I’ve written about the importance of cleaning out your fridge, freezer and pantry – so you can see and use what you’ve got, limit food waste and avoid unintended science experiments in your crisper drawer – but never I have not fully addressed the issue of the rest of the kitchen. Regardless of your cooking skill level or the size of your kitchen, when eating better is your goal, giving your counter, drawers and even your kitchen sink a good place to start. To begin:
Clear the counter clutter. If you don’t have room to chop, chop and mix, you won’t want to. Start with what doesn’t belong in the kitchen—the stacks of mail, the kids’ homework, that sweater you need to get back to the store. Put things where they belong, and then set some guidelines to help avoid piling up, such as: “It’s okay to put the mail on the counter when I get home, but I need to move it to the office /house table in front starting to cook dinner.” Now, what about your small gadget collection?
Be honest about what you use every day (or almost). I used to keep a talented bread machine on my counter for years even though I only used it about once a year. Today, I keep my coffee maker, grinder, and a small toaster oven on the counter and place less-used small appliances on easy-to-reach pull-out shelves in the lower cabinets. I keep one plate of dishes on the counter, all the others live in drawers. Do you have appliances on your counter that you use less than weekly? Try saving them somewhere else. But what if cabinet and drawer space is at a premium?
Be realistic about space. Are items you use every day piling up on the counter because there’s nowhere to put them, while drawers and cabinets hold items you use a few times a year? Designate a spot in a lightly used hall closet, laundry room closet, or garage shelf for less used items. Consider donating duplicate items (how many travel mugs do you need?) and items you’re keeping out of obligation or that don’t match the way you cook and entertain (your grandmother’s punch bowl). Reserve kitchen real estate for the things you ask for often.
Think in zones and groups. Keep kitchen utensils that you use daily or weekly (in a pan or drawer next to the stove) near you, and group less-used items elsewhere. For example, my frequently used measuring cups and spoons are front and center in a kitchen island drawer, while less frequently used baking-specific equipment (compensated spatulas, bowl scrapers, thermometers, pastry cutters) live together in a slightly less convenient drawer.
Continue with your dishes. One of my clients had the epiphany that her struggle to cook interesting food was caused by her not emptying her dishwasher. When clean dishes languished in the dishwasher, dirty dishes piled up in the sink, so often the bowl or pan that needed it was not only dirty, but there was no place to wash it. She started emptying her dishwasher and cooking became more accessible and fun.
On you. Is clutter and disorganization killing your motivation to cook? Or maybe there is another obstacle. Are all your knives dull? Need some more cutting boards? Never seem to have the right size pot or pan? It can be difficult to consistently muster the energy to cook. Don’t let more easily corrected obstacles hold you back.