(Image from House Beautiful, "California Kitchen.")
I love a clean kitchen (including a well organized pantry). It is the room that for me most dictates my mood. If the kitchen is clean, the house is clean... or at least much less dirty. I try to spend 15 minutes each morning straightening the kitchen - right after my family finishes eating breakfast.
(Image from House Beautiful, "Cabinetry with Period Charm.")
Here are the nine things I do to keep a tidy kitchen:
1. Fill sink or dishpan with hot soapy water. Place dishes into the water to begin soaking. While my dishes begin soaking, I quickly sweep the kitchen and dining area (typically, we only eat in these areas... so it is easy to locate dirty dishes). I place these dishes on the counter near the sink. Next, I wash the dishes by hand or load rinsed dishes into the dishwasher. (I grew up without a dishwasher, so I typically wash by hand... even though we have a dishwasher now.)
Now I need to pause here and comment on the importance of washing dishes, pots and pans just after using them... as soon as I finish frying eggs in a pan I begin soaking the frying pan, quickly rinse dishes as you cook, wash dishes after each meal... this saves me so much time.
2. Pick up trash from the table, countertops and floor... throw away.
3. Put away all items that go in the kitchen... In my kitchen, everything has a designated "homespot." This helps me and my family keep an orderly kitchen because everyone knows where to put items away.
4. Place items that go into other areas in our home into a tote box, laundry bin or basket. These items will be redistributed later... the second I start putting things away in another area is the second I begin a new project so I try to focus on one task at a time.
5. Wipe down countertops, appliances and the backsplash. I have found it helpful to keep a spray bottle of vinegar and water (about a 1 to 3 ratio) to quickly spray down our oven vent and other areas that kitchen grime builds up.
6. Sweep or vacuum the floor. Spot clean as needed. About once a week I do a mop down of the floors... if my children are outside playing in the mud (like right now) then I will do it more frequently.
7. Take out the trash and reline with a trash bag... I don't know why, but I always forget to put a bag back in the trash can. Also, frequently (once or twice a week) I will spray the trash can down with Lysol to kill off bacteria and odors.
8. "Sparkle the sink"... by spraying with a little bit of vinegar or window cleaner and wiping down any water spots. Run disposal as I clean the sink.
9. Redistribute items in my basket to their proper "homespots" throughout our home.
** This process takes only 15 minutes each day. If you feel this will take longer be sure to get your family involved. Have children scrape-off their dishes, clear their settings, wipe up spills and tuck in chairs. I have found that even at a very young age children can do an excellent job helping with proper instruction. My son who is six is responsible for taking out the trash whenever it is full; my son who is five sweeps under the table after meals with a little hand-broom; and my daughter who is four is responsible for wiping off the table.
** Also, because I don't like to pick up scraps of papers, rocks, broken toys, sticks and other treasures my children have collected... if it is left out (and not in their "Keepsake Basket") then I throw it away. I know it sounds mean, but it helps me know if it is important for them. If I think it might be important, then I will give a warning that any items left out will be thrown away shortly.