Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Great Purge of 2009 (Part 2)

I've been occupied over the last several weekends with a huge decluttering, de-junking, and organizational project, which I like to refer to as The Great Purge of Ought Nine. In my last post, I discussed the decluttering of my garage and laundry room. Today I’ll talk about how I conquered my kitchen.

First of all, I should tell you that this little area of the home took me three solid days to declutter, clean and organize, which was surprising, considering how little I use my kitchen. During that time, we had to eat out, because the kitchen was a dismantled mess. Since this was an intensive area to declutter, this will be a somewhat longer post. So settle in…here we go…

I decided to tackle the pantry first. I have a large pantry, and it’s just me and my husband, so this area collects a lot more junk than just junk food. I pulled out the non-food items first, which included all my seasonal tablecloths, holiday dishes, good china, cake stands, cake decorating supplies, candy making supplies, popcorn popper, cookbooks and more.

Once I decided what to keep, what to toss and what to sell, I then moved on to the food items. I tossed anything that was past its expiration date. (There is a handy website here that will help you determine the shelf life of various items.) I felt bad throwing all that food away. If I had known those food items were in there, I would have used them, but the pantry was such a jumbled mess, I couldn’t see half of what I had. Lesson learned.

Then I decided what each shelf should hold. The left-hand side of the pantry would be for non-food items. The middle and right-hand side of the pantry would be for food items. I put things that I use less-often, like seasonal items, on the higher shelves and things I use frequently on the middle shelves, so I would have easier access to them. One shelf was for all my baking supplies, another for all my candy making supplies, etc. By the time I was done, it was a calm, logical, organized thing of beauty.

Next it was on to all the cabinets. Peter Walsh has some great tips and tricks to figure out what you really use and what you never touch, so that you know what to get rid of. I put all the weird kitchen gadgets and cooking utensils in the “sell” box, along with the pizza stone (never used), the fry cooker (unhealthy) and an assortment of coffee mugs (we don’t even drink coffee). Where do all these mugs come from? I only kept about a third of them, which are our favorites and the ones we use all the time. I organized all my special cake pans into one area, and went through my cookie cutters and only kept the ones I liked and used. When it came to the Tupperware, again, I only kept the useful pieces. The rest of them went into the “sell” box and I re-purposed a couple of them to be containers for smaller items in the laundry room, and for some of my cake decorating tools, etc.

The end was near! Now all that was left were the miscellaneous areas. I got rid of a bunch of knickknacks and clutter on the counters, including the TV, which we never watched anymore. This freed up so much counter space, I felt like I’d gotten a new kitchen! I got rid of the junk drawer, which is something Walsh also recommends, since it’s just a catch-all for junk you don’t know what to do with. I threw away most of what was in that drawer. I like tea, and had acquired a collection of teapots (some of them decorative) and tea cups which were displayed on top of my refrigerator. I forced myself to make hard choices, and only kept the ones that were functional, that I liked and used. Walsh believes that visual clutter causes mental clutter, and I wholeheartedly agree. He uses this reasoning to get rid of all magnets, pictures, drawings and other assorted nonsense that gets attached to the outside of your refrigerator. Well, I downsized as many of the magnets as I could, but I just couldn’t bear to get rid of everything. I’m always putting up new pictures of my friends and their kids, and the drawings they make for me. And every single time I go into the kitchen, I look at it all, and it makes me smile. So that was one concession I made.

The final step was to do some serious spring cleaning on the kitchen from top to bottom. I cleaned all surfaces, cleaned the inside of the refrigerator, and even conditioned my cabinets. When I first started decluttering the kitchen I was worried that I was going to have to get some organizational bins or shelf dividers. Surprisingly, no extra organizational items were needed really. I would like to make some little tiered stair steps for my spices, so you can see everything, and I would like to get a three-ring binder to put all my recipes in, but that’s about it. I did buy a couple of glass baking dishes to replace the cheap rusted tin ones that I threw away. I also bought a white board/message center type thing to hang by the phone, to help get rid of the paper clutter and mail that was always junking up the counter space. Now I sort mail over the trash can, deal with it immediately, and only tack up important things onto the board.

As I’ve admitted in a previous post, I am not the best cook. The only thing I know how to make is reservations. But I’ve been trying to work on that since that first post, and over the last year, I think I’ve made some good progress. I still don’t enjoy cooking, but at least it’s a lot easier now. I had no idea how much of an impact a clutter-free, organized kitchen would have on my prep time. Even cake decorating (something I do enjoy) was so much easier and quicker, since I could just pull out my tools and get to work. Hopefully, now that the prepping and logistics of cooking is easier, it will propel me to continue in my goal to cook at home, and make more healthy meals. Who knew that decluttering could be so life changing? Up next… the living room and linen closet. Everything in its place, and a place for everything!


Laura said...

Where's the "like" button? :)

One thing I do that helps me soooo much with meal prep is to have a weekly menu posted on the inside of the pantry door. It only has the main dish for lunch and dinner each day, but it's a major de-stress item for me. Plus, it's on the back of my weekly grocery list so it's with me at the market. Bonus!

Congrats on another successful purge. You've just given yourself a mini kitchen make-over! Just think of all the $ you'll make when time to sell!

D.L. White said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, I can grocery shop so much more effectively now, because the pantry is organized and I can see what I am running low on, what I'm out of, what I need, etc.

D.L. White said...

@Laura - I know! I'm sooo ready to have that garage sale!!! KA-CHING!!!

Funny you should mention having a weekly menu and prepping a grocery list accordingly. Meal planning still escapes me and is a major frustration...

I hesitate to mention this... but I just signed up for an online service, for $5 a month, they plan out your menu for the week, explain how to prep so that you can re-use leftovers, it's only for two people (or they have a family option) and they give you a shopping list, sorted by what aisle everything is in, by what store you shop at, and the menu is planned based on what's on sale that week at the store. How cool is that? I feel like an idiot for spending $5 a month for it, since I think I'm mostly an intelligent person and should be able to figure it out for myself, but I have such a mental block when it comes to this stuff. Hopefully I will only have to use the service for a couple of months, then get the hang of it and be able to FINALLY do it on my own!

Laura said...

I think that's a fantastic idea. As a stay at home mom, I have the ability to spend time in meal planning that someone with a career doesn't have. Plus, if it keeps you from eating take out, more power to you! The $ you save in eating at home will pay for that service in one meal. :)

Elizabeth C. said...

I loved reading this! It is inspiring me to do some decluttering myself! However, I'm with you on the "front of the refrigerator" thing. All those magnets and pictures make me smile, so they are staying!!! : )

I've always had trouble with menu planning too, and it's even worse now that I'm working! That online service sounds like $5 well spent to me.