Minimalism in the American Kitchen

The idea that less is more is a trend I can get behind. After I graduated from college and got married there seemed to be this sense that, to be an adult and be credible you must know and have everything and need nothing. So, I began to amass everything and anything that I could maybe, possibly, for some crazy reason need. From kitchen tools to glassware, bed sheets to art supplies, I began to, what I thought at the time was responsible, collect all this stuff so that I’d be “ready”. Ready?! For what????? To host an army in our tiny apartment?? Everything was always organized and put away but… Ridiculous. Since then my husband and I have moved cross-country 4 times. Have you ever moved? All those boxes are a nightmare! And when you get to where you’re going, have you ever had to repack boxes just to store them somewhere because you don’t have any immediate need for what’s in said boxes? Weeks may go by… and then months… years? How long until those boxes get opened? Do you even remember what was in those boxes?? *Take a breath Jenn, you’re flipping.*

That was my life. Little by little with every move we made we became fed up with the packing, carrying, driving, and moving things we didn’t use or sometimes even want. Why did we do it?? Sometimes all that stuff does is stress us out. (Side note: If you’ve never read the children’s book Too Much Noise by Ann McGovern, it’s a great one. Read it. Great concept.) Many years ago I heard the idea that sometimes a person’s home or surroundings can be an outward sign of an inward feeling. My home was overwhelmed and that’s truly how I felt. So, over the last 10 years I’ve been unpacking… both literally and figuratively. You’ve heard it many times but in most cases it’s true: if you haven’t needed or used the item in a year, get rid of it.

I recently helped a woman go through her kitchen to both declutter and also to make her space usable, enjoyable, and efficient. By the end of our time working together she seemed shocked by how much she was pulling out of the cupboards, realizing that she couldn’t remember the last time she used that particular item. I couldn’t believe how many times she commented that she was grateful for an item but she never used it because she never liked it! It took some work but together we made her kitchen a comfortable space again; a space where she can think and create, move, and find everything!

Both as a chef and as a culinary consultant, I have been asked many times for recommendations on what people really need in their kitchens. “Need” is a relative term. There are grannies the world over that are the MacGyvers of the kitchen, turning out delicious feasts for their families with a single fork, a steak knife, and a pot with a broken handle. With that being said, I would love to send some ideas your way that have proven great investments for me. These are things or rules in my kitchen that are battle worn but have earned their keep many times. I will be posting more articles on this topic coming up.

You will never have a kitchen big enough to hold the world. So no matter the size of our space we must use it and the items in our possession wisely. Only then will we truly weigh the value of what we own and what we would like to own, as well as find contentment with what we have.

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