Feeling the urge to overhaul your kitchen? You can still follow Marie Kondo's principles for tidying up, without feeling like you need to get rid of everything.

Jill Waldbieser
October 24, 2019

Speaking totally unscientifically, as someone who recently moved, I'm willing to bet the average kitchen probably contains at least 10 percent more stuff than any other room in the house. As both a cooking fanatic and minimalist, this presents a constant dilemma for me.

Getty / Aliyev Alexei Sergeevich

Millions of people in my shoes latched on to the now-famous KonMari method of de-cluttering, taking the advice of a woman who built her empire on tidying up to purge any possession that didn't, in her words, "spark joy." But here's the thing, says Melissa Maker, host of YouTube channel Clean My Space: "Sometimes, an egg beater doesn't spark joy. But that doesn't mean you don't need it."

In their haste to achieve the idealistic aesthetic Marie Kondo promotes, plenty of people have suffered organizer's remorse. Purging material goods isn't always the answer, especially when those goods have a use, as almost everything in a kitchen does. So, before you list your garlic press on Facebook Marketplace, try this three-pronged approach to kitchen harmony.

Read More: 5 Expert Tips for a More Organized Kitchen in Minutes

How to Marie Kondo Your Kitchen Without Throwing Everything Away

Here's how you can organize your cluttered kitchen, without tossing the majority of it out.

Step 1: Purge what you can.

"Marie Kondo, I truly believe, doesn't want us to live in austerity," says Maker. "Her message, which sometimes gets lost in the hype, is to just get rid of things that you don't need anymore, and don't let emotional baggage chain you to items that don't serve a purpose."

In the kitchen, start with any duplicate items. If you have two can openers, donate one. Pressure cooker and slow cooker? If the former can do both functions, rehome your crockpot. "Find the things that are truly superfluous and lose those," says Maker.

Then move on to gadgets and small appliances you never use. Haven't baked bread, ever? Ditch the breadmaker (even if it was a gift). Too often, we keep items we'd never miss because of nostalgia or guilt.

And don't forget the pantry. Going through once or twice a year to toss expired items like spices and transfer leftover ingredients like cornstarch from their original packaging into smaller jars or containers frees up a surprising amount of shelf space.

Step 2: Organize the rest by function.

We have a tendency to want to store "like" items together—all dishes in one cabinet, all prep tools in another. But in the kitchen it makes more sense to organize by function, says Ellen Delap, a certified professional organizer. "It's okay to keep your main, everyday tools in a container near the stove, and the lesser-used ones like cherry pitters or melon ballers out of sight in a bin," she says. "If the only time you bake is during the holidays, store your baking supplies with your holiday décor. These tweaks free up valuable space where you need it most, in the spaces you access everyday. You can also save space by "nesting" infrequently used items, such as storing your turkey lifter, baster, and carving knives inside the roasting pan.

Read More: Your Kitchen-Cleaning Checklist

Pro tip: keep the boxes to appliances you don't use every day like pressure cookers or air fryers so you can easily store them outside the kitchen in their off-season (ice cream makers don't get a ton of use in the winter, for instance).

Step 3: Use the right tools.

There's a reason The Container Store exists. Unless you have a kitchen custom-built to accommodate your possessions, you could probably use some drawer dividers and decorative bins. Sub-dividing existing spaces makes more efficient use of the space you have, says Delap. She likes Mekbok bamboo adjustable drawer dividers (Buy it here: $27.77), which match most kitchen interiors and can help keep utensils separated. Yamazaki Home (But it here: $15 to $39.99) makes a number of organizers for spices and other kitchenwares, including some magnetic options, that have a nice clean aesthetic.

Tupperware drawers are another area that tends to get out of control. The YouCopia StoraLid (Buy it here: $19.99) means you'll never have to hunt down the right lid again. In general, Delap recommends square or rectangular containers instead of round, because they fit better in cabinets and refrigerators.

Read More: 10 Rules to Organize Your Refrigerator the Right Way

The latter is another problem area for most people. "Fridges are way deep now," now Delap, "and everything gets pushed to the back and forgotten if you don't have a way to organize it." Sorbus fridge and freezer bins (Buy it here: $31.99) not only keep cans and other items together, they're transparent so you can see everything all at once and cut down on food waste because of forgotten leftovers. You can also make your own storage solutions: old magazine holders are great for storing long, thin boxes of foil, plastic wrap, and parchment. And, suggests Delap, "Label everything." It can help you remember how old ingredients are or where things go if someone else is unloading the dishwasher. After all, she says, "The more organized your kitchen is, the more efficient you are, and the quicker you can sit down and eat with your family. That's the real focus for all of us."

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