Keeping the home: four of five

Don't miss Parts 1, 2 and 3:
Keeping the home: 1 of 5
(Thoughts on housekeeping and things I do to keep my home)

Keeping the home: 2 of 5 (The ABC’s – Organizational Tips)
Keeping the home: 3 of 5 (Step-by-Step-Overhaul–Room #1 The Bathroom)

Part Four: Step-by-Step-Overhaul—-Room #2 The Kitchen


Often I hear that kitchens are impossible to clean because they are used several times a day. Actually, the more you are in a room, the more opportunities you have to do tidying here and there. This makes the kitchen *easier* to clean in several ways.

Consider these times: waiting for water to boil, waiting for coffee to brew, waiting for cookies to bake, waiting for the family to come to the table for dinner…fill in any other time you have a few minutes in the kitchen and you have a few extra minutes to tidy up. When our older children were small there was a show on PBS with ‘the ten second tidy’— a whirlwind clean up – a small time investment that is a great benefit in the long run!

Like the bathroom, the kitchen will be easier if you strip it down. However, due to its size, I would suggest breaking it down into several jobs. We’ll include the pantry in the kitchen since most pantries are in or near the kitchen.

  • I think it most helpful to take on one area at a time.
  • I know I’ll forget to repeat this with each area, so remember to remove everything, clean it and then put it back in its new permanent home.
  • I also think it is critical to continue the ‘purge as you go’ method. If you never use it, give it away or sell it.
  • Store seasonal items in the more difficult to reach cabinets (for me that means the cabinets I have to climb on the counters to access!).
  • Put items you use the most in easily accessible areas.
  • Think of gravity as you clean. Start with the walls and the top of the fridge. Don’t forget the light fixtures and fan. (Dust drops and you don’t want a newly cleaned counter to be your next job after cleaning the light fixtures above it!)
  • Remember if you keep large and small appliances clean, they will work better and last longer (in addition they will be more pleasant to look at).


Your kitchen will consist of various areas to organize (and clean if need be):


  • Pantry—This is a hard place to keep neat because it is used so often (assuming you cook at home).
    • I find it best to keep items together by use (baking items, canned items, breakfast items, junk food, pasta, beans, rice, spices). A spice rack behind the door can be a great help. Small baskets for the smallest items work well. We have a small basket on the baking shelf for items like sprinkles, baking chocolate, vanilla, etc. We also have some wire baskets hanging in the wall of the pantry for things we use often.
    • If you have a second pantry elsewhere or you store food in the garage, keep it organized so you never waste food.
    • Always put the new items in the back and bring older items to the front. Once again, put like items together. This makes meal planning and execution much easier.
  • Decorations—You may have quite a bit of decorations.
    • Less is more, especially if you do not love the idea of keeping things neat and orderly.
    • You need take the items down, wipe them with a surface cleaner and re-hang them on your clean walls.
  • Small Appliances—You need to wipe your toaster, kitchen aid, blender, toaster oven, coffee maker, etc down frequently. Empty crumbs out of the toaster to avoid a fire.
    • Read the instructions for your appliances to find out how to clean them. This will make them work better and longer.
    • Pick them up and wipe underneath them, too.
    • If you care for them, they will stay like new for a long time!
  • Countertops —Wipe after cooking, wipe after a meal.
    • If this is your first time to tend to them, remove all items, wipe or scrub and replace items.
    • You need to wipe around things daily, and underneath periodically.
    • If you have homes for your other items, the counters will not fill up with odds and ends.
  • Drawers—Drawer separators are a great thing.
    • It is much easier to clean a drawer when you can simply remove the tray, wipe it down, and return.
    • Work on one drawer at a time and make a home for every utensil.
    • What you don’t use needs to be stored or given a new home. This will keep your drawers clean.
    • Periodically take utensils out and clean trays and drawers…a couple of times a year will keep them tidy.
  • Lower Cabinets—Lower cabinets are good for large, heavy items. They are also good for items used frequently. Try to organize them by use.
    • Often large dishes of various shapes do not stack well.
    • Just find a good home for your items so you know where they are and don’t have to search for something when you need it.
    • Remove items, wipe surface, reorganize and you’re all set.
    • How you organize the cabinets depends so much on what you have. Get rid of what you don’t use. Put seasonal items in a storage area as has been mentioned. Make sure anyone doing dishes knows where things go
  • Upper Cabinets—These are good for glass and dishes.
    • It is great to have a cabinet for mugs by the coffee maker, for glasses by the refrigerator, and frequently used dishes by the dishwasher. These are time savers.
    • If you are short (or you have tall cabinets), put items that you rarely use at the top.
    • The less crowded your cabinets, the easier they will be to organize. Keeping like items together makes stacking easier.
  • Table area—If your kitchen table is a home to many loose items and you would prefer to have it clear, find a home for the items and then start with a clean surface. Our table is primarily for eating. We have a few plants on our pub table and a nice little tray with spices we use daily.
    • After each meal, we remove the placemats (round wicker) and wipe them. They cannot be washed so it is important to wipe them off after each use. When I remove the mats, I wipe the table with wood cleaner and put them back on. If you use a table cloth, wash it weekly or bi-monthly at least.
    • Using mats or a tablecloth will preserve the life of your table. If you don’t use a cloth, drinks should be put on mats or coasters to avoid rings.
    • Chairs should be wiped or pledged every few days or after babies and toddlers are finished eating.
  • Refrigerator—Just before you are ready to go shopping—when food is sparse, work on the fridge.
    • Purge any outdated items, wipe sides down, and take out drawers to wash. If you can work quickly, I recommend taking everything out a shelf at a time and cleaning up. Wipe off the top. I just use my dishwashing detergent and a rag for this job and it works great.
    • To avoid spills make sure you thaw meat on a tray. An over full fridge is a burden to clean. Try to keep track of what you have so you don’t forget something is there and end up wasting it. Check dates on dairy items frequently.
    • Finally, pull your fridge forward and vacuum or mop underneath it every few months. It is amazing what slides under the fridge.
  • Stovetop—Ceramic tops are great!
    • No matter what kind of top you have, try to clean it after each use. It keeps build up away and, really, it only takes a few minutes.
    • If you have a gas oven, take all the parts off, clean them and replace.
    • It is best to follow your instruction manual and be certain you are using appropriate cleaners.
  • Oven—A self cleaning oven is a joy to behold. Seriously, I do not miss the days of oven cleaning. It has been a long time—if you have to clean yours manually I suggest you get a good cleaner and do it frequently. No matter what kind of oven you have, clean any spills right away before they cook onto the surface.
    • We keep our oven clean because it is safer, smells more pleasant, and is easier if you do not allow build-up.
    • If you have a drawer underneath, make sure you wipe or vacuum it out and remove it from time to time to clean underneath. Many pieces of debris will get kicked or swept under there and it will need cleaning once a month or so.
  • Microwave—Always cover items and you will not have an issue of build up in here. The microwave should be wiped out frequently—a few times a week or even daily. If you have not kept it clean previously, give it a good scrub and be more careful about covering items in the future.
    • My sister has a microwave cover that is kept in the microwave as a reminder. Good idea!
    • Wipe the front daily if you use it daily. Keep the grime off of the buttons by assigning a person to wipe appliances every day.
  • Dishwasher—This will really self-clean as it cleans your dishes.
    • You need to wipe around the rim periodically and also use a glass cleaner or multi-purpose cleaner on the front. This is a cinch!
  • Sink—This is not going to make me popular, but I almost never leave dishes in my sink—when the meal is done, the dishes are done. I just don’t feel finished with a meal or cooking preparation if there are dishes in the sink. Even after new babies and sicknesses, we always do the dishes. It is a habit that I am happy we have.
    • Dishes are easier to do immediately—soaking is really gross to me and dishes left in the sink are just not my style.
    • A clean kitchen is much easier to work in.
    • The best advice I can give here is to do the dishes after each meal and to clean up as you go when you are baking.
    • Wash sponges and rags frequently to avoid smells. Sponges can be thrown in the dishwasher. I have a friend who hangs her rags up in there, too! A handy tip I also use periodically!
  • Under the sink—I keep bins under my sink with cleaners, rags, paper towels, and wisk brooms with dustpans. Bins are nice because you can wipe around them and avoid any spills in wood cabinets.
    • I try to only keep items used in the kitchen under the kitchen sink (dishwasher soap, dish soap, window cleaner, vinegar, hand soap).
    • The exception is a bin in the back of the cabinet with light bulbs, a hammer and a few other items that are rarely used.
  • Island—Organization here depends on the function of your island. Wipe it off, plan what will go there, and fix it up to suit you.
    • Inform the family of any new ‘rules’ so everyone knows what you want where. If you want a neat, useful space, it cannot be a dumping ground for loose items.
    • The top of our island is divided by a coffee bar and several plants. One side of the island is for coffee, tea and often fruit. It is not meant to be functional for other things. The other side has stools and is used for a variety of things. The only permanent items are the coffee bar and the plants. Nothing else gets left there.
  • The floor—I have always wiped the floor (or swept or quick vacuumed) after most meals. It avoids tracking crumbs through the house. It takes less than five minutes to do this.
    • If you have little children you can get a little wisk broom or dustmop and let them sweep—just finish up the pile with a quick vacuum (like a dust buster) or wet rag. They love this and it is a big help.
    • I really prefer to clean it from corner to corner with a rag (it is the most efficient method I think). I do this after meals on most days.
    • We mop the floor, usually with vinegar, once a week or so.

A neat and tidy kitchen is a pleasure to work in!!

Category: Musings
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3 Responses
  1. cynthiab610 says:

    I know it’s been a while since you wrote these posts, but I’m just now reading them. I have a question for you: do you have any kind of system for your children to keep up with routines and cleaning jobs for which they are responsible? And one more question–do you differentiate between regular chores and jobs that they may get paid for?

  2. sallyanne says:

    Thanks for commenting! We’ve done some different things over the years. One thing we’ve always done is to establish good habits from a young age. This has meant different things at different times. For instance, when our oldest kids were young, we made print out schedules and were fairly structured about our days. Part of the structure at that time was because I had so many littles at once and I needed to be able to make things clear for several different learning styles 🙂

    In order to make things run smoothly, I established a time frame and an order of items to be done (i.e. wake up, make bed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, do schoolwork, do chores — chores were listed specifically so that each child had a clear understanding of what they were responsible for and when I expected them to complete it!). I’ve always been a big fan of habits and routines, but I didn’t want us to be slaves to schedules. I was more interested in building habits that would make it easy for them to do what needed to be done stress free!

    With one little one and lots of older ones, I don’t have any print out schedules. I was able to establish habits (and continue to teach) without needing to print it out. He’s in kindergarten this year, though, so I may make him a daily schedule for chores and times set aside for us to do our reading. Right now, we just do it as the day progresses!

    I do have regular chores that everyone is expected to do and paid chores. I have found that special jobs and certain chores are worthy of reward. I pay one of the girls to iron currently (though in previous years this was a chore that didn’t receive pay, I changed my mind and began to pay for it). I also pay for certain things that come up from time to time. There are times that we’ll do major yard work (planting a big garden, re-doing an area, etc.) and we may reward the helpers with a special meal of take-out or a movie…just a fun time after a hard day’s work!

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