Have you ever felt like no matter how hard you work at it, you can’t keep your kitchen clean?
That used to happen to me every once in a while.
Kidding! That used to happen to me all. the. time.
One minute I’d be minding my own business, then BAM! My kitchen would decide to look like no one had washed a dish in a month.
And I knew that I had just cleaned it yesterday.
Kitchens can be very rude like that.
If there are two chores that can sneak up on you without you realizing it, they are doing the laundry and keeping the kitchen clean.
While cleaning the kitchen can seem like a never ending task, it can also be one of the most rewarding if you figure out a way to stay on top of it.
One day I had enough of the kitchen cleaning roller coaster and decided to figure out a better way to keep my kitchen clean.
I needed to know if the only way to have a clean kitchen was to spend every spare minute cleaning the kitchen, or if there were any tricks that I could use to make the process easier.
Finally I figured out the secrets to having a clean kitchen *almost* all the time. And once I knew the secrets, it wasn’t as hard at all!
In this post I’m going to show you the tips that I now use every day to keep my kitchen feeling spotless, even with two little kids in the house!
And if you prefer to watch instead of read, here is the video that goes with this post:
Invest a Little Time Ahead of Time
These first four secrets are the foundation for having a clean kitchen.
They will take a little time and energy up front, but they will pay dividends in the long run.
Then I will show you the day-to-day maintenance tips for keeping your kitchen sparkling.
If you need to do the first 4 steps, I’d recommend seeing if your spouse, mom, friend, or a babysitter could take the kids for a day so you can lay a foundation for a kitchen that practically cleans itself in the future.
(OK, maybe it doesn’t quite clean itself, but it sure takes a lot less effort!)
And feel free to skip down to the Everyday Kitchen Cleaning Steps below if you already have the foundation laid.
1) Declutter Your Kitchen
If you want your kitchen to feel clean when you walk into it, declutter it.
You don’t need 100 different gadgets that only do one thing. And you don’t need multiple gadgets that essentially do the same thing.
Cut everything back to the basics. Keeping only things that you use consistently.
Basically in my kitchen the rule is: if it is useful to my family on a weekly or monthly basis, and it can fit in my cupboards (not on my counters!), it stays.
If it isn’t or doesn’t, it goes!
My absolute necessities include:
Vitamix: This baby is irreplaceable in my plant-based kitchen. I use it almost every day.
Bosche: I love this machine for making my bread and pasta from scratch.
Knife Set: A good set of knives is essential in any kitchen. But you don’t have to keep every knife if you have too many. You really only need one or two large chopping knives, a couple of paring knives, a serrated knife, and a bread knife.
Stainless Steel Pots and Pans: I recommend investing in a good set of pots and pans if you don’t already have one. Even if you cook frequently, a good set should last you many, many years. We love cooking with this Calphalon set.
Cast Iron Skillets: These are my favorite non-stick cooking pans. I’ve tried other brands, but once I learned how to properly use my cast iron skillets and how to take care of them, I’ve never turned back!
Glass Storage Containers: I highly recommend grabbing some glass storage containers if you don’t already have clear containers for storing your food. Check out this post if you want to learn more about why clear storage containers are important in the kitchen: How To Reduce Food Waste By Planning to Eat Your Leftovers.
2) Clear Your Counters
Now that you have gotten rid of your unnecessary items, everything should fit neatly into your cabinets.
Clearing the counters does wonders for making your kitchen feel clean:
It gives you a clean slate when it’s time to start cooking, it is obvious when you are done cleaning, and your kitchen feels clean between mealtimes.
The only thing I keep on my counters is a basket of the fruit and veggies that I don’t store in the fridge.
If you can’t find a place in your cabinets for everything, try getting rid of more items. We can live quite happily with way less than we realize.
If you aren’t quite sure what to get rid of and what to keep, try putting only your essentials in the cabinets of your kitchen and everything else in a box or two in the garage. At the end of six months, keep only the things that you took out of the box and donate or sell the rest.
But be sure that everything you take out of the box fits into the cabinets!
Before I cleared my countertops, I found it interesting that if my husband cleaned the kitchen, he would stop long before I would have if I had been cleaning.
Now that it is more obvious, he gets a lot closer to my idea of clean before he quits 🙂
3) Have a Place for Everything
Once you’ve gotten rid of the clutter, have a specific place where each item goes in your kitchen.
When you know exactly where everything lives, cleaning up is quick and easy.
Having a specific home for everything also makes it easier to direct someone like a house guest who might be helping clean up after the meal to the proper place for each item.
My four-year-old and eighteen-month-old girls can unload the dishwasher all by themselves because they know exactly where everything goes.
4) Clear Your Refrigerator Door
Keeping the outside of your refrigerator clear will make your kitchen sparkle.
The refrigerator is something that everyone who walks into your kitchen will see.
Since it’s such a large part of the kitchen, if the refrigerator looks clean, the whole kitchen will look clean.
And if it doesn’t, well… you get the idea.
On the front of my fridge, I only keep one work of art from each child. They get to pick what goes on the fridge and they tell me when they want me to swap it out for something different.
I use these magnets so the fridge still looks nice and neat even with the pictures on it.
On the side of my fridge (which faces away from the common area in my house and only I typically see anything that is on it), I keep my daily schedule, my weekly cleaning schedule, and my daughters’ chore checklists.
5) Set an Expiration Day
If you are decluttering your kitchen for the first time (or the first time in a while) don’t forget to look at the inside of your fridge and your pantry.
Keep only the items that you know you will use in the next month and items that aren’t expired. Then make a plan to use the items you kept. Check out this post on How to Begin Meal Planning When You Don’t Know Where to Start if you need some help with creating a plan to eat what you have.
After this initial sweep, set one day each week as your expiration day. I personally use my grocery shopping day. Clean out any expired items or leftovers that weren’t eaten from the week before.
If you find yourself throwing away a lot of food every week, check out my post How to Work Leftovers Into Your Meal Plan for ideas on creating less food waste.
Every Day Kitchen Cleaning Steps
Now that you have the foundation for a clean kitchen laid, I’m going to show you the most efficient way to clean your kitchen!
Cleaning your kitchen in this order will save you so. much. time.
Grab a pen and paper because you’re going to want to write it down, memorize it, and make it happen. (Or if you want, grab my Autopilot Workbook and print The Easiest Way to Clean Your Kitchen and put it on your fridge!)
1) Clean As You Cook
As you cook, stay on top of the mess by putting things away when you are done with them.
I will often get the girls involved in this step by having them put things away as I finish with them or by having them start rinsing the dishes that I am already done with.
But even if the girls aren’t in the kitchen when I am cooking, I still rinse the prep dishes when the food is cooking since it saves time later.
I usually try to race against the time that the food needs to simmer, cook, or bake to get everything in the kitchen back to normal before the meal starts.
It also saves time to wipe up spills on the stovetop while they are still warm. Don’t wait until they are stuck on!
2) Clean Up After Every Meal
If there is only one thing that you learn from this post, let it be this: don’t wait to clean your kitchen!
Dishes don’t add together, they multiply. Something that would have taken you 5 seconds to rinse off immediately, will have grime stuck to it like cement if you wait until “later” to clean it.
The biggest thing to remember if you want your kitchen to stay nice and clean is to clean up completely right after each meal.
3) Put Away Leftovers and Condiments First
Getting all the food put away first makes it easy to see what else needs to be cleaned.
I found it discouraging if I was doing the dishes only to realize that I forgot to put something away before I started doing the dishes.
Then I had to stop what I was doing and switch gears to finish putting the food away before I could clean whatever the food had been in or on.
Getting everything in the refrigerator first saves me time.
4) Tackle the Table Next
Take all the dishes to the sink, put the placemats away, and wipe down the tabletop. Done!
I find this is a great chore for young kids to help with.
5) Then Clean the Counters
Next, working toward the sink, clear everything left on the counters.
Put it away, or in the sink. Then wipe everything down.
Doing the counters next will keep any dishes from lurking in the shadows then jumping out at you just when you thought you were done.
That’s right, you can’t scare us anymore, dishes!
6) Now Do the Dishes
Now that we know there are no dishes hiding anywhere, we can start washing them.
Waiting until this point in the process to start the dishes prevents that terrible feeling when you think you’re almost done then you turn around and realize you forgot something.
Whatever you do, always end the night with an empty sink. It will give you a fresh start the next morning.
7) Sweep the Floors Last
Sweep the floors once everything else is done. If you try to do this sooner in the process, you will have to go back and do it again.
Crumbs find a way to jump out of your hand no matter how carefully you wipe off the counters.
Plus, if you sweep last, you don’t have to be as careful when you are wiping down the counters. (Read: You can wipe them down fast!)
8) Get Everyone Involved
If you have a spouse and/or children who are old enough to help, cleaning up after dinner should be a combined effort.
If multiple people are helping, you can do some of the jobs simultaneously. Just make sure each person knows what their job is so nothing is left half done.
My dad says that when he was growing up, cleaning up after the meal was a fun family time. Everyone had a job and worked together. One person put the food away, one person washed, one person dried the dishes, and one person put everything away after it was dry.
It is a fond childhood memory for him of quality time with his family.
After all, you enjoyed the meal together, why not clean up together?
Other Posts You Might Like:
5 Steps to Create a Weekly Cleaning Schedule will help you create your own cleaning routine that you can actually stick with. If you want to see my weekly cleaning routine check out My Simple Weekly Cleaning Schedule: The Routine That Took Me From Overwhelmed to In Control.
How to Solve the Laundry Problem will show you how to stop getting behind on laundry.
If you’d like to create a daily routine that will help you get your cleaning done more easily, read How to Create a Daily Routine with a Simple Block Schedule.
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