I am going to share a secret with you: The longer you spend thinking about having a clean kitchen, the less time you spend actually cleaning it. Until suddenly the task has become so insurmountable that when you finally do dig in, it will take you hours of back-breaking, toothbrush-wielding work.
On the other hand, if you routinely implement a few simple daily kitchen routines, you will never have more than a 20-minute clean-up in front of you. And even deep cleaning will be a cinch, since the daily chores will be done and out of the way and you will be starting with a mostly clean kitchen right from the beginning.
The trick is to have the right tools at your fingertips so you can do your cleaning routines QUICKLY. Then you can get onto more pressing things that are usually more enjoyable. I use a rig like this – an apron with all my cleaning tools in handy pockets. I learned this method over at a website called TheCleanTeam.com and I’ve used it for probably 20 years. I have a whole post on their Speed Cleaning method for cleaning your whole house, but today we’re going to focus on just the kitchen.
The most Efficient Method to Keep a Clean Kitchen
So, how do you maintain this perfectly clean kitchen, without giving up all your free time? The answer is simple: Make it a habit to clean as you go.
You’ve no doubt heard this advice before — and perhaps you’ve made a valiant effort to implement it. Maybe you’ve kept the kitchen clean for a few days or even a few weeks. But then life got hectic and your kids got sick and the next thing you knew, all your momentum was gone and your kitchen sink was once again full of three-day old dishes.
The discouragement of that overflowing sink is quite powerful: It makes it seem like your kitchen will never be clean again. Or worse, that the whole process of cleaning is totally futile, since even if you do spend an hour cleaning now, it will just be like this again tomorrow.
The truth is that maintaining a clean kitchen — just like keeping up with the laundry or any other home maintenance task — is a bit redundant. You do it, it’s clean for an hour or for a day, and then it gets messy and you have to do it again.
The key to not getting discouraged by the repetitive nature of cleaning your kitchen is to accept that messes happen, especially when you have young kids. A mess is not a sign that you have failed as a home manager; it is a sign that vibrant life is happening in your home, which is as it should be. Once you accept — and embrace — the mess, it will seem a lot less daunting to dig in and keep up with it.
Let Go of Perfectionism
Another thing holding many of you back from having a clean kitchen is your own perfectionism. What’s that, you wonder? Wouldn’t a perfectionist have a perfectly clean kitchen? The answer is no — and here’s why: A perfectionist starts by washing the dishes. But as she is soaking a particularly greasy pan, she notices some hard water stains on the faucet. So she grabs a toothbrush and begins to furiously scrub her entire sink. Next thing she knows, she is using a toothpick to remove build-up from under the calking. Pretty soon, she is on her hands and knees, scouring the oven, bleaching the garbage pail and rearranging the fridge.
All of this activity is caused by perfection-itis. This is an incredibly common condition that causes people to avoid doing tasks they can’t do perfectly. And of course, the perfectionist’s definition of perfect is a whole lot more exacting than that of the non-perfectionist. I have a post on how difficult these perfectionist attitudes are on your family.
The good news is that there is a cure for perfection-itis: We’re going to make a list of daily chores. If it’s not on the list, you aren’t allowed to do it. Set a timer if you have to. It may seem impossible at first, but you will get used to it.
Make a List and Check it Twice
Make a master list that tells you everything you have to do each day to keep your kitchen clean. Below is a basic outline with the seven essential chores, but you may need to tweak it for your personal set-up. These tasks should take you no longer than 20 minutes, and that includes washing the dishes!
If you are a beginner at keeping a clean kitchen, you may want to print out this list and post it on your fridge as a daily reminder. I love keeping lists like this on the inside of my cabinet doors and I put a piece of plastic over it, so I can check items off with a dry erase marker. I LOVE checklists, don’t you? The key is Keep It Simple!
1. Load the dishwasher.
If you don’t have a dishwasher, you’ll need to make sure that all dishes are hand washed by the end of each day. Note that you don’t have to DO it yourself – it’s a great chore for a kid. Before you go to bed, all dirty dishes, pots and pans should be vanished from the sink and the countertops. Then you can wake up to a lovely clean countertop.
2. Unload the dishwasher.
Start your day by emptying out the dishwasher or the dish drainer. That way as new dishes get dirty throughout the day, people can pop them right into the dishwasher. If your dishwasher is still full of last night’s clean dishes, the dirties will quickly pile up. Avoiding the pile-up helps you to avoid feeling negative about your kitchen and yourself. If you feel like procrastinating on this chore – try using a timer. I can empty my completely full dishwasher in 3 minutes flat. That’s not even worth fussing about!
3. Wipe the counters and table
Make it a habit to keep these surfaces cleaned off. Don’t leave this task until the end of the day. It takes less than 30 seconds to wipe off your counter tops and table after preparing or eating a sandwich, so don’t let those crumbs sit. Like dirty dishes, crumbs tend to multiply, which discourages you from your goal of a clean kitchen. Keep a stack of cleaning cloths under your sink, along with a spray bottle of cleaning spray or a container of Clorox wipes. Unless your crumbs/splatters really go flying, there is no need to move your toaster and any other appliances. Just clean what you can see is dirty.
4. Wipe the stovetop as you go.
Like with the counter top, this is a 30-second task that should be done as it needs doing. If you wait until the end of the day, you’ll end up with burnt-on messes. Instead, wipe down your stovetop as soon as you are done cooking. Let the burners cool a bit and then give them a quick spritz and a swipe with a cleaning cloth.
5. Sweep the floor.
You can leave this task until the end of the day, unless there is some major Cheerio disaster at breakfast. Do a quick sweep and dump the crumbs in the garbage bin. If there are major spills, spot clean them with a paper towel or sponge. Unless your floor is a huge mess, you can leave mopping for your once-a-week cleaning. Remember: The goal is not perfection! The goal is clean.
Here’s my tips on Cleaning Any Type of Flooring.
6. Empty the garbage and sort the recycling.
Depending on how much garbage you produce and how large your bin is, you may need to do this nightly, or just a few times a week. Also, be sure to wash out any containers for recycling and put them in the right place. Again, this is a great chore for a kid or maybe a husband – it doesn’t matter who does it, so long as it gets done. Check out my post on how I assign chores to my kids – it’s a little unusual.
7. Put away mail, school papers, etc.
Kitchen flat surfaces are magnets for paper clutter. Since you can’t wipe off your counters or your table when they are full of permission slips and junk mail, find a central place (like a pretty basket on top of your kitchen table) to keep this stuff until you can sort through it all. But you have to keep on top of them because paper can multiply like if you ignore them. See my post about eliminating paper clutter.
Whether your cleaning challenge is perfectionism, distractions or untested skills, these seven steps will make it a breeze for anyone to maintain a clean kitchen. None of these tasks should take longer than 3 or 4 minutes — and most will take less than one minute. And remember the key: Accept the mess, then roll of your sleeves and dig in to clean it up.
What wonderful ideas! I can’t wait to implement them! Thank you so much,
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed them.
This is a great post loaded with amazing tips. BUT, I think I would understand better if you came over and let me watch you once or twice. Maybe even three times, I am a slow learner! 🙂
Getting those dishes done by the end of the day is key for me – so I agree that number one is number one!