Today I Learned...
- A clean kitchen makes it easier to focus on the task at hand—cooking delicious food.
- There are things you should throw away because they're unsanitary, unhealthy or just plain old.
t's time to get your kitchen in order! Once a month, or even once every few weeks, you should do a quick clean of your kitchen.
Decluttering isn't just about getting rid of items that are no longer useful or wanted, it's also about organizing the items that you have so they're easier to find and use. That way, you can spend less time searching high and low for what you need while cooking or baking and more time actually making delicious food!
Items you'll want to quickly throw away for sanitary and health reasons.
1. Old Sponges
You can extend the life of your kitchen sponge by cleaning it and running it through dishwasher. But a study in 2017, published in Nature discovered the that used sponges harbor the bacteria Moraxella osloensis. This bacteria could increase the risk of infections for people who have weakened immune systems.
Our advice? Change your sponges regularly and get rid of them if they develop an off smell.
2. Worn-Out Cutting Boards
To avoid the risk of cross-contamination, keep a separate cutting board for raw meat and seafood. But if grooves appear on your board over time—signs of wear and tear—dispose of it properly.
According to the USDA, the grooves on a worn cutting board are difficult to clean thoroughly and may become breeding grounds for bacteria, making it dangerous to use.
3. Your Favorite Old Utensils
You may have been loyal to your old, chipped and cracked kitchen utensils (they were the best you could afford), but now they are a danger to others.
"Pieces of rubber can disintegrate into hot liquids or [chipped wood from your wooden spatula could] break off into a recipe … This can be a choking hazard, not to mention unpleasant!" says Sylvia Fountaine, CEO and founder of Feasting at Home.
Old utensils tend to develop cracks and crevices that make them hard to clean and a possible home for bacteria. If you love a specific brand or type of utensil, consider buying duplicates so you can use the older version while keeping fresh ones in storage.
Toss or donate these items to organize and declutter.
4. Unused Appliances
Kitchens are filled with a multitude of appliances and tools that we've acquired over the years. (Do you have any kitchen gadgets sitting unused in cabinets or drawers?)
Some kitchen gadgets are excellent timesavers or solutions to particular food preparation problems. But you may not need every single last one; take an inventory and consider selling or donating any that you don’t use.
- Donate to a food bank.
- Donate to a thrift store.
- Donate to a friend or neighbor who could use one in their kitchen.
- Give it away on Freecycle (a website where people post things they want to give away). This can be particularly helpful if you live in an urban area with lots of cooks and not many storage spaces available for large appliances like these!
5. Unused Takeout Condiments, Straws and Cutlery
Takeout orders sometimes come with too many straws, cutlery and sauce packets. Tossing them in the trash may seem wasteful, but unused items just take up space—and clutter is nobody's friend. If left unused, these condiment packets will also lose their flavor and color over time.
Next time you order takeout, see whether you can opt-out of receiving these!
6. Mismatched lids and Tupperware containers
If you have mismatched lids and containers in your kitchen, it's time to get rid of them.
It might seem like a good idea to keep the mismatched items around for when you need them—but really, that's just taking up space for no reason. It's easy enough to replace the lid or container with whatever else is available at the store if necessary; don't worry about matching color or size or material—it doesn't matter!
7. Chipped mugs and bowls
We all have a few chipped dishes in the kitchen. In addition to being unattractive, chipped dishes are also dangerous: If children are around, small chips will get swallowed and cause injury. As if that weren't enough reason to toss those old mugs and bowls, they're hard to clean and store—and even harder still when stacking! Finally, keeping track of which plate goes with which bowl is no easy feat when at least one of the items has been cracked or broken into pieces over time.
Toss these foods for freshness.
8. Your spice rack
If you love experimenting with spices, you may have some expired spices lingering in the back of your rack or shelves. Here are some tips to identify expired spices and avoid this in the future!
- To avoid waste, buy your spices in small quantities. Label your spices with the purchase date to keep track of their shelf life!
- The USDA suggests that whole spices can last up to 2-4 years, while ground one's can last up to 2-3 years at room temperature.
- If a spice smells like nothing at all, or if it has lost its color, toss it out.
- If there's no date on the bottle, look for any signs of discoloration or degradation in the container itself; if these are present, get rid of them too!
9. Freezer-Burned Food
Don't forget about your freezer!! There are probable frozen meals or vegetables in the back of your freezer right now. And freezer burn can actually degrade food quality over time. Declutter your freezer by tossing those items affected by the burn!
Lauren Saltman, a professional organizer and owner of Living. Simplified., advises, "Be sure to check expiration dates on the food you purchased. If it's food that you cooked or froze to be eaten at a later date, check for signs of freezer burn."
It's time to get your kitchen in order!
Decluttering is important for many reasons. It makes it easier to cook and clean, helps you find what you need when cooking or cleaning up afterwards, and can save time if there are fewer items cluttering up your counter space. If you live with other people who share the same space (like roommates or family members), decluttering allows everyone to have a better experience in their shared environment.
It's not uncommon for kitchens to get cluttered over time as we accumulate more items—a set of dishes here, some extra pots there—but there are things we all tend to keep around that really don't need any more space than they already use up.
Cleaning out your kitchen is a great way to get organized and feel more at ease in your home. With these tips and tricks, you can get started today!
For more decluttering tips and tricks, check out our class: Declutter to Free Space in Your Home & Lifestyle