Tidying is the new thing. Since the release of the best-selling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organzining and its follow-up volumes, Americans are scaling down and getting their shit together. Author Marie Kondo has sparked a phenomenon with her KonMari method of cleaning up, making media appearances and inspiring entire Facebook groups dedicated to the cause. The method has turned into a verb, as in “I KonMaried the garage,” which followers have abbreviated: “Once you’ve KM-ed your medicine cabinet…” or “I’m going to KM the grocery bags.”
I KM-ed my entire apartment and once the husband saw what I was doing, he joined in to “calamari” his things, too. (Now his t-shirt drawers look better than mine.) When we got to our kitchen with its old tile, limited counter space and thickly-painted cupboards, he said, “Girlfriend, this part ain’t never gonna sparkle.”
I called local professional organizer Nonnahs Driskill of Get Organized Already for some help. And then I panicked. I mean, who the heck wants a professional organizer in their home? She will immediately notice everything we did wrong! She will scold us for using grocery bags as recycling bins! She will want to look at the jumble of who-knows-what under the sink! She might see the ugly stackables in the bathroom. Oh god, I hope she doesn’t need to use the bathroom…
Turns out she’s been on Hoarders, so she’d seen worse. We have no cat skeletons here. Driskill even complimented us on how well we’d done all alone and admired our funky typewriter art.
She noted that Kondo’s book has made people more aware of their clutter but hasn’t put professional organizers out of business, stating she has a few types of clients: rich people who love the book but want her to do it for them; people who are well-meaning but can’t even get started; people who have gotten started but find themselves stuck, and then a small group who have their KM-ing down but want a touch-up or some finalizing tips. Then there are always the chronically unorganized” or people who are “paralyzed by perfection.”
Combining Kondo and Driskill’s advice, here are 10 tips for sparking joy in your kitchen:
•Use shelf extenders in kitchen cabinets for stacking plates or glassware. They utilize that dead space above where items usually sit. Don’t be afraid to adjust shelving. With any Ikea or custom-made shelving, have extra shelves made, and make them as small as you can. You can even buy brackets at the hardware store. Adjust shelves in the fridge, too.
•Store and stack Tupperware and food storage tubs with their lids on. It avoids the nightmare search for “the right lid.”
•Buy long open containers at the container store to group commonly-used ingredients together in the refrigerator for easy removal. (Taco night fixings, etc.)
•Leave greens and fresh vegetables out on a shelf in the fridge rather than the crisper—you’re more likely to use them. As Driskill says, “Hide the cheese” (or other things you don’t want to overindulge in).
•Wash and cut the vegetables from the farmers’ market right away and store in clear containers in the fridge, so everyone is more likely to eat them.
•Remove “visual clutter.” Marie Kondo suggests removing labels and even adding ribbons, but this can mean just storing lentils, nuts and dried fruits in glass decanters or jars. It’s prettier than seeing brand names and ad-covered packaging every time you open a cupboard.
•Look for unused space and ask for outside feedback. Move things around. Driskill suggested we move a file cabinet four inches forward to make room for a recycling bin next to our trash can, something she admits she “may not have noticed in her own house.”
•Group commonly-used items together. Driskill suggests even keeping entire place-settings in one cupboard (glass with dish and bowl) if that will save you five seconds of opening other cupboards when setting the table.
•Keep items close to where they are most used. (We had spatulas in a drawer in a hutch in the living room. Kondo and Driskill agree they and we would be happier standing upright, in a cylindrical holder by the stove.)
•It’s not about throwing away. It’s about keeping (or adding) what sparks joy. We took our framed photos of Italy out of storage and hung them in the kitchen. Now every time I wash dishes I am reminded of our trips to Florence and Venice. Way better than scraping food from dirty plates.
Shawna Kenney is a writer and snack connoisseur living in Los Angeles.