The Kitchen Makeover, Part 2
You don't need a bigger house with a bigger kitchen. Instead, you need to own less so that your kitchen can serve you better! You need to own less, not to add frustration by removing a tool you really need, but so you can bypass inconvenience and easily access the items you use the most.
So you've made time for a thorough kitchen declutter, starting with dishes, drinkware, flatware, serveware, and all of your tools and gadgets. Now you're ready to deal with cookware, bakeware, small appliances, countertops, and your food storage areas.
Let's continue! (If you missed Part 1, find it here.)
7 More Steps to a Welcoming, Spacious, and Functional Kitchen
8. Remove duplicate cookware.
Do you really need all the pots and pans filling your cupboards, or might you do well with a carefully selected group? Since cookware is often sold in sets (or we combine households with a partner), we end up with many pieces in various sizes. Yet there are probably a few you reach for again and again – they are that magic size that is comfortable to handle and fits everything you like to cook.
Here are popular choices for a minimalist set of cookware:
- A frying or sauté pan. If you want just one, consider a deep pan with sloping rather than straight sides. It sears, sautés, stir fries, browns, stews, and more.
- A saucepan. Handy for sauces, heating soup, boiling eggs, steaming vegetables, preparing small batches of pasta, and cooking rice, oatmeal, and other grains. A three-quart size is ideal for a small family, but go smaller or larger according to your needs.
- A stockpot. A six- to eight-quart pot is useful for cooking beans, making soups, boiling potatoes, or making a large batch of pasta.
- A non-stick pan. Great for cooking eggs, pancakes, French toast, quesadillas, and other foods that tend to stick to stainless steel.
Beyond these core pieces, let your menu be your guide. Keep that pressure cooker or Dutch oven if your cooking requires it. As long as they're in regular use, they belong in your kitchen.
9. Remove unused bakeware.
Baking needs vary widely. If you regularly bake pies, cakes, or bread, you will need more equipment than someone who only bakes cookies in December.
You will probably want the standard half-sheet pan – a thick, rimmed one-inch-deep cookie sheet measuring eighteen by thirteen inches. It's not just for cookies, since it can also accommodate brownies, biscuits, scones, or even granola. Also use it to roast vegetables or to bake fish, chicken breasts, or pork chops.
Be honest about your stand mixer, springform pan, candy thermometer, frosting tips, and collection of cookie cutters. Do they actually see regular use, or are they simply taking up valuable space in your cupboards (or on your countertop)?
I prefer to patronize a local bakery, where I can mix and match a dozen beautifully decorated cupcakes in different flavors (including gluten-free for my son). The owner of a local diner makes the best lemon meringue pies I've ever tasted, from scratch, fresh daily. I support local businesses and get to enjoy treats I would probably never make myself. Win win.
10. Rethink small appliances.
If you've often wished for more counter or cabinet space, you should pare down your small appliances. Cooking is so much easier when you're not moving stuff out of the way to do it. Save kitchen real estate for the things you use to prepare daily meals, and declutter the things you're saving just in case you might want to use them "someday."
Of course, some items completely justify the space they claim. If you use your electric kettle every day or your toaster several times a week, they have reason to be in your kitchen. But if you drag out the waffle iron once in a blue moon, and can't even remember the last time you bothered with the deep fryer or pasta maker, life will be easier and your kitchen larger without them.
There's something to be said for more mindful cooking. When you chop, knead, or mix with your own hands (or maybe a fork), it literally puts you in touch with your food and offers a quiet time to create or a chance to share the work with a partner. Why not go a bit more low-tech? Use a knife or a grater instead of a food processor, or try a pour-over dripper instead of a coffee maker. Remember, people have been making delicious food for a very long time without electric appliances.
11. Keep countertops clear.
Since you've decluttered so much, you've made room to put away those useful tools that currently crowd your valuable work space.
Do you think you'll lose efficiency if you store the items you use regularly out of sight? For example, the toaster. Yes, you use it four or five times a week, but only for a few minutes at a time. Why should it take up counter space all day every day? My toaster lives in the cupboard; it takes a few seconds to get it out and plug it in when I want toast. The same would apply to the sugar canister or the blender you use for five minutes most mornings.
Evaluate everything on your worktop, particularly if you must always maneuver around things or move them to make room for food prep or clean up (especially if you find yourself just wiping around them most of the time).
12. Reorganize food storage.
Chaos in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer leads to food waste, extra trips to the store for items you thought you had but don't, and overbuying of things you think you're out of but aren't.
Empty your pantry and clean all of the shelves. Toss foods that are past their expiration dates. Group like foods together so you can return them to the pantry in categories. This will make it easier to locate what you want, see what you need to add to your grocery list, and keep you from buying six cans of tuna when you already have eight in the cupboard.
As you group foods together, you will come across some things you don't remember purchasing and have no plan for using. Pay attention to these buying mistakes so you won't make them again. That dried fenugreek you bought for one Indian dish last year (and used ¼ teaspoon) should be tossed. Ditto the mostly-full bag of stale garlic pretzels. You might be able to donate the unopened jar of strawberry habanero jam, but even if you can't, there's no reason to keep it in the back of your cupboard. If you're worried about food waste, be more thoughtful about the food you buy! It's already wasted if it's languishing in your pantry.
Ready to tackle the refrigerator? Empty it completely and clean it thoroughly. (You'll do the same with the freezer.) Get rid of old or suspect foods hiding in the back. Consider investing in a set of glass storage containers (paid link) to replace your old warped and stained plastic. Leftovers taste better when they're stored in glass and are safer to reheat. And nice glass bowls can even be used as serveware.
Your refrigerator is a valuable tool every day, so clear out the unneeded to make room for what's important. Do you really use three types of mustard, two brands of barbecue sauce, and four different hot sauces? And just how old is that jar of cranberry horseradish?
As with your pantry, group like foods together so they can be returned to the fridge and freezer in categories. This makes it easier to see what you have, use ingredients before they expire, construct a grocery list, and put new purchases or partially-used items away.
13. Tame the refrigerator door.
Items stuck all over the refrigerator look disorderly, but a clean, uncluttered refrigerator surface immediately calms the kitchen. If you love having a few photos, greeting cards, or kids' drawings where you can see them, hang a magnetic board near the kitchen table or in the family room, and keep it current.
An old-fashioned paper calendar hung on the inside of the pantry door can help you keep track of (and see at a glance) medical appointments, dance recitals, birthday parties, and more. Then you can recycle the separate reminders.
It's impossible to do it all, so act like a minimalist and stop trying! Time is your most precious gift, so be very selective in how you spend it. Limiting extra activities or commitments to one or two lets everyone be less stressed, more focused, less likely to burn out, and more likely to enjoy and develop some expertise. As author Francine Jay writes, "Doing less can mean the difference between mediocrity and mastery."
The peace of a clutter-free kitchen sends ripples into your entire home.
- You've made space in your cupboards so items are easy to access and put away. Some of this newfound space holds often-used items that used to crowd your worktop, so that area has become larger, more useful, and easier to keep clean.
- You've stopped using the table as a dumping grounds, leaving room for paperwork, games, crafts, nourishment, and human connection.
- You put away leftovers, wash dishes, and wipe the stove and worktop after dinner each evening. It doesn't really take that long, especially if everyone helps.
- You appreciate your kitchen every morning since it is clean, practical, well-supplied, and ready for the day ahead.
Photo by Priscilla Dupreez on Unsplash