5 Easy Steps to a Simplified Kitchen

Does the kitchen you've created support the healthy body you want to have?  Is the "heart of the home" a place that nurtures you and your intentions?

Small daily choices lead to a cluttered or an uncluttered home, just as they lead to a thriving, active body or its opposite.  It's hard to change, but we really can choose freedom and vitality!

Since better eating habits are hampered by a cluttered kitchen, let's start there.

5 steps to a clutter-free kitchen

1.  Work with the space you have.

Many of us think our kitchens are too small.  But more space won't solve a clutter problem.  In fact, when we have more space, we tend to fill it with more stuff.  Rather than searching for the perfect storage hack that will let you cram more in, try to accept the boundaries as a reality check.  The kitchen you have is what you have!  Not accepting limitations leads to dissatisfaction and stress as we try to have it all.

2.  Clear the counters.

Put hobby supplies, schoolwork, and the laundry basket where they belong.  Wash and put away dirty dishes.  Then remove all of the cutting boards, spatulas, plants, decorative items... everything.  Put the decorative items in a box and get it out of the room.  Thoroughly clean your empty countertops.

As you think about what to return to your worktops, decide not to crowd them with appliances you use once a week or less, or with food canisters or vitamin bottles or anything else.  It's not more convenient to have them there.  It's not convenient to have no room to slice a tomato or mix up a batch of hummus because the counter is already full.

Make an exception for something you use more than once a day (perhaps the tea kettle or coffee maker).  But keep everything else off.

You're going to put the things you use that used to clutter your counter into kitchen cupboards and drawers, near at hand but out of sight.  I realize your cupboards may be stuffed to the gills right now.  We're going to get to them.  

But here's a decluttering clue:  You like the dishes that were dirty better than you like the clean ones that are just sitting in the cupboard.  You use the appliances or utensils that were on the counter (or in the kitchen sink) more than you use the dusty ones filling the cupboards.  Those dishes were dirty and those items were on the counter because you chose them.  You chose them over whatever is sitting in the cupboard.

Soon your cupboards won't be so stuffed that you have to rearrange everything in order to retrieve what you need, and it will only take seconds to get out the toaster or the oatmeal.

Meanwhile, clear counters are important while you're trying to develop new clutter-free habits.  If nothing belongs on the counter, you can't justify putting random stuff there.  Once you habitually keep your kitchen clutter-free, you can add one or two decorative items if they make you happy.  Until then, keep them put away.

3.  Condense your cupboards and drawers.

Start anywhere, decluttering by category: pots and pans, dishes, glasses, silverware, serving pieces, storage containers, gadgets, etc.  Search for every item that belongs to each category, because once you gather them you'll see just how much you have.  If you're like most people, you have many duplicates.  But you don't need five colanders and two apple slicers (if you have a good knife, you don't even need one).

Don't look at each item and ask if it sparks joy or memories.  At one point it probably did, which is why it's cluttering your cupboard.  Enforce a use-it-or-lose-it guideline.

  • Do you regularly set the table with more than eight place settings of china?  
  • Do you use water glasses, juice glasses, wine glasses and champagne flutes?  Or will a set of stemless tumblers work for everything?  
  • Have you used your rice cooker or ice cream maker in the last week, month, or year?  If the answer is no, donate it!  

Ultimately, the most important items in your kitchen are not the special-occasion dishes, serving pieces, or baking pans.  The most important items are the ones you use daily to prepare family meals.  (Hint: the plates, bowls, mugs, utensils, and pots and pans you had to wash when you cleared the counters are probably your favorites.)

As you find homes for the things you are keeping, stay user-friendly.  Make the things you use often easy to find and access.  If you're not sure, make your best guess – you can adjust later if you must.  When we start squeezing things into odd places, they're harder to retrieve, and we're less likely to put them away.

4.  Organize food storage.

Clear the pantry of foods past their expiration date, and food you're never going to eat.  Toss the outdated, and give usable items to a food bank.

Group foods into categories to make it easier to locate items and prevent over-buying.  For example, you might have groups of spices, canned goods, cereals, teas, and baking ingredients.  Accept the boundaries of your space – you're stocking a kitchen, not an entire grocery store!

Throw away old foods from the refrigerator and empty it completely so you can clean.  If you have to stifle your gag reflex as you open up food storage containers with ancient inedibles, you have too many food storage containers!  You don't need as many as you can shoehorn into your cupboard, because that just lets you go longer before you run out and have to clean the fridge, tossing all of that wasted food.  A few containers in two or three sizes will help keep you current.

Just as you don't want to bring in new clutter in the form of knickknacks or another set of dishes (no matter how cute), don't let yourself bring in new food clutter.  Toss candy, pretzels, ice cream – whatever foods tempt you most.  Make room for healthier foods.

5.  Deal with paper.

Paper enters every day and can't be ignored.  When you create a system that lets you keep up with the flow of junk mail, magazines, permission slips, coupons, receipts, and bills, your visible clutter decreases.

We need simpler kitchens.

A simplified kitchen provides the space, order, and essential tools we need to accomplish mealtime tasks.  Increase satisfaction, decrease stress, and let "the heart of the home" nurture your body and your healthy choices.

Want to simplify your kitchen today?  Throw a Packing Party!

Updated May 2023


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