Alice Medrich

Toss These Kitchen Items, Feel Instantly Better

September  4, 2017

One quick and easy strategy for decluttering the kitchen is to focus on duplicate items. You may have a perfectly good reason to need more than one carrot scraper—like maybe a houseful of kids that (are supposed to) help with dinner—but I’ll bet you don’t need four or five scrapers!

Don't throw any of these guys away! Photo by James Ransom

I’m not the expert on your kitchen, but here are some questions you can ask yourself on the path to (or in your quest for?) kitchen “enlightenment.”

What’s in your drawers?

First, ask yourself...

  • Are you up to your ears in single-purpose items?
  • Do they really work?
  • Are any of them so specialized that you never use them? (I tossed my barding tool—I barely remember what barding even means!)
  • Could their functions be replaced with a knife? Did you know that improving your knife skills not only saves space in the drawer, it also makes you feel powerful and accomplished in the kitchen? Seriously.

Now, move on to the specific items...

  • Vegetable scrapers: Do they all really work or do you reach for the same one every time?
  • Rolling pins: Are you a collector? If not, keep the one or two that you actually use.
  • Cookie cutters: If you no longer bake with or for kids, is it time to give away your cookie cutters? If not, keep the great shapes and lose the ones that are blobby or boring.
  • Graters: Do you need more than a good box grater, perhaps a Mouli, and a fine rasp? Did you know that the latter also works for nutmeg (so you don’t need a nutmeg grater) and that the good scraper you kept above is also good for shaving Parmesan?
  • Ugly plastic utensils: Do you need these? (Okay, this is a thing with me.)
  • Measuring cups: Do you need all of the bent or rusty extras?
  • Corkscrews and church keys: Why keep more than one (or two) good corkscrews? Ditto for church keys. Do you actually know how to use that Ah-so opener?
  • Wine and Champagne bottle stoppers: Some of these are nice and tight; others, not so much. Why keep the ones that are loose, too tall to fit in the fridge, or otherwise dysfunctional? And, did you know that Champagne in an opened bottle keeps as well or better without a cap than with a cap?
  • Citrus squeezers: The colorful ones (with paint that inevitably peels off) are pretty—I fell for them, too—but who needs three sizes? The orange one works for lemons and limes as well as oranges. When it finally breaks, replace it with unpainted stainless steel.
  • Thermometers: If you have a good digital thermometer with a wide temperature range—especially one with a probe that can go into the oven—do you need that old mercury meat thermometer and candy thermometer?

More: If your thermometer is not accurate, it doesn't deserve a place in your kitchen.

What's on your counter or in your cabinets?

  • Knives: Which of them never get used?
  • Platters and serving pieces: Do you have any that you dislike enough to never ever use?
  • Is that big crock of utensils on the counter too crowded to get things in and out easily? Purge the duplicates and any miscellany that you forgot you even had.

What’s in your freezer?

  • Are you really going to serve frozen food that is unlabeled, more than a year old, or so poorly wrapped that the contents cannot possibly retain any flavor or nutritional value? Just asking...

What’s in your pantry?

  • Are you really going to feed your family the contents of ancient canned goods?
  • What are your plans for items that you know your family doesn’t like or won’t eat?
  • How many plastic containers without lids do you need?
  • When do you wear the really ratty aprons?
  • Do you ever use the more disgusting dish towels in the pile?

Nervous about purging and/or hate to waste? Put any still-functional duplicate items in a bag out of sight. When you don’t miss them, make yourself and others happy by donating to a women’s shelter or the Salvation Army. Or, help start a new kitchen for a college student who is fed up with dorm food and ready to move into an apartment.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I also have a drawer where I remote certain items that I seldom use or that I have in duplicate (I often get utensils as gifts) because when a spatula goes, it's nice to have a duplicate. Two sifters? One was scrubbed and designated GF (I seal them in plastic bags). And the killer cheese slicer (a story for another time) got wrapped in layers of cardboard and duct tape and donated...hopefully it will mend its violent ways.”
— Windischgirl

We originally ran this article last January, but it's kitchen clean out season again—so we brought it back.

What will you be disposing of or donating this season? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ellen Greaves
    Ellen Greaves
  • Beth Perdue Sontag
    Beth Perdue Sontag
  • dede
  • Jim Kennedy
    Jim Kennedy
  • Andi
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Ellen G. April 29, 2019
I have a "less-used tools" bag that I throw the oyster knife, nut crackers and watermelon/cake slicer, server into. For everyday I keep the drawers and holders edited and sleek but every now and then I need the potato masher and I'm willing to hunt in the less-used tools bag then.
Beth P. January 5, 2019
Does anyone use a silicone garlic peeler? It's a unitasker but I love it! I don't if it's very fresh garlic or very old garlic that's the worst but sometimes peeling can be a bear. And of course you don't always want the garlic smashed.
Katie F. January 20, 2019
I used my silicone garlic peeler today. Love it and recommend it!
dede January 2, 2019
My sister in law cuts up old dish towels and uses them to do a quick cleanup in lieu of using a sponge.
I’m channeling her and love using them for just about anything needing a wipe down or wash up, especially when my grandson was visiting during holidays.
I’ve tossed my sponge as well.
Jim K. January 2, 2019
Suggestion: Don't make first photo the kitchen implements you should keep if the article is what to get rid of.
Andi February 28, 2018
Every cook should have one ratty dish towel for dealing with blue berry messes and jam jars, IMHO. I'll pass on the apple slicer and cherry pitter, but keep extra measuring cups. Love the biscuit cutters!
bobbie J. January 8, 2017
Did this clearing out 2 years ago as we prepared to move, then again 1 year ago when we finally got a house with a smaller kitchen. SO HAPPY I did it (twice!). Now I keep track of my tools and constantly watch for things I can cull.
Travel January 8, 2017
I am a gadget freak. I don't care of they have one use or many. Luckily I have the space to store them. My mother has one wooden spoon and washes it between uses. I probably have ten and like that I don't have to do that. Same with rubber scrapers, spatulas, large spoons, etc. One of my favorites is the herb scraper I got at Sur la Table.
Sharon H. January 8, 2017
Lol, I had to Google "barding"
I didn't even know there was a word for that!
Doris S. January 8, 2017
Me, too!
annieobo January 8, 2017
Perfect article to come upon today - a (blissfully) rainy day in Berkeley. Over the past few years I've been resisting the urge to buy new, shinier kitchen items, and have even donated some I already owned, but I have not yet gone through the utensil drawers to clear out duplicates. (I have a very organized neighbor who will not buy anything for her kitchen without first determining what she'll get rid of. She's an inspiration.) .....but what if I really do start making gnocchi and need that gnocchi board, easily replaced with a fork, that I've never used, ? ... and the chocolate shaver that I couldn't live without, but have not used in the 3 years I've had it.....and on and on.
Shania January 8, 2017
Very good article I'm enthused about getting rid of duplicates and to declutter especially since I don't entertain as much as I used to
Terri G. January 8, 2017
Great reminder. I was able to supply my daughter with a complete kitchen this past year! What a great feeling. Now it's time to do a little more weeding.
tortellini January 7, 2017
Thanks for the reminder, I had a feeling there was something I was "forgetting" about.
Miachel P. January 6, 2017
I embarrassedly laughed at every section. Time to deep clean!
Nancy January 5, 2017
Fun article, and oh-so-true!
Panfusine January 4, 2017
I needed this, long over due for a Purge! this guide is a godsend, thanks!
Holly January 4, 2017
All of my plastic Tupperware containers are going bye-bye this year. I'm tired of hunting for lids, they don't match and look super cluttered (even in organized baskets), and who knows what microwaving plastic is really doing to our bodies. Switching it all out for matching glass Pyrex containers this year.
Kathleen February 6, 2016
Regarding sparkling wine - no, no, no. A cap will always keep it fresher. The laws of physics dictate this. Gasses will reach an equilibrium between the liquid and the air above. No cap means the Co2 will continue to escape the liquid.
Cecilia G. February 1, 2016
I have a teensy tiny kitchen, a farm and LOADS of visitors - it all has to be very streamlined, I get especially mad at clutter or drawers you have to shake to close! Great article.
Teresa February 1, 2016
Have you really ever tried to squeeze a tiny little lime in an orange squeezer? Doesn't work, I assure you. I'll be keeping all of my squeezers, thank-you-very-much. :-)
Lisa January 31, 2016
Keeping the Microplane, thanks. An apple corer/slicer, that makes slices too big for pie? That's a one trick pony I've never felt the urge to buy. That, a cherry pitter, & strawberry huller. Is the article about the piles of small appliances coming at a later date?