I used to think that the ideal number of dirty dishes was "as few as possible", but I have recently made the discovery that the ideal number is actually "enough to fill the dishwasher once a day". It seems counterintuitive, but it actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. I used to only ever use the dishwasher if I was behind on dishes (which, admittedly, I usually was), because it seemed wasteful to run a partial load, and if the dishes sat in there for more than a day, I would go crazy looking for things I use every day (like my kefir strainer and my DMIUFCEM) and have to dig them out of the dishwasher and hand wash them after all. Dishes that sat for longer also needed more of a pre-scrub (or more of a post-scrub, if I didn't pre-scrub them) than dishes that were washed the same day.
So, my amazing discovery has been that: More dirty dishes = Running dishwasher more often = Actually washing fewer dishes. Hooray!