Some people can live with a messy home office or a disorganized bedroom closet, and it doesn’t affect their lives in any fundamental way. But the kitchen is different. We all have to eat. If the kitchen is a mess, it can have a real impact on your lifestyle. Japan has even a special name for its remedy – danshari, which is a Japanese concept of decluttering:
danshari – 断捨離
断 – refuse
捨 – dispose
離 – separate
Pure, clean, uncluttered and balanced are all words that can be used to describe Japanese-style interiors. And what better place in your home to apply these looks and feelings than in the kitchen – a place in everyone’s home that can be busy, untidy, hot and cluttered on a daily basis. If you’re not inspired to cook because you can’t easily find the tools you need, or if you’re convinced you don’t have ample space to prepare a meal, resulting in your emotional and physical health being affected.
That’s why Japana team decided to develop these recommendations for decluttering and maximising your storage space and making your kitchen work for you and your family.
1. Take Stock And Declutter
You need to know the enemy before you can fight him. So first, take a complete inventory of your kitchen. Pull everything out of the cabinets and drawers and put back only the items you need and use. Use similar 9-9 months rule in selecting the clothes to give away or throw: Ask yourself – have I used this tool within the last 9 months? Am I going to use it in the next 9 months? If the answer is not a definite yes, remove it. Less is more. Why? There are tools that every kitchen needs, but if you have too many gadgets and dishes crowding your cabinets and drawers, it makes accessing them difficult, which means you’ll never use them. It’s better to stick with the basics and store things so that they’re easy to access and remove unnecessary worry about maintenance or cleaning. It also forces you to get creative with what you have.
Instead of having a dozen red and white wine glasses, 30 water glasses in different sets, four martini glasses, six champagne flutes and 10 mugs crammed into one cabinet, pare down your glassware. Store the items you use daily within reach of the sink and dishwasher and donate the extras or store them elsewhere. Likewise, you probably don’t need one drawer dedicated to dish towels and another for potholders. Six dish towels and two hot pads are probably sufficient and can fit neatly into one drawer.
2. Kitchen Helpers
There are several products for organising any kitchen, but in minimalistic Japanese-style and Scandinavian-style kitchens these items can make a big difference.
Cabinets: To make things like spices, cooking oils and baking decorations easy to see and grab in your upper cabinets, use a riser. And don’t be afraid to adjust shelves to make things easier to reach, if necessary. It’s not as hard as it looks and can make a big difference. Installing pullout drawers in cabinets will help maximise space for things like storage containers or dish towels and will also work well on deep shelves so that food stored in the back isn’t forgotten. Clear bins help corral like items and are great for keeping bags of rice, pasta, chips and cookies upright.
When storage is especially tight, consider hanging your most frequently used pots and pans on a hanging pot rack. Pot racks come in two varieties, wall-mounted and ceiling-mounted, and can help free up a lot of real estate in your lower cabinets. In fact, whenever you’re in need of space in a kitchen, look up! Are there places up high to put shelving or hooks?
Pantry and refrigerator: Look for versatile organisational products such as Mason jars, which are easy to clean, or stacking clear plastic containers. And if you’re tight on pantry or cabinet storage for dry goods, large Mason jars filled with red lentils or spinach pasta can double as decor.
Drawers: Drawer dividers can be used in shallow drawers to make measuring spoons, a meat thermometer, a can opener, a corkscrew, tongs and knives easy to find and put away.
Different size, same items: If you can’t dispose sets of containers and other tools and accessories available in few sizes, try to buy or keep sets of items decreasing size which can be placed one inside another, like Matryoshkas – the famous Russian dolls.
3. Save Counter Space
Countertops, free of clutter, are utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing. Don’t store rarely used appliances on the counter just because it seems difficult to put them away. The items that stay on your countertop should be those that you use frequently, such as a toaster or coffeemaker. So unless you’re a die-hard baker, you probably shouldn’t be wasting valuable real estate with a stand mixer. A hand mixer will do just fine – and be much easier to store away.
If you’re short on drawer space, use one countertop canister for the six utensils you use most often when cooking.
And be sure to make use of wall space. Most knife blocks take up significant countertop space; knives can be stored more efficiently in a drawer or on a magnetic strip attached to the wall (we recommend those wall mounted as they are a beautiful and simple decoration on its own). And by the way, you don’t need 10 different knives. Splurge on three or four really good knives that will last years (for instance, a chef’s knife / gyuto, a serrated paring / petty knife for all small jobs and a serrated bread knife) and that’s all you need. Magnetic strips can also hold small containers of spices and other sorts of metal stuff, saving valuable cabinet or drawer space.
If your upper cabinets are mounted high enough above your countertops, you can even store stemmed wine glasses underneath.
And last but certainly not least, what to do with those large cutting boards? If you have a large wooden cutting board, you might be able to lean it upright against the backsplash. The wood can create a little warmth in an otherwise stark kitchen and will still be easy to access when you need it.
If you wish, you can also place it on top of the refrigerator where it’s out of sight but still easy to grab. If you opt for a collection of smaller, plastic cutting boards, they can usually be hung on a hook for a fun splash of colour or slid underneath dish towels or potholders in a drawer.
Don’t buy into the idea that you need everything you see under bestseller label. Minimalism and Japanese simplicity is The New Black. Kitchen, apart from space used to cook healthy, tasty meals, it is also the central place for family gatherings and relaxing and it should help you focus on what’s most important – people, not things. A decluttered, minimalistic and well-organised kitchen can be just as functional and – bonus – requires less cleaning.
Photo credit: Jeff Sheldon