I recently worked with a client on a one-afternoon project to completely organize and transform her kitchen. What she didn’t know is that we’d also manage to transform her LIFE in that same time frame.
This client had one major goal: She wants to cook more in her kitchen, and the kinds of meals she makes these days involve a lot more prep work, requiring more space to work.
We’d talked about her kitchen before I saw it in person. “It’s too small”, “I don’t have any space”, “I have no room to work” were the complaints she had about it. As soon as I walked in and saw the space, I was surprised at how large the space really was. It isn’t a HUGE kitchen, don’t get me wrong. I was just envisioning a galley kitchen, and it really has some better space, storage and even better flow than that. More importantly, I instantly saw the potential, and knew that her goal was totally achievable, and we’d get there in a matter of a few hours.
In the last two weeks, she bought a brand new (gorgeous!) refrigerator, and had two small shelves, designed to hold coffee mugs, installed in the space. So the timing of our appointment was perfect; she was ready to take advantage of the new shelves, and take her whole kitchen to the next level. (And getting her in a great spot for some future remodeling she wants to do in there).
Here are a few of her Before pictures:
Our plan? Start with surfaces, and empty cabinets and drawers, with the goal of finding the things that need to stay, and identifying the items that weren’t part of the kitchen of her future. The good news is that the process of getting rid of things had a conversation of mostly easy decisions, thought there were some more challenging ones.
Examples of Easy:
- She’s changed her diet significantly in the past few months, as she’s experimented with how it impacts her health, and she’s very committed to how awesome the new diet makes her feel. But, she hadn’t taken the time to go through the food she has in her home to let go of food that no longer works for her. We got rid of a few shelves worth of food –– some open items were tossed, and the closed items either went to a friend or to a food pantry pile.
- She has a dog, and she keeps a cabinet full of items for the dog — medicines, grooming supplies, etc. Many things in that collection were either medicines he no longer needs, or things she thought she’d try that her dog never really tolerated. So, she has to dig through all the stuff that doesn’t work in order to find the things that do. We parted with all those things that just got in the way now.
- She had collected a good amount of disposable plastic ware that she kept on hand for another particular pet, but that pet has since passed. (We were able to separate out a few items in other spots of the kitchen related to that pet, and I took care of removing them so that she didn’t have to put herself in the position of doing that.) In general, she was able to say that she had plenty of good quality plastic ware, and could say goodbye to the disposables and the take out dishes.
- Household cleaners that she really doesn’t use. She tends to use more natural products, but her cabinets still held long-abandoned solutions.
- All the tops to her party wine glasses, that fit into bases…. she’d saved the tops, but not the bases! Oops…
- Extra beer koozies…. she was able to figure out how many she needs, which were her favorites, and which to let go of.
- An old knife and knife block set. She’d already replaced it, but just didn’t know what to do with the old one, so it went in a cabinet. Once we determined a perfectly-fine-but-not-for-me place for it (the “dump store”, the swap shop at the local transfer station), she was excited it could leave her space.
Some Not-So-Easy Struggles she faced:
- My client had a hard time letting go of some items that she’d received as gifts, or received from people who were getting rid of things and thought she’d like them. She’s always just said yes to things like that, or accepted gifts gratefully and graciously, but then it ends up feeling like something she needs to hold onto, out of respect to the gift giver, even if it meant that it took up precious space in her home.
- Alternatively, some of the things that are really important to her, were just piled away somewhere, and risked getting damaged. We had to find a way to honor the things that were important to her, and let go of the things that either took away from valuable space (without being important to her) or made her feel guilty. And some of those items left with the knife block to go to the dump store.
- “This cost good money” was a phrase that came up a couple of times, and we were able to talk about that. She was able to see that, just because she’d spent money on something that isn’t working for her now isn’t a good reason to keep it. It’s taking up room (that she needs even more) and isn’t bringing her any value or use.
Once we cleared out all the food, the unnecessary gadgets and gifts, party supplies, pet supplies, etc. it was time to figure out how best to put the entire kitchen back, so that it best facilitated cooking (and coffee-making, her other passion). We worked through the best flow and processes, where she could use the counter space and where it was less important.
What did we do?
- Repurposed some of the disposable plastic ware to group and organize smaller items.
- Gathered all the party and entertaining items and stored them together, since she tends to use them all, but only on occasion.
- Streamlined the dishes, glassware, pots and pans to be in order of what she uses most often, and stored them in a way that protected them from damage in the future.
- Moved the blender to the place she’d use it most, and continued to focus on making sure that we were only keeping things out in plain view if they were important or inspirational.
- The slim cabinet (that once held a variety of cleaning supplies) could now hold baking sheets and tall/thin items, things that were difficult to store in other places, but PERFECT for that cabinet.
- Collected all of her favorite coffee mugs to put on the new hanging racks, and organized her coffee station for the best flow for her tired mornings to be as stumble-proof as possible!
- Even found a way to take an old fancy port glass, that once held toothpicks in the home she grew up in, to now hold toothpicks in HER kitchen. A wonderful (and functional) homage to great memories of her youth!
The end result? My client is THRILLED. She said that it looks even better than it did when she first moved in. She can not believe how much more counter AND cabinet space she has! We ended up having half of a base cabinet and half an upper cabinet completely empty, while all the other spaces are still roomy. So much of her new diet requires preparing fresh food, all the time, and she was really frustrated by not having that space. Her diet was really impacting her health, and being able to take control of her health in a whole new way is truly going to make a difference in how she lives, every single day.
She’s now even more motivated to make sure the things that come into this space really have value, wither functional or inspirational, and that she starts to get better at saying, “no, thank you” when well meaning family or friends offer things that don’t serve her current lifestyle.
She can not WAIT to cook a big meal in this space! And she’s entirely motivated to work on OTHER spaces in her home that aren’t living up to their potential.
The whole project (every single drawer, cabinet, surface) from beginning to end, took four hours. You really can change a life in an afternoon!
Some afters and some side by sides:
Can’t you just imagine cooking a big meal in this space?
Now, she can, too!