Tuesday, December 28, 2010

5 Steps to Loving the Kitchen You're In: Step 2--Keep It Clean

I remember the day I discovered that dishes were my enemy. I realized that if I left dishes in the sink, it opened a whole Pandora's Box of other messes that I was willing to let happen. It was like a mental switch was turned on in my head. There's dishes in the sink...just watch the world go by...no need to act... Don't worry, my mother had been telling me for years that if I would just rinse the dishes and put them in the dishwasher they wouldn't pile up so bad. That was one of my more idiotic ignorings of mom wisdom. I kept telling myself there was no harm in letting a few dishes sit there, but they always grew into a full sink, then two full sides of the sink, then the counter, well, you get the picture.
I find that my kitchen runs much more smoothly when the dishwasher has been emptied first thing in the morning. Not that it's always emptied first thing in the morning and not that if you don't empty your dishwasher your kitchen can't be fab, but for me, it makes a big difference. If I do that one job, I don't feel like I have the chore of dishes hanging over my head all day, and I can just stick dirty ones in there as the day goes on.

Everyone's different, and all of us have different strengths, so it may be that dishes aren't your particular enemy. Maybe it's putting away groceries or sweeping the floor or sorting mail or wiping the countertop. Whatever it is, if you respect your own wishes that a clean, organized kitchen is what needs to be available in your home, then tackle that job first and foremost. To quote one of my favorite authors, Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards, "By and large the dishes come first." Truly, you simply can't focus unless your jobs are done. That being said, here are a few of my humble tips on how I like to clean my kitchen.

First of all, I like to wake in the morning (when at all possible) to this:
And I like to go to bed (when at all possible) to this:I feel like if I start and finish the day at those two points, it really doesn't matter what happens in between. You know your schedule best, and we all have different priorities, but here's what I do when I clean up the kitchen:
*Turn on all the lights in the kitchen including the one over the sink (it's hard to tackle dirt if you can't see it!)
*Unload/load/run dishwasher
*Hand wash pots/pans and sharp knives in soapy water, dry and put away
*Wipe all countertops and tables with soapy rag or Mrs. Meyer's Basil Countertop Spray
*Wipe any cabinets or handles that are dirty or sticky, or spot clean the floor
*Sweep floor, including under the table
*Declutter, remove toys or other items that don't belong
*Take out trashThis typically takes me about 20-30 minutes, depending on how many dishes I have.

Once a week or sometimes twice a month I:
*Polish my appliances with stainless steel polish
*Mop the floors
*Windex the kitchen windows (somehow we get lots and lots of handprints in there)
*Wipe the chandelier
*Wipe out the microwave *eww*

This usually adds about another 20-30 minutes to my routine.

Once a month I:
*Wash my kitchen rug
*Quickly wipe the baseboards
*Wipe the doorknobs and cabinet knobs down
*Wipe my windowsills

This takes like 10 extra minutes.

This seems like a lot when I write it down, but if I do these things routinely then the dirt doesn't really build up and it's not as difficult to keep clean. I promise. Remember, the kitchen doesn't run me, I run the kitchen.

The benefit to this is that it's much easier for me to embrace my space when I know that it's not a sticky pigsty that's been overrun by small minions. And I'm more creative in the kitchen when I'm not distracted by the mess or clutter that really only takes a few minutes to contain. The trick is, to find a routine that works for you, and then use it until it doesn't work for you anymore. Maybe you'd like to use a dish rack instead. Go for it! They are super cheap at IKEA and uber-European. Need music to get going? Turn on the headphones or bring a radio into your kitchen so you don't feel so bored. Get your children or husband involved and make a game of cleaning the kitchen. There's no rule that says you have to do it yourself. And don't underestimate the power of rewarding yourself for a job well done. For me, when the kitchen's clean, I get to go upstairs and watch Conan. Incentive, indeed.
Happy eating!

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