How to speed-clean your kitchen and other organizational tips

Tips from Real Simple and
How to Speed-Clean Your Kitchen
The best time-saving tips, techniques, and to-do lists for polishing off the kitchen.

Kitchen Cleaning To-Do List

When cleaning the kitchen always start with the sink. “Keep it empty and shining,” says Marla Cilley, author of Sink Reflections (Bantam, $15, and creator of, a housekeeping website.

A sparkling sink becomes your kitchen’s benchmark for hygiene and tidiness, inspiring you to load the dishwasher immediately and keep counters, refrigerator doors, and the stove top spick-and-span, too.

Every Day

Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 seconds).
Wipe down the stove top (one minute).
Wipe down the counters (one minute).
Sweep, Swiffer, or vacuum the floor (two minutes).

Every Week

Mop the floor (five minutes).
Wipe the cabinets, backsplashes, and appliances (10 minutes).
Wash the dish rack (four minutes).
Wipe the switch plates and phone (one minute).
Wipe the inside of the garbage can (one minute).

Every Season

Empty and scrub down the inside of the refrigerator (30 minutes).
Empty and clean the insides of the utensil drawers (15 minutes).
Scrub down the cupboard exteriors (30 minutes).
Clean the stove-hood filter (10 minutes).
Perform “Shiny Sink 101”
NEXT: Beat the Clock

If you have 15 minutes…

Clean countertops and the sink.
Spray disinfectant in the sink and let it sit. Meanwhile, spritz the counters with disinfectant. Then scrub the sink with a sponge and rinse. Return to the counters and wipe dry with a fresh cotton or microfiber cloth.
Make a pass using an electrostatic mop or cloth (like one from Swiffer). This picks up dirt and hair and makes wet-mopping more efficient.
Clean the refrigerator handle. It takes only seconds to wipe down this bacteria-friendly spot with disinfectant.

If you have 30 minutes…

Wet-mop the floor. A few spritzes of an all-purpose cleanser and a damp microfiber mop does the trick, without the fuss of a water bucket.
Wipe down appliances. Avoid damage by using wipes that are designed for the job.

If you have 1 hour…

Also wash the cabinet fronts. Wipe from top to bottom with a soft sponge and a solution of warm water and dish soap. For wood cabinets, use a wood cleanser.

If you have half a day…

Deep-clean appliances. Clean the refrigerators interior with a solution of 3 tablespoons baking soda and 4 cups warm water. For non-self cleaning ovens, wipe down the inside with an all-purpose cleanser. Use a plastic scraper to get bits of food off racks and drip pan.

As one of the most used rooms in the house, the kitchen gets cluttered and dishevled often. Organizing your kitchen means less frustrating meal preparations and a quicker clean-up.

Get organized:

Reserve counter space for appliances you use daily, such as the coffeemaker, toaster and microwave. Don’t pile them with jars of food, medicine bottles and paper.
Group your pots, pans and utensils according to activity—say, cooking versus baking—and store them in separate cabinets and drawers, if space allows. Apply this rule to food items in your pantry as well, segregating baking ingredients from other foodstuffs.
Use top drawers for everyday cutlery; middle drawers for kitchen tools such as whisks and mixing spoons; and lower drawers for less frequently used items, like entertaining pieces and barbecue utensils.
Find a new home for items you rarely use. Whether it’s formal china or a waffle iron, box it and keep it in the garage or basement.
If family members use the kitchen for activities other than cooking (like homework, for instance), set aside an area for their supplies.
Think vertically to create new storage space. Mount a pot rack on the ceiling, add a plate rail to hold lids and install a spice rack on the wall. Use under-cabinet space to attach a pull-down cookbook holder or a radio; they will be easily accessible but out of the way.
Don’t skip the fridge. Organize your refrigerator so foods are always in the same place. Leave space to store leftovers so they aren’t overlooked.
Keep it clean:

Put away dishes, clear and clean countertops and empty the trash and gather items for recycling every day.
Once a week: Clean out the fridge, neaten the contents of drawers and cabinets and round up items that don’t belong in the kitchen.
Once a month: Spend an hour organizing one area—a cabinet, the pantry, etc.
Assess your kitchenware. Match pots and pans with their lids and toss broken or unmatched pieces once a month.

Declutter your kitchen

Problem: Multiuse mess

Your kitchen is a high-traffic room that has a lot of purposes: food storage and preparation, casual dining, bill paying and homework. It’s no wonder your counters are messy and your cabinets are overflowing with gear you use only when company’s coming over.

Solution 1: Unclutter your countertops
Liberate cupboard space by stowing bulky, awkward items you use once or twice a year, like large roasting pans, lobster pots or fancy dishes, somewhere else in the house. Try finding space in your garage, attic or basement. A good rule: Leave out only what you use at least twice a week. You’ll make the kitchen look bigger and free up space.

Solution 2: Clean out the drawers
Toss or store any cutlery or gadgets you use less than once a month. Get rid of duplicate vegetable peelers, can openers and garlic presses. Make sure the objects you need daily or weekly are near where you use them and are readily available. Pots and pans should be near the stove, plastic wrap, foil and zipper-lock bags near the refrigerator.

Solution 3: Create an office area
Household paperwork, bills, envelopes and stamps can take over the kitchen table if you let them. Keep them under control: Mount a corkboard on the wall. Pin all bills or paperwork that requires action onto it. File bills right after you’ve paid them, and throw away (or shred!) any paperwork that you don’t need to keep.

Use these easy organizing solutions to minimize waste and maximize savings. ALL YOU Savings Star Kelly Hancock, founder of Faithful Provisions ( and author of Savvy Saving: Smart and Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending in Half and Raise Your Standard of Living…and Giving! helps you streamline your pantry with her best strategies.


Pull everything out of your pantry and set it on a counter so you can see what you have. Then clean the shelves, sweep the floor and separate the items you want to keep and donate from expired items you can throw away.


Use every inch. Add inexpensive wire shelving near the top and bottom of pantry walls (often wasted space).
Cover the door. Attach over-the-door hangers for grocery bags and a shoe organizer for items such as plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
Think outside the kitchen. If your pantry is small, store nonperishable items in the garage or basement using an outdoor cabinet.

Label everything. Put tags on shelves and bins so everyone in the family knows where foods belong—and when you’re running low.
Think placement. Put heavier items such as bulk purchases on the floor in waterproof, pest-proof bins. Keep breakable containers and products you use less frequently toward the top, and group like items—such as canned goods or kids snacks—together.
Organize by expiration. If you have more than one can or box of the same item, store the older ones in front.
Stash away. Extend the life of nuts, grains, flour and other dry goods (and keep pests at bay) with airtight containers.

Tape a list to your pantry door that notes the quantity, expiration and location of everything within. Download the free template at to keep track of when you use and add items.

BONUS TIP: When you finish a glass jar of pasta sauce or bottle of juice, wash it, relabel it and use it to store bulk-bin buys

Follow this simple guide for organizing your cold-storage areas and you’ll cut waste—and your grocery bill! ALL YOU Savings Star Kelly Hancock, founder of Faithful Provisions ( and author of Savvy Saving: Smart and Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending in Half and Raise Your Standard of Living…and Giving! helps you get a handle on your freezer with her favorite tips.


“You’ll be surprised at how messy the freezer can get,” Kelly says. “If you take the time to do the job right, you won’t have to clean it again for at least a year.”

Purge old items. Pull everything out of the freezer, check expiration dates and throw away products past their prime. Store the keepers in a cooler while you work.
Start fresh, stay fresh. Defrost your freezer and wipe it down, inside and out, with a cleaning solution of equal parts vinegar and water to remove odors and cut through grease. For tough stains, add salt or baking soda to make a paste and scrub.

Put items you use frequently, such as meat and sides, on their own shelves. If you have a tendency to pick up fast food on days you don’t feel like cooking, designate a shelf to stash homemade ready-to-eat meals as a cheaper (and healthier) alternative.


Almost any frozen food—meat, fruit, vegetables, soups, sauces—can be stored in a freezer bag. Lay partially filled bags flat in the freezer (leave ¼ to ½ inch of space since frozen food expands). Once they’re frozen, stack them upright in rows, like books on a shelf.


Because frozen food is often unrecognizable, Kelly recommends labeling and dating containers and bags with a black permanent marker. Even permanent ink washes off, so you can relabel dishwasher-safe containers to use with different foods.


Use Kelly’s “first in, first out” rule when you replenish your freezer (store newer purchases behind older ones, so whatever you buy first, you use first). You won’t have to worry as much about foods going bad or disappearing into the icy depths.


Freezers run more efficiently when full. Plus, if the power goes out, your food will stay frozen longer. If necessary, fill milk jugs with water to take up space.


Don’t be afraid to snap up large quantities of meat, veggies or fruit at a deep discount. You can use the process below to freeze items at the peak of freshness and later scoop out individual (or family-size) portions so you don’t have to defrost a whole bag or bust through frozen clumps.

Dice meat, vegetables or fruit.
Place the small pieces on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.
Place the sheet in the freezer for one to two hours. Once the food is frozen, transfer to freezer bags (get all the air out) and return to the freezer.
Bonus Tip: Blend fresh herbs in a food processor, adding water until the bits come off the sides. Measure and spoon herbs into an ice cube tray, freeze, then dump the cubes into a freezer bag. Pop one out when a recipe calls for fresh herbs.


How To Clean An Oven
Your oven racks should be cleaned by hand, unless the manufacturer says they are dishwasher safe. Then try this homemade cleanser from “Clean House, Clean Planet,” by Karen Logan: Use aluminum foil to plug holes leading to the broiler. (Be sure to remove the foil after cleaning.) Mix one-quarter cup salt, three-quarters cup baking soda, and one-quarter cup water into a paste. Brush on, avoiding bare parts — salt corrodes metal. Let it sit overnight; remove mixture using a slotless spatula or a putty knife. Wipe with paper towels. Use a plastic scrubber or sponge to remove remaining spots.


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