Cut Clutter in the Kitchen

cut clutter in the kitchen

Decide Whether To Delegate

Should a would-be kitchen declutterer assist the aid of family or friends to haul out the mess?

There's no one right answer!

This writer will express a rare preference against involving family members in this task.

One of the hardest aspects of a kitchen declutter is confronting the reality that no, you are not going to become an artisan baker in the foreseeable future (not being at home long enough at any one time to proof a single batch of bread dough, this being soccer season).

Working alone, you can pitch the dead sourdough starter, crusty crock and all, and spare yourself the discussion with a spouse that starts with the line, "But I thought you bought the bread machine so that you could bake bread every day?"

Think again, though, about enlisting an unrelated clutter buddy for this job. A trusted friend brings sufficient detachment to be a valid ally in the fight against the electric meat injector and the creme brulee caramelizer.

Choose a clutter buddy who is strong enough to point out that nobody, but nobody, needs a four-year collection of cracked margarine tubs. His or her favorite word should be "Out!" The help of such a friend, is help indeed.

Review the rules

Each item you encounter as you declutter requires a decision. Many decisions are easy to make: dishes, pots, and utensils in daily use stay right where they are until you're ready to re-organize kitchen centers.

Other items are easy, too. Either they're strays that belong elsewhere in the house (drop them in the Put Away Elsewhere box) or they're plain-and-simple trash, like expired coupons, that can be dumped straight into a black plastic garbage bags.

But, oh, that middle ground!

Electric french-fry fryers (complete with a filling of hardened two-year-old grease). Give-away gelatin molds in the shape of a map of the United States.Water bottles from sixteen worthy walk-a-thon fundraisers.

Pans you don't use, dishes you don't like, and specialty cooking tools that are more trouble to clean than to use--so you don't use them.

Bust the decision dam by holding each item in your hand and asking yourself a simple question: "When have I last used this item?" The answers will guide your declutter decisions:

  • "Never!" Out it goes, to the trash or for donation or a yard sale. I don't care if your mother-in-law did give you that complete cake decorating set (despite, or perhaps because of, your new stint at Weight Watchers). If you don't use it, it has no place in a lean, mean kitchen. Donate it to your favorite charity thrift shop and allow some other family the consumer thrill of possessing a genuine advertised-on-TV potato peeler machine.
  • "Within the last year." Out it goes, with one exception. Holiday cooking tools used only once a year, like cookie presses or springerle molds, may be give house room if, and only if, they are removed from active kitchen storage. You haven't space in a working kitchen for holiday one-timers, so store them with the holiday decorations in a box marked Holiday Cooking Tools. All others? If you've only used it once a year, why do you have it at all? Out!
  • "Within the last month." Candidate for a keeper. Deciding where the item should live will come during another phase of the kitchen clean-up.
  • "Yesterday!" Watch for these items; they're the backbone of a organized kitchen. Keep. Clean them if necessary and put away where you found them. They will be the star performers of your new improved kitchen environment.

The devil's in the details

No more stalling; it's time to begin. Pick a starting point, and begin at the top. Top shelves of anything are apt to resemble an unknown landscape at the back of the moon, so climb up on a sturdy step-stool. to meet them face to face.

It is at this point that you understand the truth about best laid plans going oft astray. Perched at eye level with the top shelf of your mixing and spices cupboard, you find a dirty flour sifter, bags of stale Christmas candy intended for last year's (never-built) gingerbread house, a wadded and soiled T-shirt that apparently traveled there via an son's fascination with the process of "stuffing" a basketball hoop, and a motley jumble of lidless canning jars.

One item at a time, you begin the declutter process.

The flour sifter, a legitimate inhabitant of the shelf, is tucked into the empty dishwasher to be washed and returned.

The candy is discarded straight into a black plastic garbage bag. (No tasting. No saving for next year. No side trips to look up gingerbread houses on Pinterest or daydream about Christmas Future. Remember the mantra, and dare to dump it!)

The T-shirt belongs in the laundry (make a mental note to talk to the T-shirt owner about playing basketball in the house) so it is tossed into the Put Away Elsewhere box.

Only the canning jars require a considered decision. Have you made jelly, jam, preserves or canned tomatoes within the last year? Did you assemble gifts in a jar for Christmas gifts last year?

If you answered yes to either question, you may wash and replace the jars. Answer is no? Out they go! Calm any qualms by surveying the nice piece of shelf real estate they'll leave behind on their trip to the yard sale.

One by one, continue down the shelves, through the drawers, into the cupboards and around the room. Declutter with a vengeance, because the next stage of the kitchen clean-up, deep-cleaning, will move faster the fewer items you have to work around.