6 Steps to Decluttering Your Kitchen

The Kitchen. 

A calm space…. or total chaos? 

The kitchen is the highest traffic area in most houses. Whether we’re cooking, eating, helping our children with their homework, working, talking or just passing through – lots of good stuff happens here. If your kitchen feels cluttered, disorganized and chaotic, the time that you spend in it will be, too. 

I’m going to start with full disclosure here: my kitchen is NOT perfectly organized and sparkly clean. I cook for a family of 6 every day and I’m a messy cook! Which is why paring down was so important: there’s only so many dishes I can now when I’m cooking before I run out!! HA!

In all honesty though, everything has a place and there are very few duplicates. It took a solid effort to get here friends, but you can do it too. 

This is how we decluttered our kitchen: 

  1. Coffee mugs. Watch closely, they self-multiply! Coffee mugs are a staple in any American household. Great souvenirs from your travels, an easy and thoughtful gift from a friend, maybe the University mug that carried you through 4+ sleepless years of college: there’s an emotional attachment there. That’s why they’re so hard to get rid of!

    I never counted, but several years ago we had enough coffee mugs to fill an entire cupboard – three shelves! Ridiculous because we only use a handful of mugs consistently. We kept our handful of faves and donated the rest.
  2. Utensils. Do you have duplicates? How many pizza cutters do you have? (We had 3) How many spatulas? Serving spoons? Whisks? Can openers? Measuring cups? Tongs? Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

    Unless they’re used as a “pair”, get rid of the duplicates. All they’re doing is taking up real estate in your kitchen (and allowing you to put off doing the dishes even longer). 
  1. Bowls. Glass bowls, plastic bowls, metal bowls, wooden bowls, prep bowls, serving bowls, cereal bowls, salad bowls. Catch my drift? There’s no need to have so many bowls. Go through your cabinets and get rid of the sets (or strays) that you don’t absolutely 100% LOVE. If you’re having trouble deciding on which ones to donate, start with the ones that have been pushed to the back for the last 18 months (the ones that you forgot you had). Bowls take up a ton of space in our cabinets… pick your favorites and be charitable with the rest.
  2. Plastic Containers. There’s a Bermuda Triangle inbetween my sink, oven and refrigerator and I’m convinced that’s where the tops of my plastic containers go to die.

    If your containers are mis-matched like ours were, for Pete’s sake throw away the strays! Don’t keep them thinking the tops will magically reappear. Start fresh with a small set (you don’t need 20) and give them a special place on your shelves. Once your cabinets are decluttered it’s amazing how things stop disappearing.
  3. Rarely-used Kitchen Stuff. This is the “miscellaneous” category but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important than the rest. Let’s start with this: how many muffin tins do you have? How many sets of dishes? If you’re really serious, take everything out of the cabinets in your kitchen. Clean ‘em out like you’re skipping town! For every one item that you put back in, you have to choose one item to donate. It can be a painful process but it’s so effective.

    By the same token, get as much “stuff” off your kitchen counters as possible. That mixer that you use once a month or once a year? Put it out of sight when it’s not in use. Store it in the pantry, under the counters or in the garage. Your toaster doesn’t need to be sitting out all day. Top-shelf your blender. If you don’t use it on a daily basis give your eyes a break. Clutter signals to our brain that our work is never done. You deserve to enjoy your counter tops clutter-free.
  4. Food. Having food hidden in my pantry and refrigerator/freezer used to be one of the reasons that I overspent at the grocery store. Buying 4 cans of chili beans when I already had 3 hiding behind 6 cans of tomato sauce is ridiculous!

    Empty out your pantry. Get everything outta there and see if you can plan a week’s worth of meals exclusively with what you already have in hiding. Add fresh fruits, veggies and watch the food clutter disappear! ** Check expiration dates. Whatever is expired gets tossed. Donate what you won’t eat to a friend, neighbor or food bank.

Daily Habits For Keeping Your Kitchen In Order: 

• One in – one out! This means that for everything new you bring into the space, something’s gotta go. This allows you to maintain a healthy balance and the “stuff” won’t have a chance to creep up on you again. 

• Don’t put it down – put it away! I’ve spoken of my love for Marie Kondo’s book on tidying, and one essential piece of her philosophy is that every single thing you own should have it’s place.

Every time you go to set something down on the counters, table, chairs, or whatever – tell yourself, “Don’t put it down – put it away!” Is it dirty? Put it in the dishwasher. Is it clean? Put it away in the cupboards. Is it not supposed to be in the kitchen at all? Take 30 seconds and deliver it back to its home (where it needs to go). If it doesn’t have a permanent home, toss or donate it.

• Clean while you wait. If you find yourself with some free time in the kitchen (while your food is cooking, or otherwise), use it wisely. If you’re waiting for a pot of water to come to a boil, do a bit of cleaning instead of standing around. Start unloading the dishwasher, hand wash + put away cooking utensils that you’re done using, wipe down the counters. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done during the in-betweens.

• Set days + times for doing things. I’ve found that forgetfulness is one of my main reasons for not getting certain chores done. When you have set days + times for doing certain things it’s much easier to actually remember to do them. Not saying it always gets done but just knowing that it needs to be done once a week really helps. 

You can also have certain times of the day for specific chores. For example, I like to unload the dishwasher after breakfast. That way, it’s ready to be filled throughout the day. Do the dishes right after dinner if possible! Then you can wake up to a clean kitchen.

• Let yourself have one messy drawer. Every clutter-free kitchen needs a cheat spot. The key is to be VERY specific and intentional about where that spot is. Choose just one shelf or drawer and don’t let it spill out into the whole cabinet! 

• Make the most of your storage. Resist the urge to buy or build additional storage when de-cluttering your kitchen. The point is to downsize, not make more space to hold what you really don’t need.

Spices, for example, can eat up a ton of shelf space and be difficult to access. Try moving them to a drawer with the labels facing outward or onto a shelf over the stove. Transfer bagged or boxed foods into airtight containers designed to stand next to each other or stack neatly. 

• Always leave the kitchen BETTER than you found it. This might mean quickly wiping down the table when you pass through, taking the water glasses out of the sink and loading them in the dishwasher, etc.

Look at your kitchen with a discerning eye and asking yourself: “What small thing can I do in this moment to make my kitchen a little bit better?” Small things grow up to be great habits!

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