1 Lobster, 2 Cast Iron Pans, and My Never-Ending Pursuit of the Clutter-Free Kitchen

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“That’s it! Done! Perfect!” I think, each time I declutter my kitchen (which happens at least every few months… it’s a bit crazy, I know… please don’t judge.) While I thought my kitchen was pretty minimal, I recently read a book called Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD by Susan Pinsky that challenged me to minimize even further. (Side note: This is hands-down the most practical book about organizing I’ve ever read. Just do yourself a favor and buy it. Yes, you heard me. BUY. This is one you’ll want to refer to.)

Pinsky recommends having only 4-6 kitchen pans. When I counted up my cookware, I found a gluttonous NINE in my cupboards. Oh, the shame! Could I reduce to a mere six? Pinsky had thrown down the minimizing gauntlet and I picked it up gladly. Challenge accepted!

Enter one teensy little problem… Josh. One of my favorite things about my husband is that he cooks. For instance, on Father’s Day, he dismissed my offer of going out to eat and made lobster at home. Our kids loved holding “Pinchy”, as we affectionately named him before, you know, plunging him to his death in a pot of boiling water. (Again, don’t judge. But if I did have to judge, I’d say Pinchy tasted a solid 10 out of 10.)

Reese lobster
Reese is excited to eat this squirmy guy… Pinchy does not share his enthusiasm.
Orlando lobster
Should I be concerned about the sheer happiness on the faces of these kids? Are they insensitive or just attuned to the cold-blooded realities of dinner?

Like I said, the man loves to cook. And he is not what I’d call a minimalist, so he sees no problem with having excess cookware. “We have room for it,” is his stock (and I must say, pretty logical) answer when previously asked about decluttering cookware.

So I did what I advise people NOT to do… I snuck the extra pans out of the kitchen while he wasn’t looking and waited to see if he’d miss them.

Was this the best approach? Absolutely not. But I knew if I asked him first, he’d say no, so I figured, what the heck, let’s just see how this goes. (I employed similar logic during my teenage years… I guess I’m a big fan of the “Ask for forgiveness” philosophy. Mom and Dad, this is me asking for forgiveness.) To be clear, I didn’t get rid of the pans, just put them in a closet upstairs to let the situation play out.

Interestingly, Pinchy’s arrival (about a week after pan removal) invited the first inquiry.

“Where’s the pasta pan?” Josh asked, head buried in the cupboard, Pinchy rustling with futility in his plastic bag on the counter.

Moment of truth, I thought. Play it cool. 

“Oh, I took it out because we didn’t use it that much. I figured we could use the stock pot for pasta. It’s bigger anyway.”

Josh nodded, got out the big pot, and started filling it up in the sink.

Whew! I thought. I totally passed! 

Although, honestly, I think Josh was so excited about the upcoming end-of-crustacean-life experiment about to go on in our kitchen, he didn’t really think too much about it.

Fast forward a couple weeks. Josh is sautéing veggies for dinner.

“What happened to the smaller cast iron pan?” he asks.

Agh! I think. Totally caught now! This one won’t be so easy to navigate…

“I thought we could donate that. I really want to fit all the pans in one cupboard. It’s a pain in the butt to keep them in the oven.”

This is true. We have a small kitchen, so we store cast iron pans in the oven, creating an annoying chore each time we need to bake something. Not to mention the million times we forget the pans are in the oven, preheat it, and create the even more annoying task of finding somewhere to put three heavy, smokin’ hot cast iron skillets.

“I really like the smaller cast iron pan. It’s lighter.”

“But you can cook anything in the bigger pan that you could cook in the smaller pan.”

“I like the lighter pan.”

Okay, at this point I had to concede to his wishes–and the ridiculous fact that we were having a mini marital spat about our personal preferences for cast iron pans–and got his favorite pan out of the closet and back in the kitchen. With a little finagling, I still fit all the pans in the cupboard.

The roll call: two cast iron pans, one pancake skillet, one small saucepan, one medium saucepan, one saute pan, and one big ‘ol stockpot. Present!

So now we have seven pans (sorry, Susan Pinsky!)–none stored in the oven–and we are ready, at all times, to cook any crustacean with the unlucky happenstance to scuttle across our threshold.

The lesson here? I believe there are several:

  1. We could all remove some clutter from our kitchens (or closets… or basements… or insert-name-of-cluttered-space-in-your-house-here…) Kitchen clutter makes it harder to find, store, and use what we have. It requires us to come up with clumsy solutions to keep all our stuff, such as storing heavy pans in an oven. Clients often ask me for storage solutions for cluttered spaces. My answer is almost always the same: If you minimize down to what you truly use and love, it will organize itself. Are there parts of your kitchen that function awkwardly? Would decluttering make things run more smoothly? My guess is yes and yes.
  2. Think about what you can actually USE. My stove has four burners. Even if I used all four burners at once, I could only use four pans. So really, do I need five skillets? Or could I just pick the favorite one or two that would do most jobs? Do I need pots in six different sizes? Or could I pick my best small, medium, and large and call it a day?
  3. Find a man who cooks. This will make your life easier. Unfortunately, my #1 male cooking recommendation is already spoken for, but feel free to add this criteria to your Match.com profile. And good luck.

I hope this post makes you think about excess cookware that may be harboring in your cupboards. Or perhaps you’ve been inspired to cook your own lobster at home. Or hide things from your spouse. (Note: I recommend going with one of the first two.)

Rose Lounsbury is the Dayton, Ohio area’s up-and-coming professional organizer. She is also working on a book about why hiding pans in your closet is bad for your marriage. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, please call her at 937-626-9030.

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