Declutter Week Three: Kitchen

Last week in my bedroom I had a lot of decluttering to do, but very little cleaning. This week is the opposite. LOTS of cleaning, very little to declutter. Two years ago when we renovated I moved from a large kitchen with walk-in pantry (which is now my bedroom with walk-in dressing room) to a small kitchen with standard corner pantry cupboard. Quite a big loss you might think. But what did I gain? Sunshine! A wonderful view! A kitchen integrated with the rest of the living area. Company while I cook. All worth it. I also discovered that I didn't need lots of the kitchen stuff I had been hanging on to, and can't remember what I got rid of, though it was quite a lot.

I think we all have a lot of 'stuff' in our kitchens that we don't need. Our grandmothers all cooked every meal from scratch and preserved food from their gardens with a fraction of the gadgets and storage space that we all have now. Think of the cupboard space in an average 1950s or even 1970s home compared to our kitchens today. What are we hanging onto that perhaps we don't really need?

Having said that, I am not volunteering to going back to beating up cakes with a wooden spoon. On the other hand, I have a small, cheap  hand-held electric beater, not a giant, expensive Kitchen-Aid, gorgeous though they are. For each of us there may be a different set of gadgets that we love and use every day, and others that maybe we keep 'just in case'. Maybe it's a bread machine or a juicer or fifty extra tupperware containers or a cup cake stand that is getting in between chaos and a sane, calm, ordered space. A very dear friend of mine hates to throw away plastic take away containers, because that would be such a waste. When I helped her clean out her kitchen last year they were taking up a whole cupboard! In my case I have said 'No' to the Thermomix and the Kitchen-Aid and the bread machine, and 'Yes' to the blender and food processor I already own, and making bread by hand, which I find very therapeutic. It all comes down to our individual kitchens and habits. How much space do we have (this is a reality we generally can't change) and what are our habits and needs (these can change if we want it enough)?

Anyway, I have accepted the reality that I cannot fit anything else into my kitchen without removing something already there, and I am quite happy with that, because I can't think of anything I need to cook or store that I can't currently manage, so all good:) Actually, having said that, I could stand to remove a couple of things from my baking and cookware drawers, because the key to a calm kitchen, or any kind of storage, is a margin of space for inefficient packing. A couple of my deep drawers are so full that they require very dedicated stacking, which means they don't shut when the children unpack the dish washer. This is clearly unacceptable:) So well, yes, a little decluttering is in order.

But principally this week - cleaning. Theoretically I clean one wall of the kitchen each week. But practically, these last few months I have been skipping the deep clean and just wiping surfaces before returning to howling in a dark corner. Now I have mostly quit howling, I am noticing the months of ground-in grime. And much as procrastinating is one of my best talents, the satisfaction of a sparkly clean kitchen is profound, as is the wonderful seratonin hit of vigorous exercise in a sunny kitchen to the accompaniment of rather loud music. Well, I am hoping for all of that anyway:)

So tasks for this week:
Cleaning the fronts of all the cabinets, including the high ones I always skip (we had cupboards built up to the ceiling to get extra storage and no dust traps).
Cleaning the rangehood, including the filters.
Cleaning the microwave and oven (aargh!).
Cleaning out the fridge and freezer.
Oh dear, the bin cupboard.
Clean the dishwasher.
Make sure there isn't any unused food in the pantry (rhetorical - I know there is!) Come up with a plan to use it.
Anything else? Clean the appliances on the bench.
Vacuum and wipe out the drawers.

Will I get through all of this? Possibly not, but anything that I manage will be an improvement:)

Monday: Did all my Monday jobs, then had a nana nap and faffed about, feeling broody and miserable with my cold. Am not a fun person to be around with a cold. Finally at 10pm was about to drag my sorry self to bed, but couldn't bear to not be able to report a tiny bit of progress to you all - so cleaned the microwave. Teeny tiny baby steps:)

Tuesday: Similar to Monday. I cleaned the bathroom, napped, then started in on my cleaning jobs at the relatively early hour of 8.30pm. Climbed up on my step ladder and washed the fronts of all the high cabinets. I am really going to have to get a wriggle on over the next few days! I might even have to contemplate starting to clean before dinner.

Wednesday: Medical appointments, visitors, children.

Thursday: Feeling blah about unrelenting march of iron levels towards bottom of chart. More medical tests imminent. Visit friends for mental health boost. Bath.

Friday: Ok, we CAN clean the kitchen, can't we? I climbed up on the step ladder to clean the stainless steel range hood with my excellent home made bathroom paste, only to be met with the message 'Posy was here' inscribed in the greasy, dusty film that covered it. Thank you Posy, my housekeeping conscience. Why, you may ask, was 10 year old Posy high enough to be able to leave a message above my line of sight? My guess would be she was standing on a high stool raiding the chocolate I keep out of her reach. Until now..

And here, my friends, is my tip of the day. Which you are probably already doing anyway. A couple of months ago a friend was visiting after I had spent a good half hour cleaning the range hood filters laboriously in the kitchen sink. 'You know you can put them in the dishwasher?' she said nonchalantly. Ha. Well, today I can confirm that, yes, it is indeed possible to wash filters in the dishwasher. Hooray! Happy days! I may be the last person to discover this, but just in case I am only the second-last person to find out, I offer this tip to you, my lovelies, to use as you will.

Saturday and Sunday: Aargh, the state of the oven has been haunting me. Usually (read 'once a year') I clean the oven using the most toxic chemicals in spray can known to man, because nothing else will shift the baked-on gunk. But this weekend would be different. Armed with several oven cleaning recipes using no more than lemons and baking soda, I would be green and clean. First I liberally wiped the inside of the oven with my bathroom paste (see above). Then I heated the oven. When it was good and hot (200C, 390F) I poured boiling water into a pan of cut-up lemons, popped the pan in the oven, and left it all to cook for 20 mins. Turned off the oven without opening the door and let it all cool down to merely warm. When I took the pan out it looked like this:

All that brown gunge had dripped into the pan from the roof of the oven. Mmm. Now imagine steel wool and 20 mins or so of hard scrubbing, using extra baking soda on the baked-on lava-like formations on the oven door. It was a great workout. It did not bear much resemblance to the instructions in my old housekeeping manual which blithely advised me that I would be able to wipe out the oven with a soft cloth. Ha. Still, perhaps previous generations cleaned their ovens more than once a year.

Ok, so now my oven is quite reasonably clean, though not exactly ex-factory pristine, I am wondering if it is possible to wipe it out when I have used it? Possible yes, but probable? Hmmm...

Thank you, as always for your company and comments. They keep me cleaning and decluttering with verve if not 100% efficiency. You will have realised by now that I have not accomplished everything on my list - but you know what, the kitchen is WAY cleaner than it was last week, so I am counting this week as a win:)


Anonymous said…
I did a big declutter in the kitchen not long after we moved here. We downsized to a much smaller kitchen although with a HEAP more storage space but it's space I want for bottles of preserves, not Tupperware or recycled containers. I do have a Thermomix but I no longer have a hand mixer, mixmaster, rice cooker, food porcessor and more. I know they're not for everyone but my Thermy was probably the start of me decluttering my kitchen. I do save glass jars and plastic take out containers but every now and then the cupboard gets ridiculous adn I need the space for more important things (such as ferments and bottles of produce) and I go on a big cull. I keep the useful sized glass jars and work back from there. I also decluttered our 2nd drawer down, the utensils one. 2 potato mashers, a potato ricer (posh masher), various extra cutlery and all sorts of other bits and pieces. I boxed it all up and put it in the pantry to see what we missed. I've since hauled out the mashers as I like to make mash in Thermy in summer and on the stove in winter (heats up the house less in summerbut uses avail heat on the wood stove in winter) but most of it I can't tell you what is in there. After a few months the boxmigrated out of the pantry and onto a shelf, and recently it migrated to a large box of stuff for the op shop. It's all fun and games but yes, the delicate stacking thing still applies here. It's time to review the cupboards again I think. :)
Jo said…
Jessie, ooh yes, I did buy a large sideboard which I filled with 'useful' glass jars for all the preserving:) When the jars are full they go into the high cupboards which I have to climb a ladder to access. Also other little used stuff, like the giant stockpot/canning pot, and that dratted cup cake stand which I think will be a casualty of this week's declutter. It's all a balancing act really isn't it? Space versus wants.. glad your thermomix is working for you. I have friends who love theirs to bits as well and use them all the time. I decided to stick with what I have for now, because I have space for everything I need and other plans for available funds..
Heather said…
Just last week I painted my kitchen cabinets, because they were in need of a touch up. I couldn't believe the grime I discovered that I never realized was building up. My eyesight must be going. Being up by the ceiling on a ladder and down on my knees by all the nooks and crannies was really eye opening. I have a cabinet over the refrigerator that holds a deep fryer, a dutch oven that I think makes food taste funny, a beer pitcher, and a bunch of never used cookbooks. I never use any of them! I should just give away the whole bunch and make that cupboard useful!
Jo said…
Just do it, Heather! How wonderful it would be to have a whole spare cupboard in the kitchen! And I know what you mean about the grime on the cupboards. It all looks fine from a distance. Although my eyesight is distinctly middle-aged as well.. maybe it looks appalling to anyone under 35!
Anonymous said…
In February/March this year, I renovated my totally impractical and badly laid out for the type of cook I am and the family we are (we're all giants or trainee giants, and the kitchen was built low enough that my very short mother found it uncomfortable). Copious culling and re-homing ensued and the local oppy got a LOT of kitchen stuff. Now, I have a very practical space and very practical cupboards. And a SMALL pantry!

I could have gone for a bigger corner pantry, but if you have a bigger pantry, you just buy more things and there's more potential for things to get lost. So eh, I can live with the small one.

The kitchen colour scheme was designed around my Kitchen Aid mixer, lol, I use it at least once a week. I've found that since I built a cupboard for ALL my appliances, I'm using them more because I can get them out of the cupboards without breaking a phoofer valve. (Except for the kitchen aid - lives on the bench because pretty *and* heavy, and the breadmaker lives in another room. I do use it occasionally for a fancy traditional dough instead of the normal bodgey sour dough I normally make. It's used often enough that I'll keep it.)

However, the whole 'just enough room' thing I have going on means any new purchase for the kitchen has to be weighed up very carefully. Do I really need it? Do I have something else that does the same thing? Does it do anything that something else I have can't do? And finally, do I have somewhere to put it? (NO Thermomix for me!)

I just wish I could apply kitchen logic to the rest of the house as easily!
best of luck with all that deep cleaning. you are wonderful and very inspiring, jo!
i had a chuck out of plastic containers recently - it's very liberating. i try to go thru my cupboards regularly as it's easy to start hanging onto things 'just because'.
Unknown said…
I left hand is raised and right in my my heart proclaiming that i am a plastic container hoarder. I declutter and still it comes back.

Im feeling depressed listening to all the housework you are achieving. I think im lucky if i get the dish washer on and a couple of loads of washing done a week in time for the ironing lady (also my son's English tutor).

Struggling at the moment to do it all (work, home and garden).
Unknown said…
Goodness, i cant even write straight. What was i doing above.
Jo said…
Miss Maudy, that is exactly how I approach the acquisition of new things in my kitchen. It has to be one in, one out! Also, I love my deep drawers which store all my appliances. So easy to lift out and in.
e, I know you are wonderfully efficient at editing your kitchen. Go you!
Lynda, yes, stuff does creep in, doesn't it? This year Rosy has been doing good old fashioned 'Home Ec' although it is called Food Technology now of course. Cooking, basically. Anyway, every week she brings home something yummy in a fast food container, so now my cupboard is full of them. They are good for when the girls bake with friends and then send half the baking home with said friend. Clearly it is time for more baking round here..
Really, I have not done much cleaning yet this week. Also, every time I do a job, which in my head will take hours, it only seems to take less than half an hour. I think I suffer from overwhelming and unnecessary panic in regards to cleaning! Plus, I don't work full time. Give yourself a wee break:)
Have to laugh at the thought of your ironing lady shouting instructions about grammar to your son as she irons a shirt. I'm sure that is not how it works, but that is EXACTLY how my homeschooling days used to proceed:)
Linda said…
Over the years I have decluttered my kitchen several times. I find plastic containers creep up on me so I get rid of the excesses fairly frequently. However I have bought two gadgets in the past year or so and can't think why I didn't years ago - they have been so useful and cut down on time spent cooking. First, a cheese grater shaped like a file ( I'm sure there is s fancy name for them but they are used in Italian restaurants when the waiter grates Parmesan onto your pasta dish). I use it for grating cheese, chocolate, carrots , lemon and orange zest etc. in stead of my old 4 sided greater which I always managed to grate my finger on!
Then I bought a stick blender. So much more convenient than using the food processor for blending soups. Instead of washing up all the different parts of the food processor I just wash one small part. Why didn't I buy them years ago? Probably because I thought they were two more items to clutter my kitchen cupboards! Hey ho!
Anonymous said…
There's nothing like having a visit from my clean-freak sister (whom I adore and miss as she now lives overseas, sob) to get me cleaning! Using your blog post as a starter, I've been frantically cleaning the kitchen cabinet doors, degreasing the stove filter (beyond disgusting), cleaning around light switches, decluttering the pull-out drawers of glass jars ( I need to keep some for pickles, jams, etc, but it was reaching hoarding proportions). Feel SO much better now. I have been avoiding cleaning my windows, as I will do them tomorrow, before she arrives. No point doing them earlier as the dog will just filthy them up. At least that's what I've been telling myself for a couple of months now:-) I've done my once-yearly proper clean of all exposed skirting boards too. Fortunately I have been blessed with the 'not noticing dust' gene, which is handy for avoiding housework, but I make an exception when my sister, and my mother-in-law visit. Hope your cold is better! Loretta
Jo said…
Linda, I love my file grater and stick blender. Such useful gadgets, and small enough to fit into the utensil drawer. Win win!
Loretta, I hope all spick and span for your sister:) I never had the 'noticing dust' gene either, until I started this housekeeping routine lark. So possibly an argument in favour of just continuing to ignore it..

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