Week 2 – In the Kitchen –
How we prep, cook, serve, eat, store, clean
It’s Week 2 of the 2023 Clever Girl Organizing Challenge! I’m loving all the #banda photos of your gleaming new fridges and freezers, the orderly and “everyone in the house can find what they need” pantries, and the sighs of relief I’m hearing after a successful first week! A shout out to the #scaryspace intentions we’re starting to see, too!
We’re expanding past the food storage this week into all that other stuff in the kitchen and dining spaces — everything we use to prep, cook, serve, eat, store, and clean up after it all!
Don’t forget the guidelines I’d love for you to keep in mind before you start your work:
1) Have the tools you need before you get started — trash bags, recycling, donate box, and “goes somewhere else” box (so you can set things aside and keep going, not be tempted to return things to a different space while you’re working).
2) Take a BEFORE picture and, ideally, an AFTER picture, and please consider sharing them in the Facebook group, so that everyone can benefit from the support and encouragement we all give each other. Even if you don’t want to share them, take the photos, so that you have a guide to help YOU see the space differently, and be silently proud of your hard work and results!
3) And be sure to try to find time to check out the Facebook Live each week inside the Facebook Group, even if you catch it as a “replay” at your convenience later. For a lot of people, it may be where the “a-ha” moments come from! In last week’s video, I talked about #exit strategies and if you didn’t catch it yet, it’s worth the time!
PS – I’ve added even more products to the Products and Solutions pages, so be sure to keep coming back to check these out as we move through the relevant weeks!
THIS WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT
We’re still in the kitchen, and may even spread a bit into the dining room or other (deeper) storage spaces this week, depending on where your items in these categories live. Some have already started to dabble a bit in this space as a result of last week’s pantry work.
Unlike the food conversations of last week, now we’re going to start to get into some of the trickier levels of thinking critically about what you own, why you own it, and where you keep it. We’re going to start to find some stickier feelings than we did last week.
Last week, one of the more common psychological and emotional reactions many had was dealing with the idea of being wasteful. This came up when looking at food that was long expired, or open containers of ingredients used once and then held onto, never visited again. Wasting food. Wasting money. All bad feelings, and like many bad feelings, we may smush those feelings into our identify and self-worth.
BUT what I hope some of you started to tap into is that holding onto those things we’re not using isn’t necessarily giving you more value. In fact, they could be costing you even more than you’ve already “spent” on it. They’re taking space (which comes at a premium!) and creating clutter that causes stress, time lost, and eventually spending MORE money to replace the thing that didn’t last, got lost, spoiled, broke. I’m hoping each week, when you are identifying those negative feelings that get generated from analyzing your stuff that you’re able to let go of those feelings just as much as you let go of the stuff. Please don’t let your STUFF, especially a $5 jar of something you’ll never use again, hold your space and your life hostage because you don’t think you took FULL advantage of it. ❤️ Let’s continue to find some peace together, shall we?
This week, We’ll start to feel more of the “but I might need it someday” or “but this could be useful” or “I’d feel guilty because this was a gift or something I inherited.” You might run into that aspirational or identity barrier, “I *want* to be a person who entertains, who bakes bread from scratch, who meal plans...” and the things you’re coming across start to run up against the reality that your aspiration isn’t what’s developed (yet). Or the other side of the “identity” barrier: who you USED to be. “I used to entertain more; I used to make long and elaborate meals; I used to be a big baker; I used to host Thanksgiving, I used to used to do a lot of this with the kids….” When we’re finding STUFF that triggers emotional reactions to processing that we USED to be something or someone, and now we’re not, it can be a real blow. (Read/Listen in the “Why is this so hard” section below for a deep dive on “I might need it someday“.)
Always think about what your life is like TODAY and what you imagine in the near future. You’re here because you know you want and need to let go of things so that you can have the life you know you want and deserve. We’re going to need fresh eyes if we’re going to get through your space with a different perspective than you have every other day. Clutter gets invisible, and we’re going to shake that up!
Weekly Plan: How we prep, cook, serve, eat, store, and clean up after the food!
So what are the categories and spaces you might consider this week to tackle? Remember, you don’t need to do ALL of this! I want to give you ideas of where your time might be best spent, based on YOUR needs in YOUR space. Think about what you have, what you know you haven’t looked at in a while or what you know causes some strain on your storage systems. Think about what you’re using, and reflect on the items that just aren’t part of your life any more. Think about those items that you upgraded but still left the older version around, just in case? Think about the “I thought we would use this more” items that haven’t panned out. Most importantly, think of who you are, your current and foreseeable lifestyle, and what items just don’t align with that any more (if they ever did)!
What are some of the examples within these categories that you might prioritize this week?
- PREPARATION: large utensils, kitchen gadgets, measuring cups and spoons, kitchen knives, cutting boards, mixing bowls, and appliances like a KitchenAid, blender, immersion blender/hand mixer, Cuisinart, etc.
- COOKING: pots, pans, lids, glass and ceramic bakers, baking pans, baking sheets, muffin tins, strainers colanders, cooling racks and trivets, small appliances like Instant Pot, air fryer, dehydrator, toaster oven, etc.
- SERVING: platters, serving trays, specialty serving plates (like cake plates or olive dish or deviled egg plates), serving bowls, salad bowls, serving utensils, wine carafes, teapots, corkscrews and wine stoppers, etc.
- EATING: everyday dishes, everyday glassware, silverware/utensils (real or plastic!), steak knives, “fancy” glasses for wine, cocktails or champagne (like the crystal), fancy dishes (like the china), kids dishes, baby bottles, sippy cups, straws, mugs, water bottles, paper plates, napkins, thermos and lunch boxes, etc.
- STORING: Plasticware, glassware, containers (including the disposable kind), and all the wraps, foils, and bags
- TABLE DECOR: table linens (table cloth, placements, napkins), candles and candlesticks, napkin rings, items you use for centerpieces, etc.
- OTHER STUFF YOU KNOW IS IN THERE: Don’t forget about dish towels, aprons, under the sink, the magnets on the fridge, the junk drawer(s), cookbooks and recipes, the disposable eating utensils and chopsticks that keep coming in the takeout/delivery orders, and whatever is surfing your counters!
This is also a week where you might make some decisions/ declarations about some systemic approaches in your food world (casting NEW aspirations and evaluating them against whether they’re realistic and implementable), things like “We want to use less paper goods” or “I’d rather be using glass than plastic for storage” or “I wonder if we had less plates and bowls and glasses — would we be inclined to wash them more frequently and not just constantly have a sink full of dirty dishes?” Do some observations (maybe with others in your home) about what habits or “but we’ve always done it this way” might be ripe for a change!
1) Clean out and Edit several categories from above – Prioritize the spaces that feel the most overwhelming and the ones you *know* deserve a real edit. Do one category at a time. Make sure you have the space to work AND the space to set aside things that aren’t going back in the same space (time for a relo?) or aren’t staying with you at all. Start one shelf at a time, one cabinet at a time. Pace yourself!
2) Wipe Down or wash out surfaces as necessary – I mean, seriously, how did we get crumbs in the silverware drawer? Everything can use a good wipe down or dusting while we clear out a drawer, a cabinet, or a shelf.
3) Consider the Organization of Keepers – Where things go doesn’t have to be where things have been! Are there different ways to set up your system that better serve who you are today? If you used to bake a lot but don’t much anymore, are there ways to “demote” things that have a prime location that you aren’t using? Are there things that can go into a completely different space because they’re “occasional” use items, but you still need to keep them?
4) Create Exits for what’s going – This week we’re probably getting less into trash and recycling (that junk drawer, though… yes). Now we’re getting into potential exits like donation, Buy Nothing/Free giveaways, giving to family members, or maybe even selling an item. Whatever your #exit strategy is make it happen and get it out.
MINI-CHALLENGE THIS WEEK:
Can’t quite take on this week’s full assignment? You might not have the time, energy, or need. That’s okay! Try to set up at least two 30-minute sessions where you can focus on a critical area in this space or category. Set a timer, stay focused, and see what you can accomplish in less time than it would take to watch a sitcom!
PICK AT LEAST THREE:
– Review and edit your pots, pans, baking items, and food storage items – this includes matching lids, and REALLY considering items like “single-function” items, items that are duplicates of what other things do, and items you really aren’t using.
– Review, edit, and organize your cooking prep/utensil spaces (drawers, crocks, etc.)
– Clean out underneath the sink!
– Review your drinking vessels — mugs, glasses, etc. — and make some critical decisions about what you really need and use in your life, and where you’re storing them.
– Clean out your “junk” drawer(s)!
– Find at least 5 items in the entertaining/serving category in your home that you can let go of.
– Review your “too good to use” items — the china, silver, crystal, etc. – what is your long term plan for these items, and is everyone on board with that plan?
– Go through the lunch boxes, travel mugs, water bottles — all the “food on the go” items and edit
– If your fridge has a lot of magnets and such on it, give it a good edit! – 5 minutes
– Organize your cookbooks and loose recipes! What is REALLY serving you? What do you need to own at all… what have you stopped using, never tried/never will…
– If you haven’t cleaned your kitchen counters yet, do that!
RETURNING CHALLENGERS FOCUS:
If you’re a Returning Challenger, or if your a First timer looking to go deeper: If you’re ready for a deeper exploration, think about a few different areas maybe you haven’t explored before:
– If you haven’t been exploring those more emotional, sentimental heirloom items, this might be the year you begin that. What does it mean to you, for you, to own these things? Do they feel special and deeply like treasures to you? Or do some come with feelings you might describe as burden, guilt, obligation? Are some items things you own because “that’s what a respectful person does to honor their ancestors“, even though they’re not your style, you don’t use them, and you never will? Start to tackle some of these thoughts to understand what the future of these items might be.
– “Entertaining items” took a hit during the pandemic, and many of us have re-emerged with a new sense of entertaining means in our lives and homes. Maybe you’re realizing you’re just not going to be hosting the barbecues, the dinner parties, the holidays that you once did, or the way you once did. Is it time to explore what you’re holding onto, and whether it matches what your life looks like today? From the “these would be cool if we threw a party” notions to the big coffee urn to the case of champagne glasses, how much space are you devoting to “someday, maybe” events? What would it mean to let go of these items, and decide you’ll prepare for them when they happen instead?
STUFF TO KNOW:
One of the methods I use with my clients (and my own projects!) is a method I call the EEEEZ method. When we’re in a week like this, with so many different categories to dive into, it can be helpful to have a process to get you started and keep you grounded.
- Excavate: remove most or all things, even just one category at a time, to see everything you own.
- Evaluate: engage in critical thinking and set up guidelines around what you need and what can go.
- Edit: follow those guidelines, piece by piece, to select the items that stay and the items that leave.
- Establish Zones: create a system and flow for storage and retrieval of items that make sense for the space you have and for the items you’re keeping.
This can also help you as you’re breaking down each topic. Another technique I use, coined by my friend and a pioneer of the Organizing industry, Judith Kolberg: “Friends, Acquaintances, Strangers”. This sorting exercise is great for collections of all types, but this week, it is great to try out with things like your plastic storage containers, water bottles/sports bottles, and your coffee mugs! Excavate (from EEEEZ above) one complete category and then sort into 3 groups:
- Friends: Your ABSOLUTE favorites – the best of the best, the ones you could never imagine parting with, and always reach for when you need one of these. They’re probably a small percentage of your collection if you’ve never edited these much before.
- Acquaintances: They’re fine. Nothing particularly wrong with them, and if none of the favorites were available, they’d be perfectly acceptable.
- Strangers: The ones you don’t particularly like, aren’t attached to, and maybe even have something wrong with them or something you don’t love about using about them.
What makes a stranger? A coffee mug you don’t particularly like the shape or size of, or is chipped. A water bottle that always seems to leak or is hard to keep clean. A tupperware container whose lid is too hard to get on or get off. You know who your strangers are.
Once you’re done sorting:
- Friends stay.
- Strangers GO.
- Acquaintances are reviewed for quantity – how many of this category do you truly need?
WHY IS THIS SO HARD?
This week, I wanted to talk a little bit about the biggest barrier I see people face when we’re working in this next set of categories: “I might need it someday.”
As you go through some of your items, you may start to hear yourself say this, as you hesitate getting rid of something. And if it is something you haven’t used in ages, rarely use, or have never used, I want you to think twice about it before just assuming it goes in the “keep” pile.
What are the scenes you’re starting to imagine, specifically in the kitchen, when these thoughts are coming up, that generate a sense of “need”? Often it is envisioning company coming over, an entertaining event, a specialty ingredient that could be better dealt with a specialty gadget (hello, cherry pitter or avocado knife?), a recipe that might only work when cooked in a particular pot or pan, or even just “what if all our other dishes are dirty?” You’re channeling the aspirations of who you want to be and what you want to do in the future, even if it isn’t something that seems very realistic or likely today. You’re starting to conjure up scenarios in which this item you are holding could be put to work. You could also be imagining that these are all going to go someplace “important” in the future, and therefore you’re “investing” in something like — what about when my child has his/her own apartment, or if we get a second house? But in the meanwhile, they’re taking up YOUR valuable space. This investment in another possible future is costing YOU now.
I want to introduce to some questions you can ask yourself to help you evaluate whether you truly need it and need to keep it:
8 Questions you can ask yourself to help you untangle the “I Might Need It Someday” for your kitchen or any other space and category in the house.
- When is the last time I used this? (it’s okay to use “pre-covid” analysis here, but keep yourself honest as “pre-covid” is now 4 years ago, and maybe you’ll never return to that phase in the same way)
- How often do I use it and why? Will this still be the case in the future? (e.g. if you use items for hosting Thanksgiving, will you still be hosting in the future?)
- Do I own another item that can serve the same purpose? Or is it easy for me to borrow from someone else?
- Is it in good shape, or does it need to be repaired or replaced soon? Is it worth spending the money to repair?
- Do I know someone else (or could someone else be identified) that could get more use and value out of it now than I am?
- Is it something I truly love and has sentimental value that cannot be replaced and would pain me to let go of it?
- Do I own it because it represents another version of me, from the past or an imaginary future, and not who I am today?
- What is the worst thing that can happen if I let go of this?
So, have these in mind as you start to determine if you “need” all that you have in front of you, or if future-you is going to benefit more from them being gone from your home and life more than future-you will suffer because they’re gone.
Remember: You’re here because you made a choice to bring your head, heart, and body all in the same direction: to let go of things and have smoother systems in your home. If it was easy, you’d be done by now.
We’re working on the insides of things, the tops of things, the outsides of things, all throughout our kitchens. It seems like we’re focusing on STUFF, but what are we really working on is our SYSTEMS.
You see, your kitchen and dining areas exist to (primarily) be a spot to nourish and feed you and those around you. Shopping for food, planning for meals, creating meals, cleaning up after meals. Repeat. These two weeks are an investment in refreshing and right-sizing all the stuff that goes into making this happen.
You might walk away from these 2 weeks with a VERY different feeling about these spaces, a renewed commitment to redesigning or revisiting how some of all of this works for you, getting others involved differently. Most importantly, may you feel that the time and energy you’ve invested here will result in the benefits of being and FEELING organized in these rooms in the future!
Kathy (aka Clever Girl)
NEXT LIVESTREAM WITH KATHY
THURSDAY, JAN 18th – 7:00pm Eastern
SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE
Week 1 – Jan 8: Kitchen: Food – Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer
Week 2 – Jan 15: Kitchen/Dining: What we use to prep, cook, serve, eat, store & clean!
Week 3 – Jan 22: Bath and Bed: Medicines, Toiletries, Cosmetics, Personal Items, etc.
Week 4 – Jan 29: BREAK – take a break, catch up, or sneak ahead
Week 5 – Feb 5: Clothes, shoes, accessories
Week 6 – Feb 12: Home Office/Papers
Week 7 – Feb 19: BREAK – take a break, catch up, or sneak ahead
Week 8 – Feb 26: Living / Family Room spaces
Week 9 – Mar 4: Memorabilia
Week 10 – Mar 11: Hobbies / Arts and Crafts / Sporting Goods
Week 11 – Mar 18: Kid stuff / Holiday Decor / Pet stuff / Other Clutter Traps!