What does your kitchen space look like? Is it neatly organized? Can you easily get to those things you use frequently? Is it free of clutter?
If you’re anything like my mom (and, as can be expected, like I used to be), you’re more concerned with having all dishes in one place, all pots and pans in another place, and so on. The problem with this? Most of us use the same dishes over and over again. The other dishes? Well they just collect dust. My mom’s kitchen is superbly organized and always clean. But it’s cluttered. And that’s frustrating for three main reasons:
- It’s not efficient – quite simply, it will take longer to get what you need when you need it.
- It’s not visually appealing. I can’t speak for everyone, and I’m sure I don’t, but for many of us, it’s much nicer to look at a few things nicely spread out than a lot of things jammed together. Space is satisfying.
- Clutter is stressful. Research shows that “physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.”
Not everybody has this problem, but most kitchens I’ve been in are cluttered. There is a drawer piled to the top with utensils. A cupboard full of snacks. Pots are toppling over from being imperfectly balanced on each other.
I (and my flatmates) used to struggle with a cluttered kitchen. But I’m happy to say I’ve discovered a better way. For me, it’s minimalism – having only the bare necessities (and one or two “wants”). I encourage everyone to give some version of minimalism a try (at least in their kitchen, for now). I understand if that won’t work for you. However, keep in mind that when people say “Oh, I could never do that”, they usually don’t have a good reason. You can, if you want to. So, for those who want to, I’ll provide 3 simple rules to help you declutter.
Rule 1: Don’t have more than you need.
When I moved into my last home, I brought one pot, one pan, and a few utensils and cooking supplies (this was an overseas move, so even that was excessive, but I had space in my suitcase). When I arrived, I went to a fundraiser and bought two sets of dishes (one set = small plate, big plate, bowl). The dishes I took came in a set of six, but I only took two. Since it was a pay-by-donation type thing, I could have easily taken the six and only paid slightly more, but I didn’t need the other four. I actually had more than I ever needed, but the extra made having friends over a little more comfortable.
Rule 2: Wash and clean immediately
When you finish with a dish, wash it. Waiting for the water to boil? Wash the cutting board. Will your food need a minute to cool down? Wash some dishes before you eat. Whatever you don’t wash before eating, wash immediately after eating (you can be more lax on this rule, but ALWAYS leave a clean space before going to sleep). Oh, and the washing? Depending on how many dishes you have, you can usually get away with not filling the sink with soapy water. Just put soap on the brush, and scrub away. This makes dish washing seem easier, saves water if you do it right, and eliminates the last of the dishes soaking in now-dirty water.
While dishes are waiting to be washed, don’t put them in the sink. Putting dishes in the sink is like giving them a comfortable home, a space where they are almost out of sight and you might forget about them. Instead, leave them on the stove or counter. And always leave your surfaces clean and tidy at the end of the day. You’ll always wake up to a clean kitchen with dishes ready to use.
Rule 3: If you want more, justify it and organize it.
If you decide you want more than the basics (for example, you want a lot of dishes for when you host friends or family), put those aside. Hide them away. Have a cupboard or hutch dedicated to “things we use occasionally”. You could put extra dishes, glasses, fine china – whatever you don’t use on a near daily basis. Do you have some teas that you only bring out for guests? Put them here. Do you feel better having extra baby bottles or things for when you just get too busy and the baby needs food? Fine, have the extra – but put it away for emergency use.
How might you go about this organization process? First, get everything you use regularly (if you live alone, this would probably be one of all cooking and eating supplies (cup, bowl, plate, fork, spoon, knife, pot, pan, spatula…). If you have a family, you’ll need more, but no what-ifs – they don’t belong here! Put these frequently used items where you can easily access them. Leave space – you don’t need to cram it in because there’s so little of it. Make it visually appealing to look at. If you follow rule #2, you may not even need cupboard space. Let the dishes dry, and use them next time straight from the drying rack.
Just to be clear, you’re not creating a “junk” drawer. You’re not collecting things and throwing them out of sight, where they’ll be out-of-mind. The things you are hiding away are things that you can justify having. Emergency food if a natural disaster is likely in your area. Extra dishes if you frequently host guests. But NOT that pretty cup you got on sale and might want to use one day. If you’re not going to use it in the foreseeable future, you don’t need it.
That’s all there is to it. Only have what you need, keep your space clean, and if you can justify more, give it a separate space. No matter what your kitchen is like, you will enjoy it more, with less.