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Tired of scrubbing dishes? Four ways to shrink your kitchen, and your time spent elbow-deep in suds

I am not a tidy person. I’ve suspected this since the age of 4 when my mother raided my room with a garbage bag for all the toys I wouldn’t clean up. I should have been overcome with fear over losing my toys, but partly, I was just pleased I wouldn’t have to clean them up myself.

When I had a roommate in university, I was able to convince myself that he was the messy one and that the apartment would be hip and sparkling if only he wiped up the crumbs after eating his toast.

Spoiler: My stove is no longer covered in dishes.

Spoiler: My stove is no longer covered in dishes.

The reality settled in when I got my own place two years ago. Sure, I’ve learned how to Jenga-stack dirty dishes on the sliver of counter space between my sink and my stove. (This only works for so long before each element of the stove is systematically covered in Tupperware, cast-iron and tea-stained mugs).

But there comes a point in every woman’s life when she realizes it’s time to quit grabbing morning McBreakfasts, and wash the dishes that are impeding her way to making breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This week, faced with yet another pile of dishes, a faceful of fruit flies and a smell unfit for a two-legged animal’s home, I decided it was time to pare down my kitchen so I could pare down my dish load.

Here are some of the rules of “throwing stuff out” I followed and flaunted throughout the process.

You don’t need all those duplicates.

Why do I have three pairs of matching glasses, a mason jar and a stolen pint glass amongst my drinking vessels? And what about those four mugs that are too small for my caffeine consuming habits? All I really need is a pair of cold glasses and a couple of mugs.

Nothing had cut down on my dish piling like minimizing the number of dishes I have available for my grubby paws.

Nothing had cut down on my dish piling like minimizing the number of dishes I have available for my grubby paws.

That means if I’ve used two mugs, I have to wash them to have coffee the next morning. Turns out that’s a great motivator for getting the dishes done.

Same goes for plates and bowls. I donated an entire set of plates, side plates, bowls and coffee cups to a friend’s office recently, which made things this time around even easier. I culled a few plates that I’d acquired at Value Village a few years back, plus 4 mugs I’d taken off someone else’s hands and a couple of plastic cups that make me feel like a toddler when I use them.

Put useful things where you need them.

Now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense to put the Tupperware I use daily right where I need it. It replaced rarely used baking pans.

Now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense to put the Tupperware I use daily right where I need it. It replaced rarely used baking pans. I used to have it awkwardly jammed in the overstuffed pantry closet.

Once I had tossed out a few dishes that were taking up important space in the few cupboards I can reach, I realized I ought to put everything I use daily closer to me, instead of giving all the prime space to my 42 cups and mugs.

So I chose my favourite two mugs, my top four glasses and my two-person set of dinner plates, side plates and bowls. Now they’re all handily on the bottom shelf above my toaster oven. Toast is within my reach.

I did the same thing with my tupperware, which had been relegated to a frustrating shelf in my inefficient pantry. I moved them instead to a cupboard below my teeny bit of counter space. Small changes, big relief.

Your junk drawer is stupid.

If, like me, you have only two drawers in your kitchen, then your junk drawer is a dumb waste of a sliding wooden box. It shouldn’t be a coffin, it should be a handy spot for things you don’t want to bend over for.

Here, a sampling of the crap I took out of my kitchen coffin:

  • 5 half-eaten chocolate bars (the good kind, too!)

  • 2 packs of cards

  • Two large boxes containing 2 light bulbs each

  • 4 empty mason jars (I don’t know how I fit all this junk in!)

  • A giant spool with a couple of feet of ribbon left on it

  • 3 erasers (no pencils)

  • 3 spa gift certificates totalling $150

Here is what is in there now:

Sure, it's busy in that drawer, but at least it's not full of junk anymore.

Sure, it’s busy in that drawer, but at least it’s not full of junk anymore.

  • brown rice spaghetti (which I kept forgetting I have)

  • measuring cups and a set of measuring spoons

  • my previously homeless stick blender
  • 2 tea infusers and an unsightly bag of peppermint tea

  • the chia cereal and some granola I eat on the regular

If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it (or put it somewhere useful).

This is one of those rules that you hear about a lot of things: dishes, clothes, boyfriends. I think it’s a great measuring stick, but I didn’t follow it to the letter in my kitchen.

Why not? I used to have a much larger kitchen and I intend to either a) have a slightly larger kitchen again or b) make my apartment fit my kitchen desires with some creative IKEAing. So despite not having used my stand mixer, brownie pans (including one with the wrapping still on, whoops!) or tart pan in the past year, they’re sticking around. For now.

But some things are definitely getting the boot, including:

  • canoli forms (cheap but only used once in a baking blog challenge that was a failure)

  • piping set (too much work to clean (or use)

  • adorable but rarely used soy sauce and ginger dish (I have half a dozen purported soy sauce vessels. I just don’t have that many sushi banquets at my place anymore

And, since a smartly downsized kitchen ought to be cooked in…

Cookbooks, kept standing with the help of my tea canisters? I may be a genius.

Cookbooks, kept standing with the help of my tea canisters? I may be a genius.

I put a few of my cookbooks on display, handy to my dinner brainstorming, instead of stashed all the way across the apartment on my bookshelf (which could also use some downsizing).

Have you got any tips for downsizing in the kitchen or elsewhere in life? Despite my progress in the kitchen, I could definitely use your advice. Sock it to me in the comments!

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1 Comment so far

  1. Pingback: So fruit flies have invaded your home and you’re pretty mad/sad/anxious | Zoey Duncan

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