photography by MOLLY WINTERS
Even the smallest kitchen is filled with things that can be donated or tossed so you can free up space for what matters most. We spoke to expert organizer and author Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That to find out what to hang onto—and what to leave on the curb.
Measuring cups and spoons
All you need is one set of dry measuring cups (preferably that nest together for storage), one liquid 2-cup measuring cup, and a set of stainless steel measuring spoons to keep your baking prowess on point.
The 3 “cook-anything” pots & pans
Every kitchen needs three essentials: a 10-quart stockpot with lid to boil water for pasta or steaming vegetables, a 3-quart sauté pan with lid for searing meats, and a 2-quart saucepan with lid for reheating food, making sauce, and cooking pasta. Anything else is simply extra.
The 9” x 13” Baking Pan
This workhorse can roast a chicken or bake a cake, so always have a good one on hand.
Cut down your collection to the three knives that have slice-anything power: a 10-inch serrated, an 8-inch chef’s knife and a 3-inch paring knife for small jobs.
If you don’t use these every day, you probably don’t know how handy they are. They’re great for slicing pitas, mincing herbs, trimming pie crust, and snipping green beans. And they can tear apart that bag of potato chips that you just can’t seem to open.
Keep one dish set per seat you have at the kitchen or dining table, with just one set or two for overflow on nights when you’ve got a full house.
Pot Holders & Dishtowels
Every home chef needs a set of solid potholders (silicone are best) and a collection of seven dish towels. (According to Jamie, seven is the magic number!) You use them every day, and dish towels can help cut down on paper towel waste.
These act as heat conductors and can be easily scratched, causing them to be unsanitary. Stick with silicone or rubber-tipped tongs instead.
Warped or scratched pots & pans
Still have that first set from your post-college apartment? Unsteady pots that heat unevenly can ruin a good meal. And if you have any with a non-stick coating that is scratched or peeling, they can be dangerous to cook with.
Dull or rusted knives
If it’s taking you two minutes to slice through a tomato, it’s time to invest in a new set.
Coffee mugs that are chipped or stained are beyond repair and are best laid out to rest.
Deli container tubs
We all run our yogurt tubs and salad bar containers through the dishwasher, hoping they can be reused. In reality, these weren’t made for repeat use and are meant to be recycled.
Old spices and dried herbs
If spices have been open for more than six months (ground) or one year (whole) or if they’ve changed color or texture, they’re past their prime.
Packets of condiments
If you aren’t using the duck sauce and soy sauce packets with your takeout on night one, they’ll just take up precious space in the fridge.
You only need two: a Y-shape for large jobs and a swivel blade for smaller items. Any others can be donated as long as they’re still sharp.
Pots or pans that don’t fit your burners
Sometimes a good pot is like that pair of jeans you hope to fit into: You keep it around because you might use it someday. If it’s not jiving with your current range, give it to someone with a stovetop that can use it.
The small appliances you use once a year
Free up cabinet space and donate your waffle maker. Still haven’t churned out homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream? Give the ice cream maker to someone who will.
Mini specialty baking pans
Cake pops or tiny popovers are cute, but are you really going to make two dozen for a holiday party? Make a cake instead.
That collection of plastic cups from your alma mater is probably not going to make the table at your next meal—and neither is the Disney World mug from your aunt. Unless you’re into collecting kitsch, put them in the donate pile.
Travel coffee mugs
Every household only needs one per coffee drinker. Get rid of any that don’t fit in your car’s cup holder or that no longer keep that cup of joe warm.
Extra water bottles
Apply the same rule here. Donate any extras that go beyond one per person in the household. If there’s a smell to them that the dishwasher can’t remove, toss them instead.
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