Saturday, April 4, 2015

5 Tips for De-cluttering the Kitchen

I don't know about you, but I have a frequent visitor at my house that I not-so-lovingly call "The Clutter Monster".  He shows up more often than I'd like and stays way too long.  He comes out late at night, when I'm asleep and leaves piles and messes everywhere.  We've never actually seen him, but I know he's there...

We moved to a new house a little over a year ago.  The home we lived in previously was awful.  We lived there way too long because we are in debt and the rent was very cheap.  We kept saying that we'd move next year, then we never did.  Last February, we were told our landlord had sold the property and we had 4 weeks to move.  Cue panic mode!!!

We moved into a duplex and we love it here.  It's not huge.  It's not fancy.  But it's just right for the two of us.  We have a garage, I have a craft room and we love the neighborhood.  These are all things we never had before.

I say all that to say that since we've moved, I have really worked on making our house look nice.  At the old house, I cleaned (until the year I got meningitis!), but it never looked clean because it was just old and ugly.  It became such a chore because I just hated the way it looked.  Here, it actually looks clean and shiny when I dust or sweep, so I actually enjoy it.

I believe dirt and clutter are two different things.  You can dust, vacuum or scrub all day, but if you have clutter strewn about, your house won't look clean.  Clutter sneaks in a little at a time for most people, until you have a pile of miscellaneous crap and don't know exactly how it got that way.  I think the kitchen is the worst place in the house at accumulating clutter.  Mail, small appliances, vitamins/medications, cups, dishtowels and much more seem to like living on the counters.

Here are a few ways I've discovered that help me keep my kitchen looking tidy, even if I haven't just cleaned...

1. Keep your counter tops clear of unnecessary items.
For a long time, we had a coffee maker on our kitchen counter.  I NEVER use a coffee maker; my husband used it maybe once every 3 weeks or so.  Every time I cleaned, I would have to move it to clean behind and dust it because it wasn't used enough.  I finally took it off the counter.  It's in an easy to reach place, but not out where it takes up counter space or has to be cleaned all the time.  

If you make coffee every morning, it makes sense to have a coffee maker on your counter.  But a food processor? A waffle iron?  Unless you use these items frequently, put them away.  I promise, you'll love it! 

2. Have a place for EVERYTHING.
One of the biggest reasons for clutter is that some things don't have a "home" and we end up laying them down on any horizontal surface that's close.  This is especially true for circulars, mail and paperwork.  If you can, sort your mail over a trash can and immediately discard anything you don't need.  Then, head to a shredder if any of it needs destroyed.  After that, immediately take the items that need action to their home.  If you don't have a spot for mail, go make one right now!  I normally pay bills at work on my lunch hour, so I put the mail straight in my work bag and handle it later.  If you save coupons or sales flyers for later shopping, you could buy a wall organizer or place a cute basket somewhere and stash them there.  Whatever you do, don't start a stack.  Stacks become piles, and piles are what you find in pastures when the cows digest their food!  

The same goes for kitchen items.  Make sure you have a spot for everything, so when you're putting things away, it's a quick and painless process.   If you don't have enough cabinet or drawer space in your kitchen, try storing larger items in another room, a closet or even the garage.  My mom has shelving in the garage for things like crock pots, her large roaster and cake plates that she doesn't use often.  If you store them in their box or clear plastic bags, you don't have to worry about dust or dirt accumulating.

3. Reduce, Reduce, Reduce!
If you're like me, you have, at one time or another, bought that adorable pink spatula because it's so cute and you just can't live without it,  Once you start using it, it's crummy and you never use it again, but can't part with it because you paid good money for it.  Honey, you gotta let go!

This has been a hard one for me.  I love kitchen gadgets and have bought many in my time.  However, some of them have turned out to be junk (Anyone remember Eggies from TV?  Yep, I bought 'em.  And they were awful.).  No matter how much you paid for something or how much you love it, if it serves no purpose, get rid of it.  Your time and peace of mind is much more important than that stinking pink spatula. 

Go through every drawer and cabinet and remove every item you never use and toss, sell or donate it.  Then, take out the items that you only use a couple of times per year and find them a new home.  This will help free up the prime real estate in your kitchen and make clean up and organization easier.  If it's easy to put things away, you'll be much more likely to do it on a regular basis.

4. Pick up after yourself.
Sounds simple enough, right?  Not quite.  Unless you were born Martha Stewart (love her!), it doesn't come naturally to have an immaculately clean house at all times.  I can be a real slob.  I won't allow plates with rotting food or gross trash to lie around, but I sure will pile up my shoes by the door or leave my towels in the bathroom floor.  It's much easier than actually picking up after myself.  BUT...someday, I eventually have to pick it up anyway.  If you get into the habit of always putting things back where they go, your house will be much more peaceful and tidy.  

Earlier today, I went to return a cup to the kitchen from this morning.  Instead of putting it straight into the dishwasher, I caught myself sitting it on the counter closest to the door.  Then, I realized what I was doing.  I actually counted, and it took me about 4 extra steps and maybe 10 extra seconds to put it away.  If it were that easy, why didn't I put it away?  I was being lazy, plain and simple.

Purpose in your mind to start a habit of putting away everything you touch.  It may take a few weeks for it to become second nature, but it will.  Just stick with it.

5. Have a nightly routine.
After a long day at work, going to the gym, maybe doing some laundry, then cooking dinner, I have no desire to clean my kitchen.  I want to leave everything where it is, plop down on my couch and have some quality time with my DVR.  What will happen if I do this?  The next day, I'll have a sink full of dishes, junk on the counters and we'll end up having Taco Bell for dinner...again.  And then I have overspent my budget, broken my diet and had bad food.  

A clean kitchen provides a welcoming environment for food prep and cooking.  I am a poster child for this.  Often in the past, I have left the dishes for the next day, then don't want to do them, so we end up grabbing something cheap, quick and unhealthy.  This has done nothing but make us fatter and shrink our bank account.  When I started working really hard on a nightly routine, cooking became less of a chore.  Cleaning became faster and easier.  And...I actually stuck to my meal plan and lost weight!  Imagine that...

Even if your routine just consists of one or two things, once you start, you won't regret it.  Trust me!

I am by no means an expert on these things, but I wanted to share what has worked for me. 

How do you keep your kitchen de-cluttered?