The Clutter Free Kitchen
by Katrina Watson
When I think of living with intention, I often ponder the things that I do in the kitchen. The kitchen is truly the hub, the heartbeat , of the house. Most of our childhood memories can be traced back to the kitchen. Smells of vanilla and sitting around the table talking about our daily activities. The kitchen holds a lot of "family" in its walls.
I have always loved having my own kitchen. Ever since my first apartment--I loved my kitchen. Now, 5 children later, my kitchen still remains the center of our home. For years, I struggled with the overwhelming duties of the kitchen. Obviously the food preparation is a huge task. After we adopted three of our children all at once, I remember thinking, "How on earth am I going to cook for seven people...every night?" I had weekly panic attacks at the grocery store. Until one day, I made a system. I call it a process. It is the way you "do" something. I find that my kitchen involves a lot of processes. I am going to write about several of those processes over the next week. The first I will tackle is "The Clutter Free Kitchen".
The most basic process you can follow for kitchen sanity and for becoming friends with your kitchen is becoming uncluttered and creating more space in your kitchen. I have lived in homes with very small kitchens and have had luxury kitchens. I have learned that it doesn't matter how big or small your kitchen is. If you have too much stuff for your kitchen, you will not be the ruler of your kitchen. It will rule you, your time, your anxiety and stress level.
Several years ago, I was definitely a girl with too much kitchen stuff. I loved beautiful dish sets (and still do). I loved the idea of making all the greatest entrees pictured in my abundance of cookbooks with my plethora of serving dishes and entertaining essentials. By the time I realized that I had far too many kitchen items, I couldn't even use most of them because they were packed to the brim in my cabinets.
One year, as I was preparing for my Thanksgiving meal, I had opened my "entertaining hutch" that housed all of my serving dishes. It took me approximately an hour, sitting on the floor, carefully taking out all of the dishes, choosing the ones I needed, then placing the others back into the cabinet. I couldn't believe my eyes. The amount of stuff that those cabinets held was enormous. I was amazed at the glass, porcelin, dip trays, oil and vinegar cannisters, pitchers, charger plates, etc. that lay on my kitchen floor. I had an epiphony. WHY IN THE WORLD DID I HAVE SO MUCH KITCHEN STUFF?
My job had only begun. Slowly, I got rid of my overabundance of kitchen items. Out of disgust and embarrassment, I parted with many of the items that I had previously loved. As I continued to rid my kitchen of the heavy dishes, I felt lighter and more in control of my kitchen.
My goal was to create open space in my kitchen. An empty drawer, a half-filled cabinet. Bare top shelves since no one can reach them anyway. Little by little, this became my reality. Soon, I was the ruler of my kitchen. I actually used my kept items more often since I could find them and they were neatly placed instead of stuffed into the cabinet.
As I was still making progress, my most difficult task was at hand. Clearing my counter tops. You see, I love decoration. I love to look at pretty things. So naturally, I had a lot of items on my counters. But as I was encouraged to begin clearing the counter, I began to notice the difference. I felt cleaner. It was more spacious. And, I liked it. Lastly, I finally convinced myself that I could actually keep the Vitamix and the coffee maker below the cabinet and bring them up when needed instead of storing them on the counters. This made a huge difference. I had to clear more items in order to store the appliances below and in the end it made total sense to me.
Today, cleaning my kitchen is close to a breeze. I still must "do the dishes" every meal and run the dishwasher often. But with the cleanest of counter tops and many open spaces, it all feels somehow doable. I am blessed with a beautiful kitchen today which has many cabinets and counters. However, even with the abundance of space, I still love having many open spaces. I have decided that my kitchen does not need decorations galore. I am enjoying the natural beauty of my kitchen instead. Everyday, I am thankful for this beautiful room where so much "family" takes place.
Here is a list of helpful hints for your clutter free kitchen:
1) Stand in your kitchen and ask yourself how it makes you feel. Do you feel anxious? Stressed or overwhelmed? If so, do something about it. Begin with one of your easier cabinets or drawers. Lay everything on the kitchen floor (or counter) and make piles. The "I love this" pile, the "it's OK" pile, the "I definitely need this" pile and the "I could take it or leave it" pile. Keep the things you love and need. Then consider giving away half of everything else. Also, take out the stuff that you haven't used over the last year. If it is seasonal, did you use it last season? If not, consider giving it away.
2) Put everything back into the cabinet or drawer in an organized way and then see if you feel any different. Move onto the next cabinet or drawer or wait a few days to see if you like your new cabinet.
3) Make an effort to totally clear one shelf or drawer in your kitchen. This may take some forethought or effort but once you do it, you will see the difference it can make.
4) Think about the word margin. Does your kitchen have any margin for error? Are you always juggling the many tasks of the kitchen in hopes that it doesn't all fall apart? If you don't clean up after one meal, does it seem like a natural disaster just hit? Give yourself some peace by creating margin in your kitchen. A little space. An open area where you can prep food without moving stuff. A clean counter where you can wipe your towel without fumbling with things all around.
5) Re-think the things you've been taught. "Every kitchen needs a KitchenAid blender." "One of every size utensil will make you a better cook." "If you have more dishes you won't need to wash as often." "The more kitchen items you own, the better your meals will be." "If you own all of the beautiful entertaining ware, you will have the most amazing parties as seen in the catalogs." I know it sounds dumb when it is written out but I think we have all had those thoughts. May-be you don't have lots of entertaining wares but perhaps your stumbling block is too much Tupperware? Or may-be you don't care that much about matching dish sets but your reusable bag collection is getting out of hand. We all have something that hinders our kitchen happiness. So, name yours and see if you'd like to do something about it..
Our kitchens work hard for us and I think it is time that we give our kitchens a big, beautiful smile! When you are able to find that spark of joy while standing in your kitchen--you know you have arrived!
Please see my kitchen pictures below. These are my kitchen essentials for our family of 7. I keep our small appliances in the pantry. These include my griddle, slow cooker, blender and bread maker. Next in the series of House and Home, I will cover Making Laundry Simple(r), Daily Kitchen Chores, Organizing your Kitchen, Feeding Your Family Healthy Meals and Snacks and One Time Per Month Grocery Shopping.