The kitchen is probably the most cluttered room in any home. We live in a world where you need this new thing because it will cut your cooking time in half! You need this tool because it will save you money! You need this gadget because it’s going to make your life so much easier!
But, before you know it, your kitchen drawers and cupboards are bursting with stuff, stuff that was supposed to make cooking easier. If that’s the case, then why does it always seem so overwhelming?
Maybe it’s time to declutter, to simplify, to find your kitchen again.
I’ve got some tips to help you do just that and rediscover the joy that can be found in cooking. We’ll also take a good look at some everyday kitchen tools we all have and discuss how necessary they are.
I’m not talking about a list of obviously silly gadgets that most of us would roll our eyes at, like this handy-dandy electric indoor s’mores maker. (Psst, you already have one, it’s called the burner on your stove.) We’re going to talk about items in nearly every kitchen that you don’t need.
My experience might just help you.
I love to cook.
Feeding people is my love language. Just ask my family, friends and neighbors. If I like you, I’m going to put food in you. However, I noticed as my love of cooking grew over the years, my kitchen gadget collection reached critical mass. I needed all the gadgets to become a great cook; the food websites told me so.
Oddly enough, as my kitchen filled up, my desire to cook seemed to disappear.
(I think it got lost in the junk drawer.)
Even if you don’t love to cook, I’ll bet this scenario sounds familiar.
To save my sanity, I decided to pare down.
At first, I just got rid of the easy things – doubles (or even triples) of things like spatulas and wood spoons, or broken stuff, and the weird gadgets that were buried in my cupboards and drawers.
Then I began paying attention to how I cooked, what tools I reached for time and time again, and more importantly, the stuff I hadn’t touched in months. I made several trips to Goodwill, where oddly enough, I noticed lots of other kitchen gadgets seem to end up.
The Big One
Some of you may need to sit down for this next bit. I know I’m about to commit food blog heresy here, but I even gave away my trusty Kitchen Aid stand mixer.
I know, I know.
Over the years, I found myself using it less and less. It always seemed like such a hassle to set up. I hated having it take up space on my counter, so I put it away. And when I did want to use it, I hated having to get to it in the back of the pantry and haul it out. It became this negative thing that prevented me from baking when I wanted to.
So, I gave it to a friend and breathed a sigh of relief.
(I replaced it with a much smaller hand mixer, the Breville Handy Mix Scraper, in case you’re curious.)
The funny thing is, now that it’s gone, I bake more. And I don’t miss my stand mixer for a second.
At some point, this purging of kitchen stuff became a challenge for me. I began to look critically at everything in my kitchen. “Are you earning your keep? Do you deserve a spot in my cupboard? Why are there three of you? Why is there so much dust on you?”
I started looking at tools that served one purpose to see if I could find another multi-purpose tool that would do the job instead.
And something weird started happening.
In this simple space, with (mostly) simple tools, cooking became easy and enjoyable again.
Simplicity created ease.
To Thine Own Kitchen Be True
Here’s the thing, folks, if you crave an easier, more organized kitchen, you have to know how you cook. It’s imperative for any of these suggestions to work.
Do you bake a lot but keep meals pretty simple? Maybe ditching your rolling pin isn’t really an option. Are you a master griller that hasn’t made cookies in decades? Then go ahead and donate that rolling pin.
Knowing how you cook and eat goes a long way in knowing what tools are necessary for you.
Before you start pitching kitchen tools, take a month or two and be mindful of how you cook. Pay attention to every piece of kitchenware you put your hands on and how often. Then you’ll have a better idea of what can stay and what needs to go.
Let’s start with a common cause of kitchen clutter (say that three times fast) – multiples. These are tools that you probably need, but maybe not as many of them as you own.
1. The Jar or “That” Drawer
Take a look at the jar next to your stove. You know the one.
Or that one drawer that you have to shuffle stuff in just right for it to close, and if something pops up at an odd angle once it’s closed, you can’t get it open again. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.
How many wooden spoons are in there? How many nylon turners do you have leftover from mismatched sets you bought over the years? What about whisks or rubber spatulas? Does anyone need four ladles?
Do you see where I’m going with this? I think these kitchen tools breed in the drawers where they’re stored. They must; I once found a mini spatula in mine I had no recollection of buying.
Pull all of these tools out and lay them on the table so you can see them. Keep your favorites and only enough of them to reasonably get the job done, then get rid of the other multiples.
2. Pot Holders
Yes, I know, we all need potholders and oven mitts and the like, but do you need three oven mitts and eleven potholders? Maybe it’s time to go through your stash and pare down.
3. Dish Towels
How often do you do laundry? How often do you change out your dish towels within that cycle? Now take those numbers and have a good hard look at the drawer bursting with dish towels.
I get it; I do. They’re cute and funny, and you can change them out with the seasons. But maybe you don’t need several dozen. (I’m saying this more for my benefit than yours.)
If it helps you to let go, think about that moment when you’re folding laundry, and you keep reaching into the laundry basket thinking, “Good grief, where are all these dish towels coming from?”
4. Baking and Casserole Dishes
The emphasis here is on the plural. Take a look at how many casserole and baking dishes you have in your cupboard.
I’ll bet you’ve got duplicates that rarely ever get used. How often do you make a meal where you need to use more than one or two baking dishes at a time?
Maybe it’s time to decide once and for all – do I really need a round 2-quart baking dish and an oval 2-quart baking dish?
Now that you’ve got a couple of spaces under control, let’s look at some tools you can lose to simplify your cooking space further.
5. Cookie Cutters
For many of us, there’s a drawer or a bin in our kitchen that’s a flour-covered abyss filled with cookie cutters. And we probably only use a handful of them. The rest just keep getting shuffled around every time you’re looking for the ones you do use.
Let’s be honest, how many different heart-shaped cookie cutters do we actually need? And why do we still have that one in the shape of a dog when the tail always burns. And this one, no one can figure out what it’s supposed to be in the shape of anyway. Is it a shoe or a church?
6. Honey Dipper
When it comes right down to it, these things are silly. Use a spoon and be done with it.
7. Bundt Pan
In theory, the bundt pan creates a pleasingly shaped cake, but in practice, how many of them actually see the inside of an oven. And most recipes that call for a bundt pan can just as easily be baked in something else if you adjust the baking time. Instead, try a 9×13 pan.
8. Pizza Cutter
We’re so used to this kitchen gadget that the thought of not using one to cut pizza seems weird and alien. But think about it, the only time you need it is if you make the pizza, either from scratch or frozen.
Delivery pizza comes pre-sliced by a restaurant that makes hundreds, if not thousands, of pizzas a day. You know, where it makes sense to have a dedicated tool for this task.
Unless you eat a lot of frozen or from scratch pizza, and I mean a lot, a chefs knife or carving knife works just fine. It doesn’t even take longer than using a pizza cutter.
9. Popcorn Maker
Do you own a pot? Yes? Good. Do you have a lid for that pot? Yes? Good. You own a popcorn popper.
This is another one of those gadgets where it’s hard to justify the space it takes up for the number of times it gets used. I have a friend who makes popcorn two to three times a week, every week, all year long.
He needs a popcorn maker.
For the rest of us, five minutes and a pan with a lid are all we need.
10. Rolling Pin
Oh, I know this one will have a lot of folks frustrated. But, if you rarely bake, then there are other things you can use in a pinch instead of a rolling pin. In fact, I’ve made a list of them.
- An unopened bottle of wine
- A metal water bottle or travel mug
- A can of soda
- A tall, sturdy drinking glass
- A thick wooden dowel
Depending on the recipe, you can use your hands to press the dough into the general size and thickness you want. I have a scone recipe that I make quite often, and I’ve only ever used a rolling pin the first time I made it. Every time after that, I’ve found it’s much quicker just to use my hands. Anything that gets you through the making part to the eating part sooner, right?
11. A Muddler
Okay, granted, this one might only apply to those of us who make cocktails at home. You use a muddler to crush fresh herbs for cocktails, like mint in a mojito.
Instead of buying one and giving up space in your kitchen drawers, use a wooden spoon. Depending on the glass you’re doing your muddling in, you can use either end of the spoon.
12. Avocado Slicer
It seems like everyone has one of these silly things, knows they have it, and still uses a paring knife and a spoon anyway. So, maybe it’s time to let it go.
13. Knife Block With ALL THE KNIVES!
Many moons ago, when I first got married, my husband and I had it in our heads that we needed a knife set. You know, one of those fancy knife blocks with the eight steak knives and the bread knife, the carving knife, three paring knives, the short filet knife and the long filet knife and that long honing thingy… You know, one of those.
Look, can we just agree that no one needs eight steak knives.
Seriously, when was the last time you made steak for eight people? Also, why wasn’t I invited; what’s one more steak when you’ve already made seven? Who came up with this number as the prerequisite number of steak knives needed in every home?
Then there’s the actual knife block itself, which is really a glorified crumb and dust-catcher that eats up precious real estate on your counter.
Spend some time paying attention to the knives you use, and you’ll probably find you only need three or four good, sharp knives – a chefs knife, a carving knife, and a pairing knife. Notice the emphasis on good and sharp.
Decide on the number of people in your life you’d have over for steak at one time, get yourself one of these and donate everything else.
14. Meat Tenderizer
Oh, if only there were other blunt, heavy objects in our kitchens with which to tenderize all eight steaks! You know, like a tin of tomatoes, a solid coffee mug, the pestle from our mortar, or an unopened bottle of wine, or…you get the idea.
Let’s face it; your kitchen is full of heavy objects that will do the trick. That room is only one surprise attack away from being a crime scene.
15. Garlic Press
A garlic press usually only does a half-hearted job when it comes to its intended purpose. There is always that portion of garlic unpressed which you have to cut up anyway. They’re annoying to clean and take up too much room in the drawer.
You know what’s already in your kitchen and takes less time than fiddling with a garlic press? A heavy coffee mug. Give your garlic a few whacks with the bottom of a coffee mug and a couple of passes with a knife, and you’re all set.
If you want to do it even quicker, skip the coffee mug and use the flat side of your blade to smash the garlic before chopping it.
And you can ditch any fancy gadgets for peeling garlic, too, because I Tested 6 Popular Garlic Peeling Hacks – See How They Stack Up.
Some Helpful Tips When You Decide to Declutter
Letting go of a few of these items can be hard. Not the actual using something else in its place part, but the letting go. Try it out first. Before you donate an item, use another tool in its place for a while.
Get used to reaching for your chefs knife when it’s time to cut the pizza. It feels a little weird at first, but you get used to it, and it becomes a habit. After your sixth frozen pizza, you’ll be ready to give away that pizza cutter and gain some space.
Don’t Let Guilt Keep You Holding On
We all have that dish or tool someone gave us as a well-meaning gift, but we never use it. Or maybe you balk at getting rid of something because you remember how much you paid for it.
I can tell you from personal experience that guilt will keep popping up every time you lay eyes on that object. But the moment you let it go – oh yeah, it’s like stepping on the scale and, surprise, you lost six pounds!
It’s a little different if something is an antique or an heirloom that’s been in the family. Maybe you can find another family member or friend who wants the piece or consider putting it into storage.
Holiday or Seasonal Tools
You might have some tools in your kitchen that only get used once a year on a specific holiday, but you would be lost without them on that holiday. I have a turkey roasting pan that I have to dig out every November, but it isn’t going anywhere. And you can have every cookie cutter I own, but don’t you dare touch any of my vintage Christmas cookie cutters.
If you have the space, it might not be a bad idea to put all of your once-a-year holiday kitchen tools in a storage tote. You don’t even have to keep it in the kitchen; stick it in a closet or under the bed. This will free up some kitchen space and keep those special tools easy to find, in one place and ready to go.
Just Because It’s a Gadget Doesn’t Mean You Have to Ditch It
Your kitchen should work for you and the way you cook. Occasionally you will find a tool that does make your life easier.
They will have to pry my iSi Cream Whipper from my cold dead hands because making whipped cream in seconds fits with how I cook. But I haven’t cut one pizza with my chef knife and thought, “Boy, having a pizza cutter clutter up my drawers would make this thirty-second task so much easier.”
Resist the Urge
Most kitchen-related purchases are impulse buys. In the future, before you purchase that new toy, ask yourself the following questions.
- Does this tool have more than one purpose?
- Do I already have something that does this, even if it’s a simple tool?
- Do I have the space for this, and do I know where I would put it right now?
That last one is key; knowing your kitchen’s limits often makes it easier to say no to things.
The Best Tool In the Kitchen
If you really want to simplify cooking and make the entire process easier, the best tool you can invest in is yourself. Even if you hate to cook, brushing up your knife skills and mastering a few cooking basics will make cooking easier, faster, and tastier.
And who knows, you may find yourself enjoying the time spent in the kitchen.
This Is a Process, Not a Project
You may start out taking a huge box to Goodwill, and that’s great, but remember, this is an ongoing process. Once you start paying closer attention to your space, you may find a few more things here and there that you no longer want to be responsible for. Or one day, you may open a cupboard, look directly at that kitchen thingamajig you haven’t touched in six months and say, “You’re out of here!”
Here’s the thing about stuff. Once you accumulate enough of it, your stuff owns you. Letting go is hard, but you may find yourself surprised at how much simpler cooking is without all those things we just have to have.