Let me say right up front that I'm not talking primarily about cleaning up after yourself. That should be a given. It isn't, but it should be. What I'm talking about is helping your wife keep the kitchen clean for the family.
I know this goes against the grain, since cleaning has traditionally been regarded as women's work. Then again, men have traditionally been responsible for supporting the family financially. Any questions?
The fact is, if you wish to have a truly harmonious marriage, you're going to have to do some housework, including cleaning the kitchen, at least when you've fixed dinner. But remember that you can also bank a great deal of good will by telling your wife, after she's prepared a particularly large and delicious meal, "You go lie down, honey. I'll take care of the kitchen."
(Note: this principle does not apply on Thanksgiving and Christmas days, when it is your inalienable right as an American male to watch eight hours of football after eating yourself into a stupor. Just be sure to invite enough female relatives to help with the cleanup.)
When you do have to clean the kitchen, you can greatly reduce the time and stress involved by remembering the following tips:
Use disposable utensils. If you're responsible for dinner, you can probably get away with using plastic forks and spoons, paper plates, and Styrofoam cups, which are all readily available at your local grocer, one aisle over from the frozen microwave pizza. Please keep in mind that your wife's great-grandmother's English china is not disposable, even if the dishwasher is full.
Use the dishwasher. Washing dishes by hand is not only a complete waste of energy but also sets a bad precedent. Anything too large to be put in the dishwasher should be hidden -- behind the sofa, perhaps -- or buried in the backyard. Once the dishwasher is full, any remaining dishes can be left "to soak" in a sink full of soapy water. Your wife will take care of them later.
Have your kids do it. This will be a great learning experience for them, not to mention helping to justify their existence. Since dishwashers are built low to the ground, even toddlers can help --and you may find that great-grandma's china is disposable, after all. Older children can do all the work themselves and for a few dollars may even give you credit.
Throw out leftovers. Transferring food to storage containers is a waste of time and a tremendous pain in the rear. If it isn't already in such a container, throw it out.
Yes, I know you'll probably be guilt-ridden, thinking of all those poor starving children your mother used to tell you about. If it helps, simply leave the food out on the counter for several hours, perhaps while you watch football. Then you can throw it away with impunity.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and author of "Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility." Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp.