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Homefries University

Quick Kitchen Cleanup!

High Straightenence by Tracy Benjamin

A weekly column celebrating the neat freak in all of us.

I know it’s hard to believe but I have a hard time getting motivated. The only thing that really helps me is to set a timer. The microwave timer has been one of my favorite kitchen tools these days. What can I do in 34:59? Make a big dent on my kitchen counters. That’s what!

I have this problem…I pile stuff on my kitchen counters…. and so does everyone else! It seems like the right place to put stuff when you come into our house but man does it drive me BONKERS. I get stressed out like you wouldn’t believe when the counters look like this. And about 75% of the time they do. There’s really no stopping it, but there is a way to manage it…

This cornerĀ  gets junked up too. I cram too much stuff in there and most of the time I have no idea what’s back there. From the paper towel holder to the right there’s a black hole. Bread goes there to be bready.

I apparently like to use the stove top as a kitchen counter. Niiiice.

So what I like to do is set the timer and start sorting.

I make a few piles and plan my attack.

This section is where I put all the stuff that need to be cleaned/washed. It’s narrow but in my brain that’s where dirty dishes go.

I put away all of the clean dishes on the counter, loaded the dishwasher and let it run. Things are moving along!

I did some of the dishes by hand, dry them and put them away immediately. Drying dishes is one of my least favorite things to do because I like piling clean stuff on my counter. I’m kidding. I’m just lazy.

I grab all the food that’s just hanging out….getting in my way and PUT IT ALL AWAY. See ya.

There are a lot of things that don’t belong….These items get put away too.

I clear out this section so I can do a little deeper cleaning. I do this about once a week…sometimes twice.

I spot clean every night with a soapy sponge.

Have you tried this method kitchen cleaner? I think it smells like a lemon-line snow cone.

DONE. Boom. Things are put back, organized and cleaned.

In the process, I ended up moving my pot over to the counter and creating a bread bowl. I like it!

Except when I need to make a stew. Wait. It’s not stew weather. We’ll regroup when it is.

And here we have the final after. Big diff, right?

A timer is how I stay motivated! I usually find that when the time’s up, I keep working because after about 20 minutes I get into a really good groove. It’s a win win. Maybe I’m just inherently competitive with myself.

Tracy Benjamin

Tracy Benjamin is obsessed with good food, great photography, and pretty things.


  • Megan August 22, 2012 at 5:56 am

    Skills! Way to be. This is a totally good idea.

  • puresweet August 22, 2012 at 9:18 am

    My counter gets super messy too. I’m competitive with myself as well so the timer thing just might be the little shove I need to get cleaning!

  • Ashley // Our Little Apartment August 22, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Yes! I do this, too!

    My other way to kickstart the clean: I pick up and put away as many items as years I am old. So, putting away (or washing) 27 items since I’m 27. It’s so silly, but SO effective!

  • Jessica L. August 22, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I totally did this just the other night! My apartment was a disaster and it was driving me crazy. I gave myself 15 minutes to work in the kitchen and straighten the place up, and then I said I would just take 10 minutes to do a quick clean up in the bedroom. By the time my 10 bedroom minutes were up, I was so motivated that I took another 10 and finished the job!

  • Alexis August 22, 2012 at 11:33 am

    you’re gamifying your life! i love it!

    i don’t know what’s happened to me in the past few years, but i get major anxiety these days when my kitchen is messy (which it always courtesy of not having a dishwasher). i used to be easy breezy about the mess situation. now i squirm at work thinking about the dishes piling in my sink and the cast iron pan that desperately needs to be seasoned. i love that you’re a pro organizer and i’m definitely going to use the timer tactic next time i need that push! love this segment and your beautiful photos (insta & otherwise) xx

  • Eileen August 22, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Ah yes, the dreaded specter of kitchen decluttering! I think your approach sounds just about right. Have you seen Unf%&k your Habitat? It’s a tumblr & app very much along the same lines–super helpful & the right mix of encouraging & “go do it NOW.”

  • streetsmartmom August 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    I needed this motivation tonight! Thank you!

  • Nicole @ The Dirty Oven August 22, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    I so hear ya on the counter top craziness. It is an OCD of mine. Totally drives me crazy when there is stuff all over it. Makes me happy to see a cleared out clean counter top! Great post!

  • Candice August 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    I’ve used that method for completing schoolwork. I promise myself I’ll write for X minutes, set the timer, and then reward myself with a 10-15 minute break/snack/walk when I finish the time (and have actually written).

  • gwen August 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    i can never keep my counter clean! i clean it, go to the market and boom! its a mess again.
    thanks for the tip. i’m going to show my husband that i’m not the only one:)

  • Becky August 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I play this game with myself – I put on a TV show and every time the commercials start I jump up and clean as many things as I can before the show starts up again – empty the diswasher, run upstairs and change the launddry, clear off the kitchen table. I usually do this when I’m alone because people think I’m the world’s biggest weirdo when they witness it!!

  • I love lists, Friday! – Shutterbean August 24, 2012 at 12:11 am

    [...] Can I clean my kitchen in 35 minutes? Find out on the latest High Straightenance! [...]

  • Carissa August 24, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I love a clean countertop! My husband, not so much! When we tiled our backsplash, we took so much of the clutter off of the counter & found new homes for it, but things are creeping back. This is just the motivation I needed to clear it off again.

  • Amanda Barkey August 24, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I heart that method cleaner! total lemon lime snow cone. I like your ‘bread pot’ and you always need a piece of bread slathered in butter when you eat a stew right? eat all the bread with your delicious stew. problem solved! The after looks LOVELY, good job… very motivating!

  • janecahn August 24, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Wow what a transformation! Very motivational indeedy.

  • Darci August 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Oh do I love a clean counter…off to set the timer.

  • ChrystinaNoel August 27, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I love that I loved reading this. It’s so ordinary – but it feels so epic like this. I’ll think about being epic next time I clean the counter off.

  • kaleidoscopebrain August 28, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Wow, these quick cleans have been inspiring me so much lately! I look around my room or my house, and think that if I just use a whole bunch of half an hours, I could clean out everything! You keep me going, Tracy! Thanks!!

  • Melissa August 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Is that a Hobo wallet? It looks exactly like mine. I love that darn thing, it’s almost five years old and I refuse to get a different one!

  • Victoria September 1, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Love the effects of a little motivation. Kitchens can be destroyed FAST, but really all can be made right pretty quickly too. It’s time for me to give my kitchen a little attention in the way of fridge, floor, sink, and appliances.

  • Marilyn September 7, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Totes Love this! I used this mehthod once while homework-ing and it seemed to work! I don’t know why I stopped, but this post definitely made me want to start again! Thanks Tracy!!!

  • Hannah September 8, 2012 at 7:53 am

    I just High Straightenenced the heck out of my kitchen and closet…Set the timer for 30 but I could not be stopped, not only are they organized but I have a huge box of things to donate to the Goodwill. Feels so good to declutter, clean, and organize. Thanks Tracy for the straightening high I am experiencing right now!

  • CampingGirl September 10, 2012 at 3:59 am

    I have been so inspired by your high straightenence posts that I have been organizing with pleasure! This weekend I organized my baking cupboard, that dreaded kitchen drawer and the laundry room. I had never realized how disorganized our closed door/drawer spaces were!

  • Katherine of Kitten's Lost Her Mittens March 2, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    I always use a timer too, especially for the kitchen! The hardest part for me is getting started, but like you, once I get going I keep going. So I will usually set a timer for 30 or even 20 min (whatever feels manageable). Once time’s up, I’m usually motivated to continue, and even tackle other projects.

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