5 Steps to Clean a Messy Kitchen FAST!

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I tell ya what, 67 days of not eating at restaurants will teach you a lot of things.

Things like commitment.

And creativity.

And contentment.

And commitment.

Somewhere along the way you discover that skipping the drive-through isn’t just about learning to whip up simple and easy dinners in a hurry.  Those dinners leave a messy kitchen and a messy table, that also need to be cleaned up as quickly and easily as possible.

I've seen people take all evening to clean up after a meal. It doesn't have to be that way. Finally, a simple step-by-step process to teach them!

Here’s my 5 Step Process for Cleaning A Messy Kitchen

This works for a quick clean up after lunch or the massive fallout of a Thanksgiving feast.  Any mess can be taken care of quickly when dealt with systematically.  Maybe you don’t personally need this advice, but I bet there’s someone in your family who could use some direction.  This is so simple your kids can learn to do it!

Step One: Trash

Go throughout the entire kitchen and dining area collecting garbage in one fell swoop.  You can kick this off before you even leave the table by asking everyone to pass you their plates while you enjoy the post-meal conversation. My family is still learning the art of the post-meal conversation, but when it happens, I employ this little trick passed down from my great-grandmother. Take their plate, scrape the leftovers and trash onto your plate, and stack the cleared plate underneath.  Soon, you’ll have a stack of easy to rinse dishes and one collection of trash.

Step Two: Leftovers and Ingredients

Take any platters and bowls from the table and store away any leftover food.  Make sure there isn’t any left on the stove or counter.

Also put away any other food that might be left out.  I have a terrible habit of leaving the egg carton or a half a stick of butter on the counter after I cook.  After you’ve cleared all the trash, clear all the good stuff!  Now all that’s left out is dirty dishes.

Step Three: Dishwasher Dishes

Move all the plates, cups, and flatware to the sink. Go around the entire kitchen and gather up any thing you can put in your dishwasher.  If you don’t have a dishwasher, divide your dishes up into eating tools and cooking tools.  Trust me, doing all the plates before the cooking pots makes a difference!

Rinse your eating dishes and load the dishwasher.

Step Four: The Hand-Washing

Everyone’s favorite! Not!
(Remember Not Jokes?  I thought those were stupid even in 3rd grade. Why did I just make a Not Joke?)

I always hand-wash my cooking knives for safety and sharpness (the dishwasher dulls them).  I also wash most pots and pans by hand due to size or to keep them in tip-top shape.  You should also hand-wash anything that has wood on it.  Dishwashers are very drying to wooden utensils and cutting boards.

Now that all the other stuff is cleared away, the hand-washing seems a little easier to tackle.  I rinse the really nasty ones, fill one side of the sink with soapy water, and plop them all in.  I clean the other side of the sink and put my washed dishes there until I pile up a few and then I rinse them all at once and set aside on a drying mat.

Step Five:  Surfaces

This is a great divide-and-conquer task.  While one person is completing Step Four, the other family members can take on Step Five.

Wipe all counters, cooktops, and tables.  If needed, sweep the floor.

After the dishes and surfaces are clean, I wring out the washcloth and give the sink one last wipe down.

I’m not naming names, but when I’m not the one to clean the kitchen, this step goes undone, and it drives me crazy!  What’s the point of cleaning all those dishes and counters if you leave the sink all splattered and nasty?!

But I leave my shoes lying around the house, so nobody’s perfect.

I realize this may be old hat to some of you.  You may work through a kitchen at top speed without even a thought, moving in a rhythmic dance perfected over years.  Some of you may still be figuring this all out and need a little direction.  Or maybe you’re passing this task off to your children (way to go, Mom!) and they need direction.  I’ve included this not-so-lovely, but effective, list of the five steps for you to print and put up somewhere in the kitchen until you or they get the hang of it.  Just click the list to open a printable PDF. 

Less time in the kitchen means more time for family game night and devotions and story time! Hooray!


Cooking and eating at home is agreat way to spend time with your family and control what your kids eat.  It’s also a great money-saver! But a messy kitchen can be a real drag. I’ve seen people flit about from one area to another and take all evening to clean it up. But when you sort the tasks into stages, and work in order, you’ll get it done fast!

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  1. Rene' wrote:

    Loved this post! Made the decision to stay home this year after teaching kindergartners for five years. Needless to say, as much as loved my 5-year-olds, I came home each day too tired to cook. Yes, we were that family. We went through fast food lines more than I would like to admit. When my teenager was asked not long ago what was different with Mom staying home, he didn’t miss a beat. “She cooks a lot more.” So true! But, the kitchen is MUCH messier and is in constant need of cleaning. I have lamented over it more than once to my wonderful husband.

    Love these five steps and love the title of your blog. Martha, Martha…I want the One Thing that is needed.

    Posted 3.30.16 Reply
    • Christina wrote:

      I know what you mean! I found that when I was working, I was spending so much more on eating out! Maybe you can get your teenager to help with the kitchen with these steps. Breaking it down makes it, less daunting!

      Posted 3.30.16 Reply