The kitchen has long been the centre of many houses. Just look at the words associated with it: “hearth and home” (with a possible link to heart), and the word “focus” originally meant “fireplace.” The place where cooking goes on (and often eating and entertaining) is the hub that all the other rooms seem to revolve around.
But kitchens are often the scene not of tranquillity, order and harmony but of chaos and clutter. While dishes aren’t usually piled sky high waiting to be done if we have dishwashers, benches (and cupboards) are often jammed with appliances, gadgets, ornaments, odds and ends, papers, pictures and so on and so on. Sometimes you wonder how on earth people find the space to cook anything. And as for those people who use the kitchen table as a workspace if they work from home…
Where do you start when you declutter the kitchen? Many things could spring to mind, but the best place to start is with gadgets. You can find a bewildering amount of kitchen gadgets, each with its own specialised use, in department and similar stores. Bread-makers, pasta-makers, juicers, steamers, wands, doughnut makers, waffle makers, toasted sandwich makers, mincers, grinders, blenders, Cuisine-arts, this-makers and that-makers. Quite honestly, how often do you actually use them? If you haven’t touched it for over a year, sell it online, donate it to charity or hold a garage/car boot sale. Also think twice before buying any gadgets: if it only does one thing, then maybe it might not be the best buy and may end up just cluttering everything up. Take popcorn makers. Yes, you get oodles of air-popped popcorn without having to buy packeted microwave popcorn with too much fat and salt attached, but it’s just as easy to cook ordinary popcorn in your microwave using a paper bag or a small cardboard box (e.g. of the sort used for teabags) to get the same thing. The exception here would be bread-makers – as long as you use them. Even so, you can make perfectly good bread in the oven (kids can make bread this way– it’s easier than cakes). Be ruthless.
Also look at the kitchen goodies you use that don’t have a cord and a plug attached. Are you still hanging onto a set of eggcups, even though everyone in your family loathes boiled eggs? Have you got a collection of preserving jars that have been empty for years? (oops – that sounds like me. I don’t think I bottled any fruit since a family member was diagnosed with diabetes and I had to cut back on using sugar.) A wok and a set of chopsticks that you bought in a fit of enthusiasm for Asian cuisine two years ago but never got the hang of using? A fondue set? Once again, be ruthless. However, some little-used items may be worth hanging onto for special occasions – fancy jelly moulds and shaped cake tins may only come out for birthday parties, but they do come out. Maybe a good move for all of us would be to get together with friends and compile a list of who’s got what and have a sort of cookware co-operative where everyone lends their special gadget and borrows other people’s (e.g. Megan has the fondue set, Wendy has the wok, chopsticks and sushi mats, Raewyn has the heart-shaped cake tins and Kathryn has the escargot dishes; when Raewyn wants to hold a fondue party, she borrows Megan’s fondue set. If Wendy is serving escargots, she borrows Kathryn’s. And so forth.)
Next, consider ornaments. The kitchen isn’t really the best place to keep ornaments, as the air is often greasy – spitting fat, etc. And if you do not have a domestic cleaner and if you’re not a regular duster (as in dusting twice a week), dust gets stuck to things with the grease and becomes very difficult to remove. Get rid of them, move them to another room or keep them in something glass-fronted.
By the way, if you do work from home (like me), then I have one thing to say about the kitchen table as a workspace: don’t. Never mind the hazards of getting food, etc. in your laptop and other files, and the distractions of dishes needing doing, you will need to have somewhere to store files and projects, and it’s a nuisance to have to clear it off every time you want to eat. Use a corner of the living room; use a hallway; use a separate table in another part of the kitchen; use the broom cupboard, even (although this isn’t a good idea).
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