You know that cleaning the kitchen while you go would be infinitely less stressful, but how do you get into the habit of DOING it? Read on for the hacks and habits for becoming a clean cook
I watched in downright surprise as each of my children (aged 2-6) quickly and easily cleaned up their toys the first time they were asked without complaint.
…and no this is not a parenting episode of the podcast (I’m still reading all the books and seeking therapy in THAT area so I definitely don’t feel ready to “teach a man to fish” if you willl.
No, this is different.
See, I am generally a pretty organized person. Am I clean person? No I am not, there’s generally unidentified sticky things on the counter most of the time…but my cupboards and closets are spic and span (unless you look closely for the crumbs). I mean who wants to clean after they’ve organized?
But that’s beside the point. Generally I’m pretty organized, but this pregnancy (….oh hey I’m 14 weeks pregnant BTW) I found myself pretty far behind in essentially every area of my life and my organization keep-up had definitely gone downhil.
Finally, at about 12 weeks I was able to get through some days without a nap and I didn’t feel horrible sick until about 7:00 PM (Sound awful? It still is…but it’s so much better).
With the newfound time I decided to reorganize a little (the plus-side of being organized generally is that even when you let things slip it’s not too terribly difficult to catch back up). I also *reminded* my kids of some rules we’d had before I started napping every day and letting them run the roost. Including the rule that they were each allowed to have only one toy out at a time.
So, this afternoon after the kids daily quiet time (and mama’s work time) I headed upstairs to help them clean up their toys.
I had distant memories of a time when clean-up wasn’t the bane of my existence, but recently it had been a nightmare.
So you can imagine my shock and surprise when clean-up was done in 10 minutes with minimal fighting.
Because each child had only one thing to clean up, and there were no other toys out and there was no other clutter to distract them.
Our kids WANT to be successful, of course, but they can get distracted by the clutter and busy-ness just like we can.
This moment was a good reminder to me of why it’s so important to keep my home as clean and clutter-free as possible (ya know, with 3 kids at home).
So what’s the point of this story?
The point is this.
When I am talking with moms, or reading what mom’s have to say, or listening to my readers and listeners the number one complaint I hear about mealtime is “I don’t have time” the complaint I hear the 2nd most is “I just hate all of the clean-up”
And no wonder. Just like when my kids see a huge messy room to clean and they shut down and find every excuse in the book NOT to clean, we moms shut down when we see the same thing in our kitchen. Especially if that mess is accompanied by screaming children, running, falling off of chairs, and all of the other “chaos” that accompanies kids and toddlers at mealtime.
You might be nodding your head right now thinking I’ve nailed the problem on the head, but you may also be thinking “But Amanda, I know what the problem is. I know I’m stressed and overwhelmed as heck when my kitchen is a disaster. But how do I FIX it?
The key is to learn to become a clean cook. To cultivate habits that make the process of cleaning up the easy thing to do, instead of the stressful and overwhelming thing to do. We humans are famous for taking the easy way out. So let’s learn ways to make cleaning up the easy way so you can become a clean cook and kick the stress.
And that my friend is what today’s episode is all about. This is not a post about quick kitchen hacks or tips and tricks to keep the kitchen clean. The idea behind this post is to help you change your kitchen habits so your kitchen is clean (er) all the time and when it IS time to clean up, everything has a spot and you don’t have so much stuff that you feel like slumping cown in a ball on the kitchen floor to not emerge until morning.
How to become a clean cook
Become a clean cook through Kitchen Organization
Just like meal planning, meal prep, and so many of the things we talk about on the podcast, the most important steps of keeping the kitchen clean happen way before you are actually cooking.
One of the secrets to becoming a clean cook is kitchen organization.
There are two things I want to talk about when it comes to kitchen organization (and remember I have an episode on kitchen organization specifically with Alli Kelly of Longbourn Farm if that interests you.
The first thing to think about is where can you put things that makes sense. Don’t just haphazardly fill your cupboards. Put your pots and pans close to the stove. Put your silverware and tableware close to the dishwasher. Put utensils in the most central workspace. Tuck little-used appliances somewhere less convenient and save the prime real estate for things you use every day.
The second part of organization is to create a space for everything. Bins and labels are your best friends. I’m sure you’ve seen the immaculate pantries on pinterest and the good news is, while pretty, you don’t need to replicate them exactly. My favorite bins are these dishpans that I can buy in different sizes. They are less than $3 a piece, and they look pretty darn good in the pantry (without breaking the bank)
These two steps are really important. We really aren’t that different from our kids. We have to make clean-up as easy as possible when we’re NOT cleaning so when it’s time to clean, putting things in the right spot is the easy option. These means designating spaces and also leaving enough space for everything you need. If an area is too full or cluttered that leads to overwhelm so let your things breathe!
This brings me to the next point
Become a minimalist (at least sorta)
I’ve been reading and studying a lot about minimalism in all aspects of life (physical/spiritual/extracurricular) etc…
and while I’m definitely a believer, undoing years and years of learning that a life of abundance is what brings happiness definitely takes practice (ahem. I own like 10 swimsuits and 20 pairs of Yoga pants. Quarantine shopping got me like the best of them)
So when I say become a minimalist, I’m really just talking about clearing out enough things and enough space so that even if you made a great big huge mess in your kitchen it wouldn’t be hugely overwhelming to clean it up.
If you can’t let go of some lesser used items, that’s okay. But try storing them somewhere other than the kitchen to clear up some space.
Start with a fresh slate
This is one that we all KNOW is a good idea, but it can definitely be hard to get into the habit of actually doing it. If you start cooking with a clean kitchen you’ll be more motivated to put things away as you go and you’ll feel more peace throughout the cooking process.
But just because you know it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
In order to start with a clean slate, I try to unload the dishwasher first thing in the morning. Keeping the kitchen entirely clean during the day is a tall order that probably won’t happen, but if the dishwasher is empty I can take 5 minutes for a quick tidy before cooking.
We also try to get in the habit of having the kids put their own dishes in the sink and/or dishwasher (depending on their age) throughout the day. Again, this is another tall order, but you can put the work in during small tidbits of time throughout the day, or a great big work session in the evening (what most of us are avoiding).
These little habits will help make it possible to start cleaning in the most peaceful environment possible.
Start every cooking session with a scrap bowl and a clean wash rug/suds bucket
I learned these little tips from working in commercial kitchens.
Remember, the idea is to make cleaning up the EASY thing to do.
So we all know that cleaning as we go will be so much less overwhelming than cleaning all at the end, but how do we get our lazy selves to actually DO it?
One way is to keep a scrap bowl and a clean wash rag/suds bucket or bowl ready and available when you start cooking.
That way you have a place to corral all the trash so it can easily be dumped (or composted) when you are done. You also already have a rag set up for cleaning up spills quickly.
Give kids a designated task
One problem when you’re cooking with kids is that no matter how clean and organized YOU are, kids thrive on making messes when they’re unsupervised. This has to be, like, statistical fact I’m pretty sure.
It sure feels like kids can thwart all of your efforts of becoming a clean cook.
To mitigate this, give kids an assigned task. It can be in the kitchen (here’s some ideas) or a new toy that they don’t normally get to play with to keep them entertained and away from all of the cupboards while you work.
Kids are kids so it’s not a perfect, solution but it does help immensely.
Clean cooks rinse and Reuse
The more you can reuse dishes, the easier your job cleaning will be so much easier. You could even consider a 3rd bowl of soap water to soak spoons and cups as you use them that you might reuse, so you can just give them a quick rinse and use them again.
This is another area where minimalism helps. If you only have a handful of measuring cups/spoons, wooden spoons, etc…you’ll be forced to reuse them making cleaning at the end easier.
Become a cleaner cook by putting your phone away
I’ve talked about this before, but your phone doesn’t belong in the kitchen when you’re cooking.
A clean cook focuses on the task at hand and enjoy their leisure time later instead of mult-tasking both. Oftenn moms reach for their phones to distract themselves from the chaos and overwhelm in the kitchen, but I promise that little habit is making the problem so much worse.
If you have your phone you’ll automatically use your downtime to scroll, get distracted and have things boil over to clean up, etc. Use paper recipes when possible and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to keep things clean and tidy (and keep yourself from being crazy overwhelmed!)
Use downtime efficiently
When you don’t have your phone to distract you, you’ll learn to multi-task in the kitchen (not too much) but you can get dishes in the dishwasher as the veggies simmer, wipe down counters while the bread finishes in the oven.
Resist the urge to chill, and make a goal to have the kitchen as clean as possible by the time you finish cooking.
Alright my friends, that’s it. The “hacks” or more accurately habits that will make cleaning the kitchen while cooking less stressful and overwhelming!
Since I finally got to share my news with you, next week we’re talking pregnancy. Specifically how to meal prep and meal plan to survive the first trimester.
I’m excited to chat about it, happy planning!