I don’t know when or where I first discovered Marie Kondo‘s first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but the second I saw the inviting title, I ordered it pronto. I’ve always struggled to keep my spaces straight – it just seemed to take too much time and require too much energy. However, after attempting the KonMari method in my own apartment and tackling the messiest thing of all, my kitchen equipment, I’m a big-time believer in the methodology.
When I moved into my San Francisco studio apartment five years ago, the kitchen bummed me out, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. The cabinets and arched doorframe were original from 1928, and I tried to let that cool bit of knowledge overshadow the fact that there was no window, no oven vent, no garbage disposal, and definitely no dishwasher. I didn’t ever feel inspired to cook, except for work or the occasional guest. As a result, the kitchen slumped into a random assortment of junk. I accumulated way beyond my means (I somehow ended up with five zesters and 50 kitchen towels . . . not to mention a drawer full of spare knives), and I avoided getting rid of anything! It became impossible to close cabinets unless they were fastened with rubber bands around the handles, and I always had to forcefully shove my drawers closed with my hip. And for years, I lived like this, with complete avoidance and neglect about everything.
I tackled all my clothes, books, etc. in the order presented in the book, and even though I successfully tidied up each group of items, I still felt a lot of hesitation about my kitchen. I was so embarrassingly messy – me, the food editor! And yet, the time had come, and the overflowing cabinets begged to be sorted. I started with removing the stuff on the countertop and discovered a rotten avocado just casually decomposing in my napkin holder. (Ugh, I know. Wasting avocado is a sin, and sorry for the TMI.) Instead of supporting my usual habits of tiptoeing away from the mess, I bid a sweet “thank you” to the napkin holder (and, don’t laugh, the avocado too) and swiftly tossed them in the trash.
It became easier to purge as I moved along, to give away the kitchen tools that no longer served me, and to create a pile of the items I adore immensely. I let go of some of the things that had been gifted to me that I couldn’t see myself ever using and focused on the items I had invested in. My Vitamix! My knife set from culinary school! My few but beloved All-Clad pans! And when it came to the food in my cupboard, I tossed the snacks and seasonings I would probably never in a million years crave while cooking. Instead, I kept the things I can never get enough of: red lentil pasta, dried mango, lemon-flavored sardines, and capers. Yeah, I know my cupboard is weird, but it most definitely “sparks joy!” (This is the main point of the book: every item you own and that takes up space in your house should simply make you feel happiness – aka “spark joy” – when you touch it).
For a good six hours on a Friday night, I scrubbed and tossed and reorganized. Then, I stepped back to take a look. I was overcome with an emotion I had never felt in my tiny apartment kitchen – excitement to cook and pride for the space I made my own. I’ll have you know, I now make breakfast and dinner every night, and I never see myself wanting to return to my old habits again. My kitchen used to be a throwaway space for me in my house, but now, I find myself giddy at opening a drawer to admire and use all the tools I love.