Tidy, ho! KonMari your kitchen to spark joy

Amanda Rae
Food Matters

8 reasons 
to KonMari your kitchen

• Take stock of what you own

• Stoke meal inspiration

• Find items easily

• Cook smarter

• Clear cabinets, clear mind

• Realize how many possessions are the right amount

• Eat well

• Be happy

Just like Japan’s cherry blossom forecast for 2019, spring cleaning is happening early in my home this year. In advance of an upcoming parental visit, I practiced “the life-changing magic of tidying up” in my cozy apartment. And life-changing it has been.

Though I was gifted organizational guru Marie Kondo’s bestselling book soon after it was published in 2011, I’ve only halfheartedly tackled the monumental project of eliminating clutter from my abode and organizing my belongings. While Kondo preaches a very specific “KonMari” method of tidying—by category: clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and mementos, in that order—attacking my overstuffed closet seemed a stressful way to start my weekend. Plus it’s the least visible part of my apartment, and thus a lesser priority.

I also fudged Kondo’s rule of tidying by category instead of location, and began the process in the room that sparks boundless joy for me: my kitchen.

“The secret to success is to tidy in one shot, as quickly and completely as possible,” Kondo writes in her book. “Start by discarding.”

Craving a little more motivation, I watched the new Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” to get in the mood. The first episode sees Kondo and her Japanese interpreter visit a young couple with two young children. After a tour, Kondo pulls her signature move: She kneels in the middle of the living room and “greets” the home.

Even through the TV screen, I feel Kondo’s positive vibe as she closes her eyes and speaks silently to the shelter. This small act dovetails with her philosophy: Personal space should spark joy. A home, by definition, aims to serve its inhabitants in a way that helps to move their lives forward. Clutter is a joy-killer! Hoarding is seriously unsexy! And surrounding oneself only with things that spark joy fosters happiness.

With this simple concept in mind, I kneel on the floor of my kitchen and whisper to it. I thank it for being here, for feeding me, for providing an artistic escape. I envision preparing colorful, elaborate meals, feeling nurtured, and living my best damn life. Then I spring up to my cabinets.

Kondo suggests collecting every possession—in this particular case, dishes, silverware, serving tools, cans, packets, jars—in a pile. Seeing the entire cache at a single glance is important, she believes, to realize exactly how much stuff you own. Then, by holding each item in my hands, I summon an answer to the ultimate question: Does this spark joy?

Things that bum me out or feel burdensome get chucked. Expired goods go bye-bye. I purge my fridge—adios, wilted cilantro!—wipe it down, and arrange its contents neatly. True to Kondo’s word, my food seems…more alive.

I ditch dusty spices. I wipe down every bottle of oil and vinegar—bartenders do this nightly in the well, right? That last remaining tablespoon of sesame oil at the bottom of the bottle feels like a painful waste of precious space, so I dump it on some veggies and revel in progress. Immediately I am reincarnated as an independent woman.

Perhaps, I muse during this spree, pantry items nestled in an organized home might create more enjoyable, nourishing meals. If I don’t coddle my ingredients and cooking implements, then am I really feeding myself in the best way, truly?

There is only one way to find out. Maybe I’ve got a glimmer of OCD lurking in my personality, but the act of combing through the entire contents of my postage-stamp-sized kitchen is deeply soothing. Taking stock of what I own is useful; turns out I don’t need two sets of measuring cups. My garlic press has literally been used once; off to the Thrift Shop it goes.

My recipe binder, crammed with printed pages and scribbled notes, gets a good sweep, too. I replaced my nuke box with an air fryer toaster oven back in December, so “Microwave Hacks” and “One Minute Microwave Cake” get 86’d immediately. The bonus: I rediscover myriad dishes I have yet to make. (Find other reasons to KonMari your kitchen in factbox above.)

One of Kondo’s tricks, which I picked up from her reality show, is to use small boxes to create compartments within storage units to corral smaller items. I happen to have a budding collection of such boxes, so I place a few in my kitchen drawers to contain a jumble of random paraphernalia, including an obscure collection of birthday candles I forgot I bought in Mexico—in 2013. (Sorry, mates, I’ll surprise y’all next year.) Another tip: Store items vertically when possible, to quickly view—and find—items at a glance.

When I share the story of my whirlwind afternoon with a pal over brunch, her eyes light up like a Christmas tree.

“I went to town on my kitchen,” enthuses Michelle, a self-proclaimed anti-cook. She is, however, a huge fan of home decorating—the girl rearranges my apartment during every visit—so she approached her own space with function and flow in mind. First to move out: a bookshelf taking up precious countertop territory.

“I took that off and all of the sudden I have space!” she shares. “The kitchen thing is huge—I’m cooking and making my own cold brew coffee! And saving a ton of money. It’s so easy.”

After that, she ventured into an area of longstanding dread: her crowded walk-in closet, in fact an entire dressing room lined with clothing racks.

“I haven’t worn this dress all winter long—I’ve been wearing the same four outfits because I couldn’t stomach going through my closet,” she continues, tugging on her outfit with the breathless zeal of a religious convert. “It’s been there all along. Now I look at something and think: Do I love it or not? It’s about the joy of it.”

Like many activities, the ability to recognize joy becomes easier with practice. (That’s why Kondo suggests beginning with clothing, which generally carries less attachment than papers and sentimental items.) When discarding something, do this: Thank it for being of service, understand that it served a purpose (even by showing you what you don’t like), and then relinquish it so that it might be of use to someone else. Move on. And embrace the newfound freedom of clearing space to invite other elements into your life.

If tidying my kitchen cuts a quick path to decluttering my closet, discovering long-lost frocks, and refreshing my style, then I’m all over it like white on rice.

Says Michelle in one final overture about the addictive appeal of tidying up: “Everything is less stressful now. It’s changed my life.”

Related to cleaning house early this year: The City of Aspen’s new municipal Election Day is Tuesday, March 5. Don’t be a dummy … vote! 

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 28, 2019 edition of the Aspen Times Weekly. 
Aspen Times Weekly

WineInk: The 2023 vintage

“2023 predicted to be the Vintage of a Lifetime in Napa Valley,” proclaimed the headline this week in a press release sent out by the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade organization that represents the growers and producers in America’s most famed wine region. If there is anyone more optimistic than winemakers, it is the group that represents them.

See more