Sarah Susanka, architect and author of the The Not So Big House books, thinks kitchens are out of control. Oversize appliances and gadgets that do everything we once did by hand now clutter our countertops and eat up storage.
This leads her clients to think they need bigger kitchens; more than three-quarters ask to start their home remodel with that room. “The attitude is, the bigger the better — and that’s absolutely not the best kitchen to be cooking in,” Susanka said. “There’s an appropriate scale, and having more and more cabinets and space between countertops can make it feel unusable.”
The first step to a great kitchen isn’t to remodel, but to clear away the space and energy guzzlers that clutter your counters and eat up storage. Underneath all those gadgets, you might already have the kitchen of your dreams.
Most people use less than half the stuff they own, Susanka said. So when more storage seems the only solution, she often talks clients down. “People may have lots and lots of cookie sheets, but they really only use two,” she said. Our mothers and grandmothers cleared out clutter (the stuff that hangs around but rarely, if ever, gets used) during annual spring cleaning rituals, Susanka notes. Now, “we keep bringing stuff in, but we forget we’ve got to also take stuff out.”
She recommends spring cleaning — even if it’s not spring. “There’s nothing more valuable than taking everything out and just looking at what you’ve got. Just open a cabinet in the kitchen and honestly ask, ‘How many times have I used that?’ You’ll discover that you don’t need most of it.” It won’t be easy. “The hardest thing to do is throw something away,” she said.
Instead of throwing anything away, donate items with a little life left to a thrift store or a friend in need. If you’ve overstocked on canned and dried goods, help the food bank. Remember that surplus next time you’re at the store, and buy less.
Finding reusable replacements for disposables is the easiest way to cut kitchen clutter, said Sherri Brooks Vinton, former Slow Food USA governor and director of the Westport, Conn., farmer’s market. “Slip a plate over a bowl instead of covering it with plastic wrap, transport lunches in reusable containers, use cloth napkins and towels,” she said. “You’ll save a fortune.”
Appreciate what you’ve uncovered: space. Fill it wisely, with wonderful aromas and happy people.
If you are having trouble cutting back on your shopping, try these tips to keep clutter from invading your kitchen.
- CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Wait a week or more before you buy anything. If you don’t change your mind or forget about it completely, it’ll still be there.
- REALITY CHECK: Add up how many hours of work it would take to pay for that thing you want.
- ASK YOURSELF: Do I have space for this? Does it require washing, dusting or other things I’d rather not do? How often will I use it? How long will it last?
- SHOP SMART: Check out customer reviews on Amazon, Consumer Reports or even from the retailer. (How many times have you wished you’d done that?)
by Misty McNally (GreenLivingJournal.com)
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