Minimalist Mama

‘Box and banish’ method may help with kitchen clutter

Have you been holding off on tackling the kitchen because it just seems too overwhelming? Remember, you didn’t acquire all these objects and items at once, so you don’t have to go through them at once. I have a large kitchen with lots of storage, so decluttering took multiple attempts.

You will need some boxes or storage bins for this project, too. I labeled mine GARAGE (where I had the space to store larger appliances), DONATE and GIVE AWAY/SELL. I also had another box for NOT KITCHEN — this specifically was for items that belonged in other areas of the house but I didn’t want to get distracted by putting them away when I came across them — and a heavy-duty garbage bag for trash and broken items.

I tackled one shelf, drawer or cupboard at a time by removing all items, deciding which items I wanted to keep, and then cleaning the space before I put anything back in. Breaking down the job into smaller tasks helps you stay motivated to finish.

Some easy ways to decide what should go:

Is it a duplicate? If you have more than one cherry pitter or set of measuring cups, just keep one.

Have you used it within the past year? Do you have a cabinet or drawer just full of holiday cookie cutters and specialty tools used once a year? If so, can you store them with your holiday decorations? Be honest about why you are storing these items — do you bake cookies with your children each year, or are you saving them for your grandchildren? Do they hold meaning from your childhood?

Can you “box and banish” it? Put items in a box, label and date the box, and place it in another area, such as the garage. If I haven’t used the box and its contents within the year, it means that box can go.

Is it a tool that only has one use? Do you really need that egg separator?

Is it just in the junk drawer because you don’t know where it should go?

Kitchens typically are the heart of a home, where people gather and hang out. So, it’s easy to understand why they also become a place to dump keys, phones and mail. It’s easy to keep the counters clean when they are not cluttered with items that should have another home, such as coffee mugs, small appliances and cutting boards.

This may mean you have to designate another space in your home as a drop-off location for backpacks, mail, keys, etc. In my house we have a “don’t put it down, put it away rule” — we don’t hang backpacks and coats on the backs of chairs when we can put them where they belong.

Marie Kondo, author of the “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” believes that everything you own should have a place. Once you have a drawer for silverware and cookware, a cupboard for cups and plates, a dedicated space for baking sheets and small appliances, you will discover what you use most frequently.

My girls take their lunches to school several days a week, so I had multiple versions of sandwich holders and plastic containers. By investing in high-quality, reusable and washable replacements, I could toss some of the plastic ware that clutters the “container cabinet” — you know, the cabinet we all have full of mismatched lids and assorted storage containers. Find the matches, keep the ones you use, and discard the rest.

My mother enjoys baking cakes and I can’t tell you the last time I baked one, so the baking dishes went into the donate pile. If I do need to make a cake, I can always borrow her pans! Are you still storing grandma’s cheesecake pan even though you’ve never made a cheesecake? If there are sentimental items, place them in another box or leave them be until you are ready to tackle them later. Remember that the object does not hold the memory of the person.

An extreme way to tackle kitchen clutter is to box every item as if you are moving. Then retrieve only the items you need as you make each meal and store them in the kitchen. After a month, you will know exactly what you have used and the remaining items already are boxed for the donation pile.

No matter which method you use, the easiest way to keep the kitchen clean is to spend a few minutes at the end of each night decluttering. Make sure the dishes are washed before you go to bed and kitchen counters cleaned off and wiped down.

Next month we will tackle meals, shopping and the refrigerator.

Minimalist Mama is published on the first Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section. Share your tips with Brigandi at MinimalistMamain­