So life’s been insanely busy these past few weeks. Something I’m sure none of you can relate to. Too busy to vacuum the kitchen floor – which is, let’s face it, not my favorite activity anyway. (Funny how dust allergies can do that to a gal.) But that doesn’t stop my enthusiastic eaters from eating three meals a day with gusto. Having a cleaner kitchen seems like an idea straight out of neverland.
Or maybe you just loooove to vacuum – you live to vacuum, in fact – but, like me, your kitchen is almost directly under the kiddos’ bedrooms. And your kiddos are terrified of the sound of a running vacuum. And, like me, you can’t seem to find a whole lot of otherwise-unoccupied minutes when you have the house to yourself and nothing better to do than vacuum.
Either way, here are two of my hacks for making life with pint-sized eaters a slightly less messy affair.
1) Cover your food-landing zone with a sheet of plastic. I’m serious. When Kimmie was in the learning-to-eat (and learning-to-spread-food-within-a-wide-radius-of-her-highchair) phase, we taped an old plastic tablecloth, the kind you can usually get cheap at a dollar store at the start of summer, to the floor under her chair. We tucked the edges under the edge of the rug and taped the edges to the rug’s underside. (Yes, an area rug in a kitchen with young kiddos is a not-so-bright idea in the first place; but I’d fallen in love with the rug and wasn’t willing to compromise that aspect of my kitchen décor for a decade or more, while I waited for our little ones to outgrow their messiest eating phases.)
It was a lot easier to sweep the plastic clean, up to 3x/day if needed, with a broom or Swiffer sweeper than it was to haul out the vacuum to use on the rug. (Not to mention easier on the rug itself.)
When we graduated from one child on solids to two, we started getting plastic remnants at fabric stores, which often sell clear heavy-duty plastic by the yard. Now our plastic stretches all the way from one end of the breakfast nook to the other. In our dining room, where a privacy door catches on the edge of the area rug under the table when we use the heavy-duty clear plastic, we’ve used a heavy-duty black plastic trash bag instead. The contractor-weight ones are ideal for this.
2) Consider reusable washcloths and a kitchen drying rack. When Kimmie started solids, the thought of burning up to a roll of paper towel per day cleaning up her eating messes seemed neither environmentally-friendly nor budget-friendly. So we amassed a stash of about two dozen cheap fabric washcloths, with which to wipe her clean after every meal.
We soon had a problem, though: What to do with the washcloths once they were wet? (Or, for that matter, the spit-up-on clothing, wet dishtowels, etc.?) We suddenly no longer had the time or freedom to take dirty/wet items down to the laundry room as often as they needed to go. And even a ventilated plastic laundry basket in the corner didn’t seem to work; by the time things made it to the basement, there was bound to be some damp thing in the bottom of the basket, starting to mildew and stinking up everything else.
Solution: I took an extra compact drying rack up to the kitchen and set it up in the corner, with its own piece of old tablecloth underneath. Suddenly we had a place to store wet washcloths and towels headed for the laundry room, dirty washable bibs, and those spit-up-on clothes until I had time to take them downstairs to wash them. As we moved beyond baby bibs, it became a place to store feeding trays, kiddo placemats, and wipe-clean and sink-washable bibs between meals while they dried.
I can’t say these two hacks have solved all my challenges in maintaining a cleaner kitchen, but they sure have helped to contain some of the mess.