I’ll be the first to say it: my kitchen is the least minimal place in our house! This is one area of the home that I’ve found “less is more” isn’t the case for us.
We will never be the family that only has one bowl, one fork, and one spoon per person. We just won’t. Because, hospitality.
But we have found a flow that works well for us. There aren’t dishes stacked up in the sink and forgotten food in the fridge.
We may not be minimal in this area since we often host large groups, but we know how to be frugal and almost nothing gets wasted.
So I guess this still counts as one unique flavor of minimalism.
The first thing people may notice about our kitchen is that I have a lot of plants. In the summer, these plants go outside, but the rest of the year I keep them on the windowsills in here.
Plants are great for a lot of reasons. They clean the air, they lighten the mood, they teach kids how to take care of something. I love having plants in the kitchen particularly because it’s easy not to forget about them. I water them every now and then whenever I have some leftover water in a pitcher or glass. Don’t dump it! Water those plants!
Another way our kitchen is “green” is that we recycle and compost everything we can. This isn’t that difficult to do if you have designated bins. We built our own compost bin out in the backyard out of pallets. I use a regular trashcan with a lid to keep the compost until we get a chance to empty it outside.
Our recycling can is much larger than our trashcan to encourage folks to think twice about throwing something away. (Also to save money on trash bags. We use recycled shopping bags people give us as liners.) Changing the trash often also keeps it from smelling or getting gross.
It can be hard to remember to shred and recycle junk mail, so we keep our paper shredder in the same cubby as our trash / compost / recycling bins. (There’s a nifty power plug back there. There was a mini fridge here before.)
Kitchen decor is minimal or non-existent other than the plants. I think kitchens should be functional and easy to clean. I love a non-cluttered counter top and fridge. I don’t like the look of magnets or paraphernalia the fridge – I have one side devoted to our calendar and grocery lists but otherwise try to keep it sparse. I also clean out the fridge thoroughly whenever it starts to collect crumbs. Something about a clean fridge just makes it a joy to open.
We’re kind of famous for our mason jar collection. They are great for glasses and also food storage. No plastic, they don’t leak, and they’re less than $1 for a large one, which is an amazing deal compared to other glass food storage systems. Just can’t say enough about how great these are.
Another thing we saved money on was an expensive blender. Yes, I secretly dream of getting a Vitamix someday, but for now there’s other things I’d rather do with that money. Our solution is a $20 blender from Target. It works great and gets those smoothies velvety smooth – even with frozen fruit. The trick is to let it blend for a longer than you might think. Our “smoothie station” is in the corner by the mason jars, the sink and the fruit bowl, making it easy to throw everything together and fill with water. Green smoothies are our favorite way to get a large daily dose of greens. Here are some of my favorite green smoothie recipes.
We try to be frugal and green in our cleaning. We use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins and rags instead of paper towels. Rags are kept in a drawer right next to the sink, making them instantly accessible. Instead of paper plates and cutlery, we just have a large collection of thrift store dishes for hosting crowds. (Having a dishwasher makes this process pretty smooth, but I know it’s possible to “go paperless” even without one!)
My rule with buying used dishes is to stick with solid colors only. Even though I have pieces from half a dozen different sets, I think they mix and match pretty well. And, maybe it’s just me, but I think food tastes slightly better on “real” dishes. Let’s be honest – no one really cares if everything matches perfectly.
I do a lot of one-pot vegetarian meals. Nothing fancy over here. I have a great stainless steel stockpot from IKEA that is big enough to feed a crowd. I use it almost daily to saute onions and throw everything together. (A post with my favorite vegetarian recipes is in the works.)
I also love a clean sink. Maybe it’s from my mom’s early Flylady days, but our household rule is that you either hand wash your dish ASAP or put it in the dishwasher. There is something stressful about a sink full of dishes. (Clean dishes drying on the countertop is a different story – at least for me personally.) An empty sink is one of life’s little luxuries.
We have a little nook by the back door where we keep our coats, shoes, and hats. Even though we mostly go out the front door, this works as our “landing zone” where we get ready every morning. When Malachi was big enough to start putting his own coat and hat on, I added another coat rack at kid-height and a basket for kid shoes.
I try to make everything as conveniently located as possible. Since we have a lot of stairs in our house and I’m running up and down them enough as it is, I have a hamper just outside the kitchen at the top of the basement steps. This is where I can throw used dish rags without having to take them all the way downstairs to the wash.
Marie Kondo once said that it’s good to design your home kitchen like an industrial kitchen – with ease of cleaning, not ease of use as the main focus. That means putting most things away in cabinets, and off the counters. A little extra effort when you need something, but it all pays off when you can easily wipe down the counter afterward. I do keep some things out on my counters all the time, but they are only the things I use every single day. Otherwise they will collect dust and be a pain to clean.
One of the things I leave out all the time is my French Press and electric kettle. My “coffee station” consists of these two things, and the cabinet above it containing the mugs, tea, coffee, and fixings.
One of the things I clean up off the counter each day is my two crockpots. I use them often – one is for beans and one is for rice, but they take up a lot of space so I stash them back in the cabinet each night when I’m done with them. I also have an immersion blender conveniently located near the crockpots in case I’m making a sauce or a stew that needs blended just before serving.
The “music zone” is the other half of the counter – consisting of our record player and iPod speaker. We do lots of dancing while cooking over here! Our record collection is kept out in the open for browsing – contained in a vintage apple box I found in our old house. We used to keep our records and record player in our basement, but we found that we weren’t using it often. Moving it to the kitchen made it more accessible and suddenly we were actually listening to our records again! In my mind, that’s worth sacrificing a little bit of counter space.
I’ve found when hosting guests that people like to hang out in the kitchen. They often don’t want to sit at the table though. They will opt for a bench or stool instead. For a long time I had a bench in front of the window (handcrafted by the previous owner of the house.) It made a nice sitting area, but right now that nook is home to our kid table.
We never used this kid-sized table when it was in the boy’s room. Once I brought it down to the kitchen, it started seeing daily use. I love that they don’t have to climb to get into the chairs. When they start preferring full-size chairs all the time I’ll put the window seat bench back in this area.
In the meantime, my frugal friend Angie helped me find two secondhand stools for my island – just the right height – for $9 each! I was thrilled when she texted me about them! They are now the main guests-congregating-while-cooking area. What a bargain compared to the new stools at IKEA. Furniture is one of those things that it’s almost always a good idea to be patient and buy used.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek inside our kitchen. The bottom line is: kitchens are for family and community. I like function and simplicity because they streamline tasks and help you get back to visiting faster. Let me know if you found these ideas helpful, and if there are any other rooms you’d like to see!