De-Cluttering Your Kitchen for the New Year

January  6, 2015

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: We could all stand to do some de-cluttering in the new year. And since we gained so much from this post the first time it ran -- in 2013! -- we think it deserves another look.

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January is time for a fresh start. It's a time for new resolutions, healthy habits, and clearing out your clutter. Don't save spring cleaning until the spring: Start your year off right by clearing your kitchen of all the unnecessary tools and appliances that you never use. 

Seven different melon ballers? Probably too many. And when will you use that bread machine that's been collecting dust for years? Probably never. One cook's trash is another cook's treasure, and many tools that are useless to one person are essential to another -- just look at the spirited discussion on this topic on our hotline. However, in an effort to help you organize and simplify, we've rounded up a few recommendations to streamline your kitchen and de-clutter your life.

And remember -- if something is in good condition, don't throw it away! Find a local organization that accepts kitchen-related donations, and start your year off on a do-gooder note. Because we all like to pay it forward, even in the kitchen.


Single-Use Appliances and Tools
Appliances and tools with just one (often obscure) use may not be worthy of counter space unless you use them often. How often do you really take out your panini press? Your quesadilla maker? Unless you're a serious grilled sandwich afficionado, get rid of them. Never use your bread machine? Let it go. Giving up large or expensive appliances can be difficult -- but if you're not going to use it, you should pull the plug.

Examples: avocado slicer, lemon reamer, panini press, garlic press


Unnecessary Multiples
There are some things that you need more than one of: mixing bowls, measuring cups, and knives may all be used simultaneously, and it's therefore good to have a few of each. However, most of us have multiples in our kitchens that are simply redundant. Pare down your paring knives, and give your drawers room to breathe.

Examples: bottle openers, peelers, ladles, pots and pans, spatulas, colanders, tongs


The One Year Rule
Some people use their garlic press every day; some people think that owning one is useless. Kitchen tools and their necessity are quite the divisive topic! But in general, there's just one cardinal rule: If you haven't used it in a year, get rid of it. Exceptions should be made, of course, for what Amanda calls "big feast" cookware that you use every few years -- like a paella pan or a turkey fryer. Family heirlooms fall into this category as well.

More: Next up? It's time to organize your pantry.


A Little Vanity is Okay
Another tip from Amanda? "Gadgets go, beautiful objects stay." You may have one too many wooden spoons, but do they make your kitchen more beautiful? Do you smile every time you see their smooth finish? If it's something that's not taking up too much space, and you really love it, don't feel bad about hanging on to it. Being emotionally tied to kitchen objects is certainly something that we can all relate to.


It's All Subjective
As we've already mentioned, you may think that an avocado slicer is a necessity for the perfect piece of avocado toast. You might think that having an apple corer is silly, or you might bring yours out each fall to get started on a batch of applesauce. What's important is assessing what works in your kitchen, and getting rid of the things you simply don't need. Remember the old adage: If you love something, set it free. We promise, this applies to humans and saucepans alike.

Tell us: What are your rules for cleaning out the kitchen?

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Written by: Marian Bull



DJMANNING June 17, 2015
I actually use quite a few of my dear mother's utensils in the kitchen...some are useful every day , others I display on my kitchen walls and shelf high up on the kitchen wall...they are not only useful , but bring me pleasure just to see them .
Elizabeth P. January 7, 2015
When I clean out my kitchen (or any room for that matter), I often find items I have not used but can't let go of. I box them up, label the box with the date and room, and seal the box. If I find I need and item in the box I can still get it. After one year, I donate the box, still sealed, to the Goodwill. Much easier to let go, and I know I have not needed anything in that box.
Justin January 7, 2015
Good tips, but it's so hard to get rid of my kitchen gadgets.
Peebee January 7, 2015
For me, the "single purpose" rule and the "one-year" rule cancel each other out. I use the single purpose gadgets more in a year than I do some of the generic items, because the reason I bought them is because they're the perfect tool for a specific purpose....but then it's hard to let go of the generic items because they're so, I don't know, functional.
Kelley B. January 6, 2015
I want that plastic bag holder!
Stephanie W. May 25, 2014
Am I crazy or is there an article here from "goropi" about something other than de-cluttering your kitchen??
Sharon January 3, 2014
Be sure to donate that extra pot or linens to shelters or social service organizations working with families moving out of shelters or with seasonal agricultural workers. I now look at my collections of things and ask if anyone can use an item more than I can.
Francesca C. January 4, 2013
This article is great. I am a firm believer in buying multifunctional items, especially since I live in Holland and my kitchen is pea-sized. Why have a lemon zester when a cheese grater can zest any fruit - and - grate cheese? And I was able to use that one year rule with my boyfriend's wok pan that he swore we'd use.
Thanks for the read!
The L. January 3, 2013
Think of how you can use a "single use" tool. My apple slicer does pears, potatoes and more. Even if we didn't slice apples in it on a regular basis all fall and winter, I'd still keep it.

The 1 year rule though is good. This year, for the second time in 10 years, we had a kitchen renovation (this time because of flooding) and most of my stuff had to be packed away for a while. It really reminds you of what you use and what you don't use.
Herschelian January 2, 2013
Years ago I was given a pasta maker (roller gadget for pasta) together with this wooden drying rack to hang the pasta over prior after making - complete waste of time and space for me so Craigslist sent them to the happy home of a young student chef.
Zootertoot January 2, 2013
If it was part of a set (i.e. glassware/dinnerware) and there's only 1 or 2 of them left, it's time to go.
KirstenS January 2, 2013
I've lived in small city apartments for so long, I have few extraneous objects in my kitchen -- I took Alton's "no single-use tools" to heart! Now that I have a little more storage space, I have another rule: if you don't use it more than twice a year, stash it in the attic. This applies to my big roasting pan and braising pot.
Burnt O. January 2, 2013
I solved this problem earlier this year when my college age niece was moving into her first apartment. Hand me downs were plentiful. She had everything she needed to get started, and I got to replace a few things with upgrades. :-)
Joerf48 January 2, 2013
You know, the minute you get rid of something you're going to need it. I have a way of removing clutter. If I don't use it often, I have a couple of shelving units in the basement where I store things. I have an annual night before Christmas party and that has its own storage shelves for platters, trays, ramekins, soufflé dishes, etc. If I need them during the year, I bring them up.
Panfusine January 2, 2013
Maybe we shd do a collective post on what unnecessary stuff we rid our kitchens of and compare notes..
Kenzi W. January 2, 2013
Or a gadget swap? One person's unused avocado slicer is another person's treasure, as they say.
Erica January 5, 2014
I like the gadget swap idea!

Otherwise - to Goodwill, a women's shelter, or to craigslist we go!!