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4 KonMari Solutions for Tidier Cookware Storage

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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).
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.

Tags: Kitchen Hacks, Storage Tips, Kitchen Design, Tips & Techniques