Declutter These Items Now to Gain a Bigger, More Practical Kitchen

The holidays are coming, and we're going to be spending a lot more time in the kitchen.  But crowded counters and crammed, hard-to-access cupboards make holiday cooking more difficult, and steal some of the joy from preparing your special dishes.

autumn kitchen

11 items that consume kitchen real estate

To make your kitchen roomier before you start to cook for Thanksgiving, clear away these space-stealing items.  It'll be like having a kitchen remodel – in less than an hour!

1.  Excess serving pieces

I'm talking about fish platters, tureens, novelty chip-and-dip servers, deviled egg trays, chargers, or other specialty pieces you rarely use.  Get rid of the ones you're least attached to.  The extra space might be more valuable.

2.  Extra vases

Vases can accumulate and fill an entire cabinet.  If you regularly buy flowers or cut them from your garden, keep the same number of vases as your display areas (the mantel and the dining table, for example).  Either gift the remainder with some flowers or donate them.

3.  Old spices

In general, keep only those that you use regularly.  That dried fenugreek you bought for one Indian dish last year (and used 1/4 teaspoon) can probably go.  Additionally, if your herbs and spices are older than 2 to 3 years, they've probably lost their potency and should be replaced.

4.  Old plastic storage containers

Those that are warped, stained, or cracked probably aren't even safe to use anymore; those with missing lids can't be used for their intended purpose.  Some can be recycled, but unfortunately, you'll have to throw others away.  Upgrade to a set of glass storage containers.*  Leftovers taste better when they're stored in glass and are safer to reheat.  And nice glass bowls can even be used as serveware.

* This blog is reader-supported.  When you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

squash soup
5.  Gimmicky gadgets

More trouble to use and clean than they're worth, you rarely reach for them.  Declutter, and make room for your well-used utensils.

6.  The knife block

How many knives do you actually use?  Famed minimalist chef and cookbook author Mark Bittman recommends an 8-inch all-purpose chef's knife (I prefer the 6-inch knife – my hands are smaller), a serrated knife, and a paring knife.  Get rid of the block and free up a chunk of counter space.

7.  Extra mugs

We all have some of these.  They crowd cupboards, the sink, and the dishwasher.  How many do you really use in a day?  Keep two per family member and declutter the rest.

8.  Reusable water bottles

These are a great way to keep millions of plastic bottles out of the waste stream, because even recycling uses tons of energy and creates pollution.  But the reusable bottles take a lot of cupboard space, and half of them are probably missing lids or straws.  Keep one per person – you'll take better care of yours if you have only one.  Donate the rest, and don't acquire any more (not even freebies).

9.  Condiment packets and disposable cutlery

You already have your own bottle of ketchup and your own forks.  Why do you need those little packages?  All of that plastic is a menace to the planet.  Next time, just ask the restaurant to leave them out of your to-go bag.

10.  Extraneous sauces

Your refrigerator is a valuable tool every day, so clear out the unneeded to make room for what's important.  Do you regularly use three types of mustard, two brands of barbecue sauce, and four different hot sauces?  Just how old is that jar of cranberry horseradish?  While you're at it, get rid of old or suspect foods at the back of the fridge and in the freezer.

roasted chicken
11.  Junk drawers

Junk drawers seem convenient – quick places to stash items that have no regular home but might come in handy someday.  But I've noticed that once something is put in a junk drawer, it stays there, never to be used or even thought of again.  We cram in more and more, and pretty soon we have several catch-all spots, and no idea what's in them.  That's not useful!  

Set a timer for 5 minutes.  Dump out the drawers.  Locate items you actually use, such as pens, notepads, flashlights, batteries, and the like.  Toss the rest.  Now you have one reasonably organized miscellaneous drawer, and empty drawers for kitchen utensils, oven mitts, and other oft-used items that currently crowd the counter.

Now your kitchen has more space and convenience for you to produce all of your delicious holiday specialties.  Enjoy creating them!

Updated May 2023


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