The One Thing I Do to Minimize Mess in the Kitchen

updated Dec 17, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

I love cooking. And what I mean by that is that I love the actual process of cooking. I love the chopping and measuring and stirring and simmering even more than I love eating. Of course, I do enjoy the results of my culinary endeavors (!), but there’s something about the physical act of cooking that is so calming to me. It pushes the thoughts of the day out of my head and forces me to focus on the task at hand.

But cooking also clashes with another love of mine: a clean kitchen. When sauces splatter and flour spills and pots and pans stack in the sink, it takes a little bit of my cooking zen away.

How I Learned to Embrace the Mess in the Kitchen

For the most part, I just deal with it because cooking, like life, is messy. It just is, and accepting that is actually kind of liberating.

When I first discovered cooking as a 10-year-old, I believed that kitchens were always spotless. I was awed to see the kitchen of a real culinary professional in use. I was in fifth grade, my best friend’s mom was a caterer, and it was in her kitchen that I made my very first batch of cookies.

Now, Peg’s kitchen was actually quite tidy and clean when there wasn’t cooking happening, but mess-making was okay! In fact, it was encouraged. (Peg also let us do papier-mâché projects in the kitchen and take baths with the dog, Howard.) And this was so unlike my previous understanding of cooking and kitchens and cleanliness, so verboten, that there was something thrilling about it.

The One Thing I Do to Minimize Mess in the Kitchen

Still, even though I do embrace the sometimes messy side of cooking, I also try to keep things from getting out of hand. And the one thing I always do is put out a scrap bowl.

I often use a big one, the second-to-largest one in my set of nesting bowls, so I don’t have to constantly empty it. And I put all my food scraps in there: carrot tops, wilted lettuce leaves that don’t make the cut, avocado pits, egg shells, and so on.

It keeps my sink clear of garbage, so I can rinse dirty utensils straight away or soak pots in there instead. And it saves me the trip to and from the garbage with piles of scraps (some of which would inevitably fall on the floor).

Do you do this, too? What other tips and tricks do you have for keeping your kitchen (relatively) clean while you cook?