Finding Joy in Your Small Kitchen

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Finding Joy in Your Small Kitchen

Beth Fitzjarrald · Aug 4, 2016

comfortable kitchen, interior of a nice loft

Yes, you read that right. It is possible to be happy with, and in, your small kitchen! Sometimes it feels like everyone is aiming for a life that’s bigger and our small spaces can make us feel inferior. I invite you to spend a few minutes considering how your small space can actually bring more joy than always striving for something bigger.

Let me be clear: I’m not a tiny home advocate. But I have lived with six people sharing one cramped 1950s kitchen. And I’ve brought many of the principles I learned there into my own larger kitchen today. Instead of stuffing every cupboard full of gadgets, dishes, and packs of whatever was “too good a deal” to pass up, I’ve tried to embrace a simpler style.

Whether your space is big or small, one key idea will make it a bit more joyful for you: fewer things.

This is really the essence of making a calmer, more pleasant kitchen space. Now if you are a passionate amateur cupcake baker and supply all your friends’ parties, I’m not telling you to throw out your baking supplies. This is about finding the things that really aren’t bringing value to your life and getting them out of the way. Why? It’s so much easier to keep a space clean when everything fits easily into a “home.” Less stuff means less clean-up time, so you’ll have more time for things that are more enjoyable than cleaning. And clutter just sitting around on counters and surfaces has actually been shown to cause stress just by being there.

So, here’s how to get started…

Single-purpose Gadgets

Look at the things in your kitchen that only serve one very specific purpose. Maybe it’s a banana slicer, or a hot dog toaster, or a margarita machine. Unless you use it regularly and really enjoy it, donate it.

Toss Duplicates

Do you have three spatulas? Ten of those really spiffy silicone ladles? How about a cupboard full of 45 coffee mugs? Get together anything you have more than one of and think about how many you really ever use at the same time. Not in the hypothetical great dinner party you’ve always meant to throw, but really. In the last 6 months, have you ever needed more than 4 coffee mugs? Maybe 8? Your number will depend on your lifestyle. Box up any “extras” and label them. Get them out of the kitchen and onto a less-accessible shelf. Come back in 6 months or a year. If you haven’t opened the box, donate or sell that stuff too. A note about dishes: Does a full set of plates and bowls and glasses count as duplicates to get rid of? That depends. I keep enough dishes for my family to eat comfortably until our dishwasher is mostly full – which is about 8 of everything. That means I might not have enough for a big party. But that’s okay! I’ve never had a guest complain about eating with a dish that doesn’t match. Or if you really want to pare down, but still have occasional dinner parties, try a BYOP party: Bring your own plate!

The “Maybe Some Days”

Do you have special china dishware you’ve always meant to use but never dared take out of the cupboard? Or a juicer that you’ve sworn for years you’ll start using next summer? Be really honest with yourself and ask if it’s worth the space.

Manage the Food Clutter

We all go through phases—like when we eat nothing but almonds for snacks every day for a month. During that month almonds went on sale and we bought 15 bags! Planning ahead! But, sure enough, our tastes change and we stop binging on almonds, with 13 bags unopened in the cupboard. I suggest marking your calendar at least once every 6 months, hopefully often enough that you can evaluate foods before they expire, and donate the “food clutter” that you won’t eat soon to a food bank.

Buy Smart

Before you buy that new fancy kitchen gadget, ask yourself if it will really add value to your life. Be honest! If it’s something you’ll only need once, is there somewhere you can borrow rather than buy? Or find it used at a thrift store or online, then sell or donate it back when you’re done.

Keep the Things That Bring You Joy

This is critical. If you absolutely love the silly set of candy molds in the shapes of the Friends cast, even if you only pull it out once every few years, then great! Keep them. Don’t deprive yourself of joy, but prioritize the things that honestly bring happiness rather than the ones that you’re “supposed” to have but end up just being in the way.

A less cluttered kitchen space will leave you more room for what really matters—space to have friends or family hanging out with you at a house party. Or space to lay out and decorate your 5-layer masterpiece of a cake. Or to let your 4-year-old help mix the cookie dough without worrying about covering all your stuff with flour. Create space for life to happen, and joyful memories to be made.

Let us know your tricks for enjoying your small kitchen space below!

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