5 Pain-Free Tips for Decluttering Your Messy-Ass Kitchen

Food Lists

It happens to the best of us: you think that you desperately need that mango slicer or tart pan, and eventually, you’ve got a pantry full of gadgets and gizmos that have only been used once, if ever. When that happens, it can be hard to justify buying a new piece of cookware that you really like, simply because your cabinets are full of, well, junk.

Before you relegate yourself to never buying another kitchen tool again, you might want to consider how you can get rid of the stuff that you don’t need. There may even be some tools that you think are necessities, but actually just take up more space than they’re worth. If your kitchen needs a little more room to breathe—or room for more tools that you actually plan to use—start with these five (mostly) painless decluttering strategies.

Make an inventory

Sure, it’s tedious, and no one wants to itemize their collection of wooden spoons, but putting your kitchen’s stock on paper can be a really stark indicator of where you need to pare back. You don’t have to inventory the kitchen all at once, just start with a drawer or cabinet and work your way through over the course of a couple of weeks. Once you’ve got an idea of exactly what you’ve got (including that old banged-up bundt pan that hasn’t seen the light of day since it was passed down by your grandma) you can start to edit selectively.

Consider which tools are the best multitaskers

Most of the time, a kitchen tool isn’t just good for one job. If you’ve got both a Dutch oven and a braiser, you can probably lose the braiser without ever missing it. Take a look through that knife block you purchased, and toss any that your main three knives—a chef’s knife, paring knife, and serrated knife—can accomplish. Any of those single-use gadgets, like a pineapple corer or mango slicer, can also probably go if you’re good enough with a knife.

Sort through all that Tupperware

If you’ve ever purchased a set of Tupperware, inevitably you’ve lost some of its parts. A Tupperware container without a lid is pretty much useless, and it’s just taking up valuable real estate in your cabinets. Remove any containers that are stained beyond recognition or have small cracks, and relegate them to the basement for the kids’ art projects. Over time, it might be worth investing in a set of quality containers, preferably glass, that you’ll be less likely to lose and abuse.

How many glasses do you really need?

The cupboard that holds drinking glasses is overstuffed in most kitchens, and for good reason. It doesn’t make sense to throw away a perfectly good drinking cup or glass, especailly if you got it for free from a restaurant or at a sporting event. Over time, though, those plastic cups degrade and the glasses start to take up valuable real estate. Figure out how many glasses you need for your family and regular guests—10 or 12 should do, of varying sizes—and give the rest away to a second-hand store. As an added bonus, your family won’t feel compelled to use 16 glasses a day, cutting down significantly on your daily dish-doing.

Host a cookware swap

There’s no reason for perfectly good kitchen items to go to waste, even if you never use them. Once you’ve de-cluttered the unnecessary items from your kitchen, encourage your friends to do the same and host a swap. Sometimes, that braiser that your friend isn’t using is the perfect addition to your culinary repertoire, or maybe you’ve been itching to try out an at-home pasta maker. Just make sure that you don’t come away with any gadgets that add to your clutter instead of accumulating the tools that you really need. Anything left over at the end of the swap can be donated to a second-hand shop or high school culinary program.

Amy McCarthy is Paste’s Assistant Food Editor. Her kitchen is still a total wreck.

Photo: Barney Livingston, CC-BY-SA

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