The excellence of a clean kitchen reminds me of the prayer "A clean heart create in me, O Lord." If the heart is the center of the self, the kitchen is the center of the home. I'm afraid, though, that when it comes to the cleanliness of a kitchen, one must take a Pelagian point of view, pull oneself up by one's own bootstraps and scrub the blessed thing.
As my kitchen is in the heart of a 330 year old attic, cleanliness is a relative term. I am in awe when I look at the shining surfaces of the restaurant kitchens of Master Chef. Where do the chefs keep the spice rack? Or the spice shelf? And who cleans the grease off the walls? For me, the cleanliness of my kitchen is not a daily given but a work in progress.
In general, I am satisfied with a tidy kitchen. There is nothing like walking into the kitchen the morning after the night before and discovering that I washed every last dish and scrubbed the counters and even swept the floor before I went to bed. I should probably mention that we don't own an automatic dishwasher. I am the dishwasher although not, alas, automatic.
There are women who vent their rages or assuage their depressions with therapeutic bouts of scrubbing. I am not them; I wish I were. How wonderful it would be if, when the red mist or blue funk cleared, the flat sparkled! However, even when I did three hours of housework every day (a wonderful period BA remembers fondly), the flat didn't sparkle or even shine for the floors are covered either with 10 year old sand-coloured wall-to-wall carpets or with dull blue linoleum. How I wish the lino was tiles and the wall-to-wall was varnished wood. Still, I cannot complain, for the house is historical.
Well, I will complain an little bit about the kitchen, for it has not been painted with kitchen paint (and so the paint has flaked like mad) and the counter is not entirely water-resistant (and so one fights a perpetual battle with grot). Most maddeningly, there is not always hot water when I want it. For reasons I do not fully understand, to get hot water at most times of the day, I have to push a button twice and wait an hour. However, in most other ways, the tidiness and cleanliness of the kitchen is up to me, and in my dreams I have the energy to rearrange every pantry shelf and wash the walls at least once a month. Maybe there is some drug one can take to make this possible.
For the time being, I rely on The Killers. When the pile of dirty dishes has reached a certain height, or I can no longer stand the disorder of the spice shelf (which runs along the length of the wall behind the stove, counter and sink), I put Hot Fuss in the portable CD player and crank it up.
Meanwhile, the clean kitchen is a work in progress. As dishes keep getting dirty and leftovers keep moving into the fridge, cleaning the kitchen is a Sisyphean task, but recently I have made inroads in the overall tidiness by throwing out broken appliances. This is not as easy as it sounds, for all rubbish bags and recycling must be carried the length of the flat, down a few flights of slippery stone stairs, through a courtyard, past the woods, and through at least two gates to an enormous bin that is not always in the same place. However, the removal of seven years' worth of broken appliances has made a great improvement, even though I feel guilty about the landfill aspect of it all. Possibly one should never buy cheap appliances but work and save so that one can buy appliances with lifetime guarantees.
The sad irony of married life is that when I lived in a bachelor flat with a tiny kitchen, keeping the kitchen spotless was no trouble at all. On Saturdays I positively enjoyed pottering around my small domain, sweeping and scrubbing. Now I have to goad myself into it. Really, it makes no sense---except, of course, for the lowering effect of turning on the hot tap and getting nothing but cold water.