Kitchen declutter method (Alton Brown) - anyone use it?

celticmoonApril 26, 2007

On some thread here, I read of Alton Brown's kitchen declutter method in his Gear for the Kitchen book. Got the book (from the library, into less stuff not more!) and read the method. Basically you clear some drawer and cabinet space, and over time return anything you use to that space. Move the boundary as needed, just don't mix "ever used" and "never used" stuff. After some months you face that "never used" isn't in play, box and hold a while, then ditch.

Any of you done this or in process of doing this?

I spent a few hours today moving everything around and have discovered and decided a few things:

1) If I had available empty space, there wouldn't be a problem, LOL.

2) Because others use the kitchen and sometimes I cook a bit, er, frenetically, I need a foolproof reminder to keep the system going.

3) Sentimental value does not warrent prime kitchen real estate.

4) Some stuff I know I'm keeping, some stuff can leave *now*.

Given all that, I made a couple changes in his method. (I'm limiting myself to base cabinets - not dealing with dishes or food yet) I chose upper shelves and drawers for the "ever used" and lower for the "never used". Figure if I need it I will stoop for it. I marked the "never used" drawers and shelves with yellow police tape inside and a reminder sign: "Do not return anything here. Use above space." I got stuck in a few places (tupperware shelf) so I just put it all to one side and put tape down the middle and a sign to return to one side only.

Again breaking rank, I seeded the "ever used" with the things I *know* I use routinely. For example I "know" I use my vegetable peeler, ice cream scoop, can opener, favorite spatula, etc so it seemed stupid to put things like that in with, say, a melon baller. I also gathered and moved to my memory chest some sentimental utensils I inherited from my Dad. Living in the midwest for decades, I doubt I'll ever actually use his oyster shucker.

Not sure yet of this method but the work doubled as cabinet spring cleaning, so the time was not completely wasted. Everything is clean and wiped down, and the obviously unneeded stuff is en route to Goodwill or in the trash. But I wonder if I'll really throw out my turkey lifter, potato ricer, etc in 6 months? I know darn well I'll need them at Thanksgiving!

Anyone done this and found it useful?

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celticmoon

One other tweak I found necessary:

For my pot rack, instead of clearing half, I tied a loop of string on each handle and each lid and left them all hanging there. Will slip off string when I use them. In a few months, string = "never used".

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 5:44PM
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talley_sue_nyc

the obviously unneeded stuff is en route to Goodwill or in the trash

there's proof it wasn't time wasted!

And I agre e/w you on the turkey lifter and potato ricer--they're sort of like the power saw and the long underwear. Sure, I don't use them THAT often, but when I need 'em, I don't want to have to go buy them!

But this method will certainly make you face the fact that you ONLY use the turkey lifter at Thanksgiving, so it doesn't need prime real estate. maybe it and the potato ricer can go high up, or way down below in the back, or whatever.

I LOOOOOVE the "yellow police tape" idea!

My DH uses the kitchen all the time; I use it seldom (he does the daily cooking). So we have to both agree on the organization. And he doesn't always remember what goes where. I try to have simple rules ("if it could go on the table for a fancy meal, it goes in this drawer"; "If you might ever use it for prep work, it goes in this drawer"; if it gets used on the stovetop, it goes in this drawer"; "if it's for cooking but you have NO idea how to use it, it goes in the far-away drawer"). Doesn't do any good--my small dressy ladel will be in the drawer by the stove.

I'm tempted to get 4 bottles of acrylic paint, paint the inside of each drawer, and dip the ends of all the utensils into the appropriate bottle of paint.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 6:51PM
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celticmoon

Talley sue, I'm laughing at the idea of dipping handles in paint to match the drawers! I've had the same struggle with DH not quite comprehending what goes where. But he's come to see that the drawer next to the range has "cooking" utensils (to reach standing at the range) while the one under the prep area has "prepping" utensils (to reach when you prep). It is really not that complex a system!

Oh, and you will like this: I fished the turkey lifter and potato ricer out of the very back of a lower roll out! I knew they were stashed there, and that is right where they will return no doubt. Awaiting their annual appearance.

Culling the duplicates (except peeler - I want two of those) and parting with cranky contraptions (poorly designed grater thingies or choppers) was easy. I am kinda curious how much of the stuff in limbo I will actually use. Seesm like too many spoons, strainers and spatulas, that sort of thing. Some will be moving on.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 7:29PM
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minet

Since we just moved and our new kitchen layout is much different than the previous I've had to adjust my stash. I've made up a box of seldom-used specialty utensils and stashed them in a bottom cupboard, and am just keeping the basic spoons, spatulas etc in the easily-accessible drawer.

I don't really want to get rid of the specialty ones, as I don't want to buy them again if I need them (there's that mentality I have I might need this someday) ... perhaps if I don't open that box in the next year I'll just give them away.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 10:05PM
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celticmoon

Exactly, minet. It is that "I might need this someday" that is the challenge. I am teetering between buying into downsizing and holding dear to my "stuff".

One thing I know, my cooking is very different in different seasons. Not just the Thankgiving turkey lifter and potato ricer, but the grilling items I am just now dusting off. I know I will be making more vegetable salads with lemons (=squeezer thingies, serrated tomato knife, bowls, etc) and less roasted dishes (= LeCrueset pots, cheesecloth, bouquet garni in net bags, etc). Different tools for different times.

And on that rare occasion I spring for lobster, I want that giant pot, and those crackers and picks!

Or am I just rationalizing my clutter?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 11:28PM
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minet

It seems to me that packing up the kitchen to move is always one of the most surprising rooms in a house. There's always so much more stuff than what I think I have. Since most of it is in a cabinet or drawer unless it's actively being used, it's easy to forget how much there is.

It's similar to packing up an artist's studio - a lot of specialty brushes and tools that take up space but are valuable for certain circumstances.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 11:45PM
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steve_o

Or am I just rationalizing my clutter?

The key for me, I think, is how easily I could substitute for a specialized utensil/dish. Alton Brown concurs; many times on his show I have heard him disparage a kitchen tool that has only one use. A turkey lifter might be a "nice to have", but I've survived for years lifting turkeys with a pair of meat forks or a meat fork and large spoon. So I don't own a turkey lifter.

But, personally, I think the six-month rule for utensils is a little harsh. If one cooks according to the seasons (I do), then there will be six-month stretches in which a utensil/dish/pot is not used. If it is an item for which there is no ready substitute and I do use it often "in season", I will make room for it.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 8:56AM
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clink

Personally -- I think the 6 month rule is silly also. I do a lot of canning -- I own 2 hot water bathes and 2 pressure canners. Yes -- I canned for years with one of each but I can get a bushel of green beans done a lot faster with 2 pressure canners going at a time rather than just one.

I can use a food processer to make tomato sauce but it is far less mess to use a Squeezo. And I use it 3-4 weeks out of the year -- the rest of the time it sits. But for those 4 weeks -- it is on the counter working its little tail off!!!

Storage is difficult.... it is tough to store the empty jars all the time and since fewer and fewer people preserve their own food -- I'm constantly recieving gifts of canning jars.

But everyone has to look at their kitchen with a discriminating eye. I would never use a hot dog cooker..... but I know people that would love to have one. My crock pot gets a workout -- some sit in the back of the cupboard for years.

Cathy

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 9:56AM
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marie26

Where do you put those seasonal items? Are they stored in another room or in the back of a kitchen cabinet? Do you separate them by season used? This seems like a whole new way of thinking of how to organize the kitchen. Everyday items easily available and the others put aside instead of like items with like items.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 10:07AM
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talley_sue_nyc

maybe we should have an "in season" cabinet, and an "out of season" shelf in the garage.

Then, like the drugstore that clears out all the Easter stuff and puts in the summer/beach stuff in aisle 4, we can swap the items, and have what we need right at hand.

As we do with clothes.

Of course, as we do with clothes, we may find some overlap, perhaps, and so for a month, we'll have the crockpot AND the canning stuff out on the counter....

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 10:30AM
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steve_o

Where do you put those seasonal items?

I don't have a lot of storage space in my kitchen, so the rarely-used stuff either goes with its "peers" if it's small enough or goes into a hall closet/linen closet if it's large (stockpot, dehydrator, etc.)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 7:07AM
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celticmoon

Update: I'm finding it quite pleasant to use my cooking and prepping utensil drawers and pot/pan shelf, as they are very uncrowded.

In contrast to the police taped spaces full of things waiting to see if they will earn a spot in the lineup.

Hmmm. Which way do I prefer my space to be? No brainer. I'm thinking that banishing the seasonal and 'I don't care what Alton Brown says, I'm not throwing it out' items to garage storage may be my answer.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 9:28AM
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breenthumb

Because of limited kitchen space I've been very selective for quite a while. I've narrowed down my seldom used small utensils to a tissue box in back of dish towel drawer. Like can opener if electric goes out, extra peelers for helpers, pie servers, melon baller, pizza cutter. Thats all I can remember offhand so maybe time to revisit both that and my regular cooking utensil drawer.

I store the turkey lifter inside the roaster along with the large Armatel-like platter to carve it on all in a large plastic bag in the basement stove.

A few years ago I bought my favorite pan--a 6 qt.WOK/jumbo chicken fryer type thing with teflon(?) and a helper handle that seems to have replaced the Revere Ware waterless I used regularly. Yes, its time for a cleanout. It'll be hard to get rid of those oldies but goodies, though. Sandy

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 11:28PM
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lobsterbird

Hi, Celtic. I was the one on the other thread who mentioned Alton Brown's book, and, yes, I am in the process of using his method to declutter my kitchen. My main focus at this point is to find the best pots and pans that will work for my needs. I'm also interested in learning about other tools that may be helpful. I have a very small kitchen and space is at a premium. At this point, I have reorganized most of my cabinets and small appliances and relegated two boxes of stuff to the basement. I plan to put seasonal and less used items in adjacent storage areas or in the basement.

Tina

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 12:44PM
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jenathegreat

I have a very small kitchen, so I store my "seasonal" items out in the garage on a wire shelf. The giant roasting pan for turkey, the pot and cans I use twice a year to steam Boston Brown Bread, the cookie cutters that I pull out maybe 3 times a year, the coffee maker that we only use when we have company (we drink tea or use a small french press that lives in the kitchen but since its use is strange and mysterious to our families, we haul out the old Mr Coffee for them).

I should probably mark some of the items in the garage using the "string" method - I'm sure there's things out there that haven't been used in the last year. And really, if I didn't use the cuisinart over the holidays when I did all the cooking, maybe it's time for it to go away.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 1:57PM
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jenathegreat

I have a very small kitchen, so I store my "seasonal" items out in the garage on a wire shelf. The giant roasting pan for turkey, the pot and cans I use twice a year to steam Boston Brown Bread, the cookie cutters that I pull out maybe 3 times a year, the coffee maker that we only use when we have company (we drink tea or use a small french press that lives in the kitchen but since its use is strange and mysterious to our families, we haul out the old Mr Coffee for them).

I should probably mark some of the items in the garage using the "string" method - I'm sure there's things out there that haven't been used in the last year. And really, if I didn't use the cuisinart over the holidays when I did all the cooking, maybe it's time for it to go away.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 2:02PM
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rosesr4me

I haven't read Alton Brown's book (need to though - sounds good!). But I think I am doing his technique unintentionally for my clothes. I recently had all my bedroom furniture moved into the garage (in order to repair the wood floor), leaving the filled clothes drawers inside, stacked on the floor. For the last 3 weeks, I find that the pieces I pull from the drawers to wear are the ones I obviously like and use frequently (I don't put them back into the drawers, but instead fold/stack them on a bookcase). So guess what? This weekend I am emptying what is left in those drawers and making a trip to Goodwill! It REALLY does help to start with nothing, then add what you really need rather than trying to sift through everything.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 5:40PM
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quiltglo

roses4me, another way to ditch the clothing is when you have a mountain of dirty clothing--go to the closet and get rid of the stuff still hanging. Those are the clothes you don't like to wear. Spend a day doing that laundry overload and it will fit into the drawers and closet nicely.

Gloria

    Bookmark   May 4, 2007 at 6:26PM
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rosesr4me

Gloria - thanks for that tip. I conquered the drawers this past weekend. But the closet is my next obstacle and your idea will certainly make "simplifying" the closet a do-able feat. Thanks again!

Carol

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 3:21PM
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bonelady

I moved to the "seasonal" and "seldom used but essential" method of storage a long time ago. I have a small room in my basement that has shelving in it that hold the large roaster, giant stock pot,turkey lifter and other occassional items that I use less than a few times a year. It actually turns out to be 3 units and also holds things like the 12 pack of paper towels and the ice cream maker and the champaign glasses......

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 2:48PM
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parhelia

Just a thought for some of the holiday utensils.... If you have a large pot you generally use ONLY for the TG turkey, why not put as many of the turkey accessories as you can inside the pot or pan? Then it's all there together. You save space as well as time and effort ("Now where did I store that...?")

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 1:22PM
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elizabeth10029

And another way of multi purposing one once a year item...

I use my potato ricer a lot for getting the moisture out of things: mushrooms for duxelles, bulgar wheat for tabbouleh.

I agree with the one year time frame -- six months is too short.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 3:42PM
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raehelen

I hired my sister to come and help me declutter. Was win/win for both of us, as we got to visit- I made headway in the house, and she got a free trip to the coast and some extra mulaah! Anyhow...one of her ideas was to box up the kitchen stuff I'd been stashing at the back of the cupboards (cuz I might need them someday- or when the kids move out they could use them)- put them away in the store room and DATE the box. Write the contents on the outside (The OC part of me had to do that myself as she has Messy writing! :>) We even wrote Kitchen canisters for Jacky, etc.

Well, turns out 'Jacky' has lived away from home for the past four years, and she doesn't want those canisters. I've had things in those boxes for over three years- guess I can safely say I haven't missed them, and they can go directly to charity.

BTW, we took several van loads of stuff to charity during that week, and she personally added a bag to each neighbour's garbage on collection day (We have a garbage limit).

We are now close to moving back into the kitchen after an extensive reno and I can't believe how little I actually needed for the past seven months- and hope I can be ruthless before the new cupboards/drawers get filled.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 2:50PM
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cynandjon

My son was telling me that they have to much stuff in their kitchen.(3 sets of flatware, etc) Maybe I will buy them that book. Do you think my DIL would be insulted? LOL

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 4:05PM
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