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Credit: Photo: Federico Paul, Design: Kitchn
January Jumpstart

5 Easy Steps to Deal with All Your Kitchen *Stuff* Problems — Once and for All

updated Jan 15, 2021
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Welcome to January Jumpstart, a four-part mini series that’ll help you get your kitchen ready for 2021. It’s the lightest lift you can possibly make while still getting a leaner, more organized kitchen that’s ready to work.

It’s time for Part 2 of January Jumpstart! Which means, by now, through Part 1, you’ve already peeked in every cupboard and drawer, named your essentials, and thought about how you want your kitchen to feel. Yay! You did it! Now it’s time to actually get rid of the junk that’s clogging up your space.

We admit it: This week’s assignment is the most time- and effort-intensive of the four assignments in our mini series. But it won’t take that much time or effort. This will not be daunting or overwhelming or frustrating. It will be simple. It will be effective. And it might even be fun. (There’s some shopping involved!) Ready? Let’s go.

Week 2: Fix your STUFF problems.

Credit: Kitchn

1. Pull out at least five items that can be donated.

If you did last week’s assignment, you likely already have at least five items flagged (either mentally or with actual sticky notes) to give away. Easy bets for first giveaway items include containers with missing lids, things you have in duplicate, and anything you have literally never used. 

Box or bag up your donation items and move them out of your kitchen right away — it’s important to not leave this stuff hanging around the house for too long, as it has a way of migrating back into cupboards and drawers. If you can’t donate your stuff immediately, put it in the trunk of your car or an out-of-the-way closet for the time being.

Repeat this process until you feel really good about what’s left. If you get stuck, remember how you want your kitchen to feel. For example, a kitchen mood mantra of “cheerful, warm, and cozy” may help you let go of those promotional plastic cups that decidedly do not evoke the feeling you’re going for.    

2. Clear off your fridge and countertops.

Clean, clear surfaces are not only more calming to look at, but they also make cooking and prepping food easier and more pleasant. Give your kitchen a fresh start by removing everything from the surfaces — including counters, stovetop, and atop the fridge — and wiping them down. Follow the golden rule of a clutter-free kitchen and only put back items you use daily.

3. Find a new home for non-essentials.

Now it’s time to do a bit of reconfiguring. Remember your most-used zones? These counters, cupboards, and drawers nearest to the stove, sink, and dishwasher are your kitchen’s prime real estate; only daily essentials earn a spot here. Thankfully, with the donation items out of the way, your kitchen cupboards and drawers probably have a bit more breathing room. Remove all non-essential items from your kitchen’s most-used zones, and find new homes for them elsewhere in the kitchen.

Tip: Put your prettiest (but rarely used) items to work in unusual ways. Keep your keys in a fancy sugar bowl by the front door, corral toiletries in a ceramic tart pan on the bathroom sink, or use a pitcher to hold your wooden spoons. This lets you enjoy your “good stuff” on a daily basis, and saves precious space in your kitchen.

4. Note where there are gaps in your essentials.

Author Gretchen Rubin, who writes about habits, happiness, and human nature, has identified two types of buying habits among people: under-buyers and over-buyers. If you’re an over-buyer, the results in your kitchen are probably pretty obvious in the form of too many single-use tools and more wine glasses than you’ll ever have dinner guests. If you’re an under-buyer, the signs can be a lot more subtle — but just as annoying when it comes to the functionality of your kitchen. Specifically, under-buyers are more likely to be missing essential pieces that would make everyday tasks way easier. Case in point: Maybe you’re missing a pair of tongs, arguably the single greatest tool a home cook can have.

With more of us cooking at home this last year than ever before, nearly all of us have found a few missing things. Identify a few pain points in your own kitchen routine, and make note of the little things you’ve been going without that would help. Another example? A 6-cup Chemex coffee maker so you can stop sloshing your inadequately sized pour-over from one mug to the next. This list of Kitchn Essentials might help you fill in those gaps.

5. Do some (online) shopping.

Having a clean and clutter-free kitchen is a fantastic feeling, but this process isn’t necessarily about becoming a minimalist. Again, in the kitchen, having the right tools at hand is just as important as letting go of what’s not right for you. If you came up with a few items in the last step that would make your kitchen life easier, consider treating yourself to at least one of them now; your future cooking self will thank you.

What’s one thing you’re ready to let go of (or one little thing you need) in the kitchen?