If you don’t use something, remove it from your life. Keep only that which is fresh, works and makes you happy. There’s no point in buying good things if you don’t know how to throw out bad ones. Clutter slows you down.
Don’t let a stretch of kitchen benchtop deteriorate into a chaos of bills, quotes, parking fines, school notes, reports, invitations, newsletters, all covered with toast crumbs. Get on top of your mail everyday: pay the bills, file away the newsletters, put the invitations in a diary, and keep surfaces clear.
Always bulging, always a mess. But no longer. Chuck out the tin of Icelandic snacks someone bought back in 1992, that giant pouch of paprika you’ve been using since 1997, and the remains of the rice four you purchased for a single recipe that you’ve never cooked again. Don’t keep spices longer than a year: after 12 months, you might as well be stirring dust into your food.
Get a big bin and work through one shelf at a time. Anything tragic, past it’s use-by-date, battered, left-over, rusty, weevilly or downright weird goes straight in the bin. Take everything else out and wipe down the shelf and the bottom of each jar or tin. Put things back in logical groupings, as if it were a mini supermarket. You’ll probably find that half of what you were storing has vanished. Put things you use all the time at the front.
Decant packets into containers: it looks good, avoids mess and keeps the moths out. Now you’ll have space to fill with the things you need. Buy some big, attractive, matching glass jars with air-tight lids in which to store staples. Your pantry should make your heart sing and your mouth water.
THE SAUCEPAN CUPBOARD
Keep the bin beside you and keep filling it. Chuck out rusty cake-tin moulds and anything in the shape of cartoon characters or numbers. Get rid of pans with loose handles, battered lids that no longer fit anything, no-stick frying pans that stick, and that steamer you never use.
If you don’t use your wok lid, out it goes – along with those plastic containers with no lids that breed in everyone’s cupboards.
THE CUTLERY DRAWER
Empty it out. Vacuum out all that mysterious grit that collects in the drawer, and wash the cutlery holder in warm, soapy water. While it’s drying, go through the cutlery. Everything old, useless or bought as a souvenir should be chucked. Keep only the cutlery you use everyday – but make sure it’s good. If it’s light, badly designed, worn or damaged, throw it out. That includes forks with bent tines and knives that have lost their edge.
THE SECOND DRAWER
This is where most people keep their gadgets. Graters, wooden spoons, strainers, skewers, tea bells, meat thermometers and fifty other bits and pieces. Spread it all out on a kitchen bench. Mouldy wooden spoons? In the bin. Keep the best, discard the rest. Aim to cut the drawer’s contents by half. Who needs three can openers? Clear out what you can and hang the rest from hooks or keep them bristling in a container on the bench, particularly that new set of wooden spoons you’re going to buy.
THE TEA TOWEL DRAWER
Yes, you need a few. Buy half a dozen crisp linen ones, and chuck the rest including someone else’s souvenir.
THE BOTTOM DRAWER
This is where matchboxes jumble with string, out-of-date warranties, gummed up tubes of superglue, reels of sticky-tape, blobs of Blu-Tack, dead batteries, keys that don’t open anything in your house, and numbered birthday candles that don’t add up to the age of anyone you know. Keep the sticky tape and chuck out the rest. Let’s face it: super-glue is a one-use product, birthday candles have to be bought the day of the party, you’ll never solve the mystery of the keys, and appliances always collapse the day after the warranty has expired.
Clear out the wilting lettuce, mushy zucchini and slimy salami. Now look at the fridge door. Make sure nothing is on it – no magnets, school memos, bills, reminders of doctor’s appointments, children’s drawings, photos or fingerprints. Any old fridge can look good if there is nothing on it. Don’t make it a ‘Decision Pending’ tray.
UNDER THE SINK
This is the dark secret of every home: the repository of scraps of boot polish, brushes and rags, rusty remnants of steel wool, dusty cockroach bairs, multiple bottles of surface wipe, toxic oven cleaner, old toothbrushes, disgraceful dishcloths, and inevitably the mush from teabags that have missed the bin. Get rid of pretty much everything and start from scratch. Bleach the bottom, let it dry, then reline it. Now go shopping for new stuff, including some snazzy baskets to keep it all in.
THE APPLIANCE CUPBOARD
Here reside the ultimate space invaders. You may swear by your bread maker, rice cooker, ice-cream and milkshake-makers, juicer, cappuccino machine. If however, you swear at them, they have no place in your life. Apart from a toaster and an electric kettle, the only kitchen appliance a real cook needs are a food processor and some electric handheld beaters. Be ruthless.