Our Family of 7 Uses Our Kitchen Constantly— Here Are 5 Tricks We Use to Keep It Spotless

published Feb 4, 2023
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Credit: Chloe Berk

Our kitchen gets heavy use — and not just during the holiday season. With seven people in our household (and three pets who also eat in the kitchen!), our kitchen sees nearly constant activity. If someone’s not cooking or eating, someone else (usually me!) is probably cleaning. 

I like our kitchen to be tidy. Actually, I need our kitchen to be tidy — a messy kitchen sets my nerves on edge. Besides my mood and how it affects the family, though, the kitchen needs to be orderly in order for us to use it without frustration or waste. 

So how does our large family reconcile the almost perpetual kitchen usage with the need to keep the kitchen clean? Without some kitchen rules, the room would spiral out of control fast. Through trial and error, we’ve adopted a few habits and practices — some tips passed down from my own family and some I’ve cobbled together through my own experience — that keep our kitchen relatively under control. Here’s how.

1. We use “counter zones.”

By designating certain areas for certain tasks, we’re able to keep all the counters from getting dirty at once. For instance, we have a coffee/beverage zone near the fridge. This keeps coffee grounds from dirtying our food prep space and it also ensures we don’t set a mug down on some pancake batter. Other zones include our baking zone (near the stand mixer) and our food prep zone (near the garbage can, sink, and stove). Bonus: Having zones also helps when multiple people are doing things in the kitchen at once. 

2. We clear the counters every night.

Making counter-clearing a nightly habit is the only way to keep clutter from accumulating on the kitchen counters. The kitchen isn’t only where we cook and eat — it’s also where the little kids hang out with me coloring or playing games while I cook and where everyone unloads their backpacks. 

3. We have a designated spot for paper clutter.

Unloading backpacks means paper clutter. Add to that the mail that gets brought in and set on the counter. Pretty soon, you’ve got all kinds of growing paper piles cluttering up your kitchen. Having a designated spot like a basket where all paper goes and then — this is key — having a set time to go through the papers and deal with them ensures that paper clutter doesn’t consume your kitchen workspaces. 

4. We label the fridge and pantry.

With so many people looking for things and putting them away, organization is paramount. Labeling shelves, drawers, and containers in the fridge and pantry means that you won’t get asked a million times where something is and that the organizational systems you work so hard to implement are maintained. 

5. We shut down the kitchen each night.

No matter what happens in the kitchen during the day and what kind of evidence is left behind, shutting down the kitchen each night means you start each day with a pretty clean slate. In our house, shutting the kitchen down means washing all the dishes, wiping down all the counters and the stovetop, running the dishwasher, scrubbing the sink, and taking out the trash. This regular reset button is a necessity in a hopping kitchen.