5 Kitchen Rules That Will Stick with Me Long After the Pandemic Is Over

updated Mar 4, 2021
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Only retrospection and time will reveal the scope of how much things have changed due to the pandemic. But as we come up on a full year of COVID-19 in the United States, one thing is for sure: We’ve all learned a lot these past 12 months. Especially in the kitchen. I, personally, have learned how to really kill germs, how to make my space work for my family, and how to be more efficient in there. I’ve always been stickler for rules, but now I have five new ones — five new rules that I’m going to follow long after this pandemic is over.

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1. Kitchens need to be shut down every night.

Even those of us who were lukewarm on this one before have likely realized the crucial impact a kitchen reset has on keeping the space functioning without friction. I’ve been cooking more than usual, so I’m willing to do whatever it takes to avoid waking up to a messy kitchen. I don’t need that kind of stress in my life! 

Shutting down the kitchen nightly is a practice that ensures you begin each day with a clean kitchen that’s ready to serve you. Resetting the kitchen gives you a new start every day and encourages you to maintain an in-order space. In addition, doing chores like sweeping the floors and thoroughly wiping down counters every day keeps your kitchen messes from becoming bigger, more time-consuming ones. Overall, shutting down the kitchen helps keep it a place you don’t mind spending a bunch of time in. 

2. Cleanliness begets cleanliness.

Once one person sets a dirty set of dishes, or even one mug, in the sink, the next person is far more likely to do the same. Pretty soon, the sink is full of dirty dishes that have to be washed before the kitchen can be easily used. Having to face dirty dishes before making dinner after a long day — well, it doesn’t make for a pleasant atmosphere in the kitchen. 

Instead, asking everyone in the household to make a concerted effort to take care of their dishes as soon as they’re done goes a very long way in keeping the kitchen in top shape between meal prep (and will keep the cook happy as well). Dishes either get washed right away or loaded into the dishwasher. That’s the law.

3. The table gets cleared and wiped after every use.

When your kitchen table is suddenly wearing many “hats,” serving as a desk one minute to an artists’ station the next, you realize how important it is to know that your table is clean before setting stuff down on it. For this to be the case, wiping it off after each use has to be a consistent habit. Whether it’s cleaning off sticky smudges from a mid-afternoon snack break or removing all traces of tempera paint, cleaning the table after every time you use it means never running your elbow through honey or setting your laptop in a glitter-and-glue puddle. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Cleaning and sanitizing are not the same thing.

The CDC said it best: “Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.” Cleaning removes smudges, stains, dirt, and debris; disinfecting kills bacteria, viruses, and germs. They’re two very different and very important steps. You must clean before you can disinfect because disinfectants don’t work if the surface isn’t clean. (Germs can hide inside or under the dirt and organic material on your home’s surfaces, making any disinfectant less effective.) The CDC’s official recommendation is to use a cleaner or soap and water prior to disinfection “if surfaces are dirty.” 

Read moreThe Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting — Once and For All

5. Pantry organization is key.

Our pantries have become more important than ever, as we try to limit our trips to the grocery store and get more out of the food we already have on hand. It was never great to have a messy pantry, where stuff got lost and forgotten, and 2020 had us all reorganizing and rethinking our food storage. Now, things have their place and systems are set.

Read more: The 30 Most Brilliant Pantry Organizing Hacks of All Time