January 9, 2020  

Creating An Evening Kitchen Shutdown Routine (So Your Kitchen Is Always Clean!)

Tired of waking up to a sink of dirty dishes every morning? This quick 10-15 minute evening kitchen routine is just the thing you need to ensure your kitchen is always clean and no longer a constant source of stress.


There’s nothing worse than seeing a sink piled high with dirty dishes first thing in the morning. It immediately affects my mood and makes me grumpy. You, too?

Another big stressor for me is coming home from work to cluttered counters and the dirty pots and pans from last night’s dinner still sitting on the stovetop. Ugh!

The kitchen has been a source of stress for me my entire adult life. Not only do I not enjoy cooking all that much, but it had become our norm to let the dirty dishes and kitchen messes accumulate during the busy work week.

And you know what that means? Spending your entire Saturday morning scrubbing stuck-on spaghetti sauce off the counter and getting soggy hands from having to wash a bazillion dishes. (ask me how I know ;)



After years of the kitchen being messy all week and playing catch-up on the weekends, I finally decided enough was enough. I HAD to figure out a better system. And guess what? I was successful in creating a system that works!!

I call it my Kitchen Shutdown Routine and I’m here to share it with you today because making this a habit has changed my life!

Here are a few reasons this evening kitchen routine is life-changing:

  • it relieves a ton of stress by keeping your kitchen in a constant state of “clean enough”
  • it’s much more enjoyable to cook in a clean kitchen (and more cooking at home = less eating out = more money in the bank)
  • it resets the kitchen and gets you ahead for tomorrow
  • even if the rest of the house is a disaster, having a clean kitchen (the hub of your home) makes a big difference
  • keeping a room clean is far, far easier than letting it go all week and having to play catch-up later

If you wish your kitchen was almost always mostly clean instead of almost always dirty, this is the evening routine you’ve probably been missing!

Related: My Proven 5-Step System For Creating A Daily Routine


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My Kitchen Shutdown Routine

I’m sharing my nightly kitchen routine with you here with the hope that it will inspire you to implement it in your house! This is something I do immediately after dinner every night and its been so helpful. You may want to switch it up a bit to fit your needs, but hopefully, this gives you a great starting point.

A few notes before we dive in:

  • This routine is all about getting things back to a baseline clean. No deep cleaning involved, just the minimal things needed to keep your kitchen and your house running smoothly.
  • Get your family involved! Make this a regular thing you do after you eat every night so everyone contributes if they’re able and the load doesn’t all fall on you.
  • I don’t follow this perfectly every night–in fact, there are nights here and there where I skip it altogether! But the beauty of household routines is that even if you miss a day, you can work to catch back up the next day.

1. Clear The Table

Clear everything from the dinner table and bring it into the kitchen. Also, take a second to gather any other drinking glasses or dishes that have been left around the house.

2. Put Food Away

Put away ingredients that were left on the counter after cooking, transfer leftovers to food storage containers (these are my absolute favorite).

Related: Organize Your Fridge From Top To Bottom

Related: How To Organize Your Small Pantry


3. Load The Dishwasher

If you have a dishwasher, use it to your advantage. Load everything that’s dishwasher safe and then set the delay start so it will run while you’re sleeping. (We’re a smaller family so I generally run ours every other night once it’s mostly full.)

Bonus Tip: Designate a time of day when you will empty your dishwasher! This was a huge problem for us because clean dishes would sit in there for days which resulted in dirty dishes piling up on the counter. It’s now a habit to unload the dishwasher while I’m making my coffee in the morning so it’s always empty and ready to put dishes directly into throughout the day and after dinner that night.


4. Deal With Empty Containers & Boxes

Break down boxes, rinse out empty tin cans and add them to your recycling bin. Gather up any garbage left on the counters and toss in the trash can.

Bonus Tip: As you are tossing empty food packaging, take a second to add that item to your grocery list so you don’t forget to restock!

5. Wash The Dishes

Wash pots, pans and any other remaining dishes that can’t go in the dishwasher. You don’t need to spend time wiping them dry, just let them air dry overnight.

Quick Tip: Instead of a bulky dish drying rack on the counter, I simply use the second side of our standard divided sink as a spot for things to dry. I literally wash, rinse and then pile things up on that side of the sink and let them air dry there.

Related: Making Cleanup Fast With An Organized Kitchen Sink & DIY Soap Dispenser


6. Clear The Counters

Tidy up the counters and put things back where they belong. Don’t let clutter pile up on your counters!

7. Clean Surfaces

Wipe down the counters, stovetop, and table. (I like to use the multipurpose spray from Grove Collaborative for our laminate counters and dining table.)


8. Clean Floors

Do a quick sweep to get any crumbs and spot mop any spills. This isn’t about deep cleaning (unless you want to, I suppose), this is just about returning your kitchen to its baseline level of clean.

9. Take out the garbage/recycling

If the trash can or recycling bin is full, take care of them right away.

10. Prep for the next morning 

Set out coffee mugs, pack lunches, plan/prep for breakfast, move frozen meat to the fridge to defrost….do anything you can think of to set get yourself ahead for tomorrow.


This kitchen shutdown routine has been so helpful to my sanity! I don’t mind cooking dinner nearly as much when I have a clean kitchen to work in. We pack more lunches to bring to work when the counters are cleared off in the mornings. And walking through the kitchen no longer puts me in an instant bad mood.

Do you have a similar evening routine? What’s your system for keeping the kitchen clean? If this is an area you struggle with, I encourage you to start initiating a kitchen shutdown routine in your house. Remember, get the family involved if they’re able!

Looking for more blog posts about creating routines? Take a look at these:

Have a fantastic day!

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a working mom juggling two young kids, a corporate job, and all that goes into managing a home. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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