Winter has a way of getting right in under your fingernails, the floorboards of your kitchen, the fine cracks in your countertops, and the food in your refrigerator. There are few places those long, dark, cold, dusty months haven't settled in your house.
No matter how much you stay on top of that weekly cleaning, winter's bad breath seems to accumulate like a fine paste on a morning tongue. By the time that first warm-ish spring arrives, you're pretty much ready to throw open all the windows and beg the fresh air to enter in and squelch the last remaining stench of winter.
It certainly has a way of dragging on, doesn't it? Especially in these ongoing pandemic times when the weeks bleed into each other, and we forget that there is a real, touchable world out there, outside of our own broken-record-player kitchens. There are restaurants with tables and chairs and waiters serving up plates of hot, steaming lobster tail, chilled glasses of crisp white wine, fistfuls of fresh, crusty bread and whipped butter. And oh so much more.
When you've spent as much time at home as we all have this past year, things start getting a bit grotty, as the British would call it. It's an apt word to describe all those gnarly little corners that haven't seen a wipe down in far too long. The deep, dark recesses of your kitchen cupboards that house foodstuffs of days long past. The inner matrix of your miscellaneous, aka junk drawer. And the back shelves and drawers and doors of your fridge? Let's not even go there (but we will up ahead!).
And let's not even mention what the long winter has done to your nutrition score! Time for a detox, perhaps?
Consider this blog a guide and motivating force for finally getting to that big kitchen clean out that you've been dodging for months. Now that the sun is casting its full spectrum of light on all those avoided spaces, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Not sure where to start? Follow these steps and within three hours max, your kitchen will look and feel like it has had a facelift.
Set Your Time & Tunes
My modus operandi for doing the good ‘ole kitchen clean out is the very absence of any order. Most of the time I spontaneously tackle the task when the mood strikes. The problem is that the mood doesn't strike very often, which is unsurprising given that it involves time, effort, and nasty discoveries.
There's a better way to attack the kitchen spring clean out than leaving it to fortuity and self-will. (No one actually wants to clean out the kitchen, we only want to want to!). For starters, make it as pleasant an experience as possible. Set aside enough time so you don't have work or family pressures distracting you. Make yourself a nice refreshment to enjoy as you work––a lime cordial, a superfood smoothie, or even a double caesar if the day calls for it. Then, select your favorite tunes or podcast to help get you into that productive, work-horse zone and keep you entertained.
Gather Your Cleaning Supplies
Setting the context for cleaning is almost as important as the cleaning itself. Arrange everything you need to get the job done: all your cleaning supplies and your waste receptacles. Sponges with a scouring pad are great for those rough and tough jobs, while soft clothes polish up counter tops and stainless steel appliances. As far as cleaning agents go, natural cleaners are gentler on the environment and your kitchen surfaces, though they're a little more expensive. You can make your own with little effort.
Prepare The Waste Zone
Now assemble all your waste containers––four should do it. A box for donation items, a compostable bag for all that organic food waste, a bag for recyclable items, and a bag for miscellaneous waste. Now that your cleaning and waste stations are adequately prepared, you're ready to get to work!
Face Your Fridge
This is often the dirtiest, least enjoyed task, so it makes sense to tackle it first. The only way to face this is to go through each item, starting with the organic stuff. What's hiding in your crisper drawer growing fingers and toes?
Check all the bottles and cartons and jars of stuff––the chutneys, the sauces, the pickled things, the 17 varieties of salad dressings. If it has reached the expiry date, set it on the counter to become part of the Great Dump-Out. Continue until you've interrogated the farthest reaches of your fridge.
Now, let the Great Dump-Out commence! Empty all those containers of expired food into your organic waste bag, rinse out the ones that can be salvaged and place them in your dishwasher or in the to-be-recycled pile. Then wipe down the shelves, remove the drawers, wash them in warm, soapy water, and wipe them dry. Enjoy the finale of this first n' worst kitchen spring cleaning task!
Clear The Junk Drawer
If you try to tackle this one first it will demotivate your attempts to attack subsequent tasks. If you save it until last, you won't do it. That's why we made this the second order of business.
It might be a drawer, a cupboard, or an overstuffed rubber container. It varies slightly from household to household, but the junk drawer is that rabbit-hole space in your kitchen full of all those extraneous objects that were victims of your indecision. You know what I'm talking about. They're the little things you might need one day, like elastic bands, twist ties every colour of the rainbow, and random bits of string that will create no lasting impact on your life if you simply throw them out.
It's painful and tedious, but it pays to go through every last item with ruthless certainty that you will never allow it to reach its current state again. So, go ahead, be ruthless.
Now, turn your attention to your food pantry and cupboards containing those smaller, nitpicky items like the seven sets of salt and pepper shakers, spice containers, butter dishes, oils, tinctures, and more, otherwise known as the extraneous or miscellaneous set.
Starting with the pantry: Have you discovered just how many eyes one potato can actually grow? One shelf at a time, following the same script as the fridge and junk drawer protocol. Check expiration dates. Ask yourself how much you really need eight varieties of rice, and donate the non-essentials to a food bank. Clean out the butter dish. (If you don't have a butter dish, click here, cause you need one). Remove each item and give each shelf a good wipe-down, getting into the corners and creases. Continue until you've been through each shelf and each item.
Strip The Stuff
Moving on to the Stuff. We treat this word as a proper noun, with a capital S because based on the real estate it takes up in most kitchens, it deserves that kind of authority. How many gadgets does one kitchen really need?
Arguably, the modern kitchen needs every novel item available in the marketplace. But good cooks know that effective preparation and great cooking requires only as many items as you can count on one hand: a solid cutting board, a good set of knives and sharpening system, a mortar and pestle, a set of life-lasting mixing bowls, and a salad spinner (let's face it, we are far too advanced and impatient to air dry our lettuce or pat it dry with dish towels!)
Start by untangling the utensil mayhem, and move onto the bigger ticket items like appliances, cooking ware, and dish sets. If you come across an appliance you haven't used since a year before the pandemic, consider donating it (we really can't treat the past year as a proper representation of an average year, after all).
The Wipe Down
Keep it simple and use warm soapy water and a cloth. Select a natural kitchen cleaner, or make your own using vinegar, lemon, water, and essential oils. Wipe every surface, even the hidden ones. That means removing every item from every cupboard. Tackle it one at a time or you'll drown in overwhelm. Trust me, peace of mind always follows clean cupboards and shelves.
Check The Big Deal Appliances
Now is a good time to inspect the repair status of your dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven, range, and more, depending on your kitchen inventory. They are also subject to The Wipe Down, but ensure you follow manufacturer's instructions for safe, proper cleaning.
Small Spurts Save Great Time...
You'll make the vow, you know, the one that follows every big clean out: I'm going to stay on top of this so it's not a big job like this again! Alas, whether you do or don't is not a big deal. What matters is that you get to it eventually. Honestly, life is too busy and far too short to be worrying about the number of salad dressings in your fridge or the peppery mess inside closed cupboards. Just do the job when the job needs doing, and enjoy the rest of your free time whipping up fresh new ideas in your fabulous "new" face-lifted kitchen.
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From our kitchen to yours, enjoy a cleaner, leaner kitchen this spring!