Cleaning up the kitchen: tips for clearing paperwork, dishes | Your Home

Erin Browne

They say the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where we gather with friends and family, do homework, create art, pay bills and celebrate special occasions. It should be a place where we are glad to welcome our loved ones. But if it’s full of piles of papers, unwashed dishes and items that don’t belong there, it can become the room you dread walking into.

One problem in every room is the flat surfaces. They become catch-alls for stuff. You walk into the room and drop what you’re holding on the first empty or available surface you come to. We all do it. The trick is to not let them take root there. This is especially true in the kitchen. We must clear the clutter so we no longer feel overwhelmed.

Tackle one area at a time. First, remove all of the trash around the room. Take it outside to the trash can. Don’t leave it in the kitchen. The same thing with all of the recyclables. Only those things that belong in the kitchen should remain. Next, work on the dishes. Tackle them as a team. One washes and one dries. Another loads the dishwasher. Yet another puts dishes away.

If you have family members to help you, have each one take their stuff to their room or to where the items belong. There shouldn’t be any clothes or shoes visible. Art supplies and backpacks need to find a new home. Food items should be put away after checking for expiration dates.


People generally avoid sorting through paper piles because they seem unending and a bit intimidating. Break it down: First, separate all of the newspapers and ads, old flyers and reminders, expired coupons, extraneous papers from bills (such as privacy notices), crumpled artwork from kids’ projects and outdated magazines and newsletters. These need to go straight into your recycling bin.

Next, move all of the important papers to your desk or mail station. If your counter or kitchen table is where you take care of bills, try to come up with a temporary filing system so that you don’t miss opportunities or incur late payments.

Dirty dishes can be overwhelming. If you have a dishwasher, try to fill it every night before you go to bed. Otherwise, wash dishes while dinner or any other meal is cooking. I prefer washing and my daughter prefers drying, so being able to do this as a team has kept our kitchen clean and tidy for years.

If you live alone, decide to wash dishes in stages: cups first, then all of the large plates, etc. Intersperse each with five minutes of doing something else. The task will be complete before you know it.

Each member can be in charge of a specific area to tidy. I use my cellphone to set a 10-minute alarm. Race each other to see who can finish first. When the alarm goes off, switch tasks and race again. One person can complete six tasks in an hour, two people can complete 12, four people can complete 24. Don’t forget to applaud your accomplishments. You did a wonderful job.

Los Altos resident Lyn Rogers, a professional organizer, is owner and CEO of Lyn At Your Service. For more information, visit

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