7 Ways to Declutter: Your Kitchen (and Diet).

Every Thursday, I will post a guide with ways to declutter a certain area in your home or life. If you’re not ready to toss everything out, try these ways of reducing clutter, one area at a time. Like me, you may not think you have much, but you’d be surprised to find how much stuff you have that you really don’t need.

Tired of dishes piling up in the sink? Do you usually take a few minutes before you find the wok you need in the cupboard? Found expired food in the back of your pantry? Need to manage food better? Want to make your kitchen space more efficient and attractive? Great! Let’s get started.

1) Wash your dishes right away.

  • When you wash them right away, they are clean sooner and available for use again immediately.
  • The longer you leave dishes, the more food particles stick, and the harder it is to scrub off.
  • No one likes unfinished chores. Do them right away and you don’t have to worry about it later.
  • You will impress other people with your cleaning habits!


2) Avoid the dishwasher. When I lived on my own for a year and a half after college, I didn’t have a dishwasher. I washed pots and dishes by hand and left them in a rack to dry. There were times I didn’t wash them right away and they would accumulate, which left me frustrated because I didn’t have a dishwasher like everyone else. I thought it was a waste of my time to wash dishes. Then I moved to this apartment, used the dishwasher twice, and realized how much I disliked it. I would ‘hide’ dirty dishes in the dishwasher until it was full and I had no clean dishes left to use! The wash and dry cycle takes a couple hours and when the dishes were done, they still seemed dirty! Ever since, I have washed the pots and dishes by hand. It takes no more than ten minutes to wash a meal’s worth of dishes, they’re clean right away, and I don’t need to use as many! I encourage you to wash your dishes by hand for a week. See how it affects your eating and cooking habits.

3) Use things that serve multiple purposes. Obviously, if you’re a chef or an avid baker, you’re going to use more items in the kitchen than someone who just wants to cook quick, simple meals on regular basis – but you can still cook amazing meals with a few tools. I prepare a majority of my food using only a cutting board, mixing bowl, skillet, two pots, and a few hand tools. A third, larger pot for boiling pasta is around in case I am cooking dinner for the both of us – which isn’t that often. I love my skillet and can use it to cook a day’s worth of meals (although lunch is usually a vegetable wrap and fruit). Since I wash the dishes by hand after each meal, I don’t need more than a few basic pieces of cookware. Consider the items in your kitchen and whether or not you can use the items for more than one purpose. If the item serves only one purpose and it isn’t that often, toss it. If you have a vegetable peeler that only peels vegetables but you eat them daily, keep it. You can judge for yourself. Apply the same mindset to your plates, bowls, and cups, too. I used to have seven mugs and got rid of five of the because I never used them!

4) Keep surfaces clear! You probably have a few small appliances that litter your kitchen counters and you use most of them once a month (if at all) while the coffee-maker gets a daily use. Keep the coffee-maker, and get rid of everything else. Got a ‘just-in-case’ slow cooker that you’ve never used? Get rid of it – if you haven’t used it yet, you won’t need it in the future. All I have left is a toaster oven that will be donated when we move because I never use it anymore. (We have a microwave but it is part of the kitchen unit.) Keep only the essentials. Also, no random knickknacks. You don’t need an assortment of cute cow figurines. You shouldn’t have any papers strewn about the kitchen too, if you followed some tips in last week’s post.

5) Only eat food that you prepare. Not only is this a good way to keep your kitchen simple, but it is very beneficial for your health. This point probably requires its’ own blog post, but I’m just going to throw a few things at you right now:

  • eat only food that will go bad (fruits, veggies, dairy, meats, bread)
  • avoid frozen foods
  • don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients in the label – especially if you can’t pronounce it
  • don’t consume processed foods
  • shop within the perimeter of the grocery store
  • prepare simple meals (five ingredients or so – StoneSoup is a great place to start!)
  • keep some staples that can be prepared in a variety of ways (rice, pasta).

It is hard to remember all of these at once (and of course, there are more tips and methods in existence!), so pick one – say, no frozen foods, and go with it. Then add the others. Do your research. Oh, and ultimately, I always have pasta in the pantry, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, and assorted spices if I’ve run out of things to eat. I wouldn’t recommend eating that every day, but as long as you have those, you won’t be hungry. (Many posts about healthy eating habits are floating around right now. Ironically, I couldn’t find any to link to but will edit this post as needed when I find them again.)

6) Buy only what you need for the week – plan your meals. Keeping this in mind will also help you save money. You might be tempted to buy things in bulk from Costco but I would advise you against that. Bulk items tend to sit unnoticed on a pantry floor for months and it can be overwhelming to have 40 large cans of beans! Planning your meals for the week means you will think more about what you really want to eat, what tools you have to prepare the meals, and what you need (or don’t need) to create them. If you create a list of items for your meal and buy only those items when you shop, your wallet and shelves will thank you. If you buy less food, you eliminate the experience of opening your cupboard, staring at everything you have, and declaring, “I have nothing to eat.” If you buy less, you know what you have and it’s easier to select a meal to prepare. Additionally, you run a lower risk of keeping around too much food until it expires and you have to toss it out. If there’s anything I hate, it’s throwing out extra food.

7) Have a place for everything. Usually items are placed on a counter top because there is no where else for them to go – they just don’t belong. If they don’t belong, why do you have them!? If they do belong, then there will be a place for them – be it a drawer or cabinet or specialized spot on the counter for your only small appliance. Use drawers and cabinets to put items out of view – they’re there for a reason! But remember that you are simplifying – not just putting all your unused food and dishes out of sight. You need to be able to find cooking and eating items quickly to ensure a smooth meal preparation and simpler kitchen. Then remember to put them back exactly where they go.

What tips make sense and work for you? What doesn’t? Am I missing anything? Any feedback is greatly appreciated! I have to admit that my kitchen has always been pretty minimal, so I did not have a need for extensive decluttering. Because of this, I have probably overlooked a few issues that family-sized kitchens may have.

Other posts with more tips and strategies that will interest you:
Washing Dishes the Most Eco-Friendly Way
Why I Stopped Using a Dishwasher
Outfitting a Minimalist Kitchen
The Minimalist Kitchen: What You Need (and Don’t Need) to Set Up Your First Workable Home Kitchen
A Minimalist’s Kitchen and Cooking Utensils
Minimalist Kitchen
Living With An Uncluttered Kitchen
Also, check out Minimalist Packrat’s Kitchen Decluttering Series!

7 thoughts on “7 Ways to Declutter: Your Kitchen (and Diet).

  1. I absolutely love meal planning. It’s been so essential in helping us save money, and it really encourages me to be a more creative cook.

    I recommend choosing one staple food to last throughout the week. This week, for example, we smoked a whole chicken on Sunday and have been using its leftovers for all sorts of meals. We did chicken salad one night, chicken fajitas, and pulled it apart to make barbecue sandwiches. It’s also helped us eat healthier, since a low-fat, protein-rich meat is already cooked and ready to be tossed into any meal.

    We usually try to settle on one staple food that can be worked into several meals. It’s usually something big (like a meat), but I think next week we might do spinach. It’s fun to brainstorm, that’s for sure.

    1. I’ve only recently started meal planning myself. I absolutely DESPISE grocery shopping. Living in NYC, it’s so easy for me to get into the habit of only buying the things I need for dinner *that night* rather than stocking up on food for the whole week. My thinking is I’d rather spend 10min a day in the grocery store than a whole hour shopping once a week!

      That said, I’ve started making a point to try to plan meals and stock up on basics once a week. I’ve already noticed the extra money in my budget – we eat out a lot less when we know there’s good food in the kitchen!

      I really like your idea of a staple food for the week, Claire. I’m going to start incorporating that! I do something similar with chili – a big pot of chili one night, turn it into nachos another night, burritos the next, huevos rancheros, stuffed peppers etc etc. Yum!

      1. Do you live near a grocery store? If I lived a nice walking distance away from a grocery store, I’d probably frequent it more during the week too, rather than once a week. It’s great that you get in the habit of only buying what you need for that night!

    2. A staple food is a great idea! In a way, I unconsciously do that (buy spinach and focus on using the spinach during the week, buy potatoes for the week, etc), but now with that in mind, I should start actively planning meals for the week based around a couple main food items. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  2. If I have a dishwasher, I probably would use it because it uses less water compared to washing by hands. But then, I have so few dishes that the dishwasher would be half empty!
    I agree with you on eating only food that you prepare. I’ve read similar guidelines from Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules.” Following these simple rules has helped Aaron and I became healthier.

    1. Does using a dishwasher really use less water than by hand? I’ll have to look into that. But yes – I have so few dishes at a time, too! I’ve read two of Pollan’s books but I haven’t heard of “Food Rules.” Will add that to my to-read list – thank you!

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