You walk into the kitchen and for the first time in a few days, really look at it. It’s a mess! Dirty dishes are all over the counters, with day old (or 3 day old) food caked on. Your purse, keys and the mail you meant to look at are all shoved in a giant pile in the corner.

Cleaning a messy kitchen looks intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here is a quick step by step list to quickly clean through the kitchen and see a dramatic improvement in 30 minutes.

  • Fill the sink up with soap and warm water. This will work with cold water and no soap but takes way more willpower to stick your hand in the mushy food and germ infested waters.
  • Add dirty dishes that need to soak.
  • Round up dirty dishes. Do a quick run around the kitchen, living room and the rest of the house to round up dirty dishes that have escaped the confines of the kitchen sink area.
  • Put all dirty dishes next to the sink.
  • Add as many dirty dishes to the sink as possible.

While the dishes are soaking:

  • Do a quick scan of the kitchen to throw out trash. I don’t know why it’s so hard to throw plastic seals from new jars or little twisty ties in the trash…but in the moment, it feels like a trek up Mt. Everest just to make the three foot journey to the trash can when I’m sooo haaangry. Taking a few minutes right now to throw out that dreadful trash can make a huge difference. Boom, done.
  • Dry wipe the counters. This involves wiping crumbs into your hand and throwing them in the dang trash.
  • Wet wipe the counters. Take a paper towel or washcloth and some of that soapy water and wipe down the counters.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: The important thing here is to not spend too much time scrubbing the crusty, fossilized grape jelly and ice cream that would’ve taken you two seconds to wipe up in the moment but now will take years. (Hey, you were hangry.) The magical secret about cleaning is that every time you do it, you remove a layer of gunk without a ton of effort. Our goal here is to make cleaning the kitchen so dang painless you want to do it more frequently than you floss.
  • At this point, your kitchen should look pretty dang clean. Oh wait, don’t look at the sink. That place is a mess. Use your hand to block out that area while you admire how great the kitchen looks so far.

Back to the dishes:

  • I think of dishes as progression of a cycle. If I write on my to do list “Clean Kitchen” I will fail repeatedly over and over. Secret time: My kitchen is so rarely 100% clean that I could probably count the times on one hand. (Moved in, parents visited, in-laws visited, put house on market.) My goal is to progress the cycle every day so each area of the kitchen gets some love once in a while. Here’s a two second drawing I scribbled for you:
  • Depending on where you are in the cycle, pick the next step in the progression and do it. Easy peezy.
  • If you’re anything like me, your dishwasher is clean but half empty, because ahem, the cupboard was out of clean silverware and plates so in a moment of hungryness, open goes the clean dishwasher, out comes some clean dishes and close goes the dishwasher door, never to be opened again…or at least until clean dishes are needed.
      This is my process:
  • Empty dishwasher.
  • Fill dishwasher with easy dirty dishes (the ones that only need a quick rinse or brush before being dishwasher ready).
  • Do a quick scrub of the dishes that have been soaking in the sink. Most will be easy; others require a quick scrub only to go soak some more.
  • Fill sink with more dishes that need to soak.
  • Once the dishwasher is full, run it.
  • If there are dishes that couldn’t fit in the dishwasher, rinse, brush or scrub those dishes so that once the dishwasher is empty again, it’s a breeze to put them in.

Voila! Clean(ish) kitchen in half an hour. The goal is to spend about 20 minutes every day progressing the dishes so that it doesn’t get this bad. But sometimes life happens and you find yourself with a kitchen so messy you consider burning it down and getting a new one.

And you know what? It’s okay to let life get in the way of having a clean kitchen. Life with kids is way more fun than cleaning the kitchen. I’d rather my tombstone say “Here lies Lauren, a loving wife, mother and all around bad*ss” than “Here lies Lauren. Now that she’s gone, who will clean the kitchen?”

Our goal here is to clean the house so that we can go live these amazing, outrageous lives, full of the good kinds of messes (i.e. finger paint and forts) that aren’t possible when you’re so overwhelmed you can’t think straight.

Let me know in the comments below, what is the thing you hate the most about cleaning your kitchen?

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