When I was younger, I remember my mom getting me to help with household chores by saying, “the maid’s off today!” (Hint: We never had a maid!). Now that I’m in charge of my own household (re: cooking, cleaning, and seemingly everything else), I can definitely relate to this sentiment! Sometimes, it really does feel like the “mom” hat is interchangeable with the “maid,” “chef,” “chauffeur,” and so on.
This is especially true when it comes to our kitchens. Even those of us with helpful spouses or little ones know that having them prepare a meal for you often comes with hours of cleaning up afterwards.
As working moms, we’ve already got a lot on our plates. That’s why I’ve put together these time-saving life hacks to keep your kitchen clean, the dishes done, and the family healthily fed without leaving you feeling like hired help.
Tip 1: Start Small
Especially if you feel like your kitchen has gotten a bit out of control (i.e., you’re not actually sure if there is a counter under all that paperwork anymore), try to start with a small cleaning project that you attend to regularly. This doesn’t need to be something big—you may even start with a task that only takes five minutes but has a huge impact, like checking for expired food in the refrigerator once a week.
The main point is to focus on cleaning up this one area regularly rather than spending hours on an overwhelming deep clean of the entire room.
Some suggestions include:
Clean the counters with a washcloth or Lysol wipe every evening before going to bed
Sweep the kitchen once a week
Wipe down the refrigerator once a week
Clean out your fridge once a week
Close all cabinet doors and drawers every morning
Wipe down the microwave at least once a week
Once you have one area down, start adding on new tasks, and you’ll be able to see those kitchen counters again in no time. You may even get the kids involved with these age-appropriate chores.
Tip 2: Make Lunch Packing Easy
While all of us end up deferring to school lunches every once in a while, it can be hard to swallow their higher costs and relative unhealthiness. We know intuitively that it makes more sense to pack lunches for our kids, but it’s sometimes difficult finding the time on busy mornings to get even a sandwich made.
That’s why I’ve started automating my lunch making. After cleaning my fridge once a week (Tip 1, check!), I decided to put together a school lunch “section” of my refrigerator. Each Sunday evening before the rush of Monday comes, I make some sandwiches, salads, soup, and other main course items to last my kids for the entire week. I put them in plastic containers with a little note to “take one.”
I then put some fruit and veggies, pre-cut and ready to eat, in a bin next to them with the note “take as many as you’d like” (after all, I can always cut more!). Similarly, juices or milks, desserts, and chips (in the cupboard) also get a “take one” note because kids can be sneaky.
This system allows my kids a sense of independence—they get to actually choose which food items they take each day, within reason. It also means that I have these ten minutes back each morning to do check the news and drink a cup of coffee. #coffeesolveseverything
You may also find that using a larger tub labelled “snacks” and filling it with healthy foods allows your kids to help themselves when they get nibbly—and saves you the whining when they can’t find something to snack on.
Tip 3: Turn Chore Time into “Me” Time
We all have those chores that we just hate doing. For me, it’s the dishes—for some reason, I absolutely loathe this task! But still, my family always seems to manage to leave the dishes in the sink without me catching them. I used to be a little bitter about always having to wash everyone’s dishes until I realized that there was no rule that said I couldn’t do something fun at the same time.
So I started listening to podcasts and some of my favorite music when doing dishes. All of a sudden, I was able to catch up on the news and stay up-to-date on my friend’s podcast while still getting credit for keeping my kitchen clean. Over time, I’ve really come to love this practice—now I actually look forward to it!
Hack Your Kitchen
While you’ll still have the occasional big mess or mid-week meal to cook, these tips will allow you to spend your average day doing fewer chores and spending less time cleaning. Plus, you’ll likely come to enjoy the time you do spend on these tasks by listening to music, catching up on the news, or tuning into your top podcasts.
Turn chore time into “me” time and recruit your children (and spouse) as clean-up helpers. You may even end up having some actual down time on your hands!