Overwhelmed? 9 Ways to Simplify Your Kitchen

One of the biggest struggles I had with learning my way around the kitchen was the sheer amount of stuff I accumulated in a very short amount of time. There were cooking tools, pots and pans, all kinds of gadgets, countless cookbooks, stacks of ingredients, and endless ideas about what to cook next.

For someone just getting into the swing of things, it was incredibly overwhelming and it led to an acute case of analysis paralysis–instead of making use of the incredible variety available to me, I stuck with 3-4 tools and a handful of ingredients. Boring!

Simplifying Our Kitchen

Over the Christmas break, we relocated our family to a new apartment, which essentially meant lots of packing, carrying, stair climbing, and frequently questioning the necessity of all the “stuff” we actually had in the kitchen and otherwise. Surely, there had to be a simpler way, and it led me to thinking about and writing this post–a handful of straightforward but not always easy ideas for simplifying the space where most food begins and ends. Try these out and share your own ideas for creating a more peaceful and functional kitchen in the comments!

  1. Eliminate unitaskers. One of Alton Brown’s mottos is not to have anything in the kitchen with only one job, except the fire extinguisher. Hundreds of kitchen tools and gadgets might fit this criteria, and eliminating them or consolidating their functions into other tools can really clean up your kitchen. Here are a few other examples.
  2. Pare down the knives. You don’t need that extravagant knife set–in fact, you can probably do with 3 or 4. That leaves the counter space you would have used for your knife block free for something else!
  3. Select your favorite pots and pans, then donate the rest to someone who will actually use them. The only ones I really need are a large 12-14” nonstick, a small 6-8” nonstick, a tiny and medium sauce pot, and a large soup and pasta pot. That’s a total of 5 pots and a lot more room in the kitchen cabinet.
  4. Don’t keep up with the Cooking Joneses. Just because everyone else on the block has a rice cooker doesn’t mean you need or will use one. Know what your favorites are, experiment with alternatives if it’s a possibility for you, and stick with what’s actually functional in your own kitchen.
  5. Group things by function. Rather than organizing items by similarities (all plates in one location, for example), store them where you’re most likely to need them. That means spices are near your prep and cooking area, serving plates are near your stove, storage containers are near the fridge or the sink, and so on.
  6. Clear off the refrigerator. While a kitchen refrigerator plastered with cards and messages might create feelings of nostalgia and warmth, try peeling back all of those materials to reveal the refrigerator hiding beneath. It’s one of the easiest things to do to make your kitchen look less visually cluttered.
  7. Take the time to organize your recipes. Rather than buying and storing cookbooks that you rarely reference, consider keeping only a few favorites, and copying other favorite recipes into a three-ring binder. You can easily make notes on your copies to amend the recipes, and you won’t get upset if you get food on them when you cook (you can also use sheet protectors to avoid this problem).
  8. Review the pantry every 3 months. The most frustrating thing for me is throwing out good food that was hiding in the pantry for too long and expired. That’s why I go through the entire pantry every three months and plan meals around the oldest or most abundant foods. It’s a simple way to make sure that everything gets used before it goes bad.
  9. Consider other storage solutions. If you have the ability to modify your kitchen, you might gain a great deal of space and ability to organize your kitchen by considering storage solutions you don’t currently have. Examples include pull-out pantries, corner Lazy Susans, and drawer storage.

What’s your favorite tip for simplifying your kitchen?