How Do You Enjoy Cooking When You Are a “Neat Freak”?

published Apr 26, 2016
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Q: I’m a neat freak. I love a tidy house and a tidy kitchen and I seem to spend a lot of my energy “keeping up” with the endless dishes and sweeping and wiping down of countertops. My desire for a clean kitchen kind of gets in the way when it comes to cooking.

Although I have the desire and skill to get more creative in the kitchen, I end up just wanting to cook recipes that will use the least amount of pots and pans. It sort of takes the joy out of it. How do you enjoy cooking when you are a neat freak, or want to keep everything “just so”?

Sent by Lauren

Editor: There’s no one answer that’s going to solve the problem of how to enjoy cooking without dealing with the inevitable need to tidy up after, but there are a few things that can make it easier.

  1. Clean as you go: Don’t save all the washing up for the very end. Cooking a meal to only face a sink full of dirty dishes is daunting no matter what! Take a break halfway through to wash a few things while a pot is simmering.
  2. Enlist help: Do you do the cooking, the shopping, and the cleaning? Ask for help where you need it — even if the help you need is only washing the dishes.
  3. Prep, prep, prep!: Mise en place, pre-cut, prep — whatever you call it, nothing beats cooking with ingredients and a work station that’s ready to go. You won’t be reaching for unnecessary extra dishes because something cooked too fast, or because you still need to mince the garlic. Being organized from the very beginning gives you the time to make smart decisions about the number of bowls, pots, and pans you might need and lets you enjoy the actual act of cooking.

Kitchn readers, how do you manage cooking and the stress of a messy kitchen?