Disclaimer: If you do not have a dishwasher, take my sincere sympathy and respect, and click away now.
What was the mistake that was wreaking havoc in my kitchen? I was running the dishwasher at the wrong time of day! I had been religiously running the dishwasher after dinner, and at one time, I think that worked well. However, emptying the dishwasher has become an after school chore.
Realizing that I had dirty dishes in the counter and clean dishes in the machine, I decided to try the daily dishwasher run in conjunction with lunch clean up. Voila! A clean kitchen! All day I just put in dirty dishes, and after school the kids help me put away the clean ones.
Here's my formula for when to run the dishwasher: A) If it is full, run it. B) If it is time,run it. Figure time to run the dishwasher by deciding when the best time to put away dishes is. Back track to the last meal before that. Clean up from that meal is time to run the dishwasher, full or not.
We are sneaking in some extra cycles now, and that's ok. Modern dishwashers are extremely efficient. My time in money more than pays for the extra bit of electric.
Granted, I still put on some hours in the kitchen, but at least it looks like it now! If you have another trick for keeping a busy kitchen clean, I would be grateful to hear it.