The kitchen is a major source of frustration when it comes to clutter–toppling towers of storage containers, drawers stuffed full of gadgets, and a lack of counter space for prep all create a space that is stressful and makes cooking more difficult. In order to create a space that’s functional and enjoyable for preparing healthy, real food for your family multiple times a day, your kitchen needs to be streamlined and functional.
My kitchen used to be a jumble of extras–I even owned a quesadilla maker. Through the years, I’ve downsized from a large kitchen full of gizmos to a small, functional kitchen housing essential tools for cooking efficiently. Here are a few simple steps to help you get started creating a kitchen that works for you.
Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links, which means that I receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase.
Start by emptying all of your drawers and cabinets into a central location [you can also go one cabinet at a time if this sounds overwhelming]. Have three areas ready to sort items into three categories: keep, donate, or recycle/trash.
1. Eliminate Duplicates
As you go through your items, donate anything that has a duplicate. As much as I love wine, I definitely didn’t need the three corkscrews cluttering up my kitchen utensil drawer. Look for the typical extras like can openers and corkscrews, but also consider whether you need seven wooden spoons or three serrated bread knives. More stuff means more to clean, more to maintain, and more to store.
2. Eliminate Unitaskers
Alton Brown coined the term “unitasker” to describe any kitchen item that only does one thing [I’m looking at you, strawberry huller]. These are typically items that we purchase thinking that it will make things more convenient or that we receive as gifts–these products are marketed like crazy around the holidays. Things like banana slicers, margarita machines, and garlic presses take up tons of kitchen real estate and can easily be replaced by a simple knife or blender.
3. Eliminate Aspirational Items
We all have a certain number of hours in the day, and we need to prioritize our time to ensure that we’re spending it intentionally. Quality kitchenware is essential, but if cooking isn’t your priority, feel free to minimize the cheesemaking supplies, kombucha brewing kit, and beer making set-up. While these hobbies are certainly enjoyable to some, and it is satisfying to make things from scratch, simple, real food meals will suffice. Let go of aspirational items without guilt.
1. Clear Off Counters
The kitchen counters should be clear and ready for prep work. Only your most used items should be in easy reach on the counters–for me, these include a knife block, a crock of cooking utensils like mixing spoons and spatulas, a large cutting board, and a few essential small appliances.
Small appliances tend to be the biggest countertop hogs, so its important that we really consider how frequently we use them. If the appliance is being used less than three times per week, it’s better off in a cabinet. Another tip is to rotate countertop items seasonally–I use my Vitamix blender all the time to make smoothies in the warm months, but use my KitchenAid stand mixer much more frequently in the fall and winter for baking. I use the same spot on the countertop and interchange the two.
2. Consider Flow
When placing your items back into your cabinets, think about the flow of your kitchen and how the items are used. Are the coffee cups near the coffee maker? Are cooking utensils easily reached while standing at the stove? A little planning will help you make sense of your kitchen and make it much easier for you [and any guests helping you in the kitchen] to cook.
3. Organize the Drawers
Expensive organization tools are not required to have a functional kitchen, but a few simple organizers go a long way in keeping your items neat and handy. A flatware organizer is a must, and smaller trays for corralling other cooking utensils are helpful as well. Spice racks make spices easy to locate, but are also great for organizing canned goods and mason jars in the pantry. Under the sink, bins can be used to store clean rags and to hold used rags and cloth napkins waiting to be thrown in the laundry. Streamline your storage spaces for stress-free and efficient cooking.
As always, the quality of the goods we own is far more important than the quantity. One great chef’s knife will influence your enjoyment of cooking far more than a 16 piece knife block full of different tools. A simple set of stainless steel mixing bowls or a durable cast iron skillet will last a lifetime. When minimizing your kitchen items, consider whether each item is 1. practical, 2. enjoyable to use, and 3. high quality. If not, pass it on or upgrade the item when the time comes. This approach streamlines and beautifies your kitchen, promotes frugality, and is much more environmentally sustainable.
As a frequent mover, paring down your kitchen to the essentials really comes in handy. Not only is it much easier to pack, but the items that are part of a functional kitchen will fit equally well in the kitchen of a 3000 square foot house or in a one bedroom apartment. If you tend to plant roots and live in one location for some time, editing your kitchen items on a regular basis keeps your kitchen easy to use and avoids the creep of stuff that can often happen when we settle down in one place.
Living with less is incredibly satisfying and liberating. If your kitchen is causing you stress, consider reducing and streamlining your belongings so that you can focus on what’s enjoyable about cooking–preparing healthy, delicious food to share with family and friends.
30 Days to a Natural, Tranquil Home
Subscribe to receive a guide to transforming your home into the peaceful and natural space that you've always envisioned. You'll also receive updates and exclusive content from Minimal Domesticity!