When I stumbled out to the kitchen yesterday morning, bleary-eyed and grumpy, this is what greeted me:
Some people think that because I often write about organization, I must be some kind of Superwoman whose house is always immaculate. To that I say–Ha! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Yeah right. That’s a good one. This post oughta disprove that theory!
During times of stress, illness, or major life events, it’s very easy to fall behind on basic housework. It can also be very difficult to recover, because when a room looks like my kitchen did, it’s tempting to crawl back in bed and hope that some little elves will come and clean it up while you’re sleeping. Let’s face it–this is just not gonna happen.
If your kitchen looks like mine did, you can get things under control again, quickly and (somewhat) painlessly. First, you need to get one of these:
Yep, a laundry basket. Ideally, a very big one. Before you do anything else, walk around your very messy kitchen, pick up every single item that does not belong there, and toss it into the basket. Don’t worry about putting this stuff away yet. Just put the basket in an out-of-the-way place, where you won’t trip over it:
Lots of dirty dishes everywhere make the kitchen look messier than it is, so tackle them next. If your dishwasher is full of clean dishes, put them away first. I store cups and glasses, dishes, and pots and pans in the cupboards nearest my dishwasher, so emptying it takes only a few minutes. Gather up all of your dirty dishes and put them on the counter next to your dishwasher. This will make loading it quick and easy:
At this point, the kitchen probably looks significantly better. The next step is to deal with trash and recycling. Get a grocery bag and your kitchen trash can, and make a quick sweep of the room. Toss recycling in the grocery bag, and trash in your trash can. Don’t forget to check the floors for stray napkins, wrappers, papers, etc. Return the trash can to its spot, and toss the recycling in your collection bin.
Next, start at one end of the room, and work toward the other, straightening, picking up, and putting away all stray kitchen items. Put dirty dishcloths, towels, tablecloths, and any other dirty laundry in one central pile on the floor. I toss mine next to my kitchen trash can, because it’s right by the basement stairs, and I can just pick it up on my way down to the laundry room:
When you’re done tidying up, fill your sink half full with hot soapy water and wash any dishes that couldn’t go in the dishwasher. Dry them and put them away. Now walk through your kitchen again, wiping down all surfaces–counters, cabinet fronts, stove, refrigerator door, table and chairs:
Now isn’t the time to scrub the stove top with a toothbrush–save that for zone cleaning time. When you’re finished with your major wipe-down, let the water out of your sink and wipe it down too. Toss your dirty dishcloth and towel in the laundry pile.
Now, pick up your laundry basket full of stuff, and walk through the house, putting every item away. I put Babycakes’ stuff away for her, but I just put Bee’s stuff on her bed, because she’s responsible for putting her own things away. When you’re finished, take your now-empty laundry basket, and put your kitchen laundry pile in it. Now is also a good time to make a quick sweep through the rest of the house, picking up dirty clothes from floors, and emptying hampers:
Take the basket to the laundry room, and get a load of laundry started. Return to the kitchen. Doesn’t it look great?! All that’s left to clean is the floors. First, sweep up dirt and crumbs. Then do a quick damp mop of the major traffic areas:
This cleaning method works well, because it’s more efficient to complete all of one task before moving on to another. If you flit from task to task in a disorganized way, running back and forth from room to room to put things away, you waste time and effort. You won’t see progress quickly, and you’ll tire yourself out. Then, you’ll get discouraged, and want to just give up and take a nap. I know that feeling. I’ve been there many times.
This morning, I woke to a clean kitchen. It was a great way to start the day.