the largest amount of dishes waiting to be washed never exceeds the number of people eating in a 24-hour period. Shockingly simple, yet startlingly effective.

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