It’s almost the end of summer, which means swimsuit season is over, and we’re on our way into layers and layered cakes (wait, maybe that’s just me). As we start spending more time indoors entertaining and cooking, things start to feel a little tight and cramped, especially in the kitchen, where the first signs of weight gain tend to happen. Use the tips below to help pare down and keep the extra weight out of your drawers.

Stop the madness.

Just like in personal health, one of the most important things you can do to find your ideal equilibrium is to assess your bad habits. When it comes to kitchen clutter, it’s likely one (or, let’s face it, all) of these triggers:

  1. Dumping the day’s debris onto the countertops, where it serves as the base for tomorrow’s layer.
  2. Purchasing one-use appliances and tools that realistically get used once or twice in their (or your) lifetime.
  3. Holding on to plastic far beyond its useful purpose, especially mismatched lids, containers, and free drink cups.

What you can do right now: Vow to not introduce anything new to the kitchen for 30 days. That includes today’s mail.

Make a workout schedule.

Now that you aren’t introducing anything new, it’s time to work out a game plan for the above trigger points and work backward.

  1. Pipeline your paperwork:Develop a system that allows you to sort paperwork before it hits your kitchen. Give bills and action-items a designated spot and toss recyclable junk mail instantly into the bin. If school paperwork starts to take over, try to keep things corralled into one of three places: backpack, keepsakes, recycling.
  2. Simplify your tools:Think about your cooking, eating, and entertaining habits over the past six months to a year. Are you waffling on the waffle iron? Has fondue become a fon-don’t? Resist the urge to hold on to any cooking item you haven’t used recently.
  3. Purge the plastic:The first things to go are the cups that were never meant to be permanent items in your kitchen. The next are any storage containers that are missing their partner. (Make sure to check for their ability to be recycled). Keep only as many storage containers that you can reasonably fit in your refrigerator. Also on the purge list? Any item that causes you stress—this means mismatched glassware, plates, the ugly bowl from Aunt Verna, and the pilsners you have to keep rewashing the rare times you use them.

What you can do right now: All of the above. If necessary, do it one cabinet and drawer at a time and be merciless. Remember: You don’t have to be prepared for everything. If someone in your family requests waffles/fondue/full-scale lobster boil only once per year, do them (and your cabinet space) a favor and take them out to eat.

Remember to stretch.

Removing all you don’t need, being able to see and find what you do, and using all you have—that’s the sign of a good kitchen and, frankly, a pretty good life. Lay claim to it. Stretch your arms wide on your expansive, clutter-free countertops and guard them with every inch of your good cookin’ sanity. Stretch your hard-earned money and mental health by purchasing tools that serve multiple purposes: a big dutch oven, a cheese grater, a chef’s knife that fits your hand and cutting style, a cast-iron pan, and a pair of good tongs.

What you can do right now: Keep up the good work and enjoy a kitchen that is easier to use and easier to clean. And then use this as momentum to declutter your closet.


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