Having a clean, streamlined, beautiful kitchen is a dream, an advertisement in a magazine, a mirage only available in movies and TV shows. Or is it? In reality, most homes are faced with lots of gadgets on the counters, bread, fruit, dirty dishes, kids homework, the list goes on!
A few years ago, I decided the clutter in the kitchen was distracting for me, it was taking away from our family’s enjoyment of the space, and it was adding clutter to our life. In today’s world, we spend lots of time in kitchens. It is a place to gather, entertain, and build family relationships. Times of a kitchen being in the back of the house, out of sight, are long gone.
A journey towards an intentioned kitchen
It took time. I tackled one area at a time. We moved houses. We lived in a rental. We remodeled two kitchens. I experimented with smaller kitchens and larger ones. It is still a work in progress. These are my best tips so far!
Have less stuff
Minimalism is a popular idea these days. Parts of it I fully embrace and parts I find go too far. My take on the minimalism in the kitchen goes something like this:
- Only own kitchen appliances that you actually use (more than once per year)
- Don’t buy a new appliance unless you can get rid of something
- If you are buying something new, make sure to mentally assign space to this item (not on the counter). If there is no space, something has to go.
- If you haven’t used that bread machine or ice cream maker or some other gadget in years, give it away. Just imagine how good you will feel having some empty space in your cabinets and not have them stuffed to the top.
- Get rid of touristy mugs
- Get rid of old, chipped, or mismatched (gifted?) plates, bowls, and cups
- Buy a matching set of everyday dinnerware with enough pieces for your family and frequent guests.
- Keep only those serving pieces that are useful, versatile and don’t take up huge amounts of space.
- That lazy susan with lots of compartments is great except it takes up a whole shelf. How often do you use it?
- Bowls of various sizes should at least be stackable. How many of them do you really need?
Do not store appliances on the counter
In my house, there are only 3 appliances that live on the counter – coffee machine, electric tea kettle, and toaster. These three things get used many times every day. The choices might be different in your house, but the criteria should be the same. The gadget can stay if you use it at least once every day.
If you are not using the appliance daily, it should probably be in cabinet, appliance garage, pantry, or somewhere else out of sight.
I like mine empty! There is actually nothing on my island in between meals. When I go to prep a meal, there is plenty of space to do the work. If my kids want to join and help, there is space for them to work too.
Having a clear island makes a whole kitchen feel less cluttered. It provides a visual plane of space that is clean and inviting.
If you don’t have an island, pick some other area of your counter. A peninsula or another highly visible portion of the counter would work well.
The more of the backsplash that is visible, the better. Not storing large appliances and tall boxes of food on the counter allow the back wall to be visible. That horizontal space provides a continuous line of sight across the kitchen adding to the feel of uncluttered space.
What to do about kids paperwork?
The kids come home from school and deposit all their artwork, returned homework, “look mommy, I drew a flower” – all onto the kitchen counter. I break it into three categories:
- if I would like to save something I file it
- if I think the kids will need it, I ask them to take it to their room
- the majority goes into a cabinet, out of sight. If the kids don’t ask for any of the paper in 3 weeks, I move the pile into the recycling bin.
I have learned I can’t recycle anything immediately. As the kids might find their work in the bin are get upset. Also, I enjoy reading what they are doing. I’m upfront about the above policy with the kids. I tell them I review their work but then it needs to go to make space for their new work.
Same policy can be applied to newspapers, magazines, and other non-kid paperwork.
Consider installing two dishwashers. If there are more than 3 of you in a household or you love entertaining, this idea is worth considering. We use ours continuously. If one dishwasher is full, and mid-cycle, we start putting dirty dishes into the other one. When that one is full, the first one is likely finished washing and can be re-loaded again. There are huge advantages to this process:
- Dirty dishes never sit on the counter (= less clutter!)
- At breakfast time in the morning, you could have an empty dishwasher, ready to load. No unloading to add to your already busy morning routine!
- If you have guests over, it doesn’t take 3 days to get through all the dirty dishes (= less clutter!)
Appliances are bulky but finding storage for them inside your cabinets is important. Some great ways to “hide” appliances
- If you are doing a kitchen remodel, include an appliance garage
- Use large shelving in your pantry to fit small appliances
- Store appliances in a bottom cabinet with accessories in a neat storage box
- Check out more ideas here
Bright Lighting is super important in any kitchen. The more light the better. Most cooks need good lighting to check the doneness and quality of the food. Bright lights create a sense of larger space and a feeling of clean.
Large windows add visual space to the kitchen and provide a connection to the outside. I recommend minimum window treatments or none at all. If it is too sunny, a see through solar roller shades are great option. These types of shades allow light in, reduce glare and incoming heat, preserve a view, and protect furnishings and floors from UV rays.