When we moved house about a year ago, as well as donating lots of unwanted furniture to good causes, we filled two enormous bins with junk accumulated over two decades. It was embarrassing. It really hit home to me how an object you covet and pay good money to buy can eventually become a nuisance, something that must be disposed of.
So now, more than ever, I contemplate for weeks before purchasing even the smallest item. Do I really need it? Could something else I already possess perform a similar job? Will I get sick of it? How will I dispose of it when it is no longer desirable? By the time I've pondered all those questions my appetite for the thing has usually evaporated.
Of all the rooms in the house, the kitchen attracts the most accessories. But I've discovered a few ways of keeping needless clutter at bay. Here are six secrets from a recently converted minimalist:
ONE: REDUCE BOWLS
When I decided to shout myself some new crockery after about 20 years, I pondered the merits of the bowls on offer.
If I was so inclined I could have purchased bowls specifically for soup, for cereal, for pudding, for pasta, for noodles, for rice. I was giddy from the sheer choice. There wasn't room in my kitchen for this many types of bowls. Also I could imagine the stress at home as a result of my family members failing to understand the nuances of such objects: "I said 'soup bowl' not 'dessert dish'. No. Soup. That's 'cereal'. Soup. What part of 'soup' don't you understand. No! That one's for pasta. Or maybe noodles. Arrrrgh!" Keen to avert such drama, I invested in eight glossy white bowls that can be used for almost every dining situation. I still feel calm and Zen-like from making such a choice.
TWO: SPURN TABLE LINEN
I once had a drawer that was filled with tablecloths, placemats and table runners. They made setting the table more time-consuming. Their lumpiness could sometimes result in spilled drinks. They would need to be washed, dried and sometimes even ironed. They were a liability in my kitchen. A year ago, after spending about two hours online trying unsuccessfully to discover a compelling purpose for table linen, I dispensed with it altogether. As far as I could tell, its only uses are to make the table look pretty and to protect the table-top. Since neither of those goals featured on my list of domestic aspirations, all my table linen was donated to charity.
THREE: SHUN ELECTRICAL KITCHEN GADGETS
A jug and a toaster are the only two small appliances guaranteed space on my bench-top. I don't own a toasted sandwich maker, a popcorn maker or a waffle maker. Just like single-purpose bowls, these items are simply too specialised to make them worthwhile. My loose rule-of-thumb is that if an appliance isn't used almost every day then it doesn't deserve a place in my kitchen. Also, I'm lazy and can't bear the thought of washing such fiddly things after each use.
FOUR: RESIST NOVELTY SAUCE DISPENSERS
I love those large plastic tomato-shaped sauce containers as much as the next bona fide Kiwi. They're kitsch. They're twee. They're retro. They're ironic. They're everything you could want in a condiment dispenser. But I would never own one because they are impractical. One has to fill them with sauce which sounds like a recipe for mess. Presumably they need cleaning out every so often, too, which must be a logistical nightmare if not a downright impossibility.
FIVE: CUT DOWN ON KNIVES
I've seen an Instagram photo of 14 gleaming long-bladed knives proudly displayed in the corner of a local domestic kitchen. I guess that might inspire knife envy in some people but it struck me as somewhat over the top. I have to confess that my kitchen boasts just two knives of substance - a bread knife and a large chopping knife. (I used to have a paring knife but it was accidentally wrapped up with the scraps years ago.) I reckon the ideal kitchen could do with more knives than I possess but significantly fewer than 14. Four or five might be a nice compromise.
SIX: SAY NO TO SPECIALITY UTENSILS
One upmarket cookware retailer sells kale strippers. This is true. They're $19.95 each. In my opinion, kale strippers are a step too far even if they have "[m]ultiple holes to suit most greens". Along with avocado mashers and bagel cutters, kale strippers just sound too specialised for their own good. Resist at all costs. Unless, of course, you're a Grey Lynn hipster; in which case you will need to buy two of them. Immediately.