5 Things I Learned About Tidying the Kitchen from Marie Kondo

published Oct 2, 2015
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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

I have a confession to make: I’ve never truly understood how your home can have an impact on your personal well-being until about a month ago. I know, I know. I work for a company called Apartment Therapy Media, for goodness’ sake. But it just never clicked for me. If my bedroom was messy? I felt a little down, but I didn’t take much issue with it.

This all changed for me after reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You may have heard it mentioned a good deal this last year, as a lot of people also found it, well, life-changing. Here are some of the key takeaways I found helpful when looking at my kitchen.

(Image credit: Cambria Bold)

The centerpiece of Kondo’s book on tidying is simple: Only keep things in your home that spark joy. For the most part – barring everyday necessities – everything else can be discarded. Cambria wrote about how this idea changed how she viewed her kitchen back in January of this year.

While I love this concept of “sparking joy” for the rest of the home, I found it a little more difficult when applied to the kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of the home, but I’d go further and say it’s also the most service-oriented place in any home, where cooking is essential. You need certain tools, equipment, and ingredients if you plan on making meals. While it’s nice if these things spark joy, having every single pot and pan actually be something that sparks joy seems like a luxury if you just need them to get dinner on the table regularly.

If you have one-too-many bundt pans from your grandmother that don’t ever get put into use, well, that’s another thing. Maybe get rid of ones that don’t “spark joy” and see where that takes you.

Considering the practicality and service-oriented nature of the kitchen, I’m focusing on other key aspects of tidying that Kondo talks about in her book for this post.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

1. Create a kitchen for the cook you actually want to be.

Do you want to be the kind of cook that tackles big projects? Or the kind of cook that makes dinner every single night, even if you’re tired? Or maybe you want to be more of an adventurous cook who uses a lot of new spices and different cuts of meat? Your kitchen can help you become the cook you want to be. Ask your kitchen what it needs. Prioritize your space, invest in the equipment you need, and discard things that are in your way.

2. Let go of your guilt surrounding unloved kitchen stuff.

Multiple times throughout the book, Kondo talks about our nostalgia and sentimental attachments to material possessions. She also feels strongly about her stuff. But in the end, nostalgia can be your enemy. If you’re never going to use that bundt pan your grandma gave you, it’s time to give it away. Thank the item for its time and set it free.

3. Don’t complicate your organizing.

There are lot of stores with great products, and guides and tips from books and magazines (and of course The Kitchn!) that can help you get things organized around your home. Kondo insists you shouldn’t make things complicated for yourself. Throughout the book Kondo mentions using shoeboxes a lot (like for organizing salad dressings and spices!) and lots of plastic food containers. Simple works.

4. Always stack vertically when possible.

Kondo insists that most everything in your home should be stacked vertically. From your clothes, to your socks, to what you have in your kitchen. She even went so far as to admit she stands carrots upright in a drink holder in her fridge.

When you pile things on top of each other, items at the bottom get crushed and lose their life. When you stack things vertically, though, you are treating your items with respect and you also have better access to things when you need them.

5. Get rid of excess visual information.

Towards the end of the book, Kondo mentions helping a woman who had a very clean and minimal home, but still felt something was off. Upon further reflection, Kondo realized that a lot of her client’s furniture and organizers had labels in her native language that seemed to create a lot of “noise” in the home.

If things seem unorganized in your kitchen and you can’t put your finger on it, consider looking at all the labels in your kitchen. After reading this story from Kondo, I immediately looked at my spice rack and noticed that I always thought it looked messy because there were so many labels and words jumping out at me. Investing in small tins that don’t have any words for all my spices is a simple way to cut out the noise.

Have you read this book? Any major takeaways for your own kitchen and cooking life?