Take a cleaver to kitchen clutter
Your kitchen has gone to pot — and we don’t mean the cooking kind, the kind you can’t find for all the whatchamabobs and doohickeys you’ve hoarded over the years.
You haven’t seen the granite countertops since the day they were installed.
You can barely yank open the extra-wide utensil drawer, what with all the thingamajigs you’ve stuffed inside. Do you need three dough scrapers? The five orange peelers? The deep-dish pizza pan grabber you haven’t used in 16 years? And what about the microwave probe that looks like something that belongs in a carpenter’s tool belt?
You could call in the demolition crew and start from scratch. But we’ve got a smarter idea: Pare it down. Ditch the detritus.
“I call all this stuff that builds up life plaque,” says life coach Gail Blanke, author of Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life (Hachette, $13.99). “It clogs the arteries of our lives and, God knows, it stops up our creativity.”
She wrote 271 pages on the subject, and Blanke can clear a kitchen in a matter of minutes (follow along with her de-clutter guide below). Most of what’s clogging the joint, she says, is “the debris of indecision.”
You need that oyster shucking knife you haven’t used in 11 years?
Lest you think she’ll have you tossing the kitchen sink, she soothes: “I’m not a minimalist. I’m a middle-of-the-road person. The difference is I don’t keep anything around that I don’t use.”
And therein lies your homework. “We’re not talking about having the tidiest kitchen on the block,” says Blanke, “we’re talking about being free. You clear the clutter, you clear your mind.”
Here’s inspiration: Blanke, a first-rate cook, one who can debate morels versus chanterelles with the best of ’em, says the most sumptuous part of the holidays is what goes on way before dinner is served in the kitchen, the cleared-of-life-plaque kitchen.
In her old Connecticut farmhouse, it’s five grownups and an oversize golden retriever, ringing round the cookstove. It’s a candle burning on the clutter-free counter, a lamp glowing in the corner (because there aren’t 18 odd appliances hogging all the real estate). It’s not being worried that when an assistant chef is rummaging for a pie cutter he or shee will be impaled by one of umpteen sharp doo-dads.
When the kitchen is a place where the ones you love aren’t elbowing for inches, where there’s room to peel and chop and stir, “it makes people feel like they belong, feel cosy,” says Blanke.
“You have casual conversations that you might not otherwise have. That’s what we remember — it’s not about having a perfect dinner, it’s about creating something beautiful together.”
Rosanna Nafziger Henderson, co-author of The Lost Art of Real Cooking: Rediscovering the Pleasures of Traditional Food One Recipe at a Time (Perigee, $18.95), downsized from her already undersized San Francisco kitchen when she married this past summer, squeezing into a mere 60 square feet in which she still manages to churn butter, ferment sauerkraut, even mill her own buckwheat.
She savours getting by with a few utensils that connect her to the ways of cookery long ago, weave a little exercise into her day and create much-needed pauses in the rush to feasting.
“One of the main things about being in the kitchen together is … the conversations that happen,” says Henderson.
Adds Blanke, making room in a kitchen for good souls and conversation allows for the richest recipe of all: “You want the people who’ve come into your home to walk away differently from the way they arrived.”
Seeking the Zen
Gail Blanke’s guide to the uncluttered kitchen: Start simple. Pick one drawer — 15 minutes is all we’re asking. Set a timer. As you riffle through, ask: Do I like it? Am I using it now? Do I want to pass it to my kids? (If the answer is no, anywhere along, put it in a box to get rid of it.) Remember: You don’t have to toss Granny’s corncob-shaped platter into the trash; you should always donate. Once you conquer that lowly drawer, you’ll be emboldened to take on a cupboard, the pantry — maybe even the dark recesses of your fridge.
Dahlia meeting. The Victoria Dahlia Society will meet on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in St. Michael and All Angels Church, 4733 West Saanich Rd. The meeting will feature the annual fall dahlia tuber auction, always a lively event and an opportunity to add new dahlias to the garden. Elections to the executive will take place. All are welcome. victoriadahliasociety.org.
Native plants at Swan Lake. The Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, 3873 Swan Lake Rd, is asking for volunteers to help restore a wetland with native plants. Volunteers will receive instruction and be given tools to use. Four planting sessions remain. Call 250-479-0211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also at Swan Lake, a three-hour workshop on native plant gardening will be repeated on Sunday at 1 p.m. and Nov. 15, at 9:30 a.m.
Nanoose meeting. The Nanoose Garden Club will meet on Friday at 1:15 p.m. in the Nanoose Library Centre, Northwest Bay Road. Club members will demonstrate and lead a workshop on winter containers. Learn how to brighten up an entrance to your home or garden with artful arrangements of colourful branches and materials collected from pruning chores. Guests are welcome. Information at 250-468-9184.