6 steps for decluttering your kitchen

minimal kitchen
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Picture your dream kitchen. It’s probably not filled with clutter.

By Joshua Becker

There is something refreshing and life giving about a clean, uncluttered kitchen. It sets the tone and culture for the home. It communicates calm and order. It promotes opportunity and possibility. It saves time and ensures cleanliness. It is truly the heart of the home.

Yet it is one of the more difficult places in the home to keep uncluttered. There are several reasons for this being such a difficult space to minimize:

• The kitchen is usually located in a high-traffic area of the home.
• The purpose of the room requires messes to be made during its use.
• The kitchen is often used as a collection area for odds and ends (such as mail).

When you think about your own kitchen, what kinds of clutter come to mind? Are you seduced by shiny gadgets or specialized tools that aren’t really necessary? Do you have several duplicates from when you got married and merged your kitchen supplies with your spouse’s? Have you accumulated an extensive cookbook collection even though you use only one or two favorite cookbooks regularly?

If your kitchen is anything like most people’s, you can get rid of a lot there.

Set your kitchen goals

Start by thinking about what you want your kitchen to accomplish. Is it to enable you to cook tasty, healthy meals for your family without too much fuss? Is it to be easy to keep clean so it offers you a sense of peace and doesn’t waste your time? Is it to serve as a comfortable space for family or friends to keep you company as you cook?

Being clear about your kitchen goals is essential. Why? Because your goals become your guidelines. You use them every time you ask Do I really need this? For example, if your goal is to cook meals without a lot of fuss, do you really need the Bluetooth-enabled food dehydrator, pasta maker with four attachments, and airbrush cake decorating kit? What about the salad scissors, banana slicer, or corn silk remover?

At this point, if you fancy yourself a chef, have spurts where cooking provides you comfort like nothing else, or just love good food, you may be nervous that minimizing your kitchen is going to ruin your workshop for culinary creation. Relax! Minimizing in the kitchen doesn’t take away from you but rather gives. You can uncover what’s been obscured about the joy of cooking by removing the excess objects from your kitchen work space. But don’t take my word for it. Take it from professional chef Mark Bittman who decked out an entire kitchen for about $300, including every cooking utensil someone would need to cook like a pro. He summarized his kitchen utensil philosophy this way: “It needs only to be functional, not prestigious, lavish or expensive.”

Clear the Kitchen Clutter

Pick a time—maybe start first thing in the morning—when you have at least a couple of hours for the project. Make a cup of coffee or turn on some music to put yourself at ease. Clear space on the counters to set out items. Then follow this six-step process to reclaim the heart of your home.

1. RELOCATE ANYTHING THAT DOES NOT BELONG IN THE KITCHEN
Kitchens are notorious collection areas for odds and ends—mail, kids’ homework, purses, keys, and all that stuff in the infamous junk drawer. Identify a new “home” for each out-of-place item and move it there.

2. NOTICE PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES
There are physical boundaries all over your kitchen—drawers and cabinets that provide defined, limited spaces for storage. Rather than shoving as much as you can inside these spaces, use their limitations as helpful guidelines on how much stuff to keep.

3. REMOVE DUPLICATES AND LITTLE-USED ITEMS
Evaluate all the items in your kitchen by asking yourself the right question. The right question is not, Might I conceivably use it at some time? The right question is, Do I need it? If you’ve rarely or never used a tool, bowl, or storage container, then it’s probably not really necessary to keep. Here’s a pro tip: Keep one set of lidded plastic food containers that nest together and discard the others.

4. GIVE EVERY ITEM A PROPER HOME
Designate drawers for silverware and utensils; cupboards for plates, containers, pots and pans, and small appliances; and closets or shelves for food and larger, less-used appliances.

5. CLEAR THE COUNTERS

If your counters are routinely cluttered, there’s a good chance you‘re storing too many daily-use items there (toaster, coffee maker, teapot, can opener, spice rack, knife block, canister of wooden spoons, cutting board, and the like). You’ve probably reasoned that leaving such things on the counters makes them easier to grab when you need them. This is where the convenience fallacy comes into play.

The reality is that these items spend far more time as clutter than they do as needed instruments of food preparation. For example, if you make toast for breakfast, it will take you roughly three minutes to toast your bread. After that, the toaster will sit unused for the next twenty-three hours and fifty-seven minutes.

Rather than allowing these appliances to take up counter space, find a home for them in an easily accessed part of the kitchen, such as inside a cabinet or on a shelf. In our home, for instance, we store the toaster, coffee maker, and teapot in a cupboard right next to the outlet. Getting them out when we need them and putting them away is a habit that takes us next to no time and leaves our counters wide open the rest of the day.And don’t forget the kitchen sink. Put away any cleaning supplies (soap, scrubber, and so on) that currently clutter up the sink area.

6. PURGE THE PANTRY

The whole point of a kitchen is consuming food, so it makes sense that you’ve got a lot of consumables in cabinets or a pantry. But chances are that you’ve also got things in there you can get rid of.

• Pull out everything and group items by kind.
• Relocate whatever doesn’t belong in the pantry.
• Clean the pantry.
• Put old and expired food items in the trash or compost.
• Put foods back into the pantry in logical groupings. Note where you need to reduce certain foods by “eating through” your supplies or by donating unopened packages to a local food pantry.
• Organize items with bins or transparent containers so you can see at a glance what you’ve got.
• Consider how to handle grocery shopping differently so you don’t have so much food sitting around in your pantry.

When you spend less time taking care of a cluttered kitchen, you have more time to make nutritious, delicious meals for your family and linger in conversation at the dinner table. When you make room for loved ones in your kitchen, you prioritize relationships by expanding everyone’s opportunities for giving and receiving love. That’s what makes the kitchen the heart of the home. It’s where body and soul are fed simultaneously.

Joshua Becker is the Founder and Editor of Becoming Minimalist, a website that reaches more than 1 million readers each month inspiring people to live more by owning less. He is a national bestselling author and his new book The Minimalist Home: A Room-By-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life is available now.
6 steps for decluttering your kitchen
Picture your dream kitchen. It’s probably not filled with clutter.

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