No worries if you missed out on spring cleaning this year. Summer is as good a time as any to tidy up the kitchen.
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Small Modern White Kitchen
Credit: Alexandra Rowley

The kitchen is a breeding ground for clutter. It’s the most trafficked room in the house and accordingly, can rack up some serious junk, seriously fast. While the minimalist lifestyle might not be for everyone, there are a few tips you can borrow to lighten up an overloaded kitchen. When the counters are covered with random gadgets, piles of mail, and various items from every other room in the house, cooking can start to feel more hectic and stressful than it needs to. Instead, take a breath, release, and free yourself from an anxiety-inducing kitchen environment; here’s how.

Donate, Sell, or Get Rid of Appliances

Take inventory of all your big ticket and smaller appliances that have collected dust in the corners of your cabinets or on the countertop. My general rule of thumb for decluttering life is: If I have not used it in a year, I don’t need it. Check to see if these appliances are still in good working shape and have all of their necessary attachments/parts. If so, consider donating them to your local charitable organization of choice. Speaking as a true queen of gadgets, I can promise, you will feel instantly lighter the minute you rid yourself of that cotton candy machine you thought you might use for your kid’s birthday party one year. You could even put some extra cash in your pocket by selling the appliances at a yard sale, over Facebook marketplace, or using apps such as LetGo.

Ditch Extra and Unnecessary Dishes, Cookware and Bakeware

Many of us have a collection of random, one-off dishes in the cupboardyou know, the plates belonging to friends, family, or neighbors acquired over years of occasions sharing food. Instantly free up space in your cabinets by clearing them out (and ideally returning them to their rightful owners), along with any other extraneous plates, bowls, cups and other dishes that no longer serve you. This notion also applies to old and barely used bakeware, as well as your college starter cookware set; upgrade to a couple of great saute pans and throw out the collection of scratched-up nonstick skillets. You won’t regret it. Putting away the dishes will be substantially easier when you actually have space to arrange them, instead of jamming everything on top of each other on the shelves. Oh yeah—and those pesky plastic containers that are cracked, scratched, misshapen, and have missing lids, toss them now.

Maximize Storage

Getting your kitchen in order does not require a big budget. Take a trip to your local dollar store to find containers that will help you organize your pantry. Smart planning combined with tossing what you don’t need will give your pantry some breathing roommaking it easy to find what you need when you need it. Still using that dried oregano that you bought two years ago? Your spices and condiments have a shelf life that you should be aware of. No use in cooking with stale and less-than-fragrant seasonings. You won’t be doing your food any justice. Retail and online stores such as Amazon or Ikea, offer cute and affordable storage containers that will get your pantry off to the right start.

Find open locations in your kitchen where you might add a shelf to maximize the space on walls, windows, or in a corner. If you have a tight pantry, consider removing items that you only use once in a while, such as chafing dishes or large platters, and finding a new home for them somewhere else in the house.

Create Designated Spots For Certain Items

When I walk into my house, my keys go in the same place every day. At this point, it’s a habit... and I never lose my keys. Apply the same mentality in your kitchen and make a designated spot for certain items that come in and out of the kitchen frequently. Instead of throwing daily mail on the table or counter, find a spot in the kitchen where mail goes. Make everyone in the family aware of this designated spot and reiterate that all members of the household respect this until dropping mail in this one spot becomes a habit. It truly makes things easier. Maybe shoes that are taken off in the kitchen go on the shoe rack or all room temperature fruits go in the white bowl on the counter. Whatever common items your family keeps in the kitchen area, find a permanent spot for them to live.

Throw Away Old Food Items

If your kitchen is cluttered, chances are that the inside of your refrigerator is also cluttered. Get into the weekly habit of throwing out old and past-its-prime food. You never ate that leftover takeout from last week? Toss it. The refrigerator is possibly the easiest place in the kitchen where food can pile up. Do yourself a favor, and practice the discipline necessary to clear out the fridge shelves as often as you can. The payoff is that once you develop a routine of casually tossing what’s no longer good, the chances of having your fridge overtaken by old food items are massively reduced, and tossing the occasional container of leftovers here and there no longer feels like a chore. You will be able to easily see what ingredients you have to work with, and are less likely to be greeted with an off-putting odor next time you open your fridge.

Attack Your Junk Drawers

We all have at least the one drawer in the kitchen where the miscellaneous items reside. The majority of what collects in this lawless drawer are items that you think you might need at some point; however, more often than not, it’s just junk. Clear out this drawer and narrow it down to items applicable for the kitchen. If you can’t find a valid use for it—chuck it. While you’re at it, go ahead and tackle all the other drawers in your kitchen. You don’t really need four of the exact same style of spatula.

Clear Counters

Hopefully by now, if you have started cleaning out your kitchen, you also inadvertently started to clear your counters as well. By getting rid of bulky appliances and reorganizing items in the kitchen to make for more cabinet and pantry space, your counters will have more room for aesthetic additions and functional workspace. Bring in a houseplant (or two) to freshen up the kitchen and add some life to the room. A little greenery is always a good thing.