The holidays are around the corner, which probably means you’re going to need extra kitchen prep space to roll out cookie dough, stuff a turkey or plate canapes. But if you find yourself scrambling for counter space, it might be a sign that you need to declutter your kitchen.
“The products people typically buy on impulse — whether they see it on TV or buy it in-store — have been marketed to them as a solution to a problem they feel that they have,” says Melissa Maker, founder of Clean My Space. “But often, it’s not a real problem.”
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In other words, no, you very likely do not need a tool solely dedicated to peeling, chopping and storing garlic. Maker advises asking yourself a few key questions before shelling out for a new specialty kitchen appliance or gadget: Is this a real problem for me? Do I face this problem once a week or once a year? How frequently would I actually use this?
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“I once bought a diamond-textured silicone cookie sheet because I thought it would solve my issue about making cookies crispy on the bottom. But the truth is, it’s not a real problem. I don’t need an item like that to take up space in my kitchen,” she says.
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Of course, if an item is going to revolutionize your cooking game — if, for example, a slow cooker is going to help you get more home cooked meals on the table in a timely fashion — then go ahead and buy it. But if it’s only going to serve a purpose for you four times a year, you need to rethink if you want to store something that will take up so much space.
Before tackling the preparations involved in putting together a four-course meal for 10 this holiday, take a look around your kitchen and see if you can eliminate some of these unnecessary items.
There’s no doubt that warm, seared bread can take even the most humble ham-and-cheese sandwich to new heights, but is your desire for a cafe-style treat worth the space that a bulky panini press will take up?
“You really need to ask yourself how frequently you’ll use an appliance like this because it’s expensive and big,” Maker says. “Especially when you consider that you can achieve the same results by heating up your sandwich in a grill pan and pressing down on it with another pan or a cast iron grill press.”
This is one of those appliances that seems utterly necessary for a healthy lifestyle, but Maker assures that the time and effort needed to clean it is not worth sacrificing cupboard or counter space.
“These things are definitely more trouble than they’re worth,” she says. “You’re better off going out and spending $8 on a fresh made juice.”
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While it’s true that microwave popcorn isn’t the greatest — it’s linked to a variety of health disorders including thyroid issues, bladder cancer and lung disease — a popcorn maker is a large and clunky object that will take up a lot of cupboard space. And really, how often do you eat popcorn anyway?
Ditch the gigantic appliance and make popcorn on the stove the old-fashioned way.
These items are marketed to consumers as the ultimate necessity when making soup, since it’s so easy to simply plunge the appliance into the pot and blend. But it’s also utterly superfluous if you already have a blender or a mixer.
“You can achieve the same thing by waiting for your soup to cool a little bit and pouring it into your blender. It’s a little bit of extra work, but the immersion blender isn’t really necessary if you’re only going to make a batch of soup four or five times a year.”
Plastic storage containers
The Tupperware struggle is real in most kitchens. Inevitably, the lids and the containers will separate and matching them up when you need to use one is trying and time-consuming.
Maker advises ditching all the plastic containers (including the ones from your takeout) and switching to glass. A set of 10 glass containers of different sizes will cover all your food storage needs, and they’re easy to match and stack.
Sure, a knife block with a variety of different tools looks fancy (and like you know what you’re doing in the kitchen), but it can take up a considerable amount of counter real estate — not to mention you really don’t need that many knives.
“Any really good chef will tell you that they have a couple of good knives and that’s all they use. All you need is a kitchen knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife; the rest is extra.”
Once you’ve whittled down your knife collection to a few useful (and good quality) ones, you can also feel free to rid your kitchen of any mandolins, and specialty choppers and dicers.
“These things look amazing when you’re watching an infomercial and you tell yourself you’re going to make salsa all the time, but you really don’t need them. Just chop your vegetables with a knife.”
Besides, how much salsa can you really eat?
Multiples of anything
Whether you’re a compulsive kitchen gadget shopper or you merely forget that you already had two of the same items in your drawer before buying a third, multiples of anything will merely take up space and clutter your cupboards and drawers.
These include carrot peelers, can openers, whisks, spatulas and scissors, and even extends to larger appliances like having both a toaster and toaster oven.
“You’re basically finding drawer space to house multiple things when you really only need one. You can easily wash a tool in hot soapy water to avoid cross-contamination while you’re cooking. And you absolutely do not need a toaster oven and a pop-up toaster.”
No doubt, you’ve accumulated little specialty items and gadgets for a particular event or dinner party, but you don’t need to hang on to them.
“You may have bought some seafood crackers or a butter warmer with every intention of hosting regular lobster fests in your home, but have you done that? If not, get rid of them.”
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