89: My Kitchen in a Trunk

89: My Kitchen in a Trunk

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


My Kitchen in a Trunk

If you look at your entire house as one unit of junk, you’ll never do anything because the job is too overwhelming. Take it one drawer at a time.

~Janet Luhrs

Kitchen remodels are not easy or fun, but sometimes they yield the most surprising benefits. Besides putting in a new countertop and sink, we were having our cabinets refaced, so I emptied all the drawers and cabinets.

By the time I was done, I was surrounded by boxes filled with dishes, glassware, gadgets and utensils. I had no idea where many of the things even came from, or what they were supposed to be used for. My kitchen had become quite the storage space.

I did what most sane people do at that point. I took a break and watched some television — not just any television, but one of the channels that dealt with home and garden issues. Episode after episode was filled with ideas for meals to prepare, renovations to complete and gardens to transform. When you are in the middle of renovations, I don’t recommend watching others handling it better than yourself!

In the midst of these shows was nestled a little gem of an idea. The host talked about our obsession with utensils. Her advice was to eliminate all but the seven basic utensils that really are needed for cooking the majority of our meals: a slotted spoon, regular stirring spoon, spatula, tongs, measuring spoons, measuring cups, and peeler. The idea made me sit up straight and bring out the boxes of assorted utensils I owned. I dug out the seven items and set them aside. I was overwhelmed by what was still in the box. Each item had a specific purpose, but how often did I really use them, and could I accomplish the task with one of the seven instead?

I closed up the boxes of utensils and put them in the trunk of my car. I was about to conduct an experiment — one that would keep these utensils and kitchen tools close enough to retrieve, but also far enough away to make me think twice about reaching for them.

As I fit my seven surviving “essential” utensils into just one of my beautiful new kitchen drawers, I instantly felt lighter and freer. With that big step under my belt, I took the opportunity to lighten a lot of my other cabinets and drawers. Using the same thought process, I simply “put back” what I used on a regular basis, and left the rest in the boxes. Then I added the boxes to my trunk, which was now very full.

Over the next month my experiment yielded some very surprising and interesting results. First, I rarely faced a cooking project that couldn’t be accomplished with what I had saved. Next, having my trunk handy allowed me to retrieve the few things that I needed to add to my streamlined kitchen drawers to keep me sane. Best of all, it was much more fun to cook without foraging in drawers and moving things on shelves to get to what I needed! And because it was more fun to cook, I was cooking more!

Having survived my kitchen experiment, I needed to decide what to do with the boxes in my trunk. Surprisingly, I kept coming upon people that were either in the process of starting out on their own, or in need of some odd kitchen item for a project. So, I would lead them to my car and watch them excitedly dig through the boxes like they were on a treasure hunt, holding up the items they found to take to their home. Little by little, news got out, and the boxes shrunk to nothing. What a fun time that was!

But it didn’t stop there. At one point I decided to expand this newfound concept to my clothes closet and surveyed the crammed quarters. I took every piece of clothing out of the closet and piled it on the bed. Next I put back into the closet the clothes that I truly wore — yes the ones that fit and I enjoyed being seen in. The rest I placed in bags and took to the local thrift store. What an easy process that was, versus the normal mental anguish I went through as I evaluated and scrutinized each item in my closet!

Looking back over the whole episode, there is not much I would do differently. Occasionally I stand at the stove and miss a specific tool, but I only have to look at my orderly drawers and do some creative thinking to put the smile back on my face. It was a kitchen remodel that yielded the most amazing results ever!

~Joan Wasson


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