Choose less kitchen stuff

A hard place for me to choose less was in the kitchen.

When I moved into my first apartment after college, I envisioned that I would become a grand chef. I would hand-make delicious meals par excellence every night of the week.

So, I bought a ton of kitchen stuff and asked for lots of kitchen things as gifts. Soon, I had a restaurant’s worth of plates, glasses, silverware, gadgets, and cookbooks.

I was ready to earn my James Beard award!

But after a while, I realized that making my dream meals took a lot of planning, was expensive, and — you’ll be shocked to hear — I was frequently just repeating meals week by week.

I was eating well with a few regular, easy-to-make recipes I could cook using a few pans, a couple pots, the oven, the microwave, or my crockpot.

Most of my other kitchen stuff stayed unused for years. I even moved it all when I moved into a new apartment with my girlfriend. I told myself I would definitely use the new stuff in our bigger kitchen.

But I didn’t.

So, when I started choosing less shortly after that move, I accepted that I wasn't going to use a lot of that kitchen stuff and got rid of it.

Now, I have a better grasp on the kitchen tools I have and where they are so I can use them to make meals that I love.

If you have an overstuffed kitchen like I did, here are some suggestions for how you might be able choose less in yours.

First, like with clothes, take out everything you use for cooking, baking, and eating out of their cupboards and drawers and lay them out on the kitchen counters or your kitchen table.

Group everything by “type,” if you can. Silverware in one pile, kitchen gadgets in another, pans in another, etc.

As with clothes, this might be exhausting on its own, but it helps you see the total volume of kitchen items that you have.

Next, get a few trash bags or boxes you can use to transport things you decide to donate or throw away.

Then, start working through things. Pick up each thing and choose to put it in the keep, donate, or trash pile.

One example: my girlfriend and I realized we had more than 10 butter knives. We live in a studio apartment and rarely entertain more than two other people. We didn’t need that many butter knives! So, we chose to keep just four butter knives.

Different-sized pots and pans can be tough to choose about. Sometimes you need a huge pot for soup, and sometimes you need a small pan to fry one egg. If you can, though, avoid keeping too many sizes of one item just in case you need it for a specific task down the road. Instead, choosing to keep the items that can be used multiple ways.

Kitchen gadgets can be difficult to choose about, too. They’re really fun to use! But I often found that I’d get them, use them once, and then never use them again. Sell or donate the ones you aren’t using regularly to others who might use them more.

Once you’re done choosing what goes in your keep, donate, and trash piles, put everything that you decided to keep back in your cupboards. Hopefully, you have more space to put things and fewer things to organize.

And now that you’ve done all the manual labor of moving your entire kitchen, go order takeout. You’ve earned it. Nice work!

I still don’t have that James Beard award, but I make a mean waffle.

This post is adapted from a weekday newsletter I wrote in April 2018, Choose Less.