Monday, November 19

Here’s how you can declutter your kitchen

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Bonnie Berwick explains how she downsized the most important room in her home

Two women who have downsized tell us how they reworked all their kitchen items into smaller spaces.

Bonnie Benwick writes: It began quietly enough. I could have sworn I heard muttering among the boxes I’d never unpacked – the ones in the house I’d fled with on the way to ending a marriage. The grown children let me know they no longer needed designated bedrooms or their old school yearbooks.

Then my BFF since college, who manages senior care and has, therefore, seen the future, told me straight: “You need to move before you need to move.” Got it. That meant downsizing.

I belong to the boomer generation, most of whom are choosing to age in their original homes rather than moving into something smaller.

One of Bonnie’s cabinets houses baking ingredients, while the other is just the right size for vinegars and oils. Picture: Mike Morgan/The Washington Post

The downsizing required for such a move means getting rid of decades’ worth of possessions. And, I didn’t want to leave that job for others.

As it turns out, parting with side tables was easy. Dismantling my kitchen existence sliced into my soul a little.

Before I could even think about tackling the Larousse Gastronomique book in the room, I sought guidance.

My pal Cathy Barrow and her husband, Dennis, were living the downsizing dream. Starting with a much greater inventory than mine, she reduced the extent of her kitchen belongings quite methodically. By half. Her previous kitchen was a real, big beaut. But though Cathy had lovely things, did she really need them all? No, it turns out.

Advice on going smaller:

Cathy’s tips

“There is not a single thing I miss,” Cathy Barrow says. Picture: Mike Morgan/The Washington Post

1 Sell, gift, display

Family heirlooms eschewed by younger kin were sold.

Items such as ice buckets and cheese spreaders found new homes.

Her Le Creuset collection earned a display shelf in her new kitchen.

2 Organisation is key

In her new kitchen, a bank of plain cabinet doors opens to reveal a large pull-out drawer.

3 For everything new, give something away

“There is not a single thing I miss.”

Bonnie’s tips

Bonnie Benwick in her new kitchen. Picture: Mike Morgan/The Washington Post

My new kitchen is not custom-built; it is a rental. I am happy in it.

◆ I kept one set of wine glasses, a single all-purpose shape. 

◆ I thinned out the pots and pans according to the way I cook, with no duplicates in size.

◆ There are two corner cabinets with turntable shelves. One stores baking ingredients, the other various vinegars and oils.

◆ Spice storage proved to be more of a challenge. I eventually found compartmented trays that would suffice. They were in an office supplies aisle.

Spice organisers were found in an “office supplies” aisle. Picture: Mike Morgan/The Washington Post

◆ “Junk drawer” items have been sub-categorised and disbursed accordingly: What I use most is at hand, while lesser-used items wait in a pull-out basket below.

◆ No single drawer in this kitchen is large enough to accommodate a full set of plates, so two do the job.

◆ Canned and dry goods are stashed close by in the mesh drawers and open shelves built into a walk-in pantry cupboard. The contents are organised by type and stored by how often they are deployed. The one or two platters I kept fit on those shelves. 

◆ Downsizing my cookbooks was the hardest hurdle. I use the kitchen counter area where the stools would normally be tucked – another limited space – for my cookbooks. Hundreds of titles had to go. They represented periods of my life, a self-taught cooking education, food luminaries I had spent time with, memories I wasn’t ready to dismiss at this stage.

◆ I decided: cookbooks I had cracked open in the past few years would come with me. The first box was filled with Julia Child and early Nigella. How sad I would have been. I donated the rest of the cookbooks to places that will use them.

◆ I can say, having now unpacked all the cartons I brought, I will miss my mother’s copies of The Settlement Cookbook and Joy of Cooking because her DNA was in them. When I’m feeling blue about that, I will console myself with her rotary mouli grater, which just happens to make the best egg salad. Hold on to the things you really love, Cathy said.

The Washington Post

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