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4 KonMari Solutions for Tidier Cookware Storage

January  8, 2016

Perhaps I was a little ambitious. Yesterday evening, I tackled phase two of my kitchen overhaul according to Marie Kondo's ways (mainly those outlined in her new book, Spark Joy), thinking I'd cover cookware, the serious bag collection that's preventing the cabinet under the sink from closing, and my cookbook shelves. Phase 1 had gone so swimmingly, a complete sweep of eating implements that left my cabinets airy and fresh—but I hit a wall with cookware.

Too many things still on the counter (and a dirty stove).

The problem, surprisingly, was not that I'm emotionally attached to much of it—okay, yes, there is that huge wok I got at a Martha Stewart tag sale that I can't seem to part with, despite extreme rusting and a fear of using it—it's that we don't own a ton, and what we do is mostly ours because of need, not joy.

  • We have a small standard and a large fine-mesh sieve, both only barely joy-inducing, and three colanders (one that's mine, one that's my roomie Justine's, one that's tiny and good for berry-washing). Can't really part with any of them, but that's FIVE tools that do the same thing.
  • Our two sheet pans and two baking sheets are so old, they're black, but they're the only ones we have!
  • My slow-cooker brings me a lot of joy, and saves me time and money when I use it, but it's bulky and I break it out only...sometimes.

Furthermore, the cookware that does bring me joy is the impractical stuff: an oversized vintage enamelware stock pot, the aforementioned wok, a pair of tiny funnels that I use once a year, pie plates that are so old—and therefore adorable—they cause the pie to burn.

Left: the keep pile. Right: the tiny amount of cookware we got rid of.
Today's losers: a set of swirly blue wine glasses, the avocado case, and a poisonous pan.

So, Justine and I didn't bid farewell to much cookware (a set of Justine's wine glasses that even she wasn't sad to part with, an avocado case my mom put in my stocking last year, and a pan that we've never cooked in—but kept!—because it's at that flakey stage)—the bigger issue proved figuring out the best way to store what remained. The storage spaces available for all my cookware, from tools to pots and pans, is limited and awkward in layout.

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Top Comment:
“I opted to throw out most that was in the cupboard and use the counter as storage for the pots and pans which takes up a lot of space. My kitchen is apartment size also and now I must use the top of the stove for all cooking. I have put a pantry cupboard, a small cupboard for cookbooks and an open bookshelf for the rest. I cannot put anymore portable shelves without taking out our only table my kids and I use for eating. It looks really messy with the Keurig, toaster, spices, cutlery, utensils and dish strainer ( I don't have room for a dishwasher) all sharing space on the counter. Any comments are appreciated. ”
— Carm M.
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When you get rid of a ton of stuff, putting the remainder back on the shelves is easy and satisfying—but for my cookware I was going to have to get smart, I was going to have to rely on Kondo. Here's how it went.

1. Consolidate Plastic Baggies & Other Consumables

While Kondo admits that "consumables" like zippered baggies, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil don't usually inspire joy, they are common kitchen keepers. "If you have multiple boxes of things like zippered storage bags, remove them from their boxes and transfer them all to one container to save space," she recommends on page 195 of Spark Joy. An old loaf pan seemed the size, but the slick, slumphy nature of the baggies made them fall into a useless puddle; when I tried to grab one out, they strayed from my hand—and how to keep freezer bags from large ones in that kind of situation? I got anxious and put them back in their boxes.

The first attempt at baggie consolidation.

Instead of consolidating the baggies into one vessel, I decided to package them up with other consumables—a large handled basket that had been lurking in a skinny cabinet provided the solution. (This was really just an evolution of what Kondo recommended, a non-literalist's interpretation of the KonMari Bible.) I nestled the box of cling wrap and the boxes of Ziplocs side by side in this basket, and lifted the whole thing out of sight to the top of the fridge where they couldn't incite fear or loathing.

Above the fridge is out of sight when I'm not standing on a table to take a picture of it.

Those cabinets you see behind the basket are tough to reach (I'm 5' 3"), so we stowed a coffee maker and the crock pot, plus surplus paper towels, where they would be out of the way.

2. Nest Your Pots and Pans and Store Them Visibly

The trouble with my pot and pan cabinet is that it's tall, without a shelf (renter's dilemma). Once I removed and laid out everything that was in it, which included not just pots and pans but also bowls and colanders, I realized the first thing that had to happen was to find a new home for at least half of it. So I put aside bowls and colanders to find a home for them—hopefully—elsewhere (more on that later), and set to dealing with a better arrangement of pots and pans.

The cabinet containing pots, pans, bowls, and colanders was simplified to just hold pots and pans.

A tip of Kondo's that came into play here was this: "What matters is the ability to see where everything is stored." In the same way that people use step-style raisers in their spice cabinets, I flipped over that beloved but too-large-to-be-useful enamelware pot to make a raised shelf in the back. Pots and saucepans nested in front of it, skillets did the same on the new upturned-pot shelf. Now, everything is somehow visible!

3. Gather Gadgets and Gizmos Aplenty

For where to put those mixing bowls and colanders, I turned to a metal cart that I bought for $25 when Alexis and I went to the Brimfield flea last summer. Before my now-epic journey into Marie Kondo's world of tidying, I was using that cart to store extra rolls of paper towels and zippered baggies (now both out of sight above the fridge), plus a completely random assortment of kitchen tools that couldn't be crammed into the cabinets. Yesterday, I turned it into my kitchen toolkit.

Before: total lack of order. After: gadgets and appliances above, mixing bowls and strainers below.

You knew this was coming, but I didn't stick to Kondo's recommendations exactly—she says to sort them in a flat drawer with clear divisions, so you can see them. But my only unclaimed drawers are the aforementioned long skinny one, and a bigger one I haven't mentioned because it's presently housing hammers, nails, and tape. I am not quite ready to tackle our hardware problem, so it remains occupied.

So, baby steps: Prior to tidying, all of my small gadgets like can openers and measuring spoons were scattered throughout the kitchen. Eventually, I hope they replace hardware in that drawer, but as a step 1 fix I decided to at least get them all in one place.

Bowl o' gizmos.

Instead of sorting them into a flat space where they could all be visible and separate (soon, Marie Kondo, I promise), I put our garlic press and our scissors and our graters and the like in a big wooden bowl that brings us joy, but which has a crack down the side so it no longer works for salad. Now I know they're all in one place, and that's an immeasurably better situation than before, when we would send texts like "Where is the wine opener?" with regularity.

4. Put Like With Like

Before, our tall skinny cabinet held things we never used of all shapes and sizes: plastic platters (these should be banned from the earth), baskets, even parts of appliances that needed a home—and cutting boards were at home on the counter, a big Mari Kondo no-no.

After removing and giving a few of the vessels new life as containers (see: the baggie basket), there was a little room in this cabinet for its intended purpose: big flat things. Per Kondo's recommendation, I moved the cutting boards off the counter and into this newly-cleaned abyss, removed pans from the oven and stowed them here, and added in the few platters that made our joy-cut.

Before: the Cabinet of Lost Causes. After: a tidy selection of pans, boards, and trays.

The Damage

Additionally, I found a single home for all appliances: an immersion blender lurking in the tall skinny cabinet, the toaster that's been on the counter, a mini food processor that previously lived in the pot abyss. Now they all live on the metal cart together.

Yesterday's clean out can be summed up by considering this wok: It brings me great joy as an object, not a tool, but takes up a lot of functional space. What do I do in this case? What does Kondo say about joy from beauty versus joy from helpfulness? I will wrestle with my decision (and keep reading) for a few days, but I could use your help, too. What do you think would be wise? Save me from my hoarder self.

A large bowl that is useful an a large wok that is not, both presently homeless in my home.

And lastly, what's up next: This weekend, I hope to tackle the now-foreboding-because-I-keep-teasing-it bag situation, the cookbooks, and our two pantries—by which I mean the non-luxurious cabinet I use for my food and the cabinet Justine uses for hers. I'll tell you now that our fridge is 90% beer and condiments, so I won't likely spare you that clean out, as the after would be as sad as the before.

22 Comments

JO July 2, 2018
Use the wok to hold a pretty plant in your bedroom or living room :)
 
Gayle K. February 20, 2017
A wok makes a great fire bowl. hole in bottom, circular element connected to fuel source through hole in bottom, fill with lava rock or sand and voila - a fire bowl for your outdoor space! If it's on a stand of some sort, you can hide your gas bottle in the stand.
 
Carm M. February 20, 2017
I would definitely keep the beautiful wok and use it as is. I have been working on my kitchen and am wondering what people do when they find a mouse in the cupboard. I opted to throw out most that was in the cupboard and use the counter as storage for the pots and pans which takes up a lot of space. My kitchen is apartment size also and now I must use the top of the stove for all cooking. I have put a pantry cupboard, a small cupboard for cookbooks and an open bookshelf for the rest. I cannot put anymore portable shelves without taking out our only table my kids and I use for eating. It looks really messy with the Keurig, toaster, spices, cutlery, utensils and dish strainer ( I don't have room for a dishwasher) all sharing space on the counter. Any comments are appreciated.
 
Carla February 20, 2017
Get a pot rack. I broke down last year and bought s high quality hanging rack and all my pans..including my cast iron wok, hang there in easy reach. It freed up a ton of space for other things. I have no idea why It took me so long to get one that rack!!
 
Trevor D. September 19, 2016
I would work it into some sort of decorative display with the option of using as needed of course! (full disclosure I had to do this with my wok as well)
 
Francesca M. September 18, 2016
I love my Crockpot and use it when autumn comes just last week I made a wonderful Peppersteak with rainbow peppers , Vidalia onions etc comfort food and as for the wok it can be saved as well with some work I like you put your boards away I did that last year as well I wouldn't throw away your bigger things such as wok or crockpot you're too young to start that and replace them soon after
 
Avon L. September 17, 2016
Completely disagree with other comments re: the wok. It looks wrecked, rusty and like you'd NEVER use it. My vote is donate or discard.
 
Eileen September 19, 2016
That is how a wok is supposed to look - except it needs to be oiled. When you see the black circle in the bottom, you know you've finally broken it in. Look in any authentic, old Chinese cookbook for this information.
 
Emma January 27, 2016
The large metal bowl would make a great fruit bowl.
 
Michele January 12, 2016
I completely agree with kghol and Ben, keep the wok! and I don't think any kitchen basics should be thrown away, unless you have multiples, especially if they are good quality. In my experience we go through various cooking lives (as well as clothing lives, and decor lives) and while I don't agree with keeping everything sometimes you can be too radical and end up replacing what you once owned. The wok can be very easily saved (with a little effort) and if wok cooking isn't in your life just now put it to the back of the cupboard. <br />Having experienced some chaos in my life through moving, rentals, renovation, etc. I have found the most important thing is to group like with like. It is logical in the search process and you can also see if you have multiples.....which often happens when there is chaos. My advice is to organize, analyze and as a last resort purge. Good luck!
 
Jasmine S. January 11, 2016
Have you considered repurposing the wok as a light fixture? Get an electrician to run a new line for a central light in your kitchen, drill a hole in the wok large enough for the wiring to fit through, attach a socket for a lightbulb and with a few odds and ends from the hardware store you have a unique fixture. Since you have so many tools kicking around I assume you are not adverse to a little DIY project.
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. January 11, 2016
WHAT! Is that a challenge? I am all over this.
 
Anie January 10, 2016
here's the tough love version:<br />1. get rid of the crock pot. i have three kids and never use one. i have owned them twice and each time they did what yours is doing. nothing. i use a dutch oven (in my actual oven!) when I am in need of this type of cooking. it's a space waster AND a not a multi tasker. <br />2. get rid of the excess of paper towels. clearly you are not using them in some sort of quick succession and they are readily available, by the each, at the store. out they go!<br />3. why do you need the coffee maker? its still in the box and you are not using it. from konmari's first book, you can thank it for it's purpose/moments of joy in your life...and now let it go.<br />4. with that, take your wok and put it in the cupboard where you have the paper towels now. voila! you get to keep the wok. or, you could hang it on the wall with your cute old funnels and make a little julia section in your kitchen.<br />5. take the silver bowl, put it in the wooden bowl which now has your multiples of measuring spoon, etc in it. put the stuff in the metal bowl and leave it where it was. on the counter? fine. or, hang the cute rust shredder on your julia wall :)<br />5. take the small square-ish side of the ziploc bag BOX off. stack them on their small ends, up and down, like skyscrapers and put them in a box. you may also have too many kinds/types/sizes of these? if all you have in your fridge is beer, what are you needing all those ziplocs for? it's none of my business, just maybe look at what is readily available in small amounts at the grocery store/target. get on the amazon subscription thing if you need, but stop store so many random things in your kitchen and you'll have lots more room! unless they are bringing you joy?<br />happy sorting!
 
Barbara R. February 20, 2017
Agreed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you! I edit when I clean, but you have some great ideas I didn't think of. Don't even buy anything you don't love-because when you look at it everyday-it won't bring you joy. And that applies to furniture and clothing as well.
 
Kristin January 9, 2016
If you don't plan to use it as a wok anymore, but it still "sparks joy," I could see Kon Mari suggesting that you keep it--but try to see if it could serve a different purpose in your home (a la the baggie basket). With its clean lines and aged patina, it has a kind of beauty to it. Perhaps it could find a new life as a storage container in a different room? (Kon Mari seemed super into using big, open-interior-ed things like this as storage for other things.) Plus, if you ever decide you do want to wok something, it's right there, still waiting for you!
 
luvcookbooks January 8, 2016
The avocado case reminded me of a stocking gift that I gave my son last year. He rarely took food to school and wouldn't eat anything at the school (fussy and didn't want to spend money). Sometimes I could coax him into taking a banana but they can be smooshed in a backpack. <br />So ... I saw a very cute banana case at the Museum of Modern Art and placed it in his stocking. As soon as it emerged from the stocking, it was clear that banana was not the first thought any one else was having, and after gales of laughter, the banana holder disappeared, never to be seen again. Certainly sparked joy for a minute, tho.
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. January 8, 2016
I find that stocking gifts are so often the best and the oddest!
 
kgohl January 8, 2016
I agree with Ben. Keep that wok! Excuse me for saying this, but you are too young to be throwing out kitchen equipment--the hell with KonMari. Think of it this way: what would Julia Child do?
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. January 8, 2016
I hardly three any way! Julia Child would hang that wok on the wall!
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. January 8, 2016
threw, rather
 
Ben M. January 8, 2016
Save that wok. With a little bit of effort you can rehab it. Take a look at this video of Grace Young restoring a wok. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSvwXuGEX0k I have a wok that I love to cook with. Plus it gives you joy. I think I either type of joy is a case to keep it. If you had space on the wall I would say hang it up and show it off.
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. January 8, 2016
All about hanging it on the wall! Thank you.