This Is the Most Effective Way to Declutter Part of Your Kitchen When You’re Short on Time

published Mar 11, 2023
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Some areas are harder to keep clutter-free than most. For me, one of the toughest spots is the kitchen. While often referred to as the heart of the home, the kitchen is also the heart — or hub — for my clutter. 

After moving into my new place, which has plenty of cabinets and drawers to spare, I really thought we could never fill it. But, sure enough, it’s now very full, packed with items accumulated from previous apartments and new finds we just added, as well as cleaning supplies.

Now that we’re in the midst of decluttering, we’re going to spend the next several assignments on more refined projects, getting into our specific clutter spots for a set amount of time. The goal? To challenge ourselves to do the most that we can in an allotted time so that we aren’t spending the entire day cleaning but are still getting things done. 

Tackle one project in the kitchen

Today, set aside 20 minutes to declutter one part of your kitchen, whether that’s the cabinetry, drawers, fridge, or pantry. Of course, if you feel that you can take on more than one project, you are free to do so, but no pressure here.

You’ll need a timer and a large basket or bin, something to help you collect things as you go, such as items that need to be reorganized, discarded, recycled, or placed in one of your outboxes. If you’re having any trouble figuring out what to do with an item, put it to the test with these five ground rules.

Pick a project (or two):

  • Cabinets
  • Drawers
  • Counters
  • Fridge
  • Freestanding furniture, like a hutch or island
  • Bar area/cart
  • Pantry or cooking/serving supply storage area

What to look for:

  • Anything that belongs in another room
  • Broken items
  • Multiples that you don’t need
  • Anything you haven’t used or use so infrequently, such as kitchen tools or small appliances
  • Baking sheets, pans, pots, and cutting boards that sit untouched
  • Holiday-themed serving pieces that didn’t get used the last time you hosted
  • Novelty accessories
  • Mystery items you don’t remember what it’s used for
  • More than two bottle/wine opener
  • Excess water bottles you own (and don’t use)
  • Old, gross cleaning supplies
  • Old, stained, or extra plastic containers
  • Takeout condiments, plasticware, and stray menus
  • Out-of-date invitations or event announcements
  • Expired coupons and medication
  • Excessive collections of paper or plastic bags
  • Bottles of liquor that don’t ever seem to get drunk
  • Cookbooks that haven’t been cracked open in more than a year
  • In the fridge and freezer: expired condiments, mystery leftovers, old items, things you tried but didn’t like, things you have multiples of, anything freezer burned
  • In the pantry: expired items, unneeded canned goods, anything you tried but didn’t like

For everything that’s taken out, use your best judgment to determine if you need to toss, relocate, recycle, or donate. Many food items can be donated, so consider doing so. For the mystery, non-food items, stick them in the maybe outbox and set a specific amount of time to think about what it’s used for before throwing them away.

PRO TIP: Investing in some space-saving organizational tools can be game changing the next time you decide to declutter (and organize) your kitchen — whether that’s for cutlery in a drawer, items on the fridge, or things in cabinets. See our editors’ picks for the best decluttering and organizational products.

What project — or two — did you complete in your kitchen? Tell us about it in the comments.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The Most Effective Way to Declutter Part of Your Kitchen When You Only Have 20 Minutes