Cleaning & Organizing

How to Clean your Kitchen in Less than an Hour

This post goes out to all the people who are overwhelmed with the messiness of their homes and don’t know where to start. I’m dedicating this blog post to you because I am one of you.

My goal with this blog is to overcome my naturally messy tendency one baby step at a time and I’m planning on sharing more about my background and why I chose to write this blog in a future post, but for today I wanted to jump right in an give myself a win.

I am a naturally messy person. Just check out my kitchen:


I’m not going to get into the reasons why it built up to this degree, but I am going to give you a step by step guide on how to clean a huge mess like this up in about 45 minutes.

Step 1: Set yourself up to win

There are two things you need to do to set yourself up to win:

    1. Prep your mind
  1. Prep the physical area

Prep your mind

Every time I looked at my kitchen I would feel overwhelmed, especially the bigger the mess got. I would avoid the mess and my kitchen by eating out so that I wouldn’t have to cook anything or spend any time in my kitchen. This went on until it was so bad that I couldn’t let it sit any longer and I vowed to clean it once and never let it get that way again.

In order to clean up the huge mess in my kitchen, I knew that I need to change my mindset. Cleaning is a daily maintenance task that continues forever. The idea of cleaning forever annoys me which is probably one reason why I don’t like to do it every day and the reason why I always end up with a big mess.

To switch my mindset, I had to think of my kitchen as a project. A project has a clear end goal and once the project is complete it is over forever. Projects also do not continue on indefinitely.

You may be wondering about maintenance doesn’t that continue on indefinitely? Yes, but more on that later, just stick with me through this.

Pick your end goal

The end goal of the project is to have everything cleared out of the sink and off all flat surfaces.

I highly recommend selecting this as your end goals because cleaning off flat surfaces creates the most visual impact and leads to a feeling of success because you can see a huge difference.

With that being said, for this particular project, cleaning out drawers, the pantry, or the cabinets are not on the menu. Ignore these areas for now. When your kitchen is this messy we need a quick win. And the best way to do that is by clearing off all flat areas.

Prep the physical area

Before you begin your kitchen project, take a photograph (Don’t worry you can delete it later). This photograph will help show you how far you’ve come by the end.

Next take out the trash and empty the dishwasher. We want these two areas empty before we start so that we can fill them up as we go.

If your dishwasher is already full of dirty dishes, run the dishwasher and empty it before tackling this project. Don’t try to do this with a full dishwasher it will slow down your momentum and you may get discouraged.

For those of you without a dishwasher it is still possible to complete this project, you will just have to put in a little extra work and a little more time overall. To prep your area, fill up your sink with soapy water and put away any clean dishes from the drying rack. Roll up your sleeves and have a bunch of towels nearby to dry off all those dishes.

Step 2: Tackle the dishes

It is time to start the project. Make it a game and see how fast you can complete the project. Aim for an hour. If you want to beat my time you have do it faster than 43 minutes. 😊

They key to completing this project quickly is to focus on one task at a time.

Cleaning areas can slow you down. I used to clean areas. I would start in one corner then rotate my way around the room until it was clean. Doing it this way forces your brain to think about a bunch of different tasks. Is this item trash? Where does it go? Does this belong in a different room?

I would be running items to different rooms, putting kitchen items in their kitchen home, and throwing away trash all at the same time.

Once I learned about focusing on one task at a time and my efficiency went up.

When you focus on one task at a time your brain is less distracted by all the other things going on which makes you mental chatter less chaotic. Less thinking = higher efficiency. Stay laser focused on the task at hand.

The first task in this project is to put as many dishes as you can into the dishwasher.

If there are any that cannot go or do not fit, then wash them by hand.

Quick cavate for those of you without dishwashers: your task is to wash, dry, and put away all the dishes. The important step here is to put dishes away. Remember the goal is the clear all the flat surfaces.

Now back to the show:

This is your only task. Move as quickly as you can and don’t do anything else! Don’t pick up that trash, don’t move that appliance, don’t take that stuffed animal to the other room (or in my case a clothes hanger. I’m still not sure how that ended up on my counter). Only focus on loading the dishwasher and hand washing dishes.

As soon as you have filled your dishwasher to capacity start it and move on to the next step.

Here is what my kitchen looked like after this step:


Step 3: Remove all the trash

It’s amazing how much trash can accumulate on flat surfaces and how it can happen so quickly!

Remember we are focused on removing trash from all flat surfaces. Don’t go digging through drawers or cabinets. That is not the focus of today.

How quickly can you do this? Check the clock and go as quickly as you can.

Here is what my kitchen looked like after this step:


Step 4: Remove all items that don’t belong in the kitchen

Here is one of the trickiest parts not because it is difficult, but because it has the most potential to trip up people’s success.

Here is an example of how this can go horribly wrong:

You’re feeling good. You have all your dishes washed and all the trash cleaned off the flat surfaces and now it’s time to put away items that don’t belong in the kitchen.

You create a few piles on your now mostly cleaned off counter. One for the living room, one for the bathroom, and one for the kids room. You are being laser focused and are diligently putting items into these piles.

Then the phone rings, or maybe a kid starts crying, or there’s an unexpected guest. Whatever it is, there is something that pulls you away from your project and let’s say that it keeps you from completing the project that day.

The next day comes and you still have piles on your counters and maybe you don’t have time to finish your project. A week later there are still piles of items in the kitchen that don’t belong.

Now, you may get interrupted during your project and that’s okay. We all have lives and families and sometimes things happen. It is okay if you get pulled off your project but with this simple little tip, we can lessen the damage if that happens.

Let’s take a look at the story again:

You’re feeling good. You have all your dishes washed and all the trash cleaned off the flat surfaces and now it’s time to put away items that don’t belong in the kitchen.

You examine an item that you pick up to determine which room it belongs to. Instead of putting it in a pile, you immediately take it to the room where it belongs.

You repeat this process with several items. Maybe you can easily see two or three items that belong in the same room and you grab all three and take them there.

Then the phone rings, or maybe a kid starts crying, or there’s an unexpected guest. Whatever it is, there is something that pulls you away from your project and let’s say that it keeps you from completing the project that day.

The next day comes and you have clean dishes, no trash, and significantly less items in the kitchen that don’t belong. Even if you never finish the project, with this scenario, you have a cleaner kitchen.

This tip has saved me so much time! Especially when it comes to decluttering (but more on that in another post)

You may think I’m crazy for only taking one or two items at a time and think that it is really inefficient. But trust me, life happens, you will get interrupted and at least if you are, you have made more progress than if you didn’t put the item way immediately.


Step 5: Put away all Kitchen items on flat surfaces

The less you have on your counters, the cleaner your kitchen will feel. If you can hide the item in a drawer, cabinet, or the pantry, I suggest doing it.

I left a few items on my counters that I use frequently like my food scale, salt & pepper, soap & sponges, and a basket of onions. Remove as many items as you can.

For this particular project, because I was strictly focused on having clear counters, I didn’t declutter which means that I didn’t make any decisions on if an item should stay in my kitchen or go into a donation box. I put things in drawers and hid them in cabinets.

This is not a long-term solution. I did this for a quick win. For more information on how to declutter your kitchen, you will have to check out a future post.


My kitchen is done! Check out the before and after pictures side by side:


What a huge difference clearing off the flat surfaces can make! It feels so much better!

The goal of this project was to clear off all flat surfaces. Decluttering the cabinets, drawers, and pantry is coming in another post.

But now comes the challenging part: Keeping it clean.

I am in the process of developing and perfecting my maintenance routines. I will update you on what they are in a future post.

But for now, I decided to make a commitment to never go to bed with dishes on my counter or in my sink. If I can at least do that then I am keeping my kitchen monster from returning.

Another commitment that I am making more as a backup is to never cook in a dirty kitchen. This will force me to clean up any items on my counters if I’ve neglected to put them away before I went to bed or if they have gathered during the day, it will make my evening clean up easier.

Completing this project has given me the momentum to continue working on my kitchen and the rest of my house! I already have multiple future projects running through my head such as:

A Kitchen declutter (now that my surfaces are clean I gotta tackle those hidden places)

Kitchen Cleaning hacks – there are multiple stains or spots that didn’t come up with normal cleaning so now I have to figure out how to clean these things!

Pantry/Laundry Makeover – this is right next to my kitchen and is currently really inefficient

Routine hacks – I need a way to keep my house running smoothly after I’ve cleaned it to keep the messy monster away!

Stay tuned to see what happens next!

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