The kitchen, well definitely our kitchen, is the heart of our home. It’s the very place where we gather and talk about our day, discuss our dreams and plan our weekly menu.
It’s also the place where the junk mail is parked, the workbag is plonked and the extra dishes are well you know…left. It really is a high traffic area and unless it is monitored on a daily basis it can become a junk pile.
So here is what I do to stop the clutter from happening.
Step 1: Go through your cupboards and have a clean out!
I remember after one of my trips to Fiji as a volunteer in the local schools, and after visiting many rural areas where people had next to nothing, I came back and tackled one cupboard after the other getting rid of all the ‘excess’ of kitchenware I had.
Really, how many baking dishes does one need? And did I really need four sets of dinnerware? And I do realise that aunty gave me that salad bowl for my wedding but I hardly used it in 20 years…did I really need it?
Lucky for me I am not the sentimental type and out it went – actually four large striped bags you get from the $2 shop were full of kitchen stuff! It was hard to believe I had accumulated so much in such a short time! I envisioned my poor daughters having to go through all my gear when I had finally moved on to higher places, what a chore it would have been for them!! But alas, I have saved them! Now I can’t say it will be easier for my son-in-laws with my husband’s garage stuff but that’s another story for another day!
So what do you do with all that stuff?
I had a friend who was raising money to go to Cambodia to volunteer for 12 months. I gave her all my ‘stuff’ and whatever she sold at her garage sale, she was able to keep the money and put it towards her stay overseas. I was happy I was able to help in that way!
Key: Just keep what you need, one of every kind not seven!
Step 2: Group everything together for easy access
You know how people travel overseas and love to go to the museums and check out the fabulous artwork? Well, I love to go to the local supermarket and check out the fabulous food products available! I remember while travelling through Europe in 2000 and coming across those small cans of soft drinks in a French supermarket...I think they were barely big enough for a mouth full! And then there were the giant supermarkets in Belgium that had aisles and aisles of cheeses! I had never seen so much cheese in my life, let alone recognised them.
But the one thing you will notice in most if not all supermarkets is that the items that are the same are grouped together. For example all the nuts are together, all the dried fruit are together and so on. Place the baking tins together, the cooking pots together and cups and glasses together.
When you are organising where everything will go in your pantry cupboard, group the items together. And as an extension to that, group the items that are used together. For example, I put the oats for porridge with the sultanas that are used in the porridge next to the breakfast condiments. The rices and pastas go together, the cake ingredients together and so on. It could be a little different for you depending on your type of cooking of course but you get the picture I am sure!
Key: Whatever your style of cooking, group items together to make it easy to find what you are looking for!
Step 3: Store as much as you can in clear containers
The fabulous thing about storing all your food in clear containers is they are likely to stay fresher but you are also able to keep up to date with how much is being used and when you will need to restock.
Place your large items at the back so you can see the smaller items but also place the less used items at the back so you are not constantly manoeuvring your way around the less used products.
When we travelled through Europe with our three young daughters, we decided it would be easy jumping from one train to the next with only one large bag for the five of us. We’d had a bad experience of having our wallet stolen three days into our three–month holiday in Monastiraki, Athens and didn’t want to take any chances. I would look after the girls, hubby would look after the bag and do all the money exchanging.
It’s amazing what you can do with just a few items of clothing! But we did come a bit unstuck when we travelled on the ferry from Patra (Greece) to Bari (Italy), then from Bari to Padova (North Italy) and then from Padova to Venice. We were hoping we could find a place to stay in Venice and wash all our limited clothing. Alas, it was Easter Sunday and we couldn’t get accommodation anywhere, especially seeing there were five of us. So we decided we’d catch an overnight train from Venice to Vienna – that would take care of our accommodation. It was such a relief to get on the train, grab a cabin to ourselves and take off our shoes and socks. Well, it wasn’t until the guard stuck his head into our cabin to check our tickets and passports that we suddenly realised by the look on his face our socks had been in our shoes just that little bit too long! Mind you those socks probably kept us safe from anyone trying to get into our cabin overnight! I must admit, I was glad once we reached Vienna and settled into our cosy Youth Hostel room; we stripped off into our bare essentials and hubby went down to the laundry and washed every bit of clothing he could manage to fit into the washer!
Key: Air-tight containers are perfect for keeping your food products fresher longer! Socks in joggers are not!
Step 4: Use up what you have before replacing with new stock
I am telling you from first hand experience, the temptation to empty the flour bag in the flour container before I have used up all flour is very real! But you are not doing yourself a favour mixing the old with the new. Set aside a shelf in your pantry cupboard for all the ‘spare’ packets of products and don’t open them until you have completely emptied the container. Be strong people!
Key: Resist the temptation to put new into old!
Step 5: Don’t over buy
Sometimes we can get sucked into believing it is better to buy the bigger packet because of the cheaper price but really if you are not going to use it by the expiry date avoid going down that road. The only time I would encourage you to buy bigger is when it is a product you use regularly and you know you will go through it quickly. You want to avoid wastage and clutter!
Okay one more story…so never over-buy…I should have remembered that when we were travelling through Greece and I couldn’t resist a 5kg barrel of olives. It was before 9/11 and we were still able to bring more that 100ml of liquids on board with us.
I cradled that barrel like a new born. It stayed with me the whole flight back to Australia. It wasn’t until we went through customs we hit a snag. The official checking out all our food was a little apprehensive with my barrel of olives. He removed the lid and took an olive out of the brine. Then he started dissecting the olive to see if it was disease free I suppose. I was mortified he was doing this to my beloved olives so I knew I had to take action! I looked him straight in the eye and said, “if you don’t let me take those olives through, I am going to stand here and eat them one by one until I have consumed every single one of them! He placed the lid back on and helped me out the door! You know what they say, never mess with a Greek woman and her olives!
Key: Avoid wastage and clutter and be prepared to eat all of what you purchase!
I hope that’s been helpful to you and remember less is more!