The kitchen really is the heart of the home, isn't it? Not only is it where we cook up nourishment for our bodies, it's also the spot where family and friends inevitably gravitate, providing sustenance for the soul as well. That's why it's so important to simplify your kitchen to work for you. If the kitchen functions well, encourages sustainability, and makes you happy, it will certainly impact your overall health and wellbeing. If your life is cluttered, it's overwhelming. It's the same for the kitchen.
So why not take just a couple of hours for an extreme kitchen makeover? It doesn't cost anything but a little time and effort to make sure that your kitchen is working for you and not against you (and the planet).
1. Get rid of plastic.
Right away, get rid of any plastic containers without lids or that you don't use because the sizes just don't work. Toss any that are scratched, as they can more readily leach harmful substances into your food. Then, take a look as see if any of the ones you still have can be replaced with glass containers instead. There are many inexpensive options in glass food containers now, found everywhere from IKEA to the Dollar Store. Go get some and only keep the heavy plastic ones that you absolutely can't part with. That goes for water bottles as well. It's time to switch to metal or glass. I find the easiest method of storing food containers is in either a deep pull-out cabinet drawer or the bottom drawer of the oven. I like stacking all of the same size together and sitting them on the corresponding stack of lids. That way I don't have to search for the right lid size each time.
Consider also ditching your plastic wrap and bags. Most are laden with chemical additives that can leach into food, and when we eat foods that have been stored in them, the chemicals migrate into our bodies. Not good. The answer is to simplify: put leftovers in a glass or ceramic bowl and put a plate on top; use waxed/fabric reusable sandwich bags, or just use those glass containers again to pack lunches. If you must, make sure to use the thicker plastic bags for freezing, etc. (not the cheap thin ones).
2. Cut down on paper.
Switch from paper to linen or cotton napkins. They're so beautiful and it prevents having to constantly buy paper ones you run out of. They look great stacked in a basket on an open shelf or hutch. Also, dedicate a drawer for microfiber cleaning cloths, so you can also ditch the paper towels. Go through your cleaning cloths, dishcloths and dishtowels and relegate any stained or torn ones to the rag pile.
3. Purge your cabinets.
Here's the fun part. Pull out all of your dishes, small appliances, cutlery, etc. and put them on the table. If you haven't used something in the last three months, donate it. If you have seasonal-only items, see if you can find storage for them in another spot in the house, or if you have room in the kitchen, put them in a high or deep cupboard that you don't access regularly. Are there any duplicates like bowls or serving platters or even slow cookers? Pick the ones that are the most multi-purpose (ex. a bowl that can be a mixing bowl and a serving bowl) to keep, and donate the rest. Any appliances or broken dishes go to the curb (or recycled if possible). Really get critical here - you only want to keep things that are truly useful and not simply taking up space.
4. Put things where you use them.
Now, rethink where you put everything back. Examine your daily habits and place your stuff close to where you use it, instead of blindly storing them where convention dictates. So glasses could go either next to the fridge or the sink. Mugs close to the coffee maker and tea station. Cutlery and dishes near the dishwasher. Cutting boards and knives close to the prep counter. Pots and pans next to the stove. The toaster and the blender in the cabinet directly under where you pull them out and plug them in. Seems like common sense but sometimes over the years we've changed our habits yet our organizing hasn't changed with them.
5. Organize your pantry.
Whether you have a food pantry or just a dedicated cupboard or drawer for food storage, go through it with a fine-tooth comb. Go through all labels and toss any that are out of date. Get rid of boxes by storing dry goods in glass air-tight jars. Keep labels and a pen handy so you can mark them with the product name and best-before date. Sort like with like - for example baking, cooking, breakfasts, snacks, etc.
6. Clean and organize the refrigerator and freezer.
Remove each item and check the expiration date so you can throw those that are bad (and do the smell test if in doubt). Mark any frozen home-made goods with labels. Make a list as you go of anything that gets tossed that you need to replenish. Then clean top to bottom with a microfiber cloth and good old hot soapy water. I like Castille soap or Green Works detergent. Sprinkle a bit of baking soda on stuck-on bits and scrub. Dry with a clean cloth and then use the same process as the pantry to load everything back in. Keep like with like, where they are easiest to find. Move your shelves around to meet your needs. Consider adding baskets or trays to group things together like lunch supplies or table condiments or smoothie ingredients so you can grab the whole caddie each time you need it.
7. Clean off your counters.
Decluttering your counters is a personal process. Some like them almost completely bare, others like to keep small appliances on them for easy use instead of having to pull them out of storage every time. Personally, I like to keep a coffee/tea station on my counter, as well as a stack of cookbooks, cutting boards, and oils and spices in a tray next to the stovetop. I think these things are pretty as well as functional so they work for me. The rest of the counter is kept bare for working on. The key is to not have visual chaos on your counters. Get rid of piles of paper that shouldn't be there. No more paper towel holder since you've switched to cloths stored a drawer. Dish detergent goes under the sink. Seldom-used appliances are gone or stored. Get ruthless here and see what a difference clean, sparse counters can make.
8. Decorate simply.
You should continue the look and feel of your home in the kitchen, but you also want to make sure that it remains simple and clean. Simplicity means creating a space that makes you feel at peace, so that will depend on your own personal style, but a good general rule would be to use no more than a couple different colours and materials in the kitchen. Don't have two different counter materials plus a busy backsplash. And make your decor both beautiful and practical. Maybe that simply means creating a cardboard outline to frame and pull together all of those photos cluttering the fridge into an intentional display. Perhaps it's a chalkboard wall where you can plan out your week's menu. Hanging cutting boards, muffin tins or utensils under your upper shelving is decorative and functional. Or you might install a small piece of art that makes you smile.
Make the kitchen a happy and functional space and your days will be brighter.