Since the fall edition of The Kitchn Cure doesn't start until Monday, we thought we'd get you started in the mindset of cleaning out and making your home a happier place with a few mini-projects that can be done in 10 minutes or less.
Because I work from home, I end up taking mini breaks during the day, and frequently will try to complete a little project — like pruning plants, starting a loaf of bread, or reorganizing the cleaning supplies and plastic bags under the sink. That little burst of productivity away from my laptop is often enough to get me to refocus and get back to work. Plus, it feels more productive than spending 10 minutes on Facebook.
1. Clean your sink.
Yes, it's one of the dirtiest places in your kitchen, and while you might wipe it down after doing the dishes each night, when was the last time you really thoroughly cleaned your sink? The good news is that it doesn't take long. You can clean it with vinegar or your favorite natural cleaner, and then buff it with flour (if your sink is stainless steel).
2. Cull your cookbook collection.
If you have cookbooks that have been collecting dust on your shelf, take a few minutes to go through and put them in a pile to be donated. For ones you keep around because they have a couple of stellar dishes, simply take a photo of those favorite recipes with your phone, and use another 10-minute break to type them up.
3. Ditch expired canned goods.
Pull all the canned goods out of the pantry and onto the kitchen table, checking the date of each one as you go. For any that have expired, dispose of the contents and recycle the can. For any that expire in the next three months, write the expiration date on the top of the can in permanent maker and keep those close to the front of the pantry as you re-shelve everything.
4. Purge plastic utensils.
Even the most ardent cooks occasionally get takeout or delivery, so it's likely we all have a stash of plastic utensils, chopsticks, and paper napkins. Go through your drawers and pull all those utensils out and either toss them, recycle them, or put them with your picnic supplies for your next trip to the park.
5. Clean the outside of your fridge.
Tackling the inside of your refrigerator might take a little more than 10 minutes, so instead, focus on the outside. Remove anything that's attached with a magnet, discarding expired coupons, old receipts, and last year's birthday cards. Then give the entire surface a good wipe with a surface cleaner and paper towel. For scuffs, use a cleaner like Bon Ami. And pay extra attention to the handles on the fridge and freezer, since they have the most contact. Once you've wiped everything down, only put back the photos and reminders you still need on the doors.
6. Clean off the countertops.
It's easy to leave stuff sitting out on kitchen countertops. From mail to dishes that were left overnight to dry, you probably have something on your countertops that doesn't belong there. But unless your countertops are completely hidden under a layer of clutter, it shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes to put everything away.
7. Empty and wash your ice cube trays.
You know you shouldn't be keeping ice in the trays anyway, so if you haven't already, start an ice cube container. Take advantage of having all of your ice trays empty to give them a thorough washing, and let them actually dry before you refill them and put them back in the freezer.
8. Do a stock check on pantry staples.
Fall baking season is approaching, and the last thing you want is to discover you're out of baking powder the night before a bake sale. Take a minute to see if you're missing any key baking staples, spices, or other pantry staples; if you're out or running low, add them to your shopping list.
9. Oil your wooden spoons and/or cutting boards.
Especially if you live in a dry climate, it's important to take care of your wooden kitchen utensils. Once you have the supplies, it doesn't take long to give everything a quick rub-down with oil or spoon butter, and leave it to soak in. Then use another 10-minute break to buff in the oil and put everything away.
10. Change your dish towel and sanitize your sponge.
Kitchen linens can get dirty quickly, and a smelly sponge can make dishes even more of a chore. Wet your sponge, and pop it in the microwave for two minutes. While you're doing that, get out new kitchen towels and take the others to your laundry hamper. Be careful when taking the sponge out of the microwave — it'll be steaming!