My husband and daughter love to browse in kitchen stores and regularly come home with “interesting” kitchen gadgets: a spaetzle maker, an apple corer, an egg poacher. Although these tools are admittedly useful, as a professional organizer I cringe at the items that have only one purpose and take up valuable storage space.
Perhaps your kitchen is filled with similar items. I generally do not recommend having such specific equipment in any kitchen, but maybe you use some of these tools quite often. If you have a large space with plenty of storage, that’s no problem. But if you are downsizing to a smaller home or trying to simplify your life, it may be time to rethink your stock. Read on for advice on how to let go of unnecessary culinary items so your kitchen — and you — gain a little breathing room.
1. Kitchen utensils. To scale back on this category, I recommend taking all of your spatulas, wooden spoons, measuring spoons and other utensils out from all of the storage areas. Group together items of the same or similar type. If you have duplicates, consider keeping only your favorite ones. You may want to toss broken or stained utensils.
If you’re having trouble deciding which items to keep, reflect on your lifestyle goals, whether that involves a new practice of simplicity or fitting into a smaller home. Do you really need a separate cheese cutter, cake knife and apple slicer? Or will one basic utility knife suffice? Try not to hang on to items with only one function, unless you use them often. Also, let go of anything you have not used in several years.
2. Small kitchen appliances. Some small appliances can perform diverse functions, making other stand-alone appliances redundant. If you own a quality stand-up mixer, you may also be able to purchase attachments that can juice citrus, process food or make ice cream or pasta. Consider whether the initial expense for these attachments is worth the increased functionality and savings on storage space.
Another idea for saving on storage space is to rethink appliances such as slow cookers and rice cookers. Although both appliances are useful, they take up real estate and the same function can be performed using pots and pans. Rice can be cooked in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and a Dutch oven can be used to slow-cook food. (However, I would not recommend leaving a Dutch oven unattended all day.)
There are other space-stealing appliances to consider unloading. A toaster oven can be replaced by a regular toaster and traditional oven. You can use a skillet instead of a grilled cheese maker, panini press and quesadilla maker. If you own a bread maker, consider how often you use it. Also, assess whether you need both a coffee maker and an espresso maker. Of course, if you use something often, keep it; otherwise, perhaps it is time to sell or donate it.
3. Everyday plates, mugs, glasses and flatware. To start, consider donating anything that does not match your set. This would include random mugs given to you as gifts, plastic cups with logos on them and any other mismatched items. I would also recommend tossing any plastic plates, bowls or cups for use by small children who are now long gone. These items might not be microwave-safe and often look worn and discolored over time.
Now take a look at the pieces you have left. If you are downsizing or just simplifying, ask yourself the following questions.
- How many people will be in your household?
- Will you be doing any entertaining?
- How many people can you reasonably fit in your new smaller (or existing) space for a dinner party or other gathering?
If you’re downsizing and your new home is much smaller and you will not be entertaining large groups, think about reducing to six to eight place settings. That will give you enough to host an intimate dinner party. Do the same for cups, mugs and flatware.
Before you get rid of anything, turn a discerning eye to the items you plan to keep. Discard chipped or cracked pieces, keeping only what is in good condition.
4. Pots and pans. At my house, we cook a fair amount, but we have limited the number of pots and pans we own. They tend to be bulky and take up a lot of storage space, and we simply don’t need that many. We have been able to get away with owning the following items.
- One 8-quart Dutch oven
- One 12-inch heavy frying pan with shared lid from the Dutch oven
- One medium saucepan with lid
- Two nonstick frying pans (8 inches and 12 inches wide)
- One medium pot with lid (for boiling pasta and more)
- One very large pot with lid (we’ve used for cooking crab and corn on the cob. We haven’t used it in a while, so I am thinking about getting rid of it.)
Feel free to make your own list of must-have pots and pans. Try to think in terms of multitasking, eliminating items that have only one function.
5. Serving pieces. What type of entertaining, if any, will you being doing in your smaller (or simplified) home? Maybe in the past you hosted Thanksgiving dinners for many people, requiring numerous serving pieces. But perhaps you will be passing the torch to another family member or friend. Maybe your new home will fit only six to eight comfortably for dinner and you do not plan on hosting large cocktail parties or open houses.
If you will be paring back your entertaining bandwidth, take a realistic look at your serving pieces. Multiple large platters, bowls, cake stands and appetizer plates may not fit into a smaller space and are good candidates for goodbye if you are simply cutting back your belongings. Think about keeping only medium or small pieces, prioritizing those that are multifunctional. For example, a large soup tureen has only one purpose and may not be something you want to store.
6. Fine china and crystal. The way we entertain has changed dramatically over the decades. In the ‘60s and ‘70s people like my parents were still hosting sit-down dinner parties. Using fine china, crystal and silver was common. Entertaining now is much more casual and relaxed.
Still, deciding what to do with fine crystal, china and silver can be difficult, especially if you received your pieces as wedding gifts. I received 14 place settings of china and crystal glasses, as well as a full set of silver flatware. I have lovingly protected the china in earthquake-proof boxes in the closet under my stairs. I have all the crystal — wine, Champagne and water glasses — displayed in a china closet in my dining room. I have used them fewer than 10 times since my wedding over 25 years ago, but I can’t seem to part with them. I live in a large family home. But if I were downsizing, I might have to reconsider keeping these items.
If you rarely or never use your expensive dinnerware, try selling it at a home consignment store. If you simply can’t bear to part with all of it, consider keeping six place settings and storing them in your kitchen cabinets so you can use and enjoy them regularly.
8. Baking supplies. Consider the kind of baking you will be doing. If you often baked cupcakes and cookies when your children were in elementary school but now never do, think about donating your cookie sheets and muffin pans. Do you take the time to bake layer cakes, or is a Bundt cake now more your style? What about specialty items like springform pans, pizza stones and shortbread molds? If you haven’t used these items in years, consider donating them or selling them at a local home consignment shop.
As I mentioned earlier, a quality stand-up mixer is a nice item to keep, especially if you can purchase attachments for it that make other small appliances unnecessary.