Sorry for not posting last Monday. This post was originally intended to go up last week, but as you can see it turned out to be quite long and I wasn’t able to finish it in time. I’m going to try for some slightly shorter posts in the future!
Marie Kondo only has four named categories in her tidying process: Clothes, Books, Paper and a catch-all “Komono” (Japanese for miscellaneous). Inspired by some of the comments on the Facebook group The KonMari Method, I broke down Komono into 11 subcategories, and chose Kitchen as the first one to work on after finishing Paper.
I have a habit of getting excited about a new recipe, buying all the ingredients, and then only making it once. The result is that my pantry and freezer were slowing filling up with food that I wasn’t using, and couldn’t stand to waste by throwing it out. After 2+ years in this apartment, I was starting to run out of space. It took me about a month to go through this category, which I divided up into chunks so I could tackle it in the evenings and in short bursts on the weekends.
I haven’t done the math, but there must be more than a year’s worth of green and herbal tea in that pile. I drink black tea more regularly, so it doesn’t build up quite as much.
I went through each item in the pile, dividing it into several piles: “Use Frequently”, “Staple” (i.e. things I don’t use every day but want to have on hand, like decaf tea, flour and spices), “Discard” (either food bank or garbage), “Use Up” and “Try One More Time”. That last pile was for things that I didn’t want to throw out without trying at least once, like the lavender tea I bought once and still have never tried. My goal was to have a very small pantry by the end of this process. I’m doing a weekly meal plan and I’m just cooking for myself, so I don’t need to have a lot of food on hand on any given day.
Many of these staples come in bags of varying sizes, which I find frustrating to store neatly. Thanks to my frugal nature, I have tons of large and small canning jars and containers collected over the years, so I decided to put them to good use. After about an hour experimenting with different jar sizes and many moments of gratitude towards my my jar funnel, I ended up with this:
So tidy! Everything fits with room to spare, and the icing sugar bag doesn’t fall on my head every time I try to pull something out of the cupboard. The best side effect of decluttering is how easy it is to get things in and out of cupboards and shelves.
After making a list of everything in my “Use Up” and “Try Once More” piles, I shoved it all into one small cupboard. This is the only completely full cupboard in my kitchen now. I put it all together like this to keep it from taking over all my storage space again, and to motivate me to use it up (or discard it) as soon as possible.
The top row is entirely tea. I really do not need to buy herbal or green tea for a very, very long time.
A couple of weeks after the Pantry decluttering I spent one evening going through all my non-food consumable items. It was a much smaller pile, and most of it stayed, but it was still a good opportunity to get rid of all those elastic bands that had lost their stretch.
A couple of weeks ago I was suddenly motivated to finish up the Kitchen decluttering for good, so I blasted through Fridge, Freezer and Everything Else in under a week.
First I pulled everything out of my fridge.
There was a surprising amount of food that had been in their for an unreasonably long time. Those pickles were probably approaching 2 years at this point. I used the same piles that I did had with the Pantry food: “Use Frequently”, “Staple”, “Discard” and “Use Up”. There are still 2-3 things in one corner of the fridge that I need to throw out. I’m caught between my extreme dislike of dealing with spoiled food and my pathological need to recycle everything possible. One day soon I’ll get over my issues and get rid of those last few things for good.
That is a LOT of freezer bags. I pitched a few things, consolidated a few more, and made a list of things to use up ASAP. The frozen corn and carrots, in particular, have been in the freezer for quite some time, completely unopened. I still need to buy one or two plastic baskets for the freezer to keep the bagged stuff from falling out whenever you open the door.
I also used this opportunity to clean the inside of both fridge and freezer, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. It didn’t look dirty before but somehow looks way better now. Funny, that.
Once everything was laid out I started the grind of the KonMari process: pick up each item and decide if it sparks joy. Kondo says that anything you use regularly should spark joy, and if it doesn’t you need to look harder for the joy! I just kept anything I use regularly and didn’t have a negative reaction to. I probably kept 75-80% of the items in the images above, but I was able to discard several things that had been subtly bothering me for awhile. These were things I knew I didn’t like, or didn’t use, but that I hadn’t taken the steps to get rid of before now. Despite the amount of effort that it took to discard a relatively small amount, I feel much better about my amount of kitchen stuff now. Kondo talks about finding the “click point” when you have the right amount of stuff for you, and much of her method is based on intuition and feeling rather than trying to hit particular numbers of possessions. I think this aspect is why the KonMari method appeals to so many people. It is certainly one of the biggest reason it appeals to me.
After all that work, here is what my kitchen looks like now (minus the contents of the fridge and freezer, which I neglected to photograph):
I put a lot of thought into the layout of the kitchen while I was putting my “Keep” items away. I wanted to make it easy to get at what I need when I need it. This kitchen also has a decent amount of storage but very little counter space, so I’ve moved several things off the counter and into cupboards. I’m still experimenting with it as new ideas occur to me.
The photos above don’t show all the storage areas in my kitchen. There are drawers, of course, including one under the stove that holds all my baking pans. But you get the idea. Overall the kitchen feels only slightly emptier since I spread everything out. I am noticing that it is much easier to pull things out of the cupboard, and I have no items that make me feel guilty for not using them. It was definitely a successful decluttering effort and absolutely worth the effort.
I recently (since this decluttering session) read Spark Joy, Marie Kondo’s second book. In it she discusses the Kitchen in much greater detail than she did in her first book. In some cases I found I was following her methods without realizing it! I may do a second pass at the Kitchen after I’ve had time to digest what I read, but it will just be a quick look-through and not the complete overhaul, pull-everything-into-one-pile method I used this time.