Voluntary Simplicity for the Tiny House: Simplifying Your Kitchen

Tiny House Living Skills - Simplify Your KitchenHot Spot #2 for simplification (a process that has amplified importance in a tiny house) is the kitchen.

The kitchen is a minefield for complication in your life. There are gadgets for every imaginable use. Only you can determine which of these are actually essential. But, beware — this is an area where gadget lovers face their biggest demons and where “coolness” factors can often outweigh usefulness realities.

Discard the following items immediately:

  • Anything in your “junk drawer” or “back storage cabinet” or other “collection gathering” location that hasn’t been used in the last three months. (Kitchen space is precious, and only the useful should be allowed to occupy it.)
  • Any appliance or tool with missing parts, that malfunctions or is “quirky” in its operation.
  • Anything that is a duplicate (keep only the best one and be rid of the others).
  • Any dishes that are cracked, chipped, ugly, unused or damaged.
  • Anything that frustrates you when you use it (whether it be a pan that always sticks or a knife that never retains a sharp edge).

Dealing with Gadgets:

Kitchen gadgets fall into two categories.

For example, some people the bread maker is essential – they use it twice a week and the family loves the aroma of fresh baked bread and eat it the moment the timer goes off with fresh farm butter. For others this same item is something that’s stored in the back of the hardest to reach cabinet because, although they never use it, it’s “too good” to give away.

If your gadget falls into the first category, keep it and find a convenient way to store it so it can be used and enjoyed without cluttering your cabinet tops and without crawling into back cabinets to reach it.

If your gadget falls into the latter category, it should be discarded — no matter how expensive it was or who gave it to you. Do not feel obligated to store, insure, dust, work around and deal with something just because it was a gift. The giver would not want (nor did they intend) to complicate your life with their gift.

Dealing with Gadget Indecisiveness:

If your gadget is one of those too good to give away things, and you really INTEND to use it when things slow down a bit, use the box method. Place all these gadgets into a box with a date 6 months from today on the label and the word “Kitchen” only.

If you haven’t had to break into the box by the date, take the unopened box to the nearest donation center. If you prefer, you can give the box to a friend or a member of the family — but do you really want to saddle them with the same stuff you are now eliminating from your own life?

If you are paring down and keeping only the essentials in order to live a more simple, more organized, and more sane existence, you probably don’t need to store things that are used less than twice a year. Should you find that you need said item later you can borrow it, rent it, or … if you really need it… buy another one. Just be careful that you don’t end up replacing the dust-gathering variety of kitchen-gadgets.

If you are a gadget freak, avoid the temptation of perusing stores, websites, and catalogs that offer such things. If you don’t actually NEED something, don’t browse and shop.

Use the good stuff:

If you have “everyday”dishes and the “good stuff” that you use on special occasions, you may want to get rid of one set — the everyday set. Think about it. Aren’t YOU special? Isn’t everyday a good day to use the china? Why keep two sets?

If you love the china, use it. If you don’t, then get rid of it.

Ditto for the silver, the crystal and the other “special stuff” you keep packed away for important people… like company. Realize that your family is the most important group of people that will be using the “good stuff” and start treating every mealtime like it matters, because it does.

If, on the other hand, you don’t like the china or you don’t want to deal with the special handling (if you have china that won’t work in the dishwasher or microwave you use every day) then consider offering it to another member of the family. Or sell it in eBay.

Life is too short to use ugly dishes. Every meal should be pleasing to the eyes as well as the palate. Only you can decide whether that means grandmother’s china or a bright set of ironstone or even an unbreakable option — because you have little ones around and it’s not worth it to get upset over spilled milk and broken crystal.

Watch the details:

If you use worn out hot-pads, dishtowels, dishcloths. If they have stains or if your drawer runneth over, it’s time to toss them. If you discard all the stained, torn and ragged ones and need to buy more, do so.

If you have good ones mixed in with the ones you have — great! Be sure the colors and patterns are pleasing. Make sure you have no more than you need, and no less. Keep the drawer or cabinet where they are stored easy to reach and neatly arranged.

If lime green is a color that pleases you, use it. If you prefer navy blue or black — go for it. Don’t use ugly stuff just because you already own it. It’s not that expensive to revamp your kitchen with new colors using these items and making the kitchen chores more enjoyable is worth the cost.

Organize the pantry and clean out the fridge:

Most people have a stampede of condiments and only use a few of them. Organize your spices. Toss any that are more than six months old. Keep only those you actually use. Ditto for the dibs and dabs of stuff in the refrigerator. If it’s something you will use, be sure there is only one container of it open. If it’s something you won’t use, or that has been there for too long, toss it.

Organize your pantry so you can actually find what you need, toss what you won’t use or donate it to a food bank if it’s still good. Check “use by” dates on everything. Do the same with your refrigerator. Use a label maker in your pantry to assign shelf space to certain staple goods if you like. I’ve used a one to indicate where canned goods go. I know at a glance if I need to pick up an additional can of green beans next time I go shopping because the row isn’t completely full.

Create a cleaning tote:

Some people collect cleaning supplies. If you are one of those people, take an inventory of the cleaning supplies that you actually use that work well. If the products you use serve double duty… you get bonus points!

Collect all these cleaning supplies into a single tote that can be easily carried from room to room. There’s no need to have duplicate products in the bathroom and the kitchen and elsewhere. Get them all in one place and simply carry the tote with you as you clean. There’s no more guess work on where the scrubbing powder may be or where the glass and cabinet cleaner has gone. It’s all right there.

If you, like me, want to avoid the more caustic and non-biodegradable cleaners, you will find some great multipurpose products and some that are easy to do yourself. For instance, a spray bottle with water and vinegar works great as a window cleaner — especially if you use newspaper or a microfiber cloth to achieve lint-free clarity.

Consider citrus-based products for great cleaning, good smell, and low toxicity. Multi-use products will also keep your cleaning tote light and will make it easy to keep it well stocked for all your daily needs.

Your bottom line:

Once you look around a clean, organized and pared down kitchen you will find that it’s nice to work in the room, it’s inviting and you know where everything is stored. Working in a place where you have a constant frustration (can’t find what you want, have to dig in the back of cabinets, have to try to remember where you last saw something) is not enjoyable. Preparing meals should be a pleasant experience. So should cleaning up.

The more organized your kitchen is, the more likely you are to spend time preparing nourishing meals. This will improve your health and boost your quality of life. Likewise, if your kitchen is organized, you won’t “find” things in your pantry and refrigerator after they have expired. You will have less waste. You will not replace a kitchen tool only to find the one that was lost later.

You will save money (on food, tools and even health bills) as well as daily frustration. And it all begins by cleaning out the cabinets!

For more tips on voluntary simplicity, visit LivingSmall.com.

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