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I'd like to come clean immediately: It's possible that I threw away Marie Kondo's latest book. On my weekend journey through part 3 of my kitchen clean out, according to the kitchen-specific tips outlined in Spark Joy, I gathered together and disposed of 7 bags of trash (everything worth salvaging is going to the thrift store, another 4 to 5 bags or so). And now I can't find Spark Joy anywhere...
Which is fitting based on what I learned this time around: You don't really need Marie Kondo's books to clean out your kitchen. To be fair, Spark Joy did do just that for me—it sparked a joyful desire to clean out my kitchen thoroughly and intentionally, which I'd never had the willingness to do before. But in my opinion, that's the book's greatest power: to kick-start.
True, the process took way longer than I expected, but it's been so satisfying to undertake. Some of Kondo's tenets proved invaluable in the process, teaching me to let go of junky stuff and maximize visibility with the rest, but her specific tidying instructions weren't always that novel. The section on making sense of your kitchen komono (that is, miscellanea) is a good read, but like the rest of the book it's more big picture than instruction manual. Take, for example, my incredibly successful but hardly Kondo-approved third round of kitchen cleaning: It went swimmingly, but on my own terms.
The Bag Situation
Kondo's not pleased with our society's propensity for hoarding grocery bags (who is?), but she accepts people do it and there's a right way to take stock of and tidy them. If you must hoard bags, Kondo says they should be flattened, stacked, and stored in a structured vessel that stands upright. The goal is to minimize the space they take up.
Our bags, which can be divided into paper shopping bags and plastic grocery bags, all live under the kitchen sink in an inflated cloud that touched every reach of the space; there were so many pre-tidying that you could hardly close the cabinet. I pulled them out, per Kondo, and counted:
- 14 reusable grocery totes (the kind you buy for $1 at checkout)
- 82 paper shopping bags (the thick kind with decorative handles; included 4 holiday gift bags)
- unknown number of plastic grocery bags (the kind that have spawned products like tissue boxes for storing them)
I sorted the shopping bags first, into groups of 3 sizes, trashing a number of them that were torn down a seam or so rumpled as to be depressing. The big and medium ones—which bring me joy when I have to tote all kinds of random things to the office for photo shoots, and sometimes my lunch—were stacked and slotted into one of their own in a pleasingly tidy arrangement (very Kondo-style). The small ones (the kind you get when you buy face lotion or wine or a bikini) and all of the reusable grocery bags, I took to the co-op around the corner.
As for the plastic grocery bags, the most anti-Kondo of all kitchen komono, I did not stack or thin or count them (sue me). You see, we use these as trash bags, and we go through them with regularity—so I crammed them all into a trusty (though stiff, Kondo-approved) "Bag of Bags" and relegated them to the trash cabinet you might remember from the first post in this series.
Other under-the-sink komono like buckets and cleaning supplies were evaluated for utility and effectiveness, scrapped or dusted off, and arranged somewhat neatly.
The Pantries (Now The Pantry)
Before this weekend, Justine and I had separate cabinets for each of our pantry items—a system that has worked pretty well for us all along. But, hell-bent on consolidating our kitchen, I decided to merge the two storage spaces into one, because 1) we know how to share and 2) I couldn't justify sorting through her pantry stuff without making that the goal. Sorry, Justine—you are a really good sport.
I can't tell you why I was previously delegating half of my personal pantry to a collection of food magazines, but my first clean-out move was clear: to gather two years' worth of Bon Appetit magazines and recycle them (all their recipes are online!). Voila: Open shelf.
Next, I set about sorting our oils and vinegars in the tall lower cabinets, leaving a little room for snacks and chips and bagels. Baking supplies—i.e., only flour, sugar, corn starch, and baking powder (we're not really bakers)—went to the top shelf along with some disposable eating supplies: There if we need them, out of mind otherwise, which is not what Kondo really preaches but the best I could muster at about 6:30 P.M. on Saturday night.
Then, I tried to decide what to do about our spice problem. And since Kondo doesn't really address spice storage (though that bag section takes up nearly 3 pages) I had to go at it with my own brain—the good news being that I feel pretty well equipped to conjure up a storage solution at this point.
Previously, all our spices were crammed onto a deep, short shelf, but that meant you could only see what was in the front row. Kondo's pleas for better visibility and working with the storage supplies you've got rang in mind, dogged by my exceeding scrappiness, so I took her general advice in a way she would probably hate: I found a plastic food container—a very big, expensive-seeming one that was probably donated to our apartment by a past renter—and cut it in half using a pair of scissors not suited for the purpose. It wasn't pretty.
But, it worked! The two new parts fit perfectly side by side in the newly open top shelf—the perfect height for creating a second row of visible spices. Is this Kondo-approved? I'm not sure, but does that matter? It went a long way towards making our spices useable, and you can't even see the infrastructure I rigged.
Here's how our new pantry cabinets look now:
I have lots of cookbooks, but besides a very few I brought from home and Genius Recipes, most are tomes I've collected from jobs where we receive them to review. I didn't even have to use the joy-barometer to cut the collection in half (and plus, the section on book-sorting is daunting). On these shelves and others, at least a dozen of our cookbooks had not been cracked in over a year, which was a good enough reason to be free of them for me.
From there, trinkets were minimized and re-grouped, bits and bobs of decoration were added (kitchens love thrift store paintings), and all pantry items were moved off the shelves and into the new pantry. I didn't use any Kondo directives to sort these shelves, I just dusted them off and made them more useable: cookbooks all on the most accessible shelves, decorations largely up top.
Mostly the bag-sorting was depressing, since so many of those shopping bags had memories associated with them—not always of money well spent—but I laughed discovering the abundance of receipts at the bottom of grocery bags, all of which were for beer.
Baggies that used to hold rice, a Martha Stewart Weddings in which I am a model for a story, coffee filters for that coffee maker you convinced me to get rid of (though I might save them yet to make a garland), expired pantry items and spices, and really hard candy: These are the things we parted with.
A Tool Drawer!
I cleaned out that hardware drawer and, as promised to Kondo over the internet, re-located the gadgets in a bowl to the drawer. There are no tidy dividers, no liner to protect them from the bottom of the drawer, no order whatsoever—but look! They're all in one place and you can see them clearly, even if you have to open the fridge to open that drawer.
As I mentioned, I'm going to spare you my fridge clean-out (because, unsurprisingly, it's really just beer and condiments and we don't mind it that way), but I will go looking for the Spark Joy book in hopes I didn't tidy it into the trash and put together a little recap about lessons learned and post-tidying levels of joyfulness. If it turns out that I tossed it, who cares? Kondo got me through the hardest step (starting!) and now it's just a matter of finding creative ways to store the things I'd like to keep—which, in my opinion, is half the fun of the process. Plus, it will be one less thing to tidy up once I tackle our book collection (just kidding, I'll be too busy puttering around my hard-working, joy-inspiring, uber-tidy kitchen to do that).
Have you read Kondo's second book? Do you find it thrillingly detailed or superfluous? Let us know in the comments.