Habits to Keep Your Kitchen Spotless

When my kitchen is a mess, my whole life feels messy.

Maybe you’ve always known how to keep the kitchen clean, in which case you might not totally relate to what I’m about to say here. But when my kitchen is a mess, I feel like everything in my whole house is behind, or confused. 

A messy kitchen it so irritating and overwhelming to me, that getting it clean feels a little bit like when painkillers start to kick in. You know, if you’ve had a brutal headache or backache. And you take a Tylenol and 20 minutes later you can feel the relief and life is just better. (I’m not crazy, this is a real thing!)

I used to be messy. I HATED it. It was like the mess was causing me physical pain. Even though it’s been awhile now since I quit being messy, I can still feel the relief that not living in a mess brings. I can still appreciate that not messy is just SO much better than messy. It. Is. Awesome.

When I decided I wouldn’t live messy anymore, the kitchen was one of the places where I knew I had to change a few habits if I wanted this not-messy thing I was doing to last. It was also one of the hardest areas in my home for me to tackle. (If you’re ready to stop living in a mess but don’t know how, here’s my best advice for where to start cleaning a messy house.)

(Ok, who am I kidding? It was all hard. But the kitchen is the first place I come into when I get home, and I drop everything I’m holding there, so it did seem to take a lot of the brunt of my messy-ness.)


My bad kitchen habits

Why was my kitchen always so messy before anyway? Cus I was making it messy.

  • I was bringing everything into the kitchen when I came home (keys, mail, purse, shopping, random things from the car that needed to be in the house, my coat ect) and then LEAVING them there. (My husband did this too. But with the kitchen table instead of the counter.)
  • I hadn’t given everything in my kitchen a home – partly because we have a very small kitchen.
  • If there was just one or two dishes (coffee cups, breakfast bowls) I would leave them by the sink, to deal with later. I also felt guilty for running the dishwasher often, so I would tell myself that big things (like pots and pans) that took up lots of dishwasher space should be washed by hand. And by “washed” I meant left to sit on the side of the sink.
  • If the counter wasn’t dirty after cooking, I didn’t wipe it down.

Related: Kitchen Organization Hacks You Haven’t Heard Before

Conquering the kitchen mess – 4 easy clean kitchen habits

Once I could see what my bad kitchen habits were, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be to figure out how to beat those bad habits.

To deal with kitchen mess I began:

Putting everything away as soon as I walk in the door.

Not that hard to begin with (just do it).

Even easier if you develop a system for the things that are regularly ending up on your counter top. I still come in and set everything down.

But then I immediately pick one thing up again and it put it away. And then another thing.

Mail gets opened and sorted (directly into recycling or onto the desk in the office). Coats get hung up. I bought an adorable little colander that sits on my window sill (just like the baby one in this set) and keys go in there. (Bonus – I can always find my keys now!) My purse goes to it’s place by the microwave. Random things that come into the house are taken out of the kitchen and put wherever they belong.

This wouldn’t be possible without:

Having a home for everything. 

This one took some thinking. And some getting rid of stuff I don’t use, to make room for stuff I DO use.

The keys live in the colander. G also got a “key home”; he has a basket on the DVD shelf (sounds random but it’s right at the end of the hallway), where he empties his pockets in the evening. His keys, chapstick, screws and weird connector things (and all manner of other stuff that he used to abandon on the counter over night) go there now.

Things that used to just hang around in the kitchen, like the salt and pepper, my cute ladybug timer, and my giant pot of coconut oil all have permanent homes by the oven.

Everything goes back to it’s home as soon as I’m done with it.

Dealing with dishes ASAP and ditching dishwasher guilt. 

All my new clean kitchen habits are relevant, but I think this is the single most important one.

The only time I put a dirty dish in the sink is when the dishwasher is running. And it runs often. With pots and pans and cutting boards. The only things that don’t go in the dishwasher are my good knives and things that physically WON’T go in. Like the electric wok. Even the inside of my crockpot fits in the dishwasher.

I know that running my dishwasher isn’t free, but I actually can afford it and sometimes it’s ok to make choices that make your life easier (as long as these choices are properly weighed out, and you recognize that you could save money by giving it up if necessary). Dishwasher soap is one of those things I buy in bulk and my dishwasher doesn’t use that much water.

I HATE doing dishes. But I’m committed to having a clean house, so this is my way of getting there.

Washing the countertops every day.

This might sound like a no brainer, but if my kitchen counters didn’t seem dirty before, I didn’t see a need to wash them.

I think the reason this is so big isn’t because the counters were dirty and needed washing (it wasn’t like I was leaving sauce all over them…) but it’s because to properly wash counters, they must be cleared off.

So this one habit enforces all the other habits. You CAN’T wash a counter covered in mail, so the mail must be sorted. You CAN’T wash a counter without moving the dirty dishes, so they must be dealt with.

And it just feels good, to have clean counters.

Related: Tackling Clothing Clutter: Confessions of a Clothes Hoarder

It’s starting to feel so natural, these clean kitchen habits, that I sometimes wonder why I didn’t do them before.

Particularly when I think about how much stress my messy kitchen caused me. Keeping the kitchen clean also helps me to keep the rest of the house clean (since we have an open plan home, with the kitchen, dining room and living room sort of existing together). When one part of the space is a mess I tend to let the rest of it fall apart too. (And I can’t be the only one who does that!)

These clean kitchen habits actually SAVE time

One reader recently commented (on my post about how I quit being messy) that if she spent all her time “cleaning” she wouldn’t have time for anything else. I totally get that, because I used to have to spend hours “cleaning” (really, tidying) before I could even START cleaning… because the mess was in the way.

What I have found, though, is if you develop these clean kitchen habits (that literally only take a few minutes each) then you don’t HAVE to spend time “cleaning”.

The best examples that come to mind are the sink and the garbage. When I let gross dishes pile up in my sink for three days, the sink actually needs scrubbing. It gets gunky. When there are no dishes allowed in the sink, all it needs is a quick rinse and wipe.

When the garbage is full and I keep adding to it and smushing it down, the whole garbage can gets gross and it needs scrubbing too. If I just take the time to take the garbage out, the bin stays clean.

Just something to consider, if what I’m suggesting sounds like work to you. (It sounded like work to me before I tried it too!)

If you don’t believe these simple clean kitchen habits can make a big difference in your messy kitchen – just try it for two weeks. And let me know how it goes!

Related: Organizing the Bathroom Cupboard: Facing the Truth Under the Sink

blurry image of a stove with kitchen décor surrounding it. Text reads "easy habits to keep your kitchen spotless"

37 thoughts on “Habits to Keep Your Kitchen Spotless”

  1. I agree with your four steps to a clean counter. I love a clean kitchen. I consider the kitchen my ‘office’ and I love it organized and ready for the day. Visiting from Monday Madness Linky.

    • H Jana – thanks for visiting! “How to organize your OFFICE”, now that’s a post I need to read! (And an area that I need to work on, lol).

    • I donot like a dirty kitchen I can’t sleep if my kitchen or bathroom clutter or dirty lol

      • Hey Lyn! Yep – it totally affects my sleep too! lol

  2. I so know how you feel. It gives me anxiety when my kitchen is a mess. I have been working with my three girls to put the dish in the dishwasher. It is ran every night even if it is not full. It feels so nice to wake up to a clean kitchen.

    • Hi Janice 🙂 I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks of the dish washer as a tool for conquering mess anxiety! With three kids I bet it’s almost full every night anyway. We fill ours every other day and there’s only two of us :p

  3. You just made me realize something that I do and I plan to stop. Sitting my purse on my counter. I sit my purse down places I know arent clean, think of the germs. Lesson learned. Thanks

    • Hi Linda! Such a good point, one more great reason we should put our purses away in a coat closet or somewhere out of the reach of food!

    • While reading this blog I noticed that the author said she sets her purse on the clean kitchen counter. It is no longer clean once you set your purse on the counter. Never leave your purse on the kitchen counter should be added to these hints.

  4. I love this article. Your house and mine seem a lot alike, actually. We just removed the wall between the kitchen and living room and redid our kitchen. And I have been trying to put into practice some of the same tips you are using. I also ditched the dishwasher guilt – I run it everyday, even if it only for the 1 hr cycle, and I put everything in it. My pots have changed color but I don’t care, because they are supposed to work for me, not me work for them.

    • HI Diane! I love an open plan house so much, because I can be in the kitchen and still be involved in what’s going on in the living room. I bet you’ll love it too! And you made me laugh a little with the comment about the pots – I feel the same way! I always see the “how to get your cookie sheets to look like new” suggestions, and I’m all like… life it too short to worry about having sparkling silver cookie sheets.

  5. You didn’t address controlling the biggest mess makers – husbands!

    • Joan – that’s hilarious! I am pretty lucky, mine is a tidy one – and he’s wiling to go along with all my funny suggestions about truck keys going in baskets and stuff lol.

  6. I love this simple way to get started on organization.
    It’s true it is “infectious,” once the kitchen is clean, it spreads out into other rooms because you realize everything has a home. The stuff on the kitchen counter-mail-for example needs to be gone through in another part of the living space. The living room, or office, not the kitchen counter.
    Love this article. Go on Carly!

    • HI Sara! Thank you so much for reading! I find another bad spot is the bathroom floor – once there’s clothes on the bathroom floor, the rest of the room can’t be controlled!

  7. Carly, I’m right with you on the bathroom. We always hung up our wet towels when the kids were growing up. Then, one of them, husband & the grandkids lived here for a while, wet towels were always left on the “by the tub”. When the floor covering started buckling at the seams, it was back to hanging!

    • Hey Suzi! I guess there’s even more reasons to be tidy when you say it like that. It’s especially frustrating when someone else is making a mess in YOUR house.

      • “Someone else making a mess in YOUR house.”

        Those words speak to me. I have my mom staying with me, and at first I thought it was going to be great. Because y’know. MOMS ARE AWESOME! but no, everyone (no matter who it is) has their own way of doing things. It can be so frustrating. I’m loosing my mind. Your articles are seriously echos of my life. I read “i quite being messy” and when I get home after work, I am grabbing a sticky note pad, and sticking one on EVERY problem in my home. the note will read “THIS IS A PROBLEM” and then yes I am going to explain the situation to my fiance, and my mom. I’m on strike. But i’m the one who’s going to be making the changes. Rant NOT over, but over for now. lol

      • LOL I definitely get it!!! Living with parents is hard regardless of how much we love them! I wish you the best.

  8. I very much appreciate your practical approach to keeping a kitchen clean. What about those of us without a dishwasher or space for one?

    • Hi Susan 🙂 I guess you’d maybe just have to make a priority of washing the dishes. I’d make a point to do it everyday, maybe just once a day, like right after supper or first thing in the morning. That way your whole life isn’t devoted to dishes but you’re still not letting them pile up.

  9. I loved it will put in to practice, because it does cause anxiety, Stress kills you!

      • A major reason to clean and specifically NOT leave dirty dishes in sink or on counter is the possibility of acquiring unwanted pests. My 93yr old mom NEVER owned a dishwasher, and despite always doing homemade from scratch cooking & food preservation… lots of dishes…hand-washed dishes 2 or 3 or more times a day! My sister and I when home also did dishes. A hack we used during long stints of cooking or preserving was to wash batches of dishes ‘during’ prep breaks while waiting for cook times to elapse. Mom rarely ate out(due to budget early on then later because she was used to her own good old fashioned from scratch home cooking and could not stand restaurant or fast food).

  10. Very organize kitchen staff. I really love to see this in my own kitchen, so clean to look and I don’t like messy things mostly in a kitchen where the cooked food from. Thank you, Carly.

  11. I love the way you are writing… I’ve moved recently and I started with a cleaning plan. It’s wonderful when the house is cleaned so guests can come around any time

    • SO true Micky – feels great to know you never have to be embarrassed by your home!

  12. ok here goes. Im going to try this im the worst at being tidy but really want to change as we have just moved into a smaller house. with a very small kitchen . wish me luck

    • Good luck Sandi!! I know you can do it (and you will LOVE it!) Huge weight off your shoulders 🙂

  13. Keep brooms, bottles, bags, totes, etc. off the floor. You can clean a floor faster when there isn’t clutter that has to be picked up before sweeping, mopping or vacuuming.

    Years ago we screwed c hooks right under a kitchen cupboard to hang our keys. We always knew where they were and no counter space was needed for the keys.

    • Hi Eileen – YES oh my goodness yes, a cluttered floor is the worst. When i leave my clothes on the bathroom floor, that’s when the whole house falls apart.

  14. Your dishwasher is cheaper than you think. I live alone, so when there are changes in my utility bill, I know exactly why. I’ve had dishwasher issues off and on for two years, and I discovered that running the dishwasher is considerably cheaper than hand-washing dishes!!! Boy was I surprised – it could have saved me enough to buy a new one! (If I weren’t spending it on hand washing!)
    Go ahead and use it!
    By the way, I’m a total mess. Thanks for the hints.

    • Lynn, you just made my day! Guiltless dishwasher use it is – THANK YOU! (It really is surprising how much water a sink takes…)

  15. I was in the middle of a full fledged panic attack over the mess in my apartment when I read your blog. I feel much calmer now and more confident that I can straighten it all out. Thanks for being real! 🙂


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