How Do You Pick Your Battles? (My Kitchen is a Mess!)

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Back when we followed the Standard American Diet, mostly all I did was play with my babies, scrapbook, and keep my house clean. My house rarely had anything out of place. My memories of those days consist of me following the little toodles around, folding laundry, clearing counters, teaching the kiddos how to pick up their toys, reading books… That’s pretty much all we did. Those were good times, don’t get me wrong.

Now that I cook with real foods and blog about it daily, I still play and read with my babies (though they’re bigger – we call it “school” now). But I don’t scrapbook anymore and my house goes from clean to unclean in about 5 seconds – and it is often my fault. 😉 Just when I think the dishes are done, the kitchen explodes again.

The counters are covered with pets, and each baby – Kombucha, water kefir, dairy kefir, cheese, lacto-fermentation, sprouting, dehydrating, sourdough bread, and more – has its own station. It’s a wonder we have anywhere to cut veggies or put our dishes. Some tableware rarely makes it back to the cupboard after being pulled down – why bother if I’m just going to need them again tomorrow?

I have to pick my battles, see? We’d (gonna speak for my husband here too although he really would prefer more tidiness) rather be on this side of the fence – enjoying what we’re learning both in school and with good food. But in order to have that we have to work around messes that are constantly being made and un-made.

Our house could either be sterile and unused, or growing and thriving (cultures included). Even though I look around at the clutter and growing stations least 50 times a day and wonder how I’m ever going to get ahead of this cluttered ship, I’m glad we’re on this journey.

I’m not saying that I’m okay with the house being a mess all the time – no, I’d really like to get a better handle on that. Part of that is a matter of delegation – giving my kids more responsibilities, and we’re working on that. What I’m saying is that I’m okay with the house not being immaculate all the time.

How about you? Can you relate to this? How do you balance a living kitchen, a full life, and personal goals of keeping your living quarters livable?

P.S. I realize as I write this that things seem really bad right now because my dishwasher died. 😉

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays! at FoodRenegade.

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!


  1. says

    Can I ever? My kitchen is a constant mess since I make everything from scratch! And of course I have boxes of fruit on the floor, canning jars, food mills and other whatnots out, a worm composter to trip over, chicken food and then there are the kids toys that get dropped when they come in to be with me.

    I’ll never understand what lives must have been like in 1947 when our house was built. As long as I can remember I’ve been in the kitchen and so has the rest of my family – so why did they make kitchens so tiny back then?
    .-= Sustainable Eats´s last blog post… When Life Gives You Too Many Eggs…Make Eggnog =-.

  2. says

    Even though I’m not doing all the cultures that you are, I still have dirty pots on the stove all the time and cutting boards, spatulas and other cooking utensils in the sink waiting to be washed. Count yourself blessed that you have a dishwasher AND children to help. I have neither. :/ I have a deal with my husband that I will wash all the things I use to cook with, and he washes all the tableware stashed in the tub under the sink. Even then, I sometimes let down on my part of the deal.

    I absolutely loathe cooking, mostly because of the mess that’s left behind. Having been at this new whole foods way of life for over 2 months, I have slowly become accustomed to it. Though I still would love to just throw a frozen entree into the microwave and eat already!
    .-= Liz´s last blog post… Another October Baby! =-.

  3. says

    Oh, Wardee! I can SO relate! We started our real-food journey in earnest in the middle of recovering from a home remodeling project (still not entirely unpacked almost a year later, and the possibility looms that we might have to move out again for a few month to correct bad workmanship on the contractor’s part). My small (even with two new rooms added!) home is always in a state of cluttered chaos no matter how hard I try to get a handle on it. Like you, I have realized that the only way we’re going to rise above it is to involve the kids and delegate some of the work. In addition, we are trying to just get rid of STUFF—a huge challenge with little ones around. It’ll be a constant battle for some time, I’m sure. I think what bothers me most is when I visit other people whose homes are immaculate (even other homeschoolers!), and I so want my house to look like theirs! (And it has been hurtful to hear sometimes from well-meaning but not very thoughtful people that I “keep my house casual” or “thrive on chaos”—as though my home is a disaster on purpose or because I like it that way.) But then I realize most of them do not have four children under 10—nor are they doing the real-food things we are involved in. It is my heart’s desire to have a welcoming, inviting, clean, comfortable home in addition to nutritious, delicious meals and creative, well-educated children of high character. I just don’t know if it’s possible to have it all at one time! It’s my prayer every day that I can make a little more progress toward each of these goals. :-)
    .-= Sonya Hemmings´s last blog post… Souper Supper =-.

  4. Jessica says

    I feel the exact same way. I try so hard, but I am always cooking. I have multiple things soaking and sprouting its hard. But we have improved our health so much I would give up a clean house for health. And its so much better than watching my kids have allergies, and dental issues, and watching them suffer the ill effects of poor food for the rest of their lives. And so I press on in the mess house I call a home.

    I love you blog by the way. I found it this week. I am making sprouted spelt bread right now :)

  5. says

    I don’t have children yet, so I’m hoping that the practice I’m doing now, with my sourdough starter, my brewing kombucha, my sprouting grains, etc will be so normal to me by the time I have little ones that I’ll be able to keep things organized. However, even now I wonder how my kitchen stays untidy. It’s clean, but messy. Hopefully, practice will make perfect? Or when I have kids I’ll just have more dishes to clean. 😉
    .-= gilliebean´s last blog post… Real Ice Cream =-.

  6. says

    I live with my daughter and son in law and their five kids soon to be six next year. They bought an old farmhouse that is really not big enough anymore with me and my other daughter and baby here now too.(No money to add on) We are constantly reorganizing things, doing laundry, going through stuff, baking, kefiring, yogurting, canning, etc. etc. so mess is a way of life sometimes. Wew do not even do everything you do as yet. Then throw in homeschool, gardening, chicken, duck, and goat raising and still not enough people or time to keep it neat. But there is plenty of love so we all need to learn to overlook the messes many times. At 58 years old, all you younguns with the kids out there remember this tiime passes oh so quickly! Blessings……
    .-= Abiga/Karen´s last blog post… Never Enough Time =-.

  7. says

    I was just thinking that my kitchen has been a mess since I started doing more traditional foods. There is always something out and growing. There is almost always a pot on the stove or the crock pot is out. There are always dishes drying in the rack and sometimes a few more that won’t fit in the sink. I keep thinking I have to get them put away. However, we only have places for storage for things we aren’t using. My stuff is out because it is being used. If I didn’t want to use it, when why did I buy it? The questions go on.

    I think a slightly messy kitchen is a kitchen that is being used and that IS after all why we have them.
    .-= Bonnie´s last blog post… Finding Community by Eating Locally =-.

  8. Lisa says

    May I just say, that I appreciate the genuineness of your site: the topics and frank thoughts are refreshing and make me feel like we’re friends though we’ve never met.
    Messy kitchens are real kitchens. They are being used. Those hyper-tidy counter tops and empty sinks we see advertised are unused, lifeless,sterile.
    Praise God for the clutter that comes from leading a real-food life! I have 8 children, my first four are less than 5 years apart. And the glorious messes are all worth it, especially as I teach my children to work in the kitchen and they learn at a young age those things I had to start learning with a house full of toddlers and babies! Give your children the food advantage and teach them the delight of hard work(of course we are still very much a work in progress here! )
    that they would be way ahead of us when they start their own families in just a very few short years. “Where no oxen are the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox” Prov. 14:4
    Real food is messy. So is real life. Look at the grasses growing on a patch of meadow–messy. God never meant for us to lead sterile, picture perfect, sanitized lives. That is just man’s invention. But real food produces much revenue: good health, a good work ethic, and an appreciation for God’s provision and majesty in those amazing enzymes and bacteria! May we rejoice in the process as well as in the final product of our hands! (And who said dishes had to be kept in the kitchen? Why can’t little hands run over to the hall closet and take out a cookie sheet for us? They love to help that way! There are creative ways to find places for everything, including sprouts, yogurt, sourdough,etc. and to make it all look lovely as well!)
    Rejoice in the creating and the creative organizational skills learned in this real food journey!

    • says

      “Where no oxen are the manger is clean… Prov. 14:4”

      Oh!!! I have to paint this SOMEWHERE in my kitchen! You’ve no idea how much this post has helped me feel so much better about things. We are busy …like everyone else… but my kitchen and house is always…messier. I don’t think I’ve had the kitchen completely cleaned the past year since we started doing the GAPS diet. I’ve Kombucha (10 gallons brewing at a time as I use it to ferment the chicken’s feed and for us.) brewing, my broth ALWAYS on, raw milk ‘gurtin’ or the drip, drip of whey.

      After reading this I realized if they had these things THEY’d have the same non-perfect kitchen too. I also realized the mess shows where we live. I’d prefer a messy kitchen over a messy tv area any day.


    • says

      “Where no oxen are the manger is clean… Prov. 14:4”

      Oh!!! I have to paint this SOMEWHERE in my kitchen! You’ve no idea how much this post has helped me feel so much better about things. We are busy …like everyone else… but my kitchen and house is always…messier. I don’t think I’ve had the kitchen completely cleaned the past year since we started doing the GAPS diet. I’ve Kombucha (10 gallons brewing at a time as I use it to ferment the chicken’s feed and for us.) brewing, my broth ALWAYS on, raw milk ‘gurtin’ or the drip, drip of whey.

      After reading this I realized if they had these things THEY’d have the same non-perfect kitchen too. I also realized the mess shows where we live. I’d prefer a messy kitchen with multiple little step stools, to break my toes on, over a messy tv area and no little helpers any day.


  9. says

    clean as you go, if that’s possible!

    to be honest, my kitchen is often messy, but i do like the rest of our home tidy, though it’s not neccesarilly “clean”, ie. I pick up and sweep, even vacuum the two rugs we have, every day, but often don’t mop,fold all the laundry, or wash windows.

    but here’smy secret- i don’t make as much stuff from scratch as you do. i live near good bakerys thatmake real sourdoughbread w/local organic grain so i pay 5$ a loaf and gladly! i buy plain whole milk goat keffir from my local co-op, as well as grass fed butter,milk, ect. it would be a lot messier here if i was making butter and kimchi and all that.
    .-= emily´s last blog post… Satisfying Meals for Fall =-.

  10. autumn says

    I totally agree with you…since we started eating a more whole foods diet my kitchen is a mess!! I love that we feel better but I sure hate a messy kitchen!

  11. Greta says

    Wow- yes! I was just thinking of this very topic this morning, well I had a loaf of bread rising, soup bones simmering on the stove for tonight’s dinner, and dealing with a completely botched batch of caramel corn for a party tomorrow (actually started a fire!). My kitchen is in a constant state of being cleaned, only to start all over again on the next meal/project (like the cookies I now have to bake to replace the caramel corn). We usually have baskets of laundry around that I can’t quite find time to fold– at least the clothes are clean! Not to mention the TOYS left hither and nigh by my preschooler. I try to keep her away from the t.v. as much as I can, but the creative messes she comes up with when left to her own devices are amazing! It sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not– I really love the “realness” of what my life has become. This is the only job I have ever really wanted. It’s nice to know others are in the same boat! So, here’s to getting organized (someday)!

  12. Marly says

    My oh my. I was just thinking how tired I was from all the day’s activities: Yogurt making, kefir draining, bread soaking, whey pouring, garbanzo bean boiling, washing, folding, cleaning, sewing (Christmas purses, CUTE) and cooking. Whewwwwwwww, *sigh*. THEN I read all your posts and realized you’re all just as tired as me. Hey, whatd’ya say we all go out for burgers tomorrow? LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

  13. Jen says

    I so relate to this situation! It’s just me and my almost 2 year old son home all day, and it is HARD to get any cleaning done at all. I too am mostly in the kitchen, trying to keep him occupied, and prevent him from making bigger messes than I do. :) Which is practically impossible. I keep my house neat, but it gets dirty. At least I know it is… others may (hopefully!) not see the dirt.

    Your description of pre-real food, sounds like my life pre-son. It was during my research of vaccinations when he was 2 months old that I stumbled upon the WAPF website, and our lives changed forever!

    My method of cleaning (in the past) has always been to do the whole house in one day, so it’s all clean at once. It’s been semi-traumatic to realize that isn’t going to happen again anytime soon. So my struggle is to plan my time so that everything gets done once in a while, on a sort-of regular basis. :)

    The bottom line is though, that our health and nutrition are top priority. So cleaning is delegated to the bottom for now. It did make me feel better when I read an article titled “Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You” in the NY Times. My son is extremely healthy and happy, and that is what matters most.

  14. Charity says

    LOL!!!! I needed to read all of this tonight, as we speak I am off to bed with a huge mess still left in my kitchen… I have yogurt in the maker for overnight and messes everywhere from todays cooking! I had a fussy newborn today and things were wild! 😉 BUT, this is everyday life right now, I am learning whole foods and learning how to homeschool (two BIG things to me) all at once with my 5 little ones (7, 5, 3, 2 and 1 month) I just had a baby last month, so I’m doing this all with a newborn and nursing every 2 hours!! whew!!! LOL!!! God is amazing, and it HAS to be HIM giving us all the grace to walk in what HE has called us to do and with JOY!!! :-)
    So this was SOOOOOO refreshing to read tonight!!!!!
    THANK YOU for your blog, I LOVE it!!!!
    Charity <

  15. says

    My dishwasher broke too, I feel your pain! We decided not to get it fixed, and that was 2 years ago. Now we use it to stack the freshly washed dishes in, makes a great dish drainer that can be shut and put out of sight at a moment’s notice. Love it!
    About the messy kitchen thing, oh my, yes! I very much relate. All I can say is, it is so worth it.

  16. says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have no one else around me that is doing food the way that we are and I sometimes feel soooooo lonely in my mess. LOL

    My kitchen is truly my laboratory and it’s not a “sterile” lab either!

    Blessings to all you fellow scientists,

    .-= Robin´s last blog post… I Will Love Them Freely =-.

  17. says

    I completely agree. I always tell people that I am either about to cook, cooking, or in the process of cleaning up. I never get to see my kitchen with EVERYTHING put away. I also remember the days when my home was always clean. Seems like such a long time ago. I have added more responsibility to my children, but I find it hard to keep track of what they are doing as well as keep track of what I am doing. My husband has been helping with this. With school, a part time job, my business and family my mind feels like it is in constant chaos, which shows in my home. The part time job is temporary, but good to help grow my business, and will help me get clients when I am finished with school, which will be in June.
    I just try to tell myself to enjoy this time, because my children will grow up, and then I will miss the noise and chaos.
    Someone recently told me, “you will have plenty of time to enjoy your clean, EMPTY house.” That is something to think about, and brought perspective me to.
    I am not saying that the mess is their fault, well at least not all of it, but I will have more storage space when they have grown up and moved out. That is a big problem in my home, storage space.
    I feel so blessed in my life to know how to cook real food, even if it does create a bigger mess. I am also teaching my family how to eat real food, which is so important to me, and I know you as well.

  18. Martha Bisharat says

    What joy to read this blog today (and last night) and everyone’s comments! Well, what excuse do I have? I’m retired, the kids are all grown, it’s just my husband and me.

    So, let me take a gander around my 11 linear feet of kitchen counter space and share with you what I also see as chaos (but exciting chaos!). And thanks go out to Wardee’s wonderful summer visit where she re-inspired me AND brought several cultures with her.

    Starting left to right:

    1.) The un-assembled 30 yr old Bosch mixer where I finished today kneading dough for 3 loaves of sourdough wheat bread and then used the food processor blades to make the home fries my hubby loves.

    2.) The oven wherein the 3 loaves are baking right now.

    3.) Last night’s leftover tea in the teapot, my pottery jar of utensils and a bag of fresh roasted peanuts waiting for my Little-pro Cuisinart to make peanut butter.

    4.) Two gallon jars of kombucha schrooms and kombucha waiting for me to start a-fresh and I pray they are still alive.

    5.) The pile of clean pots and pans drying that my husband just did after our noon meal! (Our dishwasher DOES WORK but I still can’t keep up!)

    6.) To the left of the sink: A $5.00 box of older tomatoes waiting for me to make roasted tomato salsa (and the baking sheet sitting there to fill.)

    7.) In the sink: the pail of scraps from the tomato project, plus washing tomato water.

    8.) To the right of the sink: French oven pot to hold the tomatoes for making sauce.

    9.) The Vitamix where I ground the wheat berries now waiting to grind spelt for a poppy seed cake to make, also the sourdough spelt waiting to feed (already put away the wheat sourdough starter).

    10.) In the corner: An unopened set of canning jelly size jars to load in the dishwasher for making crab-apple jelly and concord grape jelly, more washed jars with lids, six jars of finished crab-apple jelly (from C. and B.’s favorite tree).

    11.) Turning the corner: Kefir in the making (it will be ready tomorrow morning), a bunch of fresh bananas, and a half-gallon jar of lacto-fermenting turnips/beets (TY Wardee!).

    12.) Nearing the end of the counter: A project in a shoe box: Putting my seasonings of herbs and spices in new containers (it’s been waiting for me for weeks too), and a dehydrator waiting for tomato slices.

    I think my counter top is a variegated marble-y brown color–can’t remember!
    But what great fun, and yes, the kids do grow up way too fast!


  19. says

    I have only one question……Pets??????????
    After having raised 6 kids now all on their own, cooking from scratch, little if ever any convenience foods prior to eating the way we do today nearly 100% Nourishing Traditions way……my piles aren’t any the less. Cooking for 2 you have just as much of a mess and adding fermentation to the mix does definitely add to the clutter.
    What I have always done is clean as I go. It’s the best policy. I rarely if ever haul everything out that I need at once. I’m a grab it, use it, put it away each ingredient as I work. I also, clean as I go. Pre rinsing each utensil, pot, etc.. and stacking to hand wash or load as I go into the dishwasher. This in so many ways help to not be bothered by the jars here and there, bowls of this and that that are in their process of brewing, souring or whatever.
    But I sure can relate to your Wardee…I’ve had my times when things I will never ever get caught up and more often than not when that does happen, it’s because I let things slide and gotten off track to what is normal to me.

  20. says

    The first thing I did this morning was to clean the kitchen from one corner to the other……about an hour later it was a mess again. Yes, preparing whole foods is quite a bit messier (especially when you compost). I have a 1300 square foot home with decent closet space, but I have constantly been reorganizing (or thinking about reorganizing) since we moved in 6 months ago. With my boyfriend and 2 rambunctious dogs, it is never at the standard “for guests” that I have in my head. We work with it though. We are well fed and well rested people. That’s what matters most to me.
    .-= Amber´s last blog post… What’s been cookin’? =-.

  21. says

    I have two things that keep me sane in the kitchen: pre-meal prep cleanup and a sink full of suds.

    The sinkful is easy. After the dishwasher is loaded post-meal, I run a sinkful of soapy water. If you dirty a dish between meals, you scrape it, rinse it and put it in the suds. That clears up about half of my available counter space.

    We do a kitchen cleanup before meals are started as well. I can’t cook in a dirty kitchen, it makes me crazy. So, we take ten minutes before a meal gets started to wash the sinkful, wipe counters and sweep if needed. Then I can come in and cook. I’m a “clean cook,” washing dishes, drying and putting them away as I go, so the only messes after a meal are the plates and cutlery for that meal. My youngest does breakfast dishes, her next older sister does lunch, the youngest teen gets dinner and the two oldest teens help out as needed.

    Our rule of “whoever cooks doesn’t clean up after” backfired, though. In trying to encourage the kids to cook with the comfort of knowing once the meal was on the table their job is done, I have created very messy cooks who tend to leave a disaster area for someone else.
    .-= Peggy´s last blog post… What Joel Salatin Said =-.

    • says

      To everyone: I have found your responses to be the best of everything I could have desired: encouraging, inspiring, comforting, funny, connecting, and loaded with great advice! Keep it coming…

      (And thank you SO much!)

  22. says

    I also agree with you Wardee, and everyone else who responded, that it is definitely a balancing act to keep a house clean among all the cooking!
    I too find the house a mess several times a day, and yes, it is usually my fault too! But I think in the end, it is all worth it because nothing beats having home cooked meals and nourishing foods for my family.
    .-= Sarah Schatz – menu planners for limited diets´s last blog post… Do you need an Allergen-free Thanksgiving menu plan? =-.

  23. Heather H. says

    I have to say I have never been more thankful to have teenagers in the house. I have found something wonderful about teenagers at long last. They can work just as hard as I can! We started learning about traditional foods a year ago, and the journey together has been so much fun. My 15 year old son is the king of fermentation, he thinks it is the “way coolest thing ever” and i have happily delegated. My 17 year old daughter loves to can and make bread, she has now earned those job titles. My husband is a faithful dishwasher and is fanatical about the kitchen floor being clean.

    So Wardee, hang in there! Your family will be old enough to work along side you very soon. Train them in the way they should go, and you’ll have partners in that kitchen. I actually soaked in the bathtub Saturday while the kids made dinner. wow

  24. Sangeeta says

    I am not very far along on our whole food journey (though I do cook from scratch for the most part) and find it impossible to keep up with the house especially the kitchen. And clutter makes my mind cluttered! Any tips on keeping up with the house and the kitchen in THE LEAST AMOUNT OF TIME are much appreciated! Thanks Peggy and Pamela!

  25. says

    Oh, my. I have been writing this post for about three weeks, and finally finished it today. It expresses my frustration with how difficult life can be when you’re trying to keep up with the nourishing traditions lifestyle. I wonder if it’s the time of year, that makes us all feel like we can’t do it all? How is it we all seem overwhelmed at the same time?
    .-= Katy´s last blog post… Open wide… =-.

  26. says

    Hey, all – if you’re still following this thread – you’ve got to read Katy’s post, “When Katy Met Sally” – it is linked in the comment above mine.

  27. says

    Thank you for this post! I have been a clutterbug my entire life, although as I’ve gotten older, and experienced the healing touch from the Lord on my emotions, I’ve gotten better at housekeeping. I’ve always felt that, at least for myself, the level of outward clutter in my home was a barometer of sorts for the level of clutter in my heart, mind and emotions.

    I’m scatter-brained…I’m an out-of-sight-out-of-mind kind of person, so I like to have everything out so I don’t forget to use it…I struggle with establishing routines (nothing seems to stick very long aside from get up, get through the day, go to bed and repeat)…my desk is always covered in I don’t even know what…and my kitchen, which I feel is the heart of my home (and where I spend 90% of my day) is usually a disaster.

    And yet…I crave order. I long for airy, open spaces…not sterility, but just not so much STUFF all over everywhere! I get so frustrated with myself because even though I desperately crave order, like one lost in the desert desperately needs water, I just can’t seem to make it happen. These two posts have encouraged me and given me some practical ideas…along with the terrific comments! While I will still wage the war against clutter and messes, I am thankful to have a new perspective on them…and learn to appreciate them for what they can be, a reminder of life well lived with those I love the most.

  28. says

    oh, I forgot to add one thing I’ve done to help tame the mess in the kitchen. Since no one here likes to do the dishes, they tend to pile up…especially since I cook from scratch now. Out of desperation one day, I decided to give every member of the family one place setting: dinner plate, small plate, bowl, glass, knife, fork and spoon. I packed the rest of the dishes away in a closet. If you use something between meals, you can wash it if you want to eat off of it at the next meal, unless someone did dishes before then. I’m trying to be better about washing dishes after each meal, it’s not so overwhelming that way. But cutting down the number of POTENTIAL dishes has really helped, although it is not a cure-all…as I type this, I’m in the middle of washing dishes that should have been done earlier today…and it’s almost midnight. But it’s so much easier to face the day with a clean kitchen, not to mention preparing meals. Sometimes I can make myself get it done…other times, I just don’t. But, I’m getting better, slowly but surely 😉

    • says

      Dawn — I love that idea to simplify the potential dishes mess. You’re so right — we tend to use it if it is around. I may try this someday (soon). Thanks for sharing!

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