3 Simple Steps to Finding Your Zen in the Kitchen
With each new year comes new resolutions, many of which are based in the kitchen. From attempting to cook healthier to using more local ingredients, the onset of a new year is the perfect time to hit the reset button to change your eating habits. But in order to find success in the kitchen and be the “master of you,” your surroundings must be in order. Before you can stock your fridge with vibrant produce and host stress-free dinner parties, let us help you find zen in the one room of your house that can easily be the most chaotic.
Step One: Clean and Declutter
Forget spring cleaning, the time is now. Put on your favorite tunes, grab a trash bag and go drawer by drawer—you’ll be amazed by the amount of things that can go. Decluttering is the first step to finding balance in any area in life, but decluttering in the kitchen is something that can be incredibly eye-opening… and sometimes repulsive. When was the last time you used a salad spinner? That can opener that broke years ago, time to toss it. Expired vegetable oil, in the trash it goes. If you have duplicate items, donate one or move it out of the way until it’s time to grab a replacement. Check expiration dates on all of your pantry items. As you throw things out, start to create piles of like items that you are keeping. Spices, baking goods, oils, etc.—all should be stored together. Create your categories and lay everything out on your kitchen counters to organize it (See Step Two below) before putting things back in their (likely new) respective homes. I know the process sounds arduous, but you’ll be thankful you did it.
Step Two: Organize and Invest
Once your fridge, drawers, and shelves have been emptied, grab a towel and your favorite cleaning solution. Give everything a good wipe down. Once you’re ready to start putting things back, think about how often you use each item. Start from the back with pantry items and cooking equipment you use the least and work your way forward. Place smaller items in the frontmost, easy-to-grab spots.
If your plastic containers are mismatched, broken or tired, new containers might be just the perfect self gift to add a touch of calm to your kitchen. Buy containers with a glass bottom and rubber top, and try to buy the same brand in different sizes to stay consistent. Sure, it’s not a necessity, but believe me, it will feel so much better to open a drawer and see a matching set (treat yoself!). You could even go one step further and buy labels to keep your leftovers extra-organized. Don’t be afraid to dream big.
Next, let’s look at your fridge. Instead of coming home and mindlessly throwing your groceries in the fridge, let’s create a system. Produce drawers were made for a reason. If you have two produce drawers, designate one for veg and one for fruit. If you have smaller drawers, make one for dairy and another for deli items. Keep all liquids in one section and organize all of your condiments together, ideally in the refrigerator door along with a fresh box of baking soda.
Now that pristine organization lives behind all of your doors and drawers, the final steps to finding absolute zen in your kitchen aren’t far. One thing that can easily re-clutter your space is the dumping of mail and random magazines on the counters, the accumulation of magnets and expired coupons on the fridge, and random boxes of who-knows-what landing on the breakfast table. It’s time to stop. Designate a spot (outside of your kitchen) for these to-sort items. It’s nice that your sister’s niece’s cousin’s Christmas card is still on your fridge, but it might be time to move on.
Eliminate and consolidate cleaning items. Look at your sink; if you have old sponges or brushes that are completely worn down and soap containers scattered, we have a problem. Invest in a small dish or container to hold your ONE sponge and ONE brush, along with ONE bottle of dish soap to live next to your sink. We recommend choosing soap that isn’t dyed bright pink, either.
Here are some final words of wisdom to establishing kitchen zen:
- Move your bread basket into a closed bread container.
- If you keep tea or coffee out on the counter, find a clean container to keep those items in or stash them on your mug/cup shelf in the cabinet.
- Keep the areas under your sink and at the bottom of the pantry organized. You really don’t need to keep every, single Trader Joe’s bag you’ve ever accumulated.
- Invest in some matching, aesthetically pleasing dish towels that make you happy to look at. Retire the mismatched, frayed and stained towels you picked up on various sales years ago to the “cleaning rag” bin.
- Maybe consider putting away the rooster statue your mother-in-law gave you, and replacing it with your favorite fresh flowers, on occasion.
Step Three: ALWAYS DO THE DISHES
The final and most important step? Just do the dishes. Everyday. You’ve put so much work into your peaceful sanctuary, don’t let grimy dishes ruin it. Has there ever been a single occasion when you woke up and said, “Wow, I really wish I could wash some dishes right now”? If that’s true, give me a call… but in reality, don’t put yourself through the pain of next-day dishes. Create a system if you live with others and delegate tasks if need be.
To summarize, finding zen in your kitchen is possible. By the process of elimination and investing in matching items, you’ll be one step closer to keeping the resolutions you set out to accomplish this year. Just remember, less is more and always do the dishes.