Decluttering Your Kitchen in 7 Steps

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When we got married, I registered for enough kitchen gadgets and dishes to have about 50 people over for a dinner party. Apparently, I thought we were going to throw giant parties and give everyone REAL wine glasses and dishes to use all the time! We are approaching 10 years of marriage and in that 10 years we have thrown one party with over 40 people, a few around 20-30, and most dinner parties between 8-12. Yet I still had in my cabinet:

2 sets of dishes (16 plates, bowls, soup bowls, dessert plates)
(Plus some china I inherited a couple of years ago, set of 12)
Set of 8 chargers/dessert plates
Set of 8 plastic plates (for BBQs)
22 glasses
16 coffee mugs
20 wine glasses
8 champagne flutes
8 cocktail glasses
10 or so serving platters/dishes

All of this for 2 people.  So I got real, and even though some of these dishes were beautiful and yes, we would maybe use them in the future, I started to declutter, sell, and give away what I didn’t need. The reality is if we hadn’t used them in 10 years or only used them a few times over 10 years, we probably didn’t need them.

Decluttering your kitchen is a much more time consuming project than decluttering your closet. For these next few steps, you’re going to be focusing on decluttering, not reorganizing. The difference between decluttering and organizing is you’re trying to get rid of what you don’t need, not just rearranging and inordinate amount of possessions so it’s cleaner. The reason we’re taking everything out is to actually see how much you really have and what you use. Decluttering is getting rid of what you don’t need, not just what you don’t like.  Depending on how much time you have you may have to split this up over a few hours or a couple of days and give it try!

Step 1: The Counter
Before you start digging around in your cupboards, try and clean off what is already out on your counter. If you have miscellaneous items out on your counter (mail, bills, things that belong in other rooms) try and get that out of the kitchen first.

Step 2: The Dishes

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  • Take out every single dish, glass, mug, serving platter you own and place it on your clear counter or kitchen table. (Don’t worry about pots/pans baking utensils yet; this is just dishes and serving platters).
  • Count how many plates, cups, mugs, serving bowls, platters you have. Then decide to keep what you really use or need. We kept a set of 8 everyday dishes, glasses and mugs, and a few serving bowls/platters. We got rid of everything else. We didn’t need 24 plates, 16 mugs, and 12 serving platters even though they were beautiful and we “might” have used them in the future, we didn’t need them.

Try to get down to:
Set of everyday dishes (8-12)
Set of glasses/mugs (8-12)
Set of wine glasses (8)
3-6 serving platters/dishes

  • Think about the last time you had people over. How many real dishes did you use? How many serving platters? Do you need all that you have? If not, sell, donate, or give away what you don’t need.
  • Put them back in your cupboards nice and organized!

Step 3: The Pots, Pans, Bakeware

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  • Take out all of your pots, pans, and bakeware (cookie sheets, cake pans, etc.).  Separate items that you use regularly with items you use once in awhile or keep around “just because”.
  • Sort through the items you rarely use. Do you have something similar? Is it necessary to keep? How often do you use it? Are you able to use it in more than one way? For example, I had a pot that was for steaming asparagus. It had one use, and I rarely used it, so I sold it.  Do you need 10 cookie sheets, or 2?  Figure out what you need and keep that.

Step 4: Gadgets and Utensils

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  • Take out all of your cooking utensils and gadgets (food processor, blender, cheese grader, etc.).  Separate between what you use regularly and what you rarely use.
  • Go through items you rarely use and keep only what you need.  If a gadget is neat, but not really needed, or has too many parts and takes a long time to clean, get rid of it!  A good knife should be able to do much of the prep work in a kitchen anyway, so get rid of those small choppers, avocado slicers, or clunky gadgets you don’t need!
  • Keep one set of mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons.
  • Keep your serving spoons, wooden spoons, and good knives and the few utensils you need, sell, donate, or give away the rest.

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Step 5: Tupperware and Storage

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  • Take out all of your Tupperware and storage. Throw away (recycle?) anything that does not have a lid or any extra lids that don’t have a partner.
  • Keep only a few Tupperware/storage containers in each size. Stack lids together, and get rid of the rest.

Step 6: Towels, Napkins, Placemats

  • Go through towels, napkins and get rid of any with holes or stains (or use as cleaning rags). Keep enough towels for a week or two since these you can throw in the laundry.
  • Keep 1-2 sets of cloth napkins. We have a fancy set and a set we use every day, we try to use real napkins often so we don’t waste paper products either.
  • Placemats/chargers: I don’t really think these are necessary. They’re only for decoration so I only kept one set of 8. They’re more laundry and clutter on the table so I rarely use them. We have 2 plastic placemats that are easy to wipe off that we use for kiddos, but other than that, we got rid of the rest.

Step 7: Junk Drawer and Manuals

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  • Yes, I have a junk drawer. I think we need a place to keep the miscellaneous stuff. I keep my pens, post-its, scissors, gum, batteries, etc. in my junk drawer. For the most part even this stays clean and decluttered because it should not be where we just stuff things and forget about them. Try to get rid of things as they come in!
  • We rarely keep manuals. For the most things can be found online now or you can take a picture and keep it in Evernote. Get rid of as much paper clutter as possible!

The kitchen decluttering process will vary for each of us. Depending how much we cook, bake, host/entertain, use paper plates vs. real plates, etc. If you use your stuff often, keep it. But ask if you really use it, or you just think you’ll use it? Do you really need your own _________, or can you borrow/share? Do you really need 40,000 wine glasses or will 4 do just fine?

I keep thinking about our great grandmothers who cooked more than many of us (most likely) without all of these gadgets and utensils.  I’ve found that most of us keep far more than we need in our kitchen because “it’s pretty” or “we might need it someday”. So rather than keep items based on those things, keep what you really need or use. I have gotten rid of so much in my kitchen and if there is something I need that I don’t have, I can borrow or buy. So far, that has happened once in the past few years.

Once you’ve decluttered try to:

  1. Keep clean counters
  2. Put gadgets put away (don’t leave things out on the counter)
  3. Keep cupboards and cabinets organized and decluttered
  4. Keep only what you need/use
  5. Don’t buy anything new unless you’ve gotten rid of something else

Hopefully these steps help, but depending on how much stuff you actually have, you may need to do each step on a different day or break it down over a couple of hours. Whichever way you decide to do it, let me know how it goes!

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7 Steps to Declutter Your Closet in Under an Hour

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I love to shop. At one point my love for new and cute had me thousands of dollars in debt. I was in college and for some reason thought credit cards were more like free money and lived accordingly. I bought new clothes even while I still had clothes with tags hanging in my closet.  For any new event I was invited to, I bought a new outfit.  I cared a little too much about having something new or others thinking I looked “cute”, than I did on the credit card debt I was racking up and the cost of out-of-control spending.

Then I met Jesus and my view on money and materialism changed drastically. Since then, while I still love to shop and buy new clothes, I have shifted my perspective (and my spending habits) quite a bit.  I realized you can love having new clothes or enjoy fashion without having to spend tons of money or have a closet full of stuff.  For the most part, fashion changes too quickly anyway and trying to keep up with trends just keeps us spending on things we won’t wear in a year or two. And if money is meant to be stewarded, not merely spent, maybe buying a new shirt every week wasn’t the most honoring thing I could do with my paycheck?

I read a statistic that says, “We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time”. So, I started to pay attention to what I put on. I noticed I cycled through the same few things while the rest sat in my closet, some rarely worn and in perfectly good condition. So I decided to let go of that other 80% of the clothes in my closet this year and eventually, my closet went from 200+ items, to 70 down to 55 (to most recently 39).  I realized the other 80% of my closet was rarely worn, and so I sold or donated most of it.

Here are 7 steps for decluttering your closet in less than an hour:

  1. Count the items in your closet (everything hanging and shoes).
  1. Go back through your closet and take out everything you haven’t worn in the past year and make a pile on your bed.
  1. Go through that pile and ask if you will wear it in the next 3 months (or the next season). Don’t ask yourself if it’s cute or you like it or if it was expensive, but if WILL YOU WEAR IT. I had some super cute items that I didn’t wear because they fit weird or were too short, too low, too tight for my comfort so I got rid of them. This step is not about if you like it but, “will you wear or not”.
  1. From that pile go through and sort by keep/sell/donate. If there are items you will wear, put them back in the closet. If there are items that are so cute and in good condition, but you know you won’t wear them, sell them on EBay, Craig’s List, or Facebook. The rest, put in a bag to donate or give away to friends!
  1. For the items you sell, keep that money in a PayPal account or cash fund for future shopping. I now use this as my shopping fund for new clothes, so I only buy new things when I’ve sold old things and made some revenue.
  1. Do this again in 3 months. Nearly every season, I go back through my closet and pull out what I didn’t wear. With the exception of fancy dresses and winter coats, if you haven’t worn it in the past year, you probably won’t wear it in the next. So get rid of it.
  1. Follow the one-in/one-out rule from this point on. Once you minimize your closet, if you buy something new, resell or give something old away. That way you don’t just fill up your closet again in a year!

Some other ways you can declutter or buy fewer clothes over this next year:

  • Try not to buy a single item of new clothing for a whole year. I did that in 2012 and guess what? I didn’t die! If a year is too long, try for 3 or 6 months.
  • Use only gift cards or birthday/Christmas money to shop with. I tried this the following year, but I realized since my birthday is in November followed by Christmas in December, I have an inordinate amount of sweaters compared to summer tops. So no new sweaters for me this birthday season!
  • Sell items you don’t wear regularly. Just because it’s cute or you spent a lot of money on it, doesn’t mean you should keep it if you don’t wear it. If I’m not comfortable in something or it fits weird, even if I love it, I sell it because I know I won’t wear it as much as someone else might.
  • Give away clothing to friends or others. If a friend compliments a top, give it to her! Find an organization to donate clothing to. My favorite is Rescue the Children, an organization for women and children coming out of homelessness, incarceration or addiction.
  • Clothes swap! Invite friends over for a clothes swap. Bring clothes you all don’t wear anymore and shop through one another’s things FOR FREE. Sometimes I think I “need” something new, but really I just want something different to wear.

I love living with less, spending less, and buying clothes that are better quality and things I really love. What about you?

What tips have you tried for decluttering? Or which ones will you try?

How many items are in your closet right now? How many after you decluttered?

Leave a comment below and let me know how it goes!

Women and The Media

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Last week, I asked for some help from women gathering magazines for an assignment I had for one of my classes. I needed to go through women’s magazines (both secular and Christian) and answer the following questions:

How does the culture view women?
Does the media teach us to see women in a particular way? 
What was the least desirable portrayal of a woman?
What was the most desirable portrayal of a woman?
Who comes closer to most desirable—secular or Christian magazines?
How would YOU like to be portrayed in the media?
 I’ll spare you the 13-page research analysis, but I will share with you some of what I found.

Let’s start with the secular. First I should define what I mean by “secular”. When I refer to the secular magazines, I’m using the language my professor used specifically to mean magazines that have no religious/spiritual basis. Also, I don’t think everything needs to be so divided between secular and spiritual, but for the sake of the research, I hope you can see why I am looking at both from a more compartmentalized view.

Let me just tell you, what I found was exactly what you think I’d find. A lot of articles that promote the message be perfect.

Have the perfect body, the perfect teeth, the perfect skin, the perfect sex life, the perfect career, the perfect wardrobe, the perfect home, etc.

Do this exercise routine and you’ll have a perfect body.

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Buy this make up, and you too can have perfect flawless skin.

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Wear this perfume, you’ll smell good and feel beautiful.

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Use this toothpaste, and your teeth will be white as snow.

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Buy these pads, and you can finally do all of your sporty skateboarding tricks perfectly!

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Buy this product, wear these clothes, do these exercises and you’ll be perfect! The magazines were flooded with ads for different beauty products that were meant to make you look and feel perfect.

While the magazines are doing well to diversify who is on their cover and in their ads, the message in them all still seemed the same.  There were magazines with women on the covers who were models, celebrities, self-proclaimed feminists, and lesbians, yet the message inside was: keep striving for self-actualization and perfection.

These magazines play on the woman’s desire to be beautiful and perfect. They advertise straight to our imperfections, or even worse tell us what is considered an imperfection and what product will fix it (i.e. curly hair and a million products on how to make it straight). The media sends a message that true beauty comes without imperfection. Get the cellulite cream, buy the teeth whitening, and do the workout . . . then you’ll be perfect and beautiful.

It wasn’t just the area of vanity, body image, and fashion that the magazines portrayed women to be perfect in either. There were also articles on meal planning, keeping an organized home, giving bedroom makeovers, etc. that furthered the idea of a perfect woman. Our body not only needs to be perfect to beautiful, so does our home.

True beauty and value can be found in perfection.

At the same time I was doing this little research project, I had my nose in the books studying Genesis 1-2, specifically Imago Dei, and what it means to be created in the image of God. In my understanding of Genesis, both men and women are created in God’s own image. He forms us, creates us, numbers the days on the earth, and calls it good. We have both value and beauty because we are created in God’s image. So I had high hopes that the Christian magazines would offer a different perspective of the “ideal woman”.

The Christian magazines had little advertising for beauty products, much more positive messages about true identity and body image, but spoke a lot to balance. How to balance your life as a mom and career woman. How to schedule in date nights and meal plan. How to raise well rounded children. How to keep your home in order and still make time to serve others.

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There seemed to be a different kind of perfect being portrayed here:

Be perfect by finding balance.

Make enough time for you, for God, for your husband, for your kids, for your job, and for serving. These magazines had suggestions for your quiet times, recipes, craft ideas, marriage advice, beating burn out, 10 tips for your prayer life, and more.

Though I think the heart behind these magazines (both secular and Christian) is to help women find their identity and feel beautiful, after I finished looking at both, the word that came to mind was

Rest

We all have a tendency to strive for perfection, and that’s the beauty of the Gospel, it liberates us from that! The Gospel tells us we don’t have to strive for perfection, in our body image, in our meal planning, in our fashionable clothing, in our quiet times, in our marriage, etc. We are made perfect through Christ.

We are God’s image bearers. According to Genesis 1-2, He makes us so that we go around reflecting His image on the earth, and our image bearing may not be perfect! We’re not called to perfection; we are called to bear His image, and then made perfect through Christ.

It is through His broken body, that He redeems our bodies.
It is through His beauty, we are made beautiful.
It is His perfection that makes us perfect.
It is His garments of righteousness that we are to wear.
It is in His rest that we are able to beat burnout.
It is in the Communion meal that we are able to find true hospitality and be filled.

I was tired after looking through these magazines because both of them to me said, “keep striving for perfection”. I am tired from striving. I don’t want all of my time, energy, thought life, and money to go toward trying to be perfect. I want rest.

God tells us “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). I think Jesus said it best in Matthew 11:28 when He tells us “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I want this kind of rest. I love the way The Message speaks Matthew 11:28-30:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I want women to know this kind of freedom and liberation. I want to know this kind of freedom and liberation from the race of perfection! The kind of freedom from body image that comes in knowing we’re created in His image. The kind of freedom that comes from knowing the value God has placed on us when He knit us in our mother’s womb and called us His own. I want to know the quality of true beauty that comes from reflecting that as His daughters to the world around us.

Don’t let media be the loudest voice in your life for what constitutes true beauty or true womanhood. For those of who will never have flawless skin, six pack abs, the perfect quiet time, and healthy meal plans, would we know the love that’s been lavished on us perfectly in our imperfections, and rest in that.

 

*Forgive this post for not having perfect pictures, perfect flow, or perfect grammar, I’m giving up perfection today.