This Simple Trick Changed the Way I Clean My Kitchen Each Night

Photographer: Levi MandelRestrictions: Editorial and internal use only. No advertising or print allowed.
POPSUGAR Photography | Levi Mandel
POPSUGAR Photography | Levi Mandel

Our family's round, hand-me-down butcher block kitchen table has seen a lot of love in its day. It was once my father and his ex-wife's kitchen table, then my parents', then my brother's, then my other brother's, and now mine. But you wouldn't know it, because the thing is in impeccable shape, perhaps a testament to the quality of the wood and the finish. But I'm not here to talk about the table; rather, I want to talk about what's on the table. What, after I've put my daughter down for the night and I can finally relax, stares back at me. Stacking cups, pop-up books with torn-off unicorn horns, Happy Baby Puffs crumbs, smeared strawberries from the morning, milk splatters, dog slobber, and food crud from things my daughter decided midchew she didn't want to finish because the dog distracted her. Then there are the games, developmental toys, and a monstrous Spin & Spin Alphabet Zoo that's perpetually on its last bit of battery.

For months I'd see these things and feel overwhelmed by them, knowing full well that if I woke up and reentered the kitchen, the table would put me in a terrible mood. I like to start my mornings alone, before anyone else is up (if I can swing it), sitting quietly at the kitchen table, drinking my coffee, and getting caught up on email. But I can't do that if the table is covered in sticky filth. And I'm way too tired in the morning to even think about scraping hardened food off of the wood.

So I started doing this one simple thing that's completely changed everything for me. I bought a lidded bread basket ($48) and placed it on top of the kitchen table. The basket itself is pretty and sparks joy. When I come into the kitchen at night, I set a timer for three minutes and give myself exactly that to get the table in order. Prebasket, I was stacking all of the toys in a neat pile that was still unsightly. Now, I toss everything into the basket and pop the lid on. Next, I spray the top and underside of the table with my Brandless multisurface spray, including the high chair arms and seat, then I wipe everything down, and I'm done. It doesn't even take the full three minutes, but cleaning up food the night of prevents it from getting too hard to wipe off. Everything comes up easily, and all of the big unsightly toys are hidden in the basket.

In the morning, I get to wake up and smile looking at a sparkling clean table.