It's time to rethink the things we think we need.
Back in the days when keeping up with the Joneses was the thing to do, no self-respecting housewife would be caught without things like a fully loaded china cabinet stuffed with service for twelve. So what if the gravy boat hosted gravy only once a year? But now that the Joneses are Millennial minimalists who celebrate their smaller homes, smaller mortgages, and don't want to pack their abodes with things they won't use, it's time to rethink the things we think a home needs. What do we really need, compared to what we've been told we need?
The following are some suggestions for stuff that you may not really use after all. While of course everyone is different, and so, for example, someone who throws fancy dinners frequently may very well want a rambling set of fine china. Thus these are just some ideas, the important takeaway is to take some time to think about the things that you really need and most importantly, the things that you really do not.
1. Specialty appliances
Toasters, waffle irons, ice cream makers ... there is a reason these items are on so many wedding registries – sorry, but they are kind of frivolous. I know, what fun am I? But unless you're really, really going to make waffles every Sunday, do you have the storage space? If you make a lot of homemade ice cream, then by all means an ice-cream maker is a fun thing to have – but focus on that "if." And the toaster. If you or your family are big on toast, go for it. But replacing a toaster with a toaster oven means you can do so much more that just toast two slices of bread. (I love toast, but I haven't had a toaster for years; and when my toaster oven died, I didn't replace it. Now we make toast in a cast iron pan on the stove top and it is the best toast I've ever made.)
2. A K-cup machine
The grandaddy of specialty appliances, the awfulness of a K-cup machine is tied directly to the endless stream of waste it produces. According to everyone's favorite statistic from The Atlantic, Green Mountain produced 8.5 billion of its Keurig K-cup coffee pods in 2013 – enough to circle the Earth 10.5 times. And that was five years ago. For a very delicious coffee, all you need is a low-tech, waste-free alternative ... and they can be stashed in a drawer or cabinet when not in use, which is probably about 23 hours of the day. For ideas, see: 9 low-tech ways to brew great coffee with minimal waste
3. A set of fine china
I have had a set of beautiful china for probably 20 years or so. I think I have used it once. Meanwhile, I have super gorgeous everyday plates that I adore dressing up for fancy dinners. In addition, I have a flea-market collection of mix-matched Royal Staffordshire transferware-style plates that A) needed a home that wasn't the landfill B) didn't use up resources making something new C) aren't so precious that I'm uncomfortable using them D) make for the prettiest table in town.
4. Top sheets
These are fighting words, I know; but maybe your bed doesn't need a top sheet. Personally, I don't like how they get tangled up in my legs, and make the bed harder to make. (With just a duvet, ones need only fluff and spread – no smoothing or tucking required.) I haven't used one since I moved out on my own. Although I am not alone in this thinking, I know many prefer a top sheet and find it easier to wash than a duvet cover – it's just something to consider. One problem in the United States is that most sheets come in a set, complete with the dreaded top sheet. I try to buy my bottom sheets separately; but when I do get a set, I save the top sheets, sew two together on three sides, and voila – instant coordinated duvet cover.
I thought no-top-sheet was polarizing, but this one usually doesn't sit well with a fair amount of people as well. So, hey: If you love your microwave and use it all the time, just skip to the nest one. But if you don't have the kitchen space for a microwave, please know that one is not required. You can use a teakettle for hot water, make popcorn on the stovetop, reheat leftovers in a toaster oven or a pan, use a double boiler to melt things, defrost in the fridge, the list goes on. Meanwhile, microwaves are not easy to recycle and most usually head to the landfill; they are made of between 40 to 100 pounds (or more) of material, including electrical components that make for dangerous waste.
6. A big Tupperware set
There is something housewife-y primal about a big matching set of plastic storage containers. And the ability to store leftovers is certainly important. But plastic is probably not the best material to be storing food in – and using less plastic in general is the way we should all be heading. But don't think we would leave you without options, because there are many: How to store leftovers without plastic
7. Specialized cleaning products
It's true that the companies that make various cleaners may formulate them for specific tasks, but that doesn't mean that more all-purpose cleaners can't do just as good of a job. And even better, DIY formulas that rely on kitchen pantry ingredients are the least toxic, make less waste, and give you the most bang for your buck. Check out this informative story for what to use and how: How to establish a zero-waste cleaning routine
8. Kitchen hand tools set
If you're setting up a kitchen for the first time, a set of kitchen hand tools may seem to make sense since they may be a better deal than buying all the pieces individually. But do you really need each and every one? I have been given three sets of these tools in my life, and I have three meat tenderizing mallets that have never been used. Same with the pasta-scooping spoon, since I prefer to use tongs for the job. Eventually, all kitchen utensil drawers (or counter-top caddies) become too cluttered (I speak from experience, at least) – so why not be selective from the get-go?
9. All the throw pillows
This is an aesthetic thing and some people really like the look of throw pillows. But does anyone really think they are comfortable? Am I missing something? They seem to find themselves wedged awkwardly in the lower back and then just get piled up on the side. Looks-wise, they do add accents and give a completed feel, but a nicely designed couch shouldn't need the froufrou. And if you really want some extra pizzazz, a throw can add a splash of color or pattern ... and keep you cozy when the room is cool (because you're saving energy by turning your thermostat down, of course).
10. Glasses for every beverage
If you are a wine enthusiast who enjoys drinking expensive wine, you will likely want a stemmed glass so that you can visually assess your wine, and to let its aroma do its thing without overly warming up the wine with the heat of your hand. But for Italian grandfathers, hipsters, and all the rest of us, there is something wonderfully practical about a stemless glass. Whether jelly jar, juice glass of something fancy, stemless glasses can switch hats between all kinds of beverages, and have the added bonus of not easily tipping over. They can be used for everything from champagne to brandy to lemonade – you may find that you don't really need a whole cupboard dedicated to a parade of specialty glasses after all.
It's time to rethink the things we think we need.