In my house, the kitchen is totally view-able from the front door (bad design!), so I try hard to clean up as I go along. I love to cook, and I always look for new ideas on how to be efficient about cleaning up.
A few things that I do that help also:
Have a “garbage bowl” (a la chef Rachael Ray) out whenever you cook or clean up, esp if your garbage can is not very convenient. If you compost, you already do something like this. Having somewhere to put scraps or trash right near your chopping board helps a lot with the mess of cooking. (It’s kind of funny that she is actually selling a “garbage bowl” of her own...) If you use a pretty bowl, and empty it and wash it each time, it really helps keep your kitchen neat.
Be strict about emptying the dishwasher if you have one. (Already mentioned in the thread, I know...)A friend of mine says that she always empties it the minute she walks into the kitchen if the dishes are clean. When my kids were little, I found this a big burden, though, so I would put a dishpan under the sink. If I had a few stray dishes before I had a chance to unload, I would put them in the dishpan. This helps keep your kitchen tidy. If the dishpan under the sink was full, my delaying time for emptying the dishwasher was officially over.
I have a big stack of cloth napkins along with a whole bunch of kitchen towels. I use them to wipe up and dry things as I go along. I launder them all separately in hot water. It also cuts down on the use of paper towels (yes, I still use them, but try to use as few as possible).
Put everything back immediately. I have heard that you should imagine a string is attached to every item you get out, linking it with its “place.” But I like “erase the evidence” even better.
Take as much out of your kitchen as you can and keep it as spare as possible. My kitchen is also the back entrance to our house, the one that our family uses. So I have to patrol it and protect it from kid clutter, etc. It’s a lot harder to cook and keep clean if there is a lot of stuff in your kitchen.
Thanks again for everyone’s tips!