For folks who cook at home, the kitchen needs to be a well-oiled machine that is both easy to use for food preparation but also a pleasant place to spend time. Most people don’t have to grapple with canyons of extra space in their kitchens, though, so it’s important to make sure everything that makes it into our pantries, shelves, drawers, cabinets and, most exclusive of all, our countertops, is there for a reason.
Even if you are so blessed that you have to make decisions about a huge amount of kitchen real estate, it’s safe to assume your design intent doesn’t include mountains of unnecessary clutter. Here are the common items taking up precious space that most of us can get rid of guilt-free.
The apple corer you’ve only used once
Getting rid of items that no longer serve a purpose in our kitchens is hard. To make it easier, start simply by eliminating the single-use kitchen tools you know you don’t use, says Rachel Jones, the Joyful Space specialist and founder of Nourishing Minimalism. This applies to the apple corer, melon baller, avocado slicer or any other gadget you haven’t used in months.
Remember that a high-quality chef’s knife makes many of the chopping tools you might be storing obsolete. Pick one up and eliminate the tomato slicer, onion chopper and mandolin you don’t use.
The exception to this multitasker tool rule is, of course, if you reach for that apple corer every week when you make apple sauce every Sunday (but I’ve hardly heard of anyone using their melon baller that often).
The dishes you never reach for
Most of us will host a dinner party – or two if we’re lucky – outside the holiday season, but we keep dozens of plates, wine glasses and bowls inside our cabinets. Realistically, we use the same few plates over and over again. Jones only stocks enough dishware (coffee cups, stemless wine glasses, dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowls and water glasses) for her family – plus, two extra. That’s it. Limiting the number of dishes helps her maintain a clean kitchen. “I would wait until all the dishes are used up before I washed the dishes. Now, I am limited so I have to wash the dishes regularly.”
Jones keeps a set of her grandmother’s Corelle plates for holiday parties with her extended family. “There are 30 plates, which don’t take up much space. I keep them in the cupboard that isn’t accessed often,” she said.
The measuring spoons that always fall off the ring
If there’s a kitchen essential that you absolutely hate using for any reason, it’s okay to upgrade. For me, it’s my plastic measuring spoon set that I’ve had since college. The spoons always end up falling off the ring in the middle of cooking and measuring, or while soaking in the sink. Replace with a professional-quality, stainless-steel set and toss the plastic.
Cheap plastic containers that never stay put
Raise your hand if you think you’re spending hours monthly picking up the mismatched plastic containers and lids that fall out of the cabinet every time you need a container for leftovers. Simplify your life and invest in glass or high-quality plastic food storage containers that come in one size. Recycle or donate the ones you have precariously stacked. A bonus: You’ll decrease food waste. “I have a set of 10. When there are no more storage containers in the drawer, I know I need to have a leftover night and use up the leftovers. It keeps the fridge cleaner, takes up less space and decreases food waste,” Jones says.
Specialty pans you know you won’t use
We hold onto kitchen supplies thinking of the person we might become (a pie-baking goddess) and not the person we are today. It’s kind of like holding onto the jeans you wore when you were 23 (and a size 2), hoping to get back there someday. For your sanity, it’s better to let it go. Donate the jeans and the pie plate. It’s okay that you’re a laid-back cookies-and-banana-bread champ and don’t want to mess with crusts, fillings and lattice tops.
Embracing minimalism, Jones donated the specialty pans she held onto but never used. “I had this idea that to be the perfect mum, I had to be like Martha Stewart and so I had a lot of specialty pans like tart pans and springform pans. I had to be really realistic with myself rather than focusing on what I thought I should be. I had to let things go and acknowledge what I’m capable of and what I really want.”
Kitchen gadgets that do the same thing
If you’re recently upgraded to an Instant Pot, consider donating your slow cooker, rice cooker and food steamer. The multipurpose cooker eliminates the need to keep these other devices around. Don’t keep them around as a backup (think when the last time you cursed yourself for not having a backup rice cooker – never). Consider other gadgets that do the same work. If you have a Vitamix or Ninja blender, you may want to eliminate your immersion blender, food processor and coffee grinder.
Look through your kitchen and evaluate what you really use. If you haven’t used it in the past year and it doesn’t hold any sentimental importance, you can probably toss it. Purging your kitchen of nonessentials will help make room for the stuff you use on a daily basis.
Sign up here to have Handyman’s favourite stories delivered straight to your inbox.