A Flowchart to Help You Cull Your Kitchen Cabinets and Pantry

A Flowchart to Help You Cull Your Kitchen Cabinets and Pantry

Taryn Williford
Oct 4, 2016

When trying to fit all the comforts of a home into, say, a studio apartment, the kitchen is a "room" where builders make a lot of sacrifices. Your small space is likely fitted with smaller versions of kitchen appliances (hello tiny fridge!) and is almost certainly slim on drawers and cabinet space.

If you use your kitchen frequently to cook, your limited storage space is probably filled to the brim with a mess of ingredients and tools. And if you don't cook at home much, your kitchen problem might even be worse—try not to imagine what ancient expiration dates are printed on the stuff in the back.

Step 2: Cull Through the Kitchen

For step two of our cleanout, we're going to—literally—empty every shelf and cabinet. There aren't that many of them, and we'll be doing it one at a time, so don't feel overwhelmed at the prospect. In fact, you'll likely get all kinds of accomplished, feel-good vibes by re-framing your kitchen cull from a subtractive exercise into an additive one: Instead of getting rid of things we don't want or need, we're opting instead to keep the things we do.

To get started, grab three big-ish cardboard boxes and head into the kitchen. The mission today is to work your way around the kitchen, targeting one drawer, cabinet shelf or section of the fridge at a time. You can do it systematically across the whole kitchen, working from top down and left to right, or target your problem "departments," such as frozen foods, cleaning supplies or cooking tools. In either method, the process looks the same:

Empty all the contents of the shelf, drawer or "zone" into one of your boxes, and label the others "trash" and "donate." (If you're targeting the fridge or freezer, work quickly!) Working from the first box now, pick up each item and determine for yourself what box each item should end up in, or whether to place the item back into the shelf or drawer.

Here's a guide to help you to determine what to do with your foodstuffs:

Everything edible can run through this rubric, as well as some things that aren't (like cleaning supplies). If you compost, you may want to make that a fourth box and sort the "trash" items accordingly.

(Image credit: Taryn Williford)

And here's what it might look like for housewares:

Housewares are the inedible things, like pots and pans, small appliances, silverware, plates, glasses, servingware, utensils and that microplane you almost never use.

(Image credit: Taryn Williford)

Once the first box is empty, move on to the next area, emptying the entire zone into the box and sorting everything out once again. As you work your way around the kitchen, you'll find you get better and faster at this. When the trash box becomes full, take out the trash! And the donate box? Tuck it into a corner and hang onto it for now.

If you're finding that your small space isn't so small, and the idea of tackling all your kitchen storage in one go is daunting, that's fine. Either decide to extend your small space cleanout by a few days, or focus on just three of your biggest problem zones. No doubt just getting something done will feel like a weight lifted off your shoulders.

Good luck! Let us know how it went, or how much you got done, in the comments!

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