At the end of the dinner shift, restaurants “close the kitchen,” which means they stop making food. Leftover food is put in the fridge, dishes are washed and put back where they belong, and the counters are cleaned.
Most of us clean up our kitchens and dining areas after dinner. Every night, I would clear the table, load the dishwasher, and wash the sink. That was the end of it. I thought it would be too much work to clean up even more until I heard about “closing down” the kitchen and not touching anything in it until the next day.
This is a great way to clean and organize your kitchen, and it also helps you live a healthier life. And it has changed how I do things after dinner. And it doesn’t just change the evening. If you clean up the kitchen and shut it down at the end of the day, you’ll be ready to go the next morning.
WHAT THE PROS SAY ABOUT WHY SHUTTING DOWN THE KITCHEN WORKS
She may be my go-to exercise guru and an expert on intermittent fasting, but I didn’t think of fitness hall-of-famer and NYT best-selling author JJ Virgin as an expert on home decor and interior design until I heard her tip about closing the kitchen each night after dinner.
“This is a rule that can’t be broken. In fact, she says on her YouTube channel, “If I could have a padlock and an armed guard at the kitchen door, I probably would.” She told fellow fitness pro Kathy Smith, “The most important thing I teach people is to shut down the kitchen after dinner and get the hell out of there” (opens in new tab). “Go sit down in your tub. Don’t go in there again.’
I did what JJ told me to do because I like time-limited eating, where I don’t eat anything between dinner and breakfast, not even a snack or a glass of wine. But when I saw what would happen if I “closed down” the kitchen every night, it became more of a choice about how I wanted to live.
What were they? Since there’s no visible mess, I feel like I have more control over how my house is set up. This saves me time when deciding what groceries to buy and making meals.
I’m happier and calmer in my space now that it’s clean and free of clutter.
And when I close the kitchen every day, it’s easy to stay on top of any mess, so I can have friends over to hang out at the table without having to clean a lot before they come.
And yes, I’m less likely to snack in the evenings. If a breadboard is already covered with crumbs, who will notice a few more? If it’s already clean, wiped down, and put away, there’s no way I’ll take it out again.
Here’s what I do to “close down” the kitchen. See if it could make a difference for you…
1. CLEAN THE TABLE AND COUNTER TOPS
My kitchen is an eat-in kitchen, so my family eats dinner together at the table and takes turns clearing the dishes when we’re done. If you have a kitchen diner or a kitchen island with space to eat, clearing them is the first step to closing down the kitchen.
At the same time, I’ll clear off and clean the kitchen countertops, preferably with an eco-friendly or natural homemade kitchen cleaner so I know I’m not bringing any toxins into the room.
From experience and a lot of trial and error with where to put small appliances like kettles and stand mixers, I know that this is easier to do when my kitchen countertops are well-organized.
2. CLEAN-UP POTS AND DISHES
Next, put dirty pots, pans, and cooking tools in the dishwasher or sink so they can be cleaned. Did I say that my dishwasher is my favorite appliance because it makes cleaning dishes easy? If you agree, show your appreciation by knowing how to clean a dishwasher so it keeps working well.
“When I was a kid, my kitchen was the only room that was cleaned every day. Dilly Carter, the founder of Declutter Dollies and author of Create Space: Declutter Your Home to Clear Your Mind, remembers that every morning when she went downstairs, the kitchen was always clean.
“Even now, before I go to sleep, I always clean my kitchen. It’s so sad to see greasy pots and pans in the sink from the night before. At home, the dishes had to be done every night before bed.
I agree with Dilly, so when I started my kitchen clean-up routine, I made sure I knew how to clean a kitchen sink like a pro, in addition to my reliable dishwasher. And I made sure to make the area around the kitchen sink easy to clean.
3. SWEEP THE KITCHEN FOR MESS
Here, my motto is “little and often.” I’ve learned from experience that the key to a good kitchen clean up is knowing how to clean the stove burners so that food doesn’t dry on them.
I’ll run the vacuum over the floor and mop the kitchen floor if it looks like it needs it. I’ll also clean the sink and countertops.
If it sounds like a lot, trust me, I’m a lazy housekeeper and it’s not. I like to clean as quickly and as little as possible, so while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, I’ll also wipe down and clean the kitchen cabinets. And once a week, I’ll clean out my fridge before I get my next delivery of groceries.
4. PUT DRY DISHES AWAY
Okay, I don’t empty my dishwasher until the morning because that would break my rule that I can’t go back into the kitchen after it’s closed. But I make sure to dry and put away anything left on the drainer.
“Don’t put things in the sink drain. This is just another way to put things off, which is a bad habit we’re trying to break, says Debora Robertson, author of Declutter: How to Make Calm Out of Chaos: The Real-World Guide.
“Wash and put away the dishes. Rinse the sink out. Swipe the surface with a damp cloth. Future You will be so thankful because there is nothing worse than starting your day by doing work from the day before.
When I think about what Past Me did, Present Me agrees with Debora. Future You, take note!
5. MAKE SURE THERE IS A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
Restaurants have perfected the art of putting away pots and pans, so closing the kitchen is as smooth as the chef’s roux sauce. At home, the same rule applies.
When you know where all your kitchen tools, utensils, and tableware go, it’s much easier to clean up the kitchen, and you can always find that whisk when you need it.
So, that’s all. Close the door, turn off the light, and lock the kitchen, but don’t forget to fill a flask with water first. When you go back inside the next morning, you won’t find dirty dishes or crumbs from a late-night snack. Instead, the space will be clean and shiny.