How to Keep the Kitchen Clean

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How to Keep the Kitchen Clean (clear the clutter, get it clean, and keep it that way!) |

Early on in our married life it became apparent a clean kitchen was not going to come naturally to me.  Even before I had children, I couldn’t seem to keep up with the kitchen work.  It was not uncommon for me to throw towels over the messes whenever company showed up unexpected.

It’s no wonder that FLYlady and A Slob Comes Clean start with learning to clean your kitchen.  It seems to be a common trouble spot for all struggling homemakers.  In fact, I think you can tell a lot about a homemaker’s skills based on her kitchen.  Ouch.

Honestly, I still don’t have an immaculate kitchen, but I have learned what it takes to clean a kitchen sufficiently and keep it that way.
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How to Keep a Kitchen Clean {clear the clutter, get it clean, & keep it that way!} |

1. Reduce clutter

Clutter is the enemy of clean.  Keeping a kitchen clean depends on keeping a kitchen clutter free.  Because the kitchen tends to be the hub of a household, it also easily becomes the dumping ground for all sorts of stuff, i.e. clutter.  There are several ways you can reduce the clutter in the kitchen, but ultimately, this will be a never-ending battle.  Do not despair.  Follow these suggestions, and stick with it!

*Don’t use more dishes/pots/utensils to make a meal than you have to.  I’m a large family mom, so this has become painfully clear.  The more things you use to cook your meals, the more you have to clean!  For me, this means not only do I have all the dishes we eat off of to clean, but I also have all the dishes I cooked the meal with too.  That can easily become an overwhelming pile!  Learn to do more with less.  Serve in the pans you cooked in.  Make one-pot meals.

*Minimize what you have on hand.  Do not have every plate and cup you own stored in your kitchen because every plate and cup you own will end up on your counter.

If you’ve been reading Raising Arrows for any length of time, you know we are big fans of DrinkBands for this very purpose.

DrinkBandsWe stowed away most of our cups and kept only the cups with DrinkBands (and a few extras for guests) in our cupboards.  Each child has their own color DrinkBand so I know whose is whose and we can reduce the cup clutter.

You can do something similar with plates and silverware as well; however, I’ve found it is not nearly so daunting to have a lot of silverware.

*Keep your counters clear.  A few years ago, Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom wrote about how she keeps her kitchen counters clear.  I was inspired by that post, but at the time, I didn’t have the storage space to really make it work.  In our new house, I do, so I’ve been working at keeping my counters as clutter-free as possible.

*Don’t let the kitchen be a dumping ground.  I know this is easier said than done, but with a little concerted effort, you can make your kitchen a clutter-free zone.

Start by looking for the places people dump their clutter.
-Where do these things belong?
-Do they have a REAL home?
-WHY are they getting dumped there?

This is your starting point for ridding your kitchen of clutter.
-Do you need to retrain (or train) certain individuals?
-Do you need to create homes for the things that are getting dumped?
-Do you need to get rid of some things or find a better organization system?

2.  Clean as you cook.

I’m still not as good at this as I should be.  The concept is pretty simple, though.  The idea is to clean as you go.  Hot, soapy water in the sink is a great way to do this because you just throw things in as needed.  However, we use a lot of cast iron and stones which should not be in hot, soapy water.  These we save to the end after we’ve loaded the dishwasher and washed the knives.

And be sure to wipe down counters and appliances as you go too.  Dry, caked-on is typically MUCH harder to clean.  The only exception to this is bread dough.  I let my Bosch set until the dough is dry so I can easily dump the dried dough remains in the trash.

Keeping the Kitchen Clean Tip - let the dough dry in your Bosch, then dump the dough remains in the trash | RaisingArrows.netIt is also easier to clean up cooked pasta and rice if they have set just a bit to dry out.  This is especially true when it comes to sweeping the floor.  You’ll end up with mushy streaks if you don’t clean it up by hand or wait just a bit until it isn’t so mushy.

{Don’t forget to mix up a batch of my All-Natural All-Purpose Cleaner to have on hand!}

3.  Make a Kitchen Clean Up List & post it.

Our list looks like this:

Kitchen Chores List {helps to keep your cleaning on track} |

{remember, your list will look different, but this is a starting point!}

It hangs on the wall where the individual Clean Teams can easily see it and follow it.  You may not have a clean-up crew of children, but if you struggle to keep your kitchen clean, YOU need a list to keep yourself on track the same way I need a list to keep my kiddos on track.  In fact, I regularly refer to the list when I’m doing clean-up duty to make sure I don’t inadvertently miss something.

The Kitchen Clean Up List is basically an orderly list you work through after each meal to ensure the kitchen gets back to a clean slate every time.  A clean-slate kitchen makes cooking a joy!

4.  Build an efficient kitchen.

This one takes time and patience, but has a nice pay-off in the end.  A kitchen needs to be efficient.  Items in your kitchen need to be organized in a logical manner.  Having recently moved, I find myself moving the things in my kitchen around frequently as I try to find my “kitchen groove.”  Utensiles, pots and pans, dishes and cups, plates and appliances all need to be where they are used the most.

If your kitchen is small, consider storing rarely used items elsewhere to give yourself more room.  Don’t make things difficult to access because if they are hard to get to, you are less likely to put them away.  Place things where they are most likely to save you steps, and place like items together.

5.  Be consistent.

Here is the key to the entire thing – consistency!  You have to WORK to keep the kitchen clean.  You have to clean the kitchen over and over and over.  It is not going to clean itself. You have to do the work (and enlist the help of others).  The more you work to be consistent, the more it will become second nature, and soon you will automatically do the work.  Autopilot is a very good thing!

One more piece of advice when it comes to cleaning your kitchen is to make it fun!  Build memories!  Cleaning a kitchen takes time, but turning on music, having meaningful conversations as you work alongside your children, or even cutting loose and being silly while you work will make the work more enjoyable.  Kitchens are natural memory-makers. Consider what memories you want that room to hold.

Want to have a little fun with us in the kitchen?  Here’s a taste of what our kitchen clean up  is like!

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27 Comments on How to Keep the Kitchen Clean

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27 thoughts on “How to Keep the Kitchen Clean

  1. When my mother was a new wife my great-grandparents came to visit and my great-grandmother taught my mother to serve food in serving dishes rather than from the stovetop or from pots on the table. She said it served two purposes: the table was pretty and welcoming and the cooking pots could soak while you ate!

    We do it that way most nights and she was right…K

  2. Love it! I especially loved seeing you pop into the shot periodically to pick up the baby, only to see him come right back again! So funny! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I struggle right now to keep order, I love how all your children pitch in and can do things seemingly so efficiently, though that Island counter got wiped down at least half a dozen times. My children are almost 4, not quite 3, and nearly 1.5 plus one on the way. By the time dinner is made and picky eating battles won I need to rest. Daddy usually occupies the crowd for a while after dinner, but that leaves me all on my own to clean and if I don’t rest when tired my round ligament pain and D.R. leave me absolutely useless. Short of hired help, which isn’t an option for us, do you have any hope for a young mama without helpers at home?

    • There was a short season in my life (pregnant and unable to walk and on bed rest with babies, toddlers, etc) that we relied on paper products. My husband went to Costco (our bulk store) and bought huge quantities if plate, bowls, cups, and cutlery. It saved me during those months of pain, immobility, and exhaustion.
      It is almost 13 years later and I would do that again in a heart beat during “beyond difficult” seasons!

    • Where you are right now is a tough spot. I’ve written a lot about this, but I would highly encourage you to do what it takes to minimize and economize your time in the kitchen. Paper goods, one-dish meals, food that is quick and easy to clean up. The little years are overwhelming at times, but it does get better and easier – I promise! It is ok to slow your life down and do what you need to do to keep some sort of order, but remember, your order won’t look like mine because of the season you are in as opposed to the season I am in. ((HUGS))

    • I am in a similar season to you with children ages 4 1/2, 3, 20 months and one on the way. Our table chores are: Mommy – Wash Dishes and load dishwasher. 3 year old girl clears the table and brings me all the dirty dishes. If there is something very heavy or especially breakable Daddy will help her. 4 year old boy wipes down the chairs and table with a wet rag. 20 month old boy throws away trash. He is supposed to pick up big pieces of food off the floor and throw them away, but he often eats them…eww! :) And then Daddy supervises the little ones and sweeps since I am standing at the sink with my back to all of them. When we all work together, it gets done quicker. And then I DO sit and relax while Daddy plays with the little ones before bedtime. It is hard to find the energy to want to clean up right after dinner, but I always feel better if I do. Once dinner is cleaned up, I am DONE for the day, Hooray! And I love coming down to a clean kitchen in the morning.

    • Your 4 and 3 year old!!!!!! put the stopper in the bottom of the sink, clean the counters and have them scrape all of the plates in the trash and put plates and silver in the sink, let it soak while you rest and put them down or what ever needs to be done, a bottle brush works wonders!!! it is a second to clean and put it in the dishwasher, if you do not have one just wash away :) I hope this helps, mine are still little too! but they love cleaning and dropping them in the sink!

  4. I have a question for you.
    Where do you keep you medicines, vitamins, etc?
    I have always kept mine on a top shelf in my kitchen, but have found that they have taken over!
    I no longer have small children, but I still have the idea that up high is better than down low. Would love to know what you do!

    I love this post. I really need to get some of those drink bands. That would help our kitchen a bunch!

    • We keep medicine in our bathroom in a cupboard and vitamins in a hospital tub on top of the refrigerator. However, we do keep one of those pill containers (the ones that separate out by days) in the window sill that we refill every few days. I have my medicines in hospital tubs as well. Just to keep them semi-contained. They take up 2 shelves – one for natural remedies and one for more traditional medicines.

  5. Hi Amy,
    Loved your video! Thanks for sharing. I laughed when I saw your little one being removed from the dishwasher again and again. Oh, how many times do I do that?! Good to know I’m not the only one. At least my little guy has stopped jumping up and down on the dishwasher door (well, for the most part anyway). :)

  6. Recently I was really needing to clean house before company. On the day to clean the kitchen I was overwhelmed by the extra clutter that didn’t belong and “knew” I’d never get to actually clean the kitchen. I gave one of my girls a basket and told her to take everything off the counters that didn’t belong. She did a great job and I was able to clean my kitchen and tackle the basket of stuff that didn’t belong when I had a chance later. I do struggle with the kitchen and haven’t found a method that works well for us that we can stick to, but we are working on it.

  7. I can’t tell you how many times I went back to see to Creed sneak in there. (at about 2:35) He’s just too cute! I don’t have a dishwasher, although my husband likes to joke that I Am the dishwasher, but I’m sure my little guy would be constantly trying to take utensils out every chance he got. This was really fun to watch. I’m showing my kids later. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I’m loving the video, but my kids want to know how long it took in real time. I’mtrying to convince them it didn’t take “forever.”

  9. How long does it actually take to get the kitchen that clean? Is this done after every meal? My 9 year old enjoyed watching this video with me. She’s my oldest and wishes she had this many helpers in the kitchen with her. I keep working with them and hope that in a few years they’ll be able to do more on their own.

    • We actually don’t usually have that many helpers at a time. We recently divided into teams and each team takes a week in the kitchen and the other team is tidying up the bathrooms and living room, and homeschool room. However, when we did the video, my big kids all wanted to be in it! Usually there are 2-3 in the kitchen at a time and it takes about 30 mins start to finish if it is a big meal. We do this after every meal.

  10. Hey Amy! I met you and your husband in Nashville at Teach Them Diligently. I went to two of your classes and they were both awesome! I just thought I would stop and check out your website and I LOVED the video of the kitchen chores. My favorite part is watching your littlest guy try to take things out of the dishwasher. My son does that too! Thanks for all of your wisdom. You are inspiring.

  11. We actually quit using our dishwasher. The kids don’t even want one in our house we are building! It takes so much less time to just go ahead and wash them and put them away. And nobody wanted to empty the dishwasher. Things have gone much smoother since we quit using it!! Never thought I’d see the day!!

    • Awesome! Question – do you dry all the dishes too? That’s probably what irritates me the most – drying dishes taking up counter space.

      • We have 2 kitchen teams, with 4 kids on each team. And yes, they dry and put away as the washer is washing. I bought one of those large drying mats, and it works very well to keep the counter dry.
        It takes us so much less time now. The time we used to spend loading the dishwasher, we now use to go ahead and wash and put away.
        And I am spoiled…I usually don’t work on clean up duty, except when we’ve had large family get togethers with extended family.
        Or when I get a hankering to wash a dish or forty.
        I can’t believe how well it has worked. We literally are not installing a dish washer in our new home. Hope we don’t live to regret that decision.

        • That’s great! I don’t help much with the kitchen either because I do most of the cooking, and it takes a lot just to oversee the chores.

  12. My lifesaver for all the rooms on the first floor has been the “goes upstairs” bag. It’s a visually appealing Thirty-One Bag that hangs on a hook near the stairs for all the things that would otherwise be dumped on open surfaces!