Kitchen Clean-up! …by the numbers!

The answer to cleaning your kitchen is not “Let Mom do it!”  Don’t worry, she already has plenty of opportunities, plus plenty of other things to do, as well.  To all you Dads and Kids out there, this could be your big opportunity to excel and help dear Mom and the family.  You should also know that in addition to helping Mom (and your family) in a tangible and meaningful way, there are many selfish but rewarding reasons for washing the dishes.  Don’t miss out on those rewards.

“What are these tangible rewards?” …you ask!  Well, let me tell you.  Here’s a short list of a dozen rewards:

      • If done well, you’ll have the satisfaction of actually doing a job well done.
      • Your kitchen will be more sanitary and more likely to prevent the spread of germs and diseases.
      • Your personal satisfaction of actually doing something that will both help and impress your mother/wife.
      • You won’t be embarrassed when you have a “special” friend over.
      • You won’t have lingering bad odors wafting out of the kitchen.
      • You’ll have fewer insects on your counters.
      • You’ll have clean dishes, drinking glasses and flatware to eat with.
      • You’ll have clean hands and fingernails when you’re done.
      • You’ll have a higher level of self-esteem.
      • You’ll have the satisfaction of seeing expressions of shock and amazement on the faces of other family members.
      • Your kitchen and dishes will be clean.
      • Your kitchen will look great.

Now, before I share my practical steps to cleaning the kitchen, let me be perfectly clear about something.  Knowing how to clean the Kitchen and do the dishes is a valuable skill for life, and it can be very rewarding.  Just leaving things on the table, stacking them in the sink, or piling them up high on the counter, are NOT good ideas.  But, if you really want to make a contribution, take some advice from a single father with seven (7) children.  After my dear wife (Jenny) passed on, I soon found myself in a very serious situation with what I termed “a kitchen malfunction,” and I had to come up with a real solution.  To start with, let me first tell you about my “house and kitchen” cleaning observations while growing up.

I grew up in a home where my mother was something of a “white tornado.”  Like me, she was a single parent with seven children.  She was always cleaning and straightening.  Then, there was my grandmother and her twin sister: Grandma and Auntie.  “The Twins” would often show up at our front door dressed like cleaning ladies and spend the entire day cleaning our house from top to bottom and corner to corner.  In my mind’s eye, I can still see them standing side by side, wearing dresses and clunky shoes, full-length aprons tied around their wastes, and holding their buckets, mops and cleaning materials.  Below is a rare picture of “the Twins” without their aprons.  Anyway, I just took it for granted that our home would always be clean: “neat and tidy.”

Auntie and Grandma: “The Twins”

In marriage, my dear Jenny also busied herself with cleaning, never really making any demands on me to help.  In hindsight, I guess you could say I was a bit spoiled and grew to expect a clean home and kitchen (without doing much myself).  I also grew to understand …a clean and orderly kitchen was important!  So, after Jenny’s death, I was awakened to some of the harsh realities of housework.  I was quick to realize just how talented and hardworking Jenny really was. As a newly single parent, I found that keeping the kitchen clean and orderly was one of my greatest challenges.  But here too, as with my many other single parenting challenges, my military training came in handy.  I soon developed a meal preparation and cleaning plan (the basic concepts of which I still generally follow today …when I cook or clean, that is).  I found that by following these steps, cooking goes much more smoothly, is more organized, and less stressful.  And “kitchen clean up” is less stressful and much more rewarding.   I continue to believe that and follow these steps even today.

Disclaimer:  Now, before you read beyond this point, I acknowledge that any self-respecting “homemaker” will at best be amused at the obvious details.  More likely, professional homemakers will probably react in a less than flattering way.  Regardless, this was just what I needed at the time.  And it worked for me.  I was on a learning curve, and so were my children.

Regardless, here are my lists of what and when to do certain things: before and after each meal.

Managing Food Preparation:

(Remember:  During food preparations, it is essential to put back (or put away) anything you no longer need for your meal preparation. If you no longer need an item, put it away!  Managing your workspace and cooking ingredients, before and during preparation, will greatly eliminate clutter and simplify both preparation and cleanup.  For me, this was an important skill to learn.)

      1. Start with an empty trash can and plastic liner in the kitchen.
      2. While you are preparing your meals, don’t leave unnecessary ingredients out. If you’re done with something (e.g., flour, milk, etc.), put it away.  Don’t leave things out to clutter your workspace.
      3. If you are finished with any ingredients, return them to where they came from (i.e., in the refrigerator, freezer, cabinets, or pantry).
      4. As you finish with mixing bowls, saucepans, or other dishes used for preparation, rinse them off and stack them out of the way.  Be sure to keep one sink empty for rinsing (I hope you have a two-basin kitchen sink!)
      5. If you’re finished with a baking dish, put a little soapy water on it to soak. (Don’t wait until after dinner when it’s hard and crusty.)
      6. As you finished with mixing bowls and skillet, rinse/wipe them out, then set them aside for proper cleaning later.
      7. As you finish meal preparation, rinse off unneeded utensils and put them with “handles up” into a container of hot/warm soapy water solution to soak (I like using a two-quart plastic pitcher or a saucepan).
Serve and Enjoy your mealtime … together!  Clean-up Follows!
After dinner, prepare the washing area:
      1. Clear the kitchen counter. Throw away all non-perishables trash items into the trash can; and scrape any perishable items into the in-sink disposal (here’s another “must have” – the in-sink garbage disposal).
      2. If you have left out any reusable cooking ingredients or foodstuffs, wrap, cap, or seal them; and put them where they belong (the refrigerator, freezer, cabinets, or pantry).
      3. One by one, have each person bring their individual drinking glass, plates, and utensils to you at the sink.
      4. Throw away all their non-perishables trash items into the trash can; scrape perishable items into the in-sink disposal and stack all dirty dishes, pots, and pans near the kitchen sink(s).
      5. Prepare a container with a hot/warm soapy water solution for soaking eating utensils (once again, I like a two-quart plastic pitcher or a saucepan). Be sure to put the sharp ends pointing downward in the pitcher.
      6. Clean out both sides of your double basin kitchen sink. Keep the side with the in-sink disposal empty and clean.
      7. Scrape and rinse all perishable trash from the dishes into the in-sink garbage disposal.
      8. Fill the other side of the double basin kitchen sink half-full of clean, hot, soapy water.
 If you are the ONLY person cleaning the kitchen, clear the dinner table in this order:
      1. Remove all large items from the dinner table (serving dishes, bowls, pitchers, bread baskets, etc.). Empty and stack them on the counter, but not blocking the sink.
      2. Remove all paper waste into the trash can, and disposable food scraps down the in-sink disposal.
      3. If you have left out any reusable cooking ingredients or foodstuffs, wrap, cap, or seal them; and put them where they belong (in the refrigerator, freezer, cabinets, or pantry).
      4. Remove all drinking glasses from the table and place them by themselves in the sink of clean, hot, soapy water.
      5. Scrape off and dispose of all excess perishable food stuffs from the dishes into the disposal.
      6. Separate and stack all dishes and plates near the sink.
      7. Collect all eating utensils and place them “handles up” into the hot/warm soapy water soaking solution (the two-quart plastic pitcher).
      8. Clean off and wipe down the kitchen table.
Wash the Dishes in this order (and use a dishwashing machine, if available.):
      1. Always wash the drinking glasses FIRST (they should be soaking in fresh, clean hot soapy water waiting to be washed).  We want glassware to be clean and spot free. Wash and rinse them off and place them upside down in the drainer or dishwasher.  (Note: Even if you have a dishwasher, always wash the dishes by hand first.  Never place dirty dishes in the dishwasher!)
      2. Then, wash the plates and dishes. Rinse them off and place them in the drainer or dishwasher.
      3. Next, wash the eating and serving utensils. Rinse them off and place them in the drainer or dishwasher, “handles up.”
      4. Next, scrape and wash the baking dishes. Rinse them off and place them in the drainer or dishwasher (if there’s room).
      5. LAST, wash the skillets, pots, and pans. Rinse them off and place them in the drainer or dishwasher (if there’s room).
      6. After all dinnerware (glasses, plates, dishes, utensils, etc.) are clean and dry, …put them away!
        Please Note: Do Not put them away wet!  Dry them, or allow them to dry, first.  (Of course, if they’re in the dishwasher, first wait for them to finish.)

Finally, after all glasses, dishes, plates, utensils, pots, and pans have been cleaned, dried, and put away, spend some time with a Windex bottle in one hand and a dry towel in the other.  Wipe down the table(s), countertops, sink(s), and whatever surfaces need it, including the appliances. 

At that point, step back and observe/admire your work.  You’re done!  You’re a hero!  And Mom will be so happy!

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