Over the years, as I have worked to make cooking less intimidating and more pleasurable for people, one of the obstacles that I have encountered time and time again is not related to the food at all. For many, the kitchen is an overwhelming and unpleasant place to be, not because of the actual cooking, but because of the clutter and mess that can build up over time.
If you dread spending time in your kitchen. If walking into the room gives you anxiety or a sense of dread. Then, it may be time to clear out the clutter.
If cleaning out your kitchen sounds appealing (or at least like something you should probably do), here are some quick and simple steps you can take to make a marked difference in almost no time at all.
And for those of you who want more, for each quick tip shared, I’ve also included ideas for next steps you can take to clean out the clutter in your kitchen even further.
Ways to Quickly Clean Out the Clutter in Your Kitchen
Take 10 minutes to go through and pull out the half-full boxes of pasta, crackers, and who knows what else and divide them into two piles: food you will use and food you won’t.
Put the items you will use back into the pantry and toss or donate the items you won’t be using.
An important note: my friend Rose Clifford, an RDN who manages the food and nutrition program at a senior services non-profit, told me that people frequently mistakenly donate shelf-stable food that has expired, so please check the expiration dates before donating!
Wanna do more?
- Before you return items to the pantry, consider wiping down the shelves – it will make everything feel so much nicer.
- Consolidate items!
- Got multiple bottles of the same spice? Either toss the older ones or combine them into one container.
- Small amounts of pasta weighing you down? Combine the ones with similar cooking times into bags or jars and label with the cooking time for easy cooking later.
- Got small amounts of different snack foods? Create a “snack mix” in one big container or Ziploc bag.
- Do a similar clear out to your fridge and freezer (and then see the next tip)!
One of my favorite ways to use up the extra ingredients that I have knocking around in my fridge and freezer is to do an appetizer night.
- Melt remnants of cheeses on top of leftover bread or tortillas (with or without a small amount of leftover pasta sauce, pesto, or salsa)
- Roast up those last two carrots and one potato, or whatever veggies you’ve got knocking around in your produce drawer
- Roast that one piece of fish and serve it on toast or mash it up with some mayonnaise for a “mousse”
Then serve the mismatched dishes all at once. Everyone will find something they like and your fridge and freezer will be emptier.
Wanna do more?
- After your fridge and freezer clean out, wipe down the shelves and then put everything back in, organizing items so that like things are together (e.g., all frozen vegetables on a shelf together, all condiments on the fridge door, etc.)
- Do a similar inventory and reorganization of your baking supplies and then bake up a special treat to use up remnant items over the weekend
Clean Out the Containers
The other night, a friend made individual pot de crème (a delicious French chocolate dessert) in old jam jars. As we all inhaled the chocolatey goodness and noted the cute presentation, people started to share their stories of containers building up in their cupboards that they planned to use “someday.” It was a wonderful moment, but let’s be honest, is that “someday” ever going to come?
So take 5-10 minutes to go through that large collection of containers you’ve got knocking around in your cupboards and ask yourself: will I ever use these? If you have a specific use for them (salad dressing container, seasonal jam making, etc.), keep just what you need.
But those random glass containers and yogurt tubs that you hoped to use for some special project one day, it’s time to recycle them all.
Wanna do more?
- Consider using some of the larger containers you’ve got to hold the leftover items you want to store after your ingredient consolidation described above – just make sure to label them so you know what you’ve got in each container
- Instead of throwing away or recycling the leftover containers, see if a local school or non-profit could use them (art teachers are often looking for containers)
Free the Counter!
Is your counter space limited? If so, take a quick look around to evaluate what you’ve got that’s taking up space.
Do you use that kettle daily? How often are you really using that standing mixer? Any equipment that doesn’t get regular use shouldn’t live on your counter. By putting these items away, not only you will gain back lots of valuable counter real estate, but your kitchen will feel bigger and more open.
Similarly, take note of the cookbooks, piles of mail (or maybe that’s just me?), or whatever else may be adding to the clutter and then find those things a new home. Speaking from experience, a clearer workspace will make your kitchen so much more relaxing to work in.
Wanna do more?
- Do a larger purge of your kitchen equipment. Do you have pots and pans you never use? Are there small appliances just gathering dust in your cupboards? A good rule of thumb: If you haven’t use it in over a year and it isn’t being kept for a specific, special purpose, it’s time for it to go.
Bye-Bye Cooking Tools
Do you have four spatulas, but really only use one or two? In 5 minutes, I bet you can fill up a box with all those tools you no longer need. And the best part: you can donate them!
Wanna do more?
- Do a similar inventory of your measuring spoons, cups, and other small tools such as sieves and graters.
- Repeat this exercise with your cups and plates. For instance, have your kids (finally) grown out of the sippy cup stage? It’s time to give them a new home.
Do you have quick and easy ways to clear out the clutter in your kitchen? Please share them in the comments!
Would you like to make simple and delicious cooking a part of your life? Check out our family-friendly meal plans to see how wonderful dinnertime can be!