Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chaos to Calm in the Kitchen

Isn't it true that when things get behind in the kitchen, it takes on a life all it's own and can take some serious time and focus to put it all back in order? All the worse if your kitchen is gi-normous like mine!
Not that terribly bad, right?

Oh wait, there's another side,

...and the breakfast room had plenty of room for all the Christmas decor we pulled out, right?
And never mind that the chairs were used as coat racks, cereal containers are everywhere, and nothing got put back after morning coffee. The ornaments on the floor add a festive touch, too.

Don't be fooled! Once we eat breakfast and pull in the stow away dishes that are hiding in the game room...this will turn into two full dishwasher loads, several hand-wash only pots, and some serious sweat equity to get everything back to NORMAL.

But...over the years I've learned to catch up in the kitchen in a methodical way that shows fast results and keeps me motivated to keep going toward that finish line. Oh, I know I sound dramatic, but you've never had to clean my kitchen. And, y'all don't let your kitchens EVER get this bad, right??

So, here goes. Are your kids fed and juiced? Have you had your caffeine intake for the day? Music or audio bible playing? Cartoons on in the kids Safe Haven? Okay, then we're ready!

How I go from Chaos To Calm in my Kitchen:

Unload the dishwasher.
My children unload the dishwasher for me nine times out of ten, but with the kitchen so behind I can do it a lot faster and without worrying over little things on the floor they could slip on. (Make sure if your children unload your dishwasher that you at least put away the knives and any irreplaceable glass first).

Now, obviously the next thing is to reload my dishwasher, but I look around first. What will make the biggest impact in my kitchen right now? Is it all the kid's plastic ware and drinking glasses? (It usually is, but not this time). This time it's the enormous amount of cooking and baking dishes from Thanksgiving. So, I load anything that's not hand-wash only as my first load. Now, you may turn your dishwasher on right away, but in my older home if the hot water's being used for the dishwasher, I won't have any for the sink. So, I put the soap in and wait to turn it on for when I'm finished with the hot water.

The next thing I do is really clean out and scrub my sink. My children usually do a lot of the lighter dish work and I don't want to worry about all the germs that collect here. It doesn't take long for food ickies in the sink to multiply. A pretty sink also does a lot to motivate me. It's ready to be used and I don't have to worry over the ickies anymore.

The next thing I do is completely clear and clean off the counter to the left of my sink. Now I have a great place to neatly stack the rest of my dirty dishes so they're out of my way. (This was an in-process picture, but it showed where I'm talking about).

Next, I send the kids on a dish hunt all over the house while I gather and neatly stack all of our dirty dishes.

I stack all of my pans and big dishes neatly, throw all my utensils in a big bowl, and stack cups and glasses together. This condenses all the dirty dishes that are waiting for the next load to one place, freeing the rest of the counter space for quick cleaning up. This is also a great time to soak any hard-to-wash dishes if you have any.

Next, I put away my cooking supplies that don't need washing and throw any trash away. These first few steps take care of all the clutter in 90% of my kitchen counter-tops. All that's left on the counters is what belongs and the neat stack waiting for the next re-load.

Now, I work my way around the kitchen, wiping down all of the cleared off counter spaces. Finishing this step brings kitchen stress to a minimum for me and I can finish the rest without worrying about someone stopping by.

After I'm finished here, and usually make sure there's no wet spots on the floor, the kitchen is back to a safe place for the kids to work. I take a break to nurse and put the baby down for a nap and when the dishwasher is finished, I ask Abby to go open it to cool down.

After the dishes cool a bit, it's Abby and Abram's turn to un/re load the dishwasher. They are pros at this, but if your children are too young or new to this, you would want to be in there with them. My children know to leave the knives alone (Abby's 10 and has a few she's comfortable with, but she only handles them standing still. Do you see the knife block to the right of the stove? If she stands on the other side, she can put them away without taking a step.) They load as many as will fit and leave the hand-wash dishes for me.

Bubzy likes carrying around a few cooking utensils. He thinks he's big stuff for helping, too.

After that's finished, I tackle the Christmas boxes. I just want them out of the way and tidy until Josh gets home to put them back up in the garage.

The kids had a few belongings in here, so I stacked them all together and had them make a run to the back of the house to put them away.

Ah...finished. The lighting was a little off, but you get the idea.

It's not perfect, but it's back to normal--Chaos to Calm. It took me about an hour in actual work time, a little longer if you count the dishwasher running time (but I don't, because I can do something else during that time). I love a clean kitchen and it's worth my time to jump right in and get it done.

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