Whether you have a busy work schedule, a busy house, or both, it can be hard to find time or motivation to tidy the kitchen. As the epicentre of the household, it’s quite possible for it to become a dumping ground for all the things that don’t have a home yet. By the same token, I’m sure all of us have been tempted by a gadget or implement that sits in the cupboard, sad and unloved. Indeed it’s likely that you rotate the same few favourite utensils quite regularly while others are barely used.
Be honest – if this describes you and your kitchen, it may be time for a clearout. We’re not suggesting you do without things just because, rather it’s to make your kitchen fit for its intended purpose. It’s no fun clearing papers off the table to eat, or trying to talk over a cup of tea with dirty dishes in the way. Let’s not forget that Christmas is around the corner, and we all know the clutter that can bring…
While it can seem like a big old task, there are a few tips and starting points that can help you on the way.
The Tape Trick
Here’s a good idea stolen from Good Housekeeping – for a fun exercise, try putting a piece of tape round the handle of your utensils, pans and handheld gadgets. Next, set a date for 6 months in the future. Your task now is to take the tape off when you use the item, and leave it off. That way, you’ll know what you’ve used. After six months, if the item still has its tape attached, it may be time for you to move it on and make some space in your cupboards.
The 20/20 Rule
This rule, made popular by the American Netflix programme The Minimalists runs like this – get rid of anything you can replace easily for under $20 (call it pounds), or can’t replace in 20 minutes. While this may seem brutal, there are many things that are probably in our kitchen, or indeed home, that we are keeping “just in case”. The likelihood is that, in actual fact, you are quite unlikely to never need most of these things ever again. As they say themselves –
“This theory likely works 99% of the time for 99% of all items and 99% of all people.”
Another trick they use is the 1-in-10-out rule. Every time you buy something new, you need to get rid of more than you bring in. If ten sounds intimidating, try a lower number, but the point is that you are replacing things, not adding to the pile. This way you’re likely to end up with only the things you really need.
Some gadgets are indispensable. Can you imagine life without a kettle? A toaster? Many people swear by their air fryer or garlic press. However I imagine many of us have at least one thing hidden away in a cupboard that, whatever our best intentions, we simply don’t really use. If you’re not making gratins regularly, you might not need that mandolin. You may not use that George Foreman grill as much as you thought. Perhaps you don’t need a blender and a juicer? Having all mod cons in your kitchen can seem like progress, but if they’re just sitting there taking up space, it’s time to let go.
Get Rid of Things You’re “Supposed to Have”
If we like to cook, we may feel under pressure to own some things, or to keep up with the times. This may for example be a cast iron skillet, a mezzaluna, a pestle and mortar or something more obscure. There is no doubt that these can be very useful for specific tasks, and if you really do need them, absolutely fair enough! On the other hand, be honest with yourself about how often you use these tools, or if they’re more “lifestyle” items. TV chefs and homeware brands have a lot to answer for here, and there are often workarounds that give excellent results without having something so specialised and expensive.
Put Things Away!
Much as we hate to nag, this is extremely important. Whether you have a tiny studio flat or a sprawling country estate, we as humans tend to fill the space we have. After a long day, things can pile up on the side and become infuriating to work around. A tidy workspace leads to a tidy mind, so it’s worth the extra few seconds to put things back where they live, making food prep easy.
This also applies to the dreaded washing up. It often seems a good idea to leave this until the next morning… until the next morning! Apart from the sinking feeling you’re bound to get when confronted by dirty pots, dried food stains will be much harder to scrub once dried. Push through and get it done!
Keep Your Cupboards Up To Date
Throwing out good food is a sin, but throwing away food that’s gone off is holy! Make sure you stay on top of best-before dates in your cupboard, pantry, fridge and freezer. This obviously applies to things like meat, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetables, but also to dried herbs, spices and frozen food. Some lose their flavour, whereas others will certainly make you ill if they’re consumed past their best. Though it may seem like a lot of work, it will take less time than you think, and be surprisingly cathartic.
One Thing at a Time
Tidying and cleaning can be both never-ending and overwhelming if you try to sort out everything at once. Going about a clearout in stages will keep your sanity intact and have the same fabulous final result. Perhaps one day have a look at your freezer, the next, mugs and plates, and so on. This keeps things fresh in your mind, encouraging forward momentum without letting it all become too much of a chore. Minimalism is valuable, but your peace of mind is more so!
You may already have the kitchen of your dreams, you just haven’t seen it yet! Give your kitchen a clearout and tidy your brain as well as your house. It’s the perfect starting point for a happier and more user-friendly kitchen.