As someone whose cooking habits went from 0 to 100 in the past year, I’m still getting the hang of which kitchen habits are helping me on the day-to-day, and which are slowing me down. I’ve invested in sleek new pots and pans, decluttered the kitchen tools I just wasn’t using, and made more than my share of mistakes on overly-ambitious recipes that were as fussy as they were delicious. And when it came to fine-tuning my kitchen cleaning habits, I knew exactly where I should look first (Kitchn and Apartment Therapy!)
When I first saw Apartment Therapy and Kitchn contributor Shifrah Combiths’ genius idea to “shut down” the kitchen every night, I was both intrigued … and, OK, a little overwhelmed. I’m not a messy or disorganized person, so I wasn’t entirely sure if it was necessary to perform a deep clean on the kitchen every single night. Surely my good-enough cleaning habits covered the bases? But then I realized, no, this is the kitchen — one of the places in your home where being overly-clean absolutely matters.
So, I challenged myself: I would shut my kitchen down every night for one week, to see how it worked. Here’s what I learned along the way:
Shifrah recommends aiming for “a level of cleaning that’s somewhere between post-meal clean-up and a thorough kitchen deep-clean,” which seemed doable. I started by cleaning up the dishes and cookware I used to make dinner, which was standard — and then followed her checklist to tick through the rest of my to-do list. Working my way through the whole list took about 25 minutes total.
Because I don’t have a dishwasher, I wasn’t sure if shutting the kitchen down also included drying all of my dishes and putting them away for the next day — so I tried it to see how it felt. It was by far the most time-intensive part of the process, but I was able to do it while disinfectant sat in the sink and on the countertops, in order to really allow the spray to work its magic before wiping it off. I considered the job done after I vacuumed the floor and put my (now-empty!) dish rack in the sink to clean off.
The next morning: Entering my kitchen the next morning was a novel experience. Usually, I spend the time it takes for water to boil in my kettle putting away the newly-dried dishes, but there were none waiting for me. The one issue: I had woken up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, and because the dish rack was in the sink, I couldn’t put my glass in the sink to clean when I properly woke up. I made a mental note of that holdup for night two.
I ordered takeout, which reduced the number of things I needed to wash after I was done to just one piece (a fork). This cut down both my dish washing and drying routine significantly, and meant I had significantly fewer crumbs, splatters, and spills to wipe up everywhere else. I would say the hack to keeping your kitchen spotless is to never cook, but that’s both expensive and impractical (still, I can dream).
As for my dish drying rack, I left it on its spot on the kitchen counter after I let the countertop dry. Consider the previous night’s lesson learned.
The next morning: Waking up was a breeze, as was making my coffee in the morning. I had smartly decided to not only shut my kitchen down, but to also prep my French press for myself the next morning — all I had to do was add hot water. Thanks, past me!
By Wednesday, I got into a flow: Take the dish to sink, wash it, put it in the rack to air dry before wiping them down. My roommate cooked her dinner late, so I couldn’t immediately get to work cleaning the kitchen, and it turns out I didn’t really need to — she had already wiped the sink and stove down when I re-entered it. I was tired and didn’t feel motivated to sweep the floor … until I saw all of the shed hairs that had accumulated across the tile. A quick pass rectified that and I went to sleep easily.
The next morning: I realized that I actually like putting dishes away in the morning, while I’m waiting for my water to boil. I made a mental note that letting them dry overnight was okay by me.
Once I figured out a cadence, the nightly habit was smooth sailing. Just as Shifrah’s list involves a dishwasher because that’s what works in her kitchen, my kitchen (and cooking habits) will have different needs — and so will yours. So from Thursday to Sunday, I focused on the key tasks for my kitchen, which include washing the dishes, wiping down the counters, setting my French press out for the next morning, and sweeping the floor. It’s simple, comprehensive, and gets done in 15 to 20 minutes, maximum.
By the end of the process, my system looked a little something like this:
I’m the kind of person who doesn’t mind cleaning — I like the peace of mind it gives me, especially when it comes to eradicating sticky food messes in the kitchen — but prefer to save the deep clean for Saturday mornings (and my special playlist). Even so, getting into a ritual of cleaning every night felt novel to me… and admittedly, I suddenly wondered how dirty my kitchen had gotten in the years before this habit.
But the best lesson of all was the feeling I got when I walked into my kitchen every morning. It felt peaceful and calm — like it was waiting for me to get my day started there. That alone was motivation enough to keep the habit going, even on days when I didn’t feel like sweeping the floor. Maybe that’s where a Roomba comes into play.