Simplifying your home thus your life - part 2. kitchen & pantry

"I didn't know I had this!" is the proverbial cry I hear from a client each week. As we go on a dig amongst our things, we quickly discover lost and duplicate items and find ourselves richer during the de-cluttering process. Last week, we started the process of simplifying our homes with de-cluttering the guest bath. This week, we address the pantry and kitchen.

the pantry:
Peter Walsh, author of "Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?", recommends buying only the ingredients you need for cooking each week. By doing this, you reduce the amount of food in your home, making the choices to snack and sneak treats less possible. Mr. Walsh offers a correlation between pantry clutter and weight gain. I decided to test his strategy. Buying only what I need has made a positive impact on my grocery budget and reduced the amount of clutter in my pantry.

1. Toss expired food products and set up a donation box for a food bank with the items you know you aren't going to use (various canned goods). If you aren't comfortable with donating the food, then try menu planning from what you have left in your pantry to use up items that have been there for a while.

2. Corral your spices and sort through those too. They can go bad within a year so check the expiration dates and smell them. If the aroma isn't strong then they won't be contributing much to your prepared dishes. I like to keep all my spices in a clear box in my pantry. When I'm cooking, I put the box on my island and pull the individual spices that I need.

3. Consider a baking box similar to the one that holds your spices. Store your extracts, baking powder, food coloring, cookie sprinkles and pastry bag in it.

4. I use a larger clear plastic box to contain my oils and vinegars. All the plastic boxes that I use were re-purposed from somewhere else in my house.

5. If you have the room, I recommend putting dry, packaged goods on one shelf and bottled/canned goods on another. This makes it easier to spot what you need. I know exactly where I can find flour and rice in my pantry. Jarred salsa is located on the shelf above next to a can of chicken broth.

the kitchen:
1. Consider how cooking utensils are arranged in your kitchen.

Where is your prep place? This is the area where you do your dicing, cutting, chopping and mixing. Ideally, it is where your cutting boards, mixing bowls, measuring cups and knives are stored. Many of us have limited space in our kitchens and we have to do our best with what we have to work with. But in the process of de-cluttering your appliances and gadgets, you may find more room and then can set things up to benefit you and how you cook.

2. Gadgets - good grief I think I have seen them all! I've even run across an egg slicer. My client said she needed it to make egg salad. I told her that a bowl and a fork will do the trick and these are items she already has and uses every day in her kitchen. Consider your gadgets and see if a cutting board and sharp knife will accomplish the same purpose. A cluttered utensil drawer makes for a less enjoyable and stressful cooking experience when you have to hunt for a wooden spoon to stir the sauce.

3. Keep only the serving dishes and bowls that you actually use and love. I have read many testimonies from minimalists who got rid of their china. As a born and bred southern woman, I would never advocate that. Even if you only use something once a year, I believe that is enough to warrant its placement in a cabinet. That's why minimalism is so great; you choose only the things you need and love (which looks differently for everyone) and let go of the rest. I love my china pattern and I use it about twice a year.

Next week, we are de-cluttering the master bedroom and bath.

How is your de-cluttering process going?