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For Us Cooks: As You Cook Up A Storm, How Do You Keep Your Kitchen Clean?

My sister and I love to cook, and do so almost every day. The trouble is, our mother, bless her soul, never really taught us to clean. And we "sometimes" let the dishes go for a day or two (or even three, blush), then are left with not only a ton of dishes, but a dirty floor, crusty countertops, you get the picture!
Then, when we DO have to clean, it takes forever and tons of work just to get the kitchen looking decent again.
Other than "clean as you go", do you have any tried and true ideas, thoughts, and/or tricks to help us keep our kitchen clean, and not look as if a bomb hit it, all the time?
And yes, we have a dishwasher.
And no, we are the only two that live here; no children, etc., to help us.
And no, we have no money to hire someone to clean.

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  1. Other than hiding the dirty dishes/pots under your bed for that no-bomb-look, it seems there is no other worthy answer to your dilemma than: clean as you go. This is the most important, valuable lesson my husband got from his professional cooking classes (although he's just an amateur who loves to cook). Before that, the sink would get piled high, making it difficult to get a glass of water. Why not share the chore with you sister - when she cooks, you clean right behind her, and vice versa?

    6 Replies
    1. re: boredough

      Well, we both attack the cooking at the same time!
      AND we both hate to clean!
      Bad, huh?

      1. re: aurora50

        uh yeah....but if not for just health issues (crusty countertops), I think your "system" (not) doesn't work. There is no way to make the problem magically disappear, so you & your sister need to change the way you look it. It's no more a chore than cooking is. Or change your cooking habits and don't both cook at the same time. In the end, you might find you actually like having a clean kitchen all the time!

        1. re: boredough

          awww, but they appear to like cooking together, why ruin that? Happily cooking with a family member >>> sparkling clean kitchen.

          1. re: im_nomad

            But if you consider "cooking" to be a 2-part task : stove/oven action + cleaning up, then they would still be doing just that. I personally enjoy cleaning up after my husband (the cook), and I think the sisters just need a different perspective about this aspect of the "job". It's also easier to clean up when you're not doing the cooking, and, as everyone's already said, easier to clean as you go than tackling a mass of pots & pans (plus a full sink) when you're stuffed from dinner.

            1. re: boredough

              It's WAY easier to clean as you go... the dishes are simple to clean when the mess is fresh. I have to admit that I tend to let things pile up for a few days because I loathe washing dishes (and we don't have a dishwasher) - but when I'm doing a big cooking job I'll clean as I go along and it's really much easier.

              And the most important tip? As SOON as you spill something on the counter, wipe it up! After you've finished one stage of the cooking/food prep, grab the cloth and wipe the counter clean before you start the next one. There's no excuse whatsoever for crusty counters. Lax as I am about cleaning (don't look too hard at my floor...) my countertop is always sparkling.

              1. re: Kajikit

                Yes, we're learning that with wiping the counters. My aunt is a bit of a clean freak (in a good way), so we kind of HAVE to.
                But it's good training for the future, and it's teaching us. : )

    2. On occasion I'll ask my husband to help by washing up as I cook....he usually offers to help and I'll ask him to wash XYZ pan....helps with keeping the area neat......and as I'm cooking and say, waiting for a pan or oil to heat up, etc I'll toss stuff into the dishwasher instead of standing there....

      2 Replies
      1. re: jenscats5

        yeah, nobody likes doing it, including me. But I try to do it while I'm waiting for water to boil, or toast to brown, etc. That way it doesn't seem quite so much like "work".

        1. re: DGresh

          Agree! Doesn't seem to be as much work and the time waiting for water to boil goes by so much faster when I'm doing something....

      2. No way around it, as far as I know.
        The best laid plan is to clean as you go.

        1. Sounding like a broken record on purpose...
          Clean as you go.
          Clean as you go.
          Clean as you go.
          Clean as you go.
          Clean as you go.
          Clean as you go.
          Clean as you go...

          2 Replies
          1. re: ttoommyy

            >>>>Sounding like a broken record on purpose...
            Clean as you go.
            Clean as you go.
            Clean as you go.
            Clean as you go.
            Clean as you go.
            Clean as you go.
            Clean as you go...<<<<


            1. re: Jay F

              For clean as you go. It really isn't all that difficult, and although it does take practice, the results are worth it, like any cooking task!

          2. Yup another person who could benefit from Sam's Magic House. Insert colon dash close parenth

            As others have stated, clean as you go. It stinks, we all know that once you get into the saute and chop and stir and swirl mode it is hard to get out of that zone. You need to teach your brain as a part of the process. Similar to athletes needing a break to catch their breath, cooks need a break as well to re-group a little. While you are jointly cleaning talk about what you just did, figure +/-'s and then discuss what is next and responsibilites.

            Group cooking requires agroup dynamics, solo cooking requires discipline. You need to train yourself on both.

            Yesterday I made a huge vat of marinara while mrs j was out with one of the girls. When they returned the kitchen was clean and there were 6 bottles of sauce cooling. Huuuuuge smiles. Now that's a good cooking day.

            1. Here's some practical advice that I learned the hard way.

              Minimize the implements you use. If you can reuse a bowl, a pot or pan, a spoon without washing it, then do so (of course, only if it makes sense in the context of the dish you are preparing).

              Use strategies like, chop up your veg and keep them on the cutting board rather than dirtying a bowl or plate to hold them. Or if you're chopping a whole bunch of stuff, see if you can combine them. As an example, yesterday I made a meatloaf which calls for finely minced onion, garlic, carrot, celery and scallion, which all get sauteed together. I got out one large bowl, chopped each item, and put it in the bowl, until the bowl was full of chopped all the chopped veg. Did not need a separate bowl or plate for each one.

              Also, eliminate fancy-doodle gadgets from your repertoire. Use simple items like regular forks or spoons, which you can put in the dishwasher. Anything that can go in the dishwasher does, even pots and pans.

              When doing my prep work, I look at all the ingredients that need to be cut/chopped/sliced, then use one cutting board and one knife, prioritize the order of use from least messy to most (herbs first, then green beans, then potatoes, then onions, then meat). Wipe down board and/or rinse knife between items if needed.

              Develop your own trash containment strategy. Everyone makes fun of Rachel Ray's "garbage bowl" but the concept is sound. Keep a container handy for the cooking trash that accumulates - onion peels, stems from greens, etc. I used to just lay down a paper towel and let everything pile up on that, then dispose of it all at once. Now I use the plastic bags that you put your fruit/veg in at the grocery store. I just save them in one place, then pull one out whenever I cook, fill it up, and dispose. (Sadly, I don't compost, but that's another discussion.)

              "Clean as you go" is definitely helpful, but there are other things you can do to minimize the mess, which I think is what you were asking for. These are just a few ideas that I can think of right now. I hope you find them helpful!

              14 Replies
              1. re: lisavf

                Lots of great tips by lisavf and others. I'd like to add something about the garbage bowl. I usually don't use one because our compost container is about 4 feet away, on the floor next to the garbage can. I usually scoop up the vegetable trimmings with my hands, walk over, bend down and dump the trimmings. Not a big deal, except when you're cutting lots of veggies and have to do this dance 8 or 10 times. Last night, I happened to have on the counter one of those large plastic containers that mushrooms come in, so I decided to use it as my compost garbage bowl. Wow, it turned out to be a big timesaver, and so much easier! Most important of all, the whole process of preparing the vegetables flowed much more smoothly. I've become a garbage bowl convert!

                1. re: goodeatsgal

                  So, do you have two "garbage bowls", one for compost one for garbage?


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    No, just one for compost. Other garbage while cooking would mostly consist of plastic bags and rubber bands and the occasional can or jar. The bags and rubber bands get washed and put in the dish rack, and cans/jars are rinsed and put to the side for a later and longer walk to the recycling bin. If I have any other type of garbage, I just walk over to the garbage can.

                  2. re: goodeatsgal

                    yeah I recently realized that instead of throwing the scraps into the sink (the non-disposal side) and then scooping them out later for the compost, it was much easier to use some random bowl and then dump it into the compost. Only took me 50 years to get so smart!

                    1. re: DGresh

                      my sister just told me this tonight, as she watched me trim broccoli and throw bits into the sink (which has no garbage disposal), which i then had to scoop out with my hand to throw in the trash. did i listen? no! but i will, i will!

                      1. re: mariacarmen

                        My grandma always used to peel veggies over the sink... I do it over a cutting board or plate so that the scraps end up contained in one place and it's easier to get them in the trashcan (no composting facilities in an apartment!)

                        1. re: Kajikit

                          We do it over a paper towel, and just gather up and toss in the trashcan.
                          : )

                          1. re: aurora50

                            Save $$$ and use old newspapers, instead.

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              Good idea, except that we don't usually get the newspaper!

                    2. re: goodeatsgal

                      I use those mushroom containers all the time for my "garbage bowl"! It really does save so much time to have that container right there next to you on the counter. Glad you gave it a try!

                      1. re: goodeatsgal

                        Absolutely +1. I'm not in a position to compost (no space for a bin or for a garden), and I'm trying to reduce my garbage disposal use. During most cooking sessions I have some kind of container that isn't recyclable locally, usually a foam or clam shell produce container. I just build a little pile of garbage bits, and take it to the trash in one easy trip. If I don't have a handy disposable container, I'll sometimes grab a bowl out of the cabinet.

                        1. re: mpjmph

                          Why are you trying to reduce your garbage disposal use? (Just curious.)


                          1. re: mpjmph

                            For those of you who are not in a position to compost, you can always put your veggie/fruit scraps in the green garbage can for pick up by your weekly garbage collector.

                            1. re: dkennedy

                              ha, what makes you think we have those either?

                      2. hey, you've got a dishwasher, silly!

                        rule #1 empty clean dishes out of dishwasher *before* you start to cook.

                        then as you are cooking, load dirty dishes into the dishwasher. when food is done, soak any pots that don't go in the dishwasher, clean the good knives and put them away. takes 2 mins. have a nice meal, then spend 5-10 minutes clearing table and loading those dishes, wash the pots (easy and quick when they have soaked) & start the dishwasher, give the counters a wipe and the floor a sweep. the 2 of you can continue your conversation about the meal or your day while you spiff up the kitchen.

                        the next day you walk into an awesome, clean kitchen. don't forget to empty the dishwasher before you start cooking, and repeat. wish i had a dishwasher! :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: soupkitten

                          soupkittens rule #1 is the same as my rule #1, although, I'm going to add a step 0:

                          #0: Start with a clean kitchen.
                          #1. Start with an empty dishwasher can so you can put dirty dishes in as you go.
                          #2. Also start with an empty trashbin.
                          #3. If your sink has two compartments, fill up one side (not the side with the garbage disposal) with hot soapy water and to make it easy to wash dishes as you go. I actually use a washtub, instead of filling the sink basin directly, because it can be moved if you find you need the sink for something else.
                          #4. If you can, do all of your mise en place, first then do a quick clean up before you do your cooking, then cook.
                          #5. If whatever you're cooking is going to involve draining oil, make sure to have an empty coffee can or whatever handy.
                          #6. Keep your dishtowel handy. When you tie your apron, cross the ties behind you, in front of you, then behind you again and tie. This way, you can hang a dishtowel from your apron ties for easy access.

                          Also, as a longer term strategy, only buy kitchenware that is dishwasher safe, even if you have to pay a small premium. For the few things that aren't dishwasher safe (eg., your wok, your knives), don't use them unless they really are the best tool for whatever you're doing.

                          Clean-up tools I like: the Hoover Impulse electric mop. http://www.hoover.com/product.aspx?mo... Also, garbage and compost bins that open via foot pedal. http://www.simplehuman.com/products/t...

                          These sponges (thanks to JoanN for posting about these) http://jetzscrubzusa.com/index.html

                          Pan scrapers (be sure to soak pots and pans, first): http://www.basspro.com/Lodge-Logic-Pa...


                        2. I have a tiny kitchen with very little prep space, so clean-as-you-go is a must for me. I'm lucky to have a DH who is willing to help on big cooking days. You and your sister could tag-team on the cooking/cleaning. Here's what I do to help the progress along:

                          -- Make sure the dishwasher is empty before I start

                          -- If possible, do all prep that requires the sink first.

                          -- Fill one side of the sink with soapy water and put the in-sink dish rack in the other side
                          I have a dish rack that sits across the top of the sink and leaves half the sink available for draining pots, etc.

                          -- As I fnish with an item, I give it a quick wash, rinse and put it in the dish rack.

                          -- Put items I know I won't be reusing into the dishwasher. If I fill it up, I run it. For big meals, holidays, etc., I usually run it while we are eating, then empty/refill it after the meal.

                          -- Reuse items from the dish rack as much as possible, rather than getting out new tools/bowls/etc.

                          -- Use lots of prep bowls to gather ingredients. Put food items back into the fridge/cabinet/pantry immediately after use. Wash/rinse/dish rack/reuse the prep bowls.

                          I'd have to rethink this whole thing if I didn't have a sink with two compartments! :-)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: onrushpam

                            I completely agree with you, and this is how I clean as I go also. I, too, have a tiny itty bitty kitchen, and the cleaning as I go is key. I have been doing it for so long, it is automatic,and i would have had a tough time breaking what I do sown into these steps, but I would think they would be extremely helpful to someone who is beginning to cook, or beginning to cook in a small kitchen. Thanks)

                          2. I know follow the clean as you go. However, I used to be less disciplined and I've never had a dishwasher so I have a couple of tricks. If things are really out of hand use the bathtub (clean) filled with hot soapy water and a good splash of bleach. If you have exceptionally crusty pots or pans fill them with hot water, put the lid on, bring to a boil and then let cool to room temperature. Crusty stuff will fall right off.

                            That said, it really is a lot less work to you know, clean as you go.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: corneygirl

                              the bathtub?!? wow--10 punk rock points for CorneyGirl! :)

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                Not my proudest moments, but at least you can clean up the counters and floor and then put away clean things without looking at the messy stuff!

                                1. re: corneygirl

                                  Also, if you have a hand held shower head it makes rinsing off the bleach and soap easier. I've been there too. I think I came up with the bathtub idea after my roommate put a sink full of my dirty dishes in my bed.

                              2. re: corneygirl


                                Kramer put a disposal in the shower so he could prep and shower at the same time.

                              3. Yeah, sorry, there's really no way around this--either clean as you go or clean immediately after.

                                I don't have a dishwasher, so my MO is to make sure my sink/dish drainer is empty before I start, to make washing as I go easier. I'd make sure your dishwasher is empty before cooking.

                                I drag my garbage can right next to the stove/counter--the less I have to travel, the less stuff that ends up on the floor.

                                It also helps that I live with a neatfreak who doesn't cook, so he takes care of the main post-meal cleanup.

                                1. We've experimented with both clean immediately after and clean as you go. Clean as you go is 100% less painful ... at least in our house. It's really relaxing to be able to sit down to dinner and know that all that's left is putting away leftovers and cleaning a few dishes.

                                  Some tips: start with a clean kitchen (all dishes cleaned and put away, dishwasher too) and streamline utensil/pot/pan usage. Wash and put away dishes/utensils after use, don't leave them to sit until the end.* Everything that remains should be cleaned and put away that night, and the counters wiped down so the kitchen is ready for the next day.

                                  I do all prep work at the beginning. For something that has a lot of ingredients that need to be added at different times I layer everything in one bowl, with the first set on top. Clean the prep dishes and wipe the counters before moving on to cooking.

                                  *The only time I have trouble maintaining this is when I'm making a stir fry, or something else quick-cooking, without a second set of hands.

                                  1. All great ideas here, my only addition would to be start sooner to accommodate for prepping and cleaning. You are learning a new skill and learning new skills take time. Once you become more accustomed to the practice you'll be more efficient and clean as you go w/o losing time. I was on perpetual kitchen clean up as a kid because my mom seemed to use every pot and pan she owned and my mother thought cleaning as you go was stupid. I changed when I worked in a small kitchen in a cafe and had a relentless boss who sniped at me about cleaning as I went. I hate cleaning too, but it is easier to tackle it a little at a time as you go rather than facing a messy kitchen after you eat or worse yet the next morning.

                                    1. In truth - I'm terrible at cleaning as I cook. I call it "the eye of the storm" - when I'm cooking up for a big meal (read: hours of cooking) my kitchen is typically a riotous storm of broken eggshells, flour traces, opened cans, and apple peels. But by the end of the night (or right before daybreak) I always make myself clean it up.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: brooklynkoshereater

                                        Wow, I can't believe all the wonderful responses I've received!!! I'm really glad I started this thread, and I am really grateful to all of you for your thoughtful input.
                                        There's a lot to think about, I'm a little overwhelmed right now -
                                        But just have to organize my thoughts and do what we can, even if we start little by little.
                                        : )

                                        1. re: aurora50

                                          You've just answered your own post! "But just have to organize my thoughts and do what we can, even if we start little by little.
                                          : )"

                                          The key word in your response is :O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-E.
                                          Those of us with professional kitchen experience would testify to the absolute necessity of good organization. It translates very well to the residential kitchen and will make your life much easier.

                                          Many of the posters have given you excellent suggestions - rinse out a bowl and use it again, combine operations, etc. Those are the perfect place to start your new kitchen campaign.

                                          If you ever want to test the clean-as-you-go theory for absolute validity, cook on a small boat! It is the only way possible to get a meal on the table without chaos. Heeling sailboats + kitchen mess = very real danger and injury.

                                      2. Lots of great suggestions. Like you I am not by nature a neat-nic. Clean as you go is no doubt the best option if you can train yourself. I have found that there are self imposed break points in cooking, like after you have all the vegetables chopped, or after you put the pasta in to start cooking. Take advantage of those to clean up to that point instead of grabbing a beverage or returning a phone call. The other thing is to pretend it isn't your kitchen. That you are cooking at a friends house and you need to have it cleaned up before you leave for the evening. You will find that you tend to do the clean as you go thing rather than know you have to face the big cleanup at the end of the night.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                          Interesting approach, KaimukiMan!!!
                                          (And another suggestion that I'm going to try.)

                                        2. Having spent 20+ years in a kitchen... there is no other way. As the others have said, clean as you go.

                                          1. I don't remember where I read this, but it was somewhere so I cannot take credit: use a refuse bowl.

                                            Take a big mixing bowl, set it on the counter, and throw all trash in there as you go - bits of rejected meat, vegetables, wrappers, whatever. Saves me tons of space, it's easy to throw stuff in there as you go, and easy to throw away when you're done. It makes prep not only neater, but also a lot *faster*

                                            Fill up the disposal side of the sink with hot soapy water. Drop stuff in there as you finish with it. When you're done, drain it and spray things off. No scrubbing! Do this at the end of your cooking - you know, when you'd otherwise take whatever it is off too early because you're feeling impatient.

                                            Wash and reuse utensils as you go. Read recipes all the way through, so you know if those green onions and garlic go in the stir-fry at the same time, and therefore the same bowl.

                                            I use two cutting boards - one huge, one small. The small one holds things I am about to cut or transports things that are cut to appropriate pans. Somehow this works most of the time. If not, I use small bowls that are dishwasher safe.

                                            I let the actual dinner dishes sit overnight in soapy water and spray them off in the morning.

                                            Countertops, though, I clean off all the time as I go. Keep a dishtowel around for this. Also, there shouldn't *be* that much stuff to clean off your countertop and floor.....

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: Raids

                                              So you're saying, no line sweep is necessary? lol Great advise with the refuse bowl. I try to keep my disposal side of the sink open and fill the other side with hot, soapy water. Whenever I have a spare moment, I'll dry a dish or two and put them away. Keeps the clutter down.

                                              1. re: VeggieHead

                                                I'm the same as you, veggiehead: I like to keep the disposal side open so I can put stuff down the disposal "as I go." I put a washtub of hot soapy water on the other side to soak/wash dishes as I go. When I'm done with that, I empty it out into the disposal side.


                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  I put the stuff that would go in the disposal in the refuse bowl, duh. ;-)

                                                  I use the disposal side to soak so I can put truly nasty dishes in there and not have to worry about picking large chunks out of the drain side later.

                                                  If you're using your disposal, what are you using the refuse bowl for?

                                                  1. re: Raids

                                                    Good question! I don't use a refuse bowl, which is why I was asking. I have a compost bin that I can open with my foot. I have a garbage bin that I can open with my foot. I put citrus peels down the disposal (the worms won't eat it and it makes the drains smell fresh). Also, I drain stuff into the side of the sink with the garbage disposal and sometimes bits and scraps of vegetables, pasta, etc. go down the drain.

                                                    But I do have to transport the scraps of compost over on a cutting board or whatever, so, maybe I should do some kind of "compost" bowl which can become a pain if there's a lot. I was wondering where I'd find the room on my counters for a compost bowl AND a garbage bowl, but to be honest, there just isn't that much "garbage." Maybe papper wrappers or trimmings from meat (which I want to get rid of right away anyway) or rubber bands. Plastic bags often get rinsed and re-used.

                                                    Maybe all I need is a compost "bowl".


                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      Sounds about right to me. Last night, for instance, the only stuff I really put in my general garbage bowl were a bunch of celery tops, onion and garlic peels, and zucchini ends. But that would have been 6 trips to my garbage can and this way I never had to stop chopping or deal with any unwanted bits on the cutting board until I got a chance to throw them out.

                                                      1. re: Raids

                                                        "Sounds about right to me. Last night, for instance, the only stuff I really put in my general garbage bowl were a bunch of celery tops.."

                                                        Whoaa.... THAT's the best part of celery! :) And I don't use a compost bowl... that's why I keep the disposal side of the bowl clear. I just bought my house a couple months ago, so I haven't set up a bin yet.

                                                        1. re: VeggieHead

                                                          I compost my veggie trimmings, so I wouldn't want to put them down the garbage disposal! And, I wouldn't want junk I'm going to compost or throwaway sitting in the sink getting all wet and sloppy. Then it really does become a chore to get rid of it.


                                                          1. re: VeggieHead

                                                            It wasn't really the right kind of soup - a minestrone with celery and onion just for the base. If I was making a chicken soup or something like that, I'd add it, but not when I'm making a new recipe and the soup already has a bunch of spinach in it.

                                                            As for the rest, I think we've mixed up our terms. I don't compost either. I should and grew up with a compost pile in the backyard, but it's not practical in our high-rise apartment.

                                              2. It's simply a matter of self discipline. Do what's sensible. It's a balance between neatness and speed. The way I see it, unless you can afford to hire someone to clean, if you can't stand the mess and are unwilling to clean it, then don't cook. Sounds harsh, but isn't it obvious?

                                                1. Well, my #1 suggestion is to not be so hard on yourself. And maybe I say this because I'm also a person who doesn't think the world will end if I leave a couple of pots in the sink waiting to be washed.

                                                  One thing I try to do is to use dishes that will fit into the dishwasher if possible. Flatter profile metal bowls what will fit upright on the bottom, smaller bowls that fit on the top tier. And I have to be honest, I put all kinds of things in my dishwasher if it means I don't have to fill up the sink.

                                                  I usually tuck a dry towel into a belt loop or something and wipe stuff off the counters if I spill. Sure, I now have some weird looking tea towels with mysterious stains, but it works to keep stuff from drying into the counter.

                                                  My only other suggestion to motivate yourselves into not leaving things around, is to invite people over more often. I'm much more prone to emptying the sink when there's someone else around.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: im_nomad

                                                    I like to invite people over, because they always want to help me clean up! Yay!

                                                    1. re: im_nomad

                                                      re: the dry towel: I bought a bunch (literally, they were sold as a bunch) of bar wipe towels, and usually the first thing I do is grab one of them out of the drawer for this same purpose. I only use it for wiping counters/dirty or wet hands when cooking, and it gets tossed into the kitchen towels laundry bin immediately after clean-up is finished. They get used for no other purpose, so I don't worry about how much they get stained. I completely forgot to mention this before.

                                                      1. re: lisavf

                                                        I was at IKEA yesterday and bought a dozen of these for a pittance (under $5) for this exact same purpose. They'll replace some very old ones well-deserving of retirement.

                                                    2. Change the way you think about cleaning up. I'm serious...I used to hate washing dishes, and in nearly all other aspects of life I'm still one of the most slovenly people I know. When it comes to washing dishes, tho, I almost look forward to it. Washing dishes gives me 15 or 20 minutes of time when I don't have to think about anything, I can just zone out and wash on autopilot. I have figured out a system that works for me (plates, bowls, drinkware, utensils, cookware, countertops, rangetop), and before you know it, I'm done. Zen Clean Up.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: ricepad

                                                        good system ricepad. my grandmothers' (both of them) agreed on few things, but one was that glassware should be washed first as they showed any residual dirt the most, so you want the cleanest water. Oh, and ashtrays the very last thing... uhhh... what's an ashtray?

                                                      2. How about thinking about cleaning (or defining cleaning) in a different way?

                                                        When you start, maybe you first finish using the chopping board and knife and then just toss them into the sink. So, instead of tossing them or cleaning them, why don't you prepare them? Prepare the knife for the next part of the meal's preparation, even if it isn't needed twice--it Could be needed so it should be ready. Then, prepare the cutting board for the next step.

                                                        Or, here is another one. Instead of cleaning the cutting board, how about empowering the cutting board to help you make room for the next step? You can't use the counter top if it is covered with a gigantic board! I may be crazy when the day comes that I 'enlist' the cutting board to help me cook but I'll have a tidy kitchen and therefore a space to cook in.

                                                        And, as you go, you might find the dish drainer is full so you can't 'get other items ready to be used' if you don't make a little room. You don't have to "put away the clean dishes" you just might want to "make room for the other parts of the cooking process".

                                                        Sounds silly but it might help, especially since you guys don't seem to want to "clean as you go".

                                                        I like cleaning as I go. My guy has a brilliant brain that absolutely cannot process the concept. He isn't lazy, he knows how to wash dishes later but he cannot seem to manage it while cooking! You two are not alone!

                                                        So, just try a couple things at first. For two weeks, try preparing (or "getting ready") the cutting board and knife after EACH use. If you guys can go two weeks, you'll be ready to try something new.

                                                        For your next project, (after you've proven to yourselves that you can do things with knives and boards other than move them to the sink), wipe the counters.

                                                        Maybe wiping the counters is a tough one because your counters would not be crusty otherwise. So, take it slowly. If that sounds silly, it isn't. If it was silly, your counters would be clean.

                                                        By slowly I mean for you to just wipe up a spill at first. If you spill some coffee while pouring, wipe it with a sponge or kitchen towel or paper towel. Try doing this every morning. If you spill spaghetti sauce when serving it onto plates or into bowls, wipe it up. Do this every time you pour coffee and every time you serve a sauce and spill it on the stove or counter. Do this for two weeks.

                                                        When you have mastered this, I suspect you'll find out that you don't like spaghetti sauce on the counter, or on your shirt or on the floor. Or, maybe you'll just decide that you two prefer to have counters without sauce on them. I dunno, maybe you'll miss the sauce but I doubt it.

                                                        Next one is crumbs. If you get out crackers and put them on a plate or if you slice some bread or open a bag of chips, you'll probably find tons of crumbs on your counters that did not stay in the bag or make it onto your plate. Just use a sponge (or your hand) when this happens and brush them off of the counter and onto your hand, straight to the garbage bin or sink. If it is the sink, rinse them down or aim for the drain. If you keep a mesh drain catch, empty it into the trash everyday. This is part of this step and should be practiced at the same time as the crumb-cleaning. Later, try cleaning the drain catch with hot soapy water at the end of each day.

                                                        And, lastly, my mom bought us a book on cleaning the easy and thorough way when we were awful teens who thought the weekly maid was supposed to pick our dirty clothes up off the floor. Why not, she was getting paid? Honestly, the book helped. It even teaches little things like start cleaning at the top and work your way down. No point in sweeping the floor then dusting the ceiling only to find you have to sweep little spiders' webs that fell to the floor! That would mean repeating steps.

                                                        So, you might go to the library and ask if there is a book on housekeeping, real housekeeping not 'good housekeeping' magazine.

                                                        I hope that helps. They say it takes two weeks to make or break a habit...

                                                        And, if it doesn't help, well, if you two are happy with messes, then maybe messes are for you. Don't torture yourselves, just find a happy comfort zone and see what works best for the both of you. I suspect that you'll both enjoy the cleaner space.

                                                        One more thing, since there are two of you, I'm guessing neither one of you wants to be the maid for the other. So, for big projects, take turns. You wash the pans while the other washes the plates and forks. You wipe the counters and the other wipes the stove. You wash up after breakfast, you both wash up after lunch and the other washes up after dinner. And, if the new cleaning methods take for one of you but not for the other, please ask the other to pick up her spill. Ask the other to just wipe up those crumbs.

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                          love your psychology! and I think there are tips there for any of us! I happen to be *reasonably* neat; I do use some of your tricks though I didn't think of it that way; like clearing away some of the dishes in the dish drainer to "make room". That is how I think of it!

                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                            Thanks! I like my sink empty. I'm kind of neat, too but also use these tricks. I'm not cleaning the dishes in the sink, I'm making sure I can make tea. Can't fill the kettle if stuff is in my way!

                                                          2. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                            Thanks MinkeyMonkey, there are lots of good tips here. And you HAVE "gotten us" in several ways, regarding our thinking/feeling on cleaning.
                                                            As I said, lots to process here, I think we will take on/try some of these suggestions, but -
                                                            Just want to let everyone know that this won't be happening too soon, our circumstances regarding our housing will change within the next (probably) couple of weeks, just to let everyone know in case someone is thinking: "Wow, we gave them such good advice, why aren't they doing something about it?"

                                                            : )

                                                            1. re: aurora50

                                                              Yeah, well, sometimes a fresh start can be the perfect way to try something new. Yes, don't do too much right away. Learning new stuff takes energy!

                                                              Have fun!

                                                          3. I have the same problem and I love that you started this thread! I'm trying, trying, trying to train myself to clean-as-I-go--a skill I never learned as a kid.

                                                            I've realized that part of my problem is that I don't see the mess until it becomes overwhelmingly bad. I'll unwrap something and throw the wrapping on the counter, or spill something on the table, or whatever, and I just forget it. It's right in front of me and I don't see it!

                                                            The thing that works for me is to be obsessive about keeping the kitchen clean. That's right. Either I obsess and keep it really clean, or it becomes a complete disaster.

                                                            So, this means that I clean-as-I-go as much as possible, AND that I try to create rules like:

                                                            1. you can't go to bed if there are dirty dishes in the sink (most would not consider this rule obsessive, but this is a pretty new concept for me).
                                                            2. if there is one dirty dish in the sink, clean it. Otherwise it will multiply. Serious.
                                                            3. Is the kitchen clean already? No it's not. Find ten things to put away or clean.

                                                            This might sound nuts, but it works...for as long as I decide to be obsessive. As of today, my kitchen has been clean every day for more than a week. And I don't have a dishwasher!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: smittys

                                                              Thanks smittys, good to know that I'm not the Lone Ranger! : )
                                                              And good for you, to try to instill discipline on your own.

                                                            2. Yeah, cleaning as you go is the best thing. I picked this habit up from my husband. My family would always pile things into the sink and after dinner we would all clean together. This is easy and fun when there are 4 people.

                                                              Mise en place is another thing that I do religiously - prep everything before I even start to cook - chop vegetables, put them on a plate or bowl, season meat, put it in a bowl, measure out flour, sugar, butter, etc. Have everything prepped, clean up the kitchen, and then begin cooking with your prepared ingredients. I use the same set of nesting bowls so the dirty ones stack inside each other once they're dirty, eliminating any clutter. Once all the prepped ingredients are off the plates and in the pots cooking away, I keep one plate as my spoon rest, and the remaining plates get put in the dishwasher. When I'm waiting for water to boil or something to finish cooking, I wash up anything that's sitting in the sink or countertop. This process also helps to keep your hands clean while you're cooking and avoids contamination.

                                                              I wipe down everything in my kitchen once a week with a vinegar/water solution and after cooking a meal I scrub the sinks with Comet. Maybe I am being anal, but there's nothing like a sparkling kitchen!

                                                              After we eat, my husband sweeps the floor and wipes up the kitchen table and counters.

                                                              My mom would KILL me if she found out that I had left dishes in the sink for days.

                                                              Having said all this, mise en place is my "tried and true" method for keeping the kitchen clean and organized while I cook.

                                                              Edit: I also use a massive stainless steel bowl as my "GB" (as per Rachel Ray, who I dislike to no end) to toss any garbage in while I'm prepping and cooking. It's always the last bowl washed.

                                                              1. I play a "reward" game with myself. I intersperse fun kitchen activitties with those that are more chore-like. For example, on the snow day this week, I had a list of a bunch of things I wanted to accomplish in the kitchen. Instead of doing all the chore stuff or fun stuff first, I alternated. "Make oatmeal cookies" (FUN). Did that. "Clean out food cabinet and throw away old stuff." (CHORE) Then did that. "Make crock pot beef stew" (FUN). Enjoyed it. "Throw away old flower arrangement and take to trash can" (CHORE). Got it done. Good.

                                                                My friend sees it differently and does all the odious stuff first. He calls it "Eat the Frog." You are told in the morning that (for some bizarre reason) you have to eat a frog that day. All day you think about and worry about eating that frog. It ruins your day. Instead, sit down first thing, eat the damn frog, and then move on to the more pleasurable stuff. I sometimes use this approach in the kitchen and at work too! Good luck. I agree on the clean-as-you-go approach. It makes it all more manageable to do it in bits.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: Billie Jean

                                                                  Thank you for the input, Billie Jean!

                                                                  1. re: Billie Jean

                                                                    It's funny you mention that, as it was a tactic that I saw described in a book I purchased about procrastination (which I also didn't finish, haha). It said that people who are procrastinators often spend more time thinking about having to do something they really don't want to do, rather than doing it, and speaking from personal experience it is so true because I've caught myself doing this at work and at home. And then stuff gets piled up, and gets overwhelming, and then you REALLY don't want to do it, until the last minute when you have no other choice (fwiw I always described myself as someone who works best under pressure..... also a trait of the procrastinator).

                                                                    Anyway, all that is off-topic somewhat. Something I've tried doing lately is picking away at something every time I let the dog out (which is a lot, she's 14). The back door is off the kitchen, so when she goes out, I either unload or load a few things into the dishwasher, swipe a cloth across a pot or what not.

                                                                    1. re: im_nomad

                                                                      I find the same thing, I spend more time updating my To Do list than actually doing anything. I've been trying to do some general cleaning while on the phone with family members, they do most of the talking anyway, that seems to work.

                                                                  2. I don't have a sink disposal. When I have to peel a lot of veggies -- potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc., I line my sink with newspaper and peel right into the newspaper. I do all the peeling at one time, and when I'm through, just gather up the newspaper and plop it in the trash.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. Not a new idea, but I begin every cooking jaunt by filling the sink with super hot sudsy water and toss in implements as I use 'em. Also, while onions are sauteeing or the oven is preheating, I clean something, even if it's just a 1 foot square area of the counter. Helps to get cleaning done in a micro sort of way.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: pine time

                                                                        Many great basic principles of being organized while you cook/clean have been mentioned here, so I will just say what works for me (professional kitchen-messer-upper here)

                                                                        - the garbage bowl idea really works. Place a big bowl in a spot where both you and your sister can access it and put all garbage in there. My wife likes to compost, so all veg trimming go in the bowl and other stuff like wrappers, etc goes directly in the garbage. Our garbage can sits at the elbow of our L-shaped kitcehn area, so it is easily accessible from the stove, counters, sink.

                                                                        -use your downtime productively. When something is simmering/boiling/baking etc, instead of reading a magazine/watcing TV/looking at other cool recipes (like I usually want to do), use the time to put away spices/ingredients back int he pantry or fridge. Maybe quickly rinse or clean a utensil or bowl/pan. Chip away at it, "clean as you go" and at the end you will be left with less to clean up.

                                                                        - I like to chop things up put them in a little bowl (or bowls) so they are off the cutting board, and measure out the spices I will need before i start cooking. Yes I do dirty a set of small bowls doing this, but the benefit is that all the spices are put back in their place, and the stuff I took from the fridge is back inside (and not cluttering up the counter when I start cooking.

                                                                        -when the dish is done, maybe one of you can set the table etc, and the other can take 5-10mins to clean up a little. Countertops and dishes will be easier to clean if you clean them before debris gets dry and crusty.

                                                                        -Emptying the dishwasher before you start cooking helps a lot. Rinse the dishes briefly and stick them in the dishwasher before they get too comfortable in the sink.

                                                                        -Lastly, (and maybe a tad off topic) I don't like to put much down the sink's garbage disposal, because I don't think they do a good job of actually grinding things up. They just kind of fling things around and try to break them up. In a previous condo we lived in, the sink clogged pretty bad because we would put most veg trimming in the garbage disposal. Recently my sisters sink was clogged pretty bad and when the plumber cleaned out the trap outside the house all sorts of junk came out, which was should have been handled by the garbage disposal.

                                                                        Good luck! Hope some of this info is useful for you.

                                                                        1. re: caliking

                                                                          I want to thank everyone for their input, and since I first posted this topic, we have moved in with our aunt, who does not have a disposal OR dishwasher. This has made for some challenges, but I also want everyone here to know, that we HAVE incorporated many of your tips, and it has made quite a difference in the way we cook and clean, and it has made it easier for us in our new environment. Your advice came just in time!!
                                                                          Thanks again!!! Chowhounds rule!!!

                                                                          1. re: caliking

                                                                            I use small (4-6 ounce) paper cups in place of little bowls for adding ingredients in relatively small quantities like chopped garlic or ginger, minced herbs, flour, soy sauce, etc. I buy them in bulk and always keep a small supply in a handy place. That way I have my ingredients ready at the cooktop, and when the ingredient has been added, the cup gets tossed out -- no further cleanup necessary. I've found this particularly useful when I'm doing Asian cooking that requires small amounts of many ingredients.

                                                                        2. It has got to be clean as you go along. Have a hot bowl of water ready to wash your dishes. Do not let them pile up into a big pile because then its even more chaos and more daunting when you do start cleaning. Wipe down the surface as much as possible. Even though I have a dish washer I do not tend to use it for clearing up when cooking just for plates after eating. You just need to get into a routine and you will be fine :) A clean kitchen is a happy kitchen :)

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: dryrain

                                                                            Yes, we're starting to find that out!! : )