The kitchen is really one of the most important rooms in the whole house. Whether you have a large family or not, having a small kitchen brings challenges and it can be hard to organize a small kitchen and stay sane cooking there!
When we moved to this rental house, I left a fairly good size kitchen with a nice big island and plenty of cabinets. I grew up living in smaller size houses, so I knew the challenges that would lay ahead.
The kitchen we have is 75 square feet, and has one strip of cabinets and countertops.
We have lived here two years now, and I remember crying once as I was cooking, trying to get dinner on when the dishes were dirty and there was literally no place to do anything.
I’ve come to the conclusion (and thankfully my husband agrees with me!) that it is almost impossible to keep this kitchen super clean looking.
We have moments where the dishes were just done, countertops wiped down and everything is put away. But with 8 people in this house, a dirty dish will almost instantly pop up on the counter, a meal will need to be started and there goes your clean kitchen!
Homemakers that have larger kitchens struggle with that also, but when you have a small kitchen the mess is just magnified.
I’ve learned a few things over the two years we have lived here.
1. Patience is a must when cooking in a small kitchen.
When you are trying to cook a nice dinner from scratch you have to be flexible and patient on how you will pull that off. One time I put my cutting board on top of a stack of dirty dishes and cut the veggies I needed for dinner! The goal is to get dinner on the table and still have a smile on your face when you sit down. I don’t always manage to do that, but I try.
This is what the kitchen can really look like after a meal has been prepared!
2. Only keep the essential items you need!
Thankfully we have a storage area in the attached garage that is downstairs where I store my large crockpots and really large pans. The main set of cooking pans I use are stored under our stove in the pull out drawer.
We use Corelle dishes (love them!) and I only keep 8 large dinner plates, 8 small plates and 8 bowls that we use on a regular basis. I don’t have room for a lot of dishes here, and it forces us to wash dishes on a regular basis and not let them sit for long.
Our large plates were being washed when I took this picture, but you can see they go on the bottom. Having the plate stacker is helpful when you are trying to use small spaces wisely. We have some plastic plates and bowls for the little children.
I also have a set of nicer dishes from Mary and Martha, and we use those when I manage to make a fancier dinner. 😉 Again, we have just enough and no more.
3. Limit your helpers in the kitchen!
Three of my children are always asking to help me in the kitchen. While I want to encourage my children to cook there just isn’t space for all of them in there at once! So we rotate helpers, and I normally try to just have one helping me. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, and we don’t have an organized schedule set up. But the children know that I often just allow one child in at a time for meal prep.
There are even times where I’m in a hurry and I just tell them nobody is allowed in the kitchen while I’m getting the meal ready. The children all help set the table, so they come in at the end to get the plates, utensils, and drinks.
4. Don’t clutter up your countertops.
Even when I had a larger kitchen I learned to keep my countertops as simple as possible. I would rather pull out the kitchen item I need (like a grain grinder, a toaster, a waffle maker) from a cabinet instead of it sitting on my countertop.
When you have a smaller kitchen you need to be jealous of the limited countertop space you have. When you actually have those moments where all the dishes are done and the countertops are sparkling, you will appreciate the space!
The exception I make to this rule are the items I use almost daily. I make a yogurt shake often, so I keep our Vitamix blender out on the counter. My Bosch mixer is used for making bread and cookies, and it is really heavy lifting out of cabinets, so it stays on the countertop. We also keep our butter dish out, and that is it.
5. Stay on top of the dishes!
Don’t let yourself get days behind on dishes. While we don’t do dishes after every single meal, they are done at least once a day, oftentimes twice. We have a dishwasher, but it was broke for a few months last year. That was when I broke down crying, because I felt like I was never caught up on dishes and I was spending my life in the kitchen washing dishes constantly!
If you don’t have a dishwasher, seriously look into investing in one! They even have portable dishwashers for smaller kitchens that don’t have the space.
Our oldest child helps with the dishes often (that is his morning chore) and I pitch in and help once in awhile. If you are a mama of only little ones and struggling to keep up, hang in there! When your child gets old enough to help with the dishes you will feel like shouting Hallelujah!
6. Don’t feel guilty about using paper plates.
There is no shame in buying paper plates once in a while. When I know I’m going to be extra busy, or I don’t feel well for extended amounts of time I will make sure that we have paper plates in the house. When I was pregnant and sick we purchased the large packages of paper plates from Costco. Other times I just grab a cheap package at Aldi’s. If your dishes are really piled up and you just can’t get caught up, use paper plates until the kitchen gets under control again!
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