Does the thought of walking into your kitchen oppress you? Is your kitchen full of sky high piles of pots and pans, or drawer after drawer full of useless kitchen gadgets? You might just be starting to get tired of the clutter; or, are you just plain fed up and tired of caring for all the stuff?
It might be time to become a kitchen minimalist.
The idea of minimalism might be scary to some of you. Perhaps the very word minimalism conjures up nothing but images of stark white, angular, empty, and uninviting rooms. But minimalism is so much more then an aesthetic.
In fact, you can be a minimalist, in one, or multiple areas of your life, without adopting the look. At it’s roots minimalism is a philosophy that takes our focus off of stuff. The beauty of this is that when you stop focusing on the collecting and caring for stuff, you have so much more time, energy, and money for what’s really important to you.
Let me give you a picture of the minimalist kitchen: it might have any style or decor, but it will certainly be clean, clutter free, and help make cooking more about pleasure and less about chore. I know you already love cooking or you probably wouldn’t’ be reading this blog, but that doesn’t mean you enjoy the endless maintenance of the kitchen either, right?
The good news is that it’s simpler then you think to become a kitchen minimalist. In fact, there are 7 steps you can follow that will help you achieve your perfect minimalist kitchen:
1. Get Rid Of ALL the Useless Kitchen Gadgets- I’m going to start by breaking you in easy. You know that drawer you have that’s stuffed with kitchen gadgets you never use? Think potato mashers, 20 different bottle openers, toast tongs (yes those really exist), melon ballers, those plastic ice cream scoops that don’t work, pastry decorating tips, an orange juicer, corn ear holders, partially rusted can openers that don’t open a thing, rolling pin rings, pancake dispensers, an olive pitter, multiple peelers, cooking spoons you don’t really like, chopsticks from last weeks takeout, and whatever else… ?
You know which drawer I mean. Everyone has one of these drawers.
Here’s the thing, that drawer is stuffed with little kitchen odds and ends that you never use because:
- A. The gadget doesn’t really work.
- B. You have multiples of the same gadget and only use one of them.
- C. How often do you really need to pit olives?
- D. You’ve saved every pair of extra chopsticks from the Chinese takeout, like every pair ever, despite the fact you have no real use for 20 pairs of cheap chopsticks.
It’s ok. Like I said, we’ve all got one of these drawers, but now it’s time to clean it out. This will help you get well on the road to kitchen minimalism.
Here are a few rules to help you decide what to ditch:
- Let’s be honest with ourselves: we don’t need multiples of the same gadget. Pick your favorite one of the bunch and get rid of the rest.
- Is it broken, rusted, does it work poorly or do you just plain hate it for any reason? Get rid of it!
- Does this tool work for more then one purpose? If not it might not be worth the space.
- How often do you use it? Did you buy that mellon baller for a party, use it once and never again? Ditch it! Do you pit olives once a year? Ditch the gadget and buy your olives pitted next time.
Bottom Line: Get rid of ALL those useless kitchen gadgets. Toss em,’ donate em,’ but get rid of em.’ You don’t need them.
2. Purge Those Pots & Pans- Ok, time to up the ante, we need to ditch the excess pots and pans. They take up a TON of space, and I’m betting you probably only use five or so on a regular basis. Here’s what you do. Go cabinet by cabinet and look at each one of your pots, pans, casserole dishes, etc, and then follow one rule:
If you haven’t cooked with it in the past two weeks you don’t need it.
My guess? You probably use about 5 pots/pan regularly, unless you have a gigantic family or cater weddings. You don’t need all that many pots to cook for a family of four.
Now, I can hear you already, but what about Thanksgiving?, Christmas?, _____________ <—-insert your large food related gathering here.
Here’s the down and dirty. Unless you cook Thanksgiving, or Christmas dinner all by yourself every year you probably don’t need those pots. Even if you do, I bet you don’t use most of those pots/pans every week. Consider ditching them anyway and borrowing extras from a family member for the holidays or pack em’ up and store them somewhere they won’t be in the way for the other 364 days a year. Other then on the particular day, extra stuff is wasting your space, and giving you extra junk to manage, move around, and keep clean.
Now, that all being said, which pots and pans are useful to you may vary from what’s useful to me. I use my dutch oven, a large pot which can handle pasta, a tiny sauce pot, two of my skillets, and one large deep skillet, one jelly roll pan and one pyrex baking dish on a regular basis. That’s 8 pots/pans a few more then the average, but I write a food blog for a living. I’ll be honest, I also own a wok. It was a wedding gift and I’ve owned it since I was married about 7 years ago. In 7 years I’ve used it probably… 4 times. Based on my own advice it’s time to ditch the wok!
Bottom line: You really don’t use that many pots/pans when you make a meal. Ditch some!
3. Declutter Your Recipe Collection, It’s Slowing You Down- Have you ever been planning a dinner party, and just can not even begin to figure out to serve? Yep. Me too. You know why? My recipe collection is massive. (I am a food blogger after all.) Yet, I only like a small percentage of those dishes. I can’t find the recipes gems I do have in all the recipe clutter. I’m going to venture a guess and say this is probably happening to you too. Guess how we fix this problem?
You’ve got it. Sit down, drag all those cookbooks, print outs, and scraps of paper out, and start sorting. We’re going to consolidate everything useful into one location for future (easy) use!
For internet printouts, magazine tear-outs and little scraps of paper:
- If you’ve made the recipe and don’t like it: get rid of it.
- If you’ve meant to try the recipe for a long time, but haven’t actually done so, consider getting rid of it. Think about why you haven’t tested it. Does it call for a lot of hard to find or expensive ingredients? Will you be the only person in your household who would actually eat it? (After all who wants to cook two dinners at a time?) Is there another reason the recipe doesn’t fit your lifestyle any you won’t really make the dish? You might end up coming to the conclusion that you holding on to a recipe because it represents the kind of cook/person/eater you want to be, but not who you really are. If this is the case that recipe will probably never get made, and leaves you with clutter to go through when you need to find a recipe you actually will.
A few rules for sorting cookbooks:
- If you like more then 60% of the recipes in the cookbook it’s probably a keeper.
- If you only use one or two of the recipes consider taking a photo of the recipe with your phone, or making a photocopy of the recipe, and trading in the cookbook for more shelf space.
Once you’ve purged, you want to find one place to keep all of your recipes. Pick an easily accessible shelf for cookbooks; and pick a way to keep track of loose recipes. Here are a few ideas for keeping the recipes you have organized and accessible:
- Buy a recipe keeper! You can buy a binder, a card file, or heck a whole filing crate if you prefer. Then sort your recipe by meal, type of dish, or alphabetical order, to ensure you can always find what your looking for.
- Go digital! Do you find half your recipes on the internet? Can you snap pictures of paper recipes with your phone? You might want to start a digital recipe collection. Apps like Evernote/Evernote Food, BigOven, Paprika, and others help you keep and organize your recipe collection! Check out this article from Lifehacker for reviews on different recipe collection apps. Two major benefits of going digital are portability (phones travel nearly anywhere) and way less clutter!
Bottom Line: An organized recipe collection, full of recipes you actually use, makes for more space in the kitchen, and a happier cook!
4. Clean Out the Cabinets, Fridge, and Freezer
Who out there has ingredients in their pantry purchased for a particular recipe, that you either used once, or possible never even got around to using? You’re not the only one. However, I think food is one of the hardest things in the kitchen to get rid of. It feels incredibly wasteful to dump ingredients that have never been used or only used once and I can’t in good conscience advise you to throw away perfectly useable food.
Though, you do need to sort through all this stuff and get rid of it to achieve kitchen minimalism. Hummm. A bit on a conundrum.
My two suggestion for the food thats been lingering:
- 1. After sorting food stuffs, design meals around your lingering ingredients and use them up once and for all. (Tip: Soup is a very versatile dish and happens to be a great way to use up random little bits of ingredients.) Obviously, don’t put those ingredients back on your grocery list next time you go shopping.
- 2. Donate food you really won’t use. Likely there is a food bank, or church with a food pantry near you who would be happy to accept your donation and get it to someone who really will use it. You’ll be helping out someone who could really use it, and have cleaner cabinets to boot.
Bottom Line: Plan meals around lingering ingredients to use them up and donate items you really will never use, to minimize food clutter without creating waste.
5. Finally, Ditch a Few Appliances! (You Probably Don’t Really Need Them All.)- Don’t be frightened. This isn’t as horrifying as it sounds. I’m not asking you to get rid of your fridge, stove, or even dishwasher. But, take a moment to review your smaller appliances. Think blenders, food processors, toaster ovens, panini presses, coffee grinders, that you don’t use often (or at all). A lot of these appliances only serve one function and the same results can be achieved without the fancy equipment. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the extra space, and less equipment to maintain, then the panini press I only use once a year. (Again, donate, or pass along to a friend who will really use it to avoid waste!)
Bottom Line: Blenders, panini presses, coffee grinders, toaster ovens, and other items you’re probably not using take up space too.
Now, it’s time to get started! Follow these five simple steps and before you know it, you’ll achieve your perfect minimalist kitchen. (And have way more time to enjoy the cooking, good company, and eating part!) It’s time to brome a minimalist!
A FINAL TIP: Once you’ve gotten rid of the junk, never let it creep back in. You worked really hard to clean out, organzine, and get rid of your kitchen junk. Don’t let it sneak back in on you.
What do think will be your greatest challenge? Leave a comment and let me know.