In which I do a great public service by revealing the state of my kitchen

In the realm of trashed kitchens, we hit absolute bottom this weekend. It got so bad I was compelled to post a photo on Twitter. I think I made a lot of people feel a hell of a lot better about the state of their own kitchens. No matter how bad they are, they likely didn’t look like mine.

kitchen before

Ready for the excuses? See, the whole house was spotless last weekend (confession: because we had a house guest). And then last week I had a cold and had a tight freelance deadline and didn’t have the energy to clean at night after working on the freelance because of that cold and…and… Yeah. I never clean at night when I’m on deadline because there isn’t time to do both and deadline with a paycheck at the end of it trumps clean house.

What really happened is that the kids usually get screen time once a week, after Kiddo gets home from school on Friday. I love Friday movie day. I look forward to it all week. I clean the kitchen and straighten up the downstairs and get dinner going while the kids sit on the couch all glazed eyes and slack jaws. It’s about as luxurious as it gets around here. This past week, though? The same week that I had a cold and a tight deadline? I went and shot myself in the foot and took away movie day as a consequence for bad Kiddo behavior. I regretted it as soon as it was out of my mouth. Couldn’t I have taken away his Legos for two days? Made him clean the bathtub? Put him on compost duty for the week? Nope. Had to right off the bat go to the consequence that punishes me. I’m quick like that. Losing that bit of cleaning time was enough to let the whole mess slide into absolute chaos.

And then this weekend we had two glorious days of sun, the first in a very, very long time, this being Portland and all, and there was no way anyone was staying inside to clean this weekend. (Gotta keep your priorities straight.) By the time the kids were asleep last night the kitchen was more than I could face so I cleaned the living room and dining room (no small feat) and left the kitchen for today.

And then came downstairs this morning and wanted to run away from home.

So don’t tell Kiddo, but this morning I plugged the Girlie in to some Yo Gabba Gabba (on a non-movie day!) so I could tackle the kitchen. The fact that I felt so guilty about this that I had to confess it on Twitter probably bears some looking at. The kitchen now looks like this:

kitchen during

Yeah. Miles to go before I sleep. Am I missing something? Some key instruction I was supposed to be given when the kids were born? How am I supposed to keep the house reasonably clean without plugging the kids in to hours of screen time while also working a freelance job at night and writing novels and every once in a while actually hanging out with my husband? (And yes, Billy does some cleaning, too.) I look at the kitchen and I want to gag, but I’m not sure how to keep it from sliding into that absolute hell all too often.

One of our neighbors, who has two teenagers, has on more than one occasion walked into our house and looked absolutely horrified, which I can only assume means her house didn’t look like mine when her kids were younger. So what did she do that I’m not doing? I refuse to ask her, because of those horrified looks. (Shhh. Don’t judge. She’s a wonderful woman.)

I suppose I could cook less. Somehow that doesn’t seem like the right solution, though.

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25 comments on “In which I do a great public service by revealing the state of my kitchen
  1. Johanna says:

    I cook, a lot, almost every meal every day from scratch, and Mike cleans, multiple times a day he cleans the kitchen. He cleans the sink and whatever’s in it when he gets up in the morning, when he gets home from work, and usually after dinner too. That’s the ONLY WAY our kitchen stays clean!

    I hear there’s a way to clean as you go, but I haven’t figured that one out!

    Of course the other alternative is to hire those teenagers from next door to do it!

  2. First: In both photos, what grabs me first is the floor. I LOVE your kitchen floor! Is it original to the house? Very cool. Throw a tarp over the dishes on the counter, and we’ll all just look at your pretty floor and feel all sunshiney and happy inside. If you can’t see the dirty dishes, they don’t really exist.

    Second, the Neighbor: There are many possibilities here. SAHMs have more time to clean than work-outside-home moms, and work AT home moms have no time to clean at all. Maybe they ate takeout more often than you. Maybe her house was just as bad, but she’s blocked it out of her memory along with labor pains and the stench of infant diarrhea. Maybe she isn’t horrified at all, and you’re projecting your own guilt and shame onto her. She’s probably walking into your house, and her jaw drops and her eyes bug out of her head because she’s thinking, “My God, what beautiful floors!”

  3. juliette says:

    my kitchen looks like that sometimes and I don’t even HAVE kids. You ain’t doin’ nuthin’ wrong…kitchen duty sucks sometimes.

    You have a lovely kitchen, however. Even with the flotsam and jetsam…

  4. Kate says:

    When I was small (as long as I can remember) we all helped the post-dinner clean up. It was a family event. I guess it kept us occupied while the chires got done and the kitchen running.

    Still, these days I am single and my kitchen still gets a bit like yours. Sometimes life is just more important :)

  5. Lori Jacobson says:

    Life is more important than cleaning–by far. That time you spent with your family instead of doing dishes? At the end of your life, you will not regret it even one bit. Don’t get caught in that ugly guilt trap–no good ever comes of it. You are a wonderful parent and spouse–as evidenced by your reasons for not cleaning the kitchen.

  6. Jeannie says:

    I haven’t ever commented before but I had to today …. Thank you!! Thank you!! My kitchen looks like that regularly; my kids are 6 and 2. I feel so much better now!!

  7. Jen B says:

    Maybe she’s just forgotten what her house was like. I have to laugh at my own mother when she comes over & starts to say “well if you just . . .” I clearly remember our kitchen looking much worse than mine does (which on many days resembles yours)! Honestly it’s just surface stuff – dishes can be done & healthy eating/minimizing the screen time is totally worth more.

  8. Crissy says:

    It’s just me, my husband, and my 11 month old… and somehow we manage to have at least one day a week where every. freaking. dish in the house is dirty and piled on the counter. Not sure how it happens, but it does.

    If it helps you feel better about yourself, when I was helping my husband pack up his old apartment, I found a dish I’d brought over on Thanksgiving, still “soaking” in the sink. It was April.

  9. humpty dumpty says:

    De-lurking to say that this kitchen is not awful at all!! A true disaster would include a tottering pile of dishes in the sink, big ole food spills all over the floor, and multiple layers of dishes, food containers, and pots and pans on the counters instead of one dainty layer. Ask me how I know!!

  10. The Neighbor says:

    We had to keep the dishes done, because there were only 4 of everything – that’s the secret! Don’ t use a dishwasher & get rid of all your dishes.

    I thought I had a pretty good poker face – darn! I’ll have to work on that.

  11. Jenn says:

    One of my good friends who happens to be my next door neighbor has kids about the same age as mine and her house is usually spotless. I’m not judging but I do know that she allows more tv and video games than we do, so I guess that’s how it gets done. As for me, I don’t know what I’ll do when the babies give up their morning nap, since that’s pretty much the only time housework gets done. And I would absolutely play outside over cleaning!

  12. Jody says:

    We have no children, but my husband and I both spend about 12 hours a day outside the house (working, unfortunately). Our kitchen looks like that more often than I care to admit. I have fairly discreet dog walkers, thank god!

  13. Anna says:

    My kids are 5 and 2. I let them watch TV. And my kitchen looks like that a lot. Your floors are clean, that’s what I noticed first. My excuse is that I am out of the house 12 hrs a day, then I want to spend time with my kids. My husband’s excuse (he’s a SAHD) is that taking care of kids is hard enough without cleaning. We have a cleaning lady who comes in once a week, so we clean before she comes, and once a week the house looks good.

  14. Leslie says:

    I have, at various times in my life and for various reasons, had a kitchen that looked remarkably like your Exhibit A. I’m going to confess here, for the first time ever, that a few times I carted every pile into the bathroom, stacked them in the tub and ran the hot water until everything was submerged. Once the stuff was soaked into submission, I lugged it back to the kitchen, dishpan full by dishpan full and washed them there. In between loads I ate ice cream.

    You sound like you’re living your life according to priorities that work for your family, so you’re doing it exactly right! To hell with your kitchen.

    I too love your floor but that’s too much grout to keep clean for me.

  15. Dani B says:

    I also don’t have kids, but between cooking real food most days and my boyfriend being a full time student and working part time and me working full time and having hobbies and friends and living far enough out of town that people rarely have occasion to come over, our flat more often looks like exhibit A than not.
    I don’t *like* when it’s messy. It gets me down, gets my anxiety levels up, and I feel horrendous and guilty.
    But we prioritised some rare together time this weekend, really refreshed and boosted our relationship, and the dishes are still there. Maybe a little greener than before, but they didn’t go anywhere.
    Out of the guilt trap and into real life, say I!

  16. Laurie says:

    I don’t have kids and my kitchen frequently looks like that. My Mom is all full of helpful advice too but when it comes down to it, my kitchen isn’t always my priority. If I have a chance to write or spend some quality time with the dogs or work out, I take it. I feel like I have so little time (I work two jobs), I need to prioritize and cleaning often falls low on the list. But podcasts and audio books make the epic clean up bearable when I finally run out of dishes.

    • admin says:

      You folks have no idea what comfort I’m taking in all of your messy kitchens! Someone (other than me) should start a messy kitchen tumblr.

      As for our kitchen floor, it was put in by the previous owners of the house. It looks nice but between the color and the small size of the tiles it’s IMPOSSIBLE to keep looking even remotely clean. I have only the blurriness of my iPod’s camera to thank for the fact that anyone thought the floor looked clean in those photos.

  17. Jen says:

    My house growing up was spotless, all the time, because my mother (may she rest) had certifiable OCD. That woman NEVER SAT DOWN. She was constantly anxious, always annoyed, and always moving (which was annoying in & of itself. SIT DOWN, MA! YOU’RE DRIVING ME NUTS HERE!). Stop judging yourself more harshly than you’d judge any of us (because seriously, there are days when my kitchen looks worse than that).

  18. janna says:

    I am another single woman here to say that even though it’s just me, my kitchen sometimes looks like that. Frankly, sometimes there are better things to do than clean the kitchen. Don’t feel guilty about enjoying life! (And I love the idea of a messy kitchen tumblr!)

  19. Stacey says:

    When I was a teenager I made more money washing dishes for neighbors than I did babysitting. Ask the neighbor kids if they want to make $20 to $30 for spending an hour or two washing dishes once a week for you. Once I started doing that, word got out fast to my mom’s friends and our neighbors and I was making $100-200 a week washing dishes and helping clean houses during the school year and up to $400 a week during the summer break.
    Lots of people need help when they have small kids.

  20. Gina says:

    Amen! I too feel like I missed some key “home ec” class in school, somehow. Our generation is educated on how to be good professionals, etc, not homemakers. This home-with-kids-plus-freelance job is HARD! I was not prepared. But cooking from scratch and no/limited screen time is definitely a good investment in the kids, dirty dishes or no. At least that’s what I tell myself regularly!

  21. I love that your neighbor posted here in response! I agree with Gina that you are doing so much good for your kids–who cares about a messy kitchen now and then? No one would remember it, if it weren’t for this picture posted on the interwebs.

  22. Lizzy says:

    My kitchen looks like that pretty much constantly, and I HATE it. There’s only two of us at home, I’m studying at uni and work three days a week, my partner works full time and is one of the laziest people I’ve ever met. I was driven to a meltdown and had to threaten to walk out on him to get him to start doing some housework (I don’t recommend it, it only worked for a couple of days). At least you have great reasons for not getting time to do the dishes :). Family time and deadlines are much more important.

  23. Rebecca says:

    Oh this photo made me feel so much better! I’m a SAHM to 4 kids, and my kitchen looks like that regularly. Tonight, in fact.
    I have 2 at school and the 2 littler ones at nursery some of the week – but I don’t spend that time cleaning :)
    I think it is the cooking and managing screen time.
    I know school parents who rarely, if ever, cook from scratch and have the tv on constantly and they have cleaner/tidier kitchens.
    As many have said,it is worth sacrificing a tidy kitchen for real food and managed screen time :)

  24. ellen says:

    The only reason my kitchen does not look like that all the time any more is because my kids are grown and gone and I only work part time now. When a person actually uses the kitchen it gets into that state from time to time. Can’t be helped. I never mastered the “clean as you go” process, so my kitchen gets in a state but the food is very good. Loads of things are more important, and the mess will wait until you are ready.

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