Monthly Archives: June 2013

Room Service – 10 Ways to Create a Beautiful, Simple Kitchen

Room Service - How to Create a Slow Kitchen
{ via Oliver Yaphe }

 

The kitchen is often called the heart of the home – and for good reason. Not only does food bring us together, nourish us and bind us to familiar rituals, but it’s also the physical hub of many modern homes. It’s a dining room, meeting place, admin area and homework station, not to mention, you know, the storage and preparation of food.

Having a simple, slow, pleasant kitchen space that works for you doesn’t mean you need to remodel. Nor does it mean you need huge, shiny benchtops, high-end appliances or a spacious butler’s pantry.

To create a simple, slow kitchen, you just need it to work for you. But first you need to take note of which tasks your kitchen is used for.

Is your kitchen used for:

  • dining – Do you have an eat-in kitchen? Do you eat at a breakfast bar?
  • admin area/office – Do you keep incoming mail, bills and papers in the kitchen?
  • computer work – Is the laptop kept on the kitchen bench? Do you use the iPad as a recipe book?
  • homework – Do your kids do their homework at the kitchen bench?
  • congregation point – Do guests often congregate in your kitchen? Is it a natural gathering point?

Regardless of how you use your kitchen, it needs to work for you, your home and the people who live there.

A simple, clutter-free kitchen is not only functional, but can also be beautiful. Some people will find it boring, but to have a clean, clear, open space that is simply a kitchen really is beautiful. It doesn’t need to be fancy or Pinterest-worthy – just functional.

 

Room Service - How to Create a Slow Kitchen

 

Room Service – 10 Ways to Create a Beautiful, Simple Kitchen

1. Embrace white space.

The kitchen, beyond all else, is a functional space and a clutter-free benchtop not only looks appealing, but also makes food prep much easier.  It doesn’t mean your kitchen needs to be devoid of personality, but you should question the usefulness of the items kept on display. Keep the benches empty (or as close to empty as possible) and try to pack away as you go.

2. Find beauty in utilitarian items.

Just because an item is useful rather than beautiful doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty there. No, I don’t mean use your juicer as a piece of modernist sculpture (unless you really love your juicer) but perhaps:

  • a stack of mixing bowls on an otherwise empty shelf
  • a fruit bowl on the breakfast bar
  • a bunch of flowers or a few potted herbs in a sunny corner
  • a handful of cookbooks lined up on a bare shelf

3. Make use of the kitchen’s functions.

That is, if you also use the kitchen space as the admin/organisational hub of the home, embrace that by having a chalkboard wall for notes and reminders. Combined with a pinboard or a magnetic surface, you can fully use the space you have at your disposal.

3. Clear the cupboards of unnecessary clutter. 

Utensils that are never used, gadgets that seemed like a good idea at the time, countless serving platters, baking trays and cutlery – what of these things do you actually use? This Stone Soup post is a fantastic starting point in helping you decide what you do and don’t need in a simple, efficient kitchen.

Also consider moving items that aren’t used often to a different part of the house. For example, I store my slow cooker, serving platters, pizza stone and extra wine glasses in the linen cupboard, as I would only use them once a week at the very most.

4. Group similar use items together.

Perhaps a basic suggestion, but keeping all saucepans, pots and frying pans together, or all dry goods, baking goods, tinned foods or crockery in the same place will make it much easier to work in the space, and you will be much more efficient.

5. Consider secondary storage for bulk items.

Extra bags of pasta, tins of tomatoes, washing liquid and other non-perishable items can be kept out of the kitchen to help free up space. A shelf in the laundry may work, or a hall cupboard. Then, when it comes time to do the groceries, be sure to shop your storage first.

6. Keep the fridge orderly – inside and out.

Before unpacking the groceries, do a quick run-through of the contents of your fridge, removing anything that is past its use-by date. Milk, leftovers, fruit and veges left to linger in the crisper – these are the usual suspects. Ensuring the inside of your fridge stays healthy means you’re less likely to waste food or buy too much.

As for the outside of the fridge, keep it clear if you want – it certainly is in keeping with the clutter-free kitchen. Personally though, I like the personality kids’ drawings, various magnets and photos bring to the room. Keep them relevant by sorting through them every month or so, to stop the space becoming another clutter magnet.

7. Use lighting to add interest.

A pendant light hung above a worktop or island bench gives interest, but is also great for functionality. You want good lighting in your kitchen, so adding a light instead of additional decor is a win-win.

8. Use colour to add interest, rather than clutter.

A wall painted in a striking colour, a chalkboard feature or interesting coloured cabinetry all add interest without adding clutter to your space.

9. Buy secondhand where possible.

Enamel stoves, cookware, benches, bar stools, benchtops, hardware and sinks can all be sourced secondhand. Craigslist, ebay, local papers, op-shops are the best place to begin. Again, adding items with a history will help you to add interest and personality without adding stuff. Plus, using second-hand items is a great environmentally-friendly option.

10. Ensure everything has its place. 

As well as the utensils, gadgets, crockery, cutlery and glassware, each item that lives in the kitchen space needs to have it’s own place. If you use the kitchen as an admin area, you need to set aside space specifically for the tasks involved. Even if it’s simply a matter of putting your paperwork in folders and storing them with the cookbooks, or using a drawer to collect bills as they come in. Everything needs to have a place of its own, otherwise clutter will creep in.

If you keep the laptop in the kitchen (for homework, work or study) then find a place for that too. Alicia suggests finding an attractive box to hold your laptop and charger – hiding it in plain sight when not in use. Alternatively, you could find somewhere else to keep it.

 

Aside from cooking, what do you find your kitchen being used for? Does it work for you? Or would you like to make some changes, to create a slower, simpler space?

{ Images L-R via: This Old House | vtwonen | HomedIt | Mackapär et Trendenser | Remodelista | Apartment Therapy | Apartment Therapy | Houzz | Better Homes and Gardens }

Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity

Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity
{ via 3 Lives Left on Society6 }

 

This is a post from guest contributor Mike Burns of The Other Side of Complexity. Mike has just released a fantastic e-book, ‘Simpler: Declutter Your Life and Focus on What’s Important‘. Grab your copy here.

 

Let’s start this off with a confession…My life can be kind of complicated.

Don’t get me wrong…I love my life. I wouldn’t trade it.

I am grateful for the relationships and opportunities that I have. But with relationships and opportunities come potential complications.

  • I am married, and I have six children.
  • My kids have different hobbies, passions, and personalities.
  • I work a full-time job.
  • Outside of that, I blog every week about living well.
  • I write books and create video content.
  • I help coordinate a band with some family members.
  • I have relatives that live across the country.
  • My career has taken me to multiple states.
  • I have friends that live all over the place, and we try to stay in touch.

I could continue, but you get the picture…

I say these things to emphasize a point:

My life isn’t always simple.

But it is simpler than it used to be.

Over the past several years, I’ve been pursuing simplicity. I’ve been working to eliminate the unnecessary so I could focus on the things that are important to me. It’s made a huge difference in my peace of mind, my work, my family and my approach to life.

But things don’t always work out according to plan.

  • Stuff breaks.
  • Relationships get awkward.
  • Jobs are eliminated.
  • Emergency Room visits rack up unexpected bills.
  • Cars break down before you finish paying for them.
  • Paint fades.
  • Roofs leak.

Depressed, yet?

I know the items in this list sound negative, but they’re true.

Ignoring the facts doesn’t do us any good. Life isn’t always easy.

Some people allow this realization to hinder them from pursuing simplicity. They push back against the idea that you can eliminate clutter and focus on your priorities. They surrender to the chaos and assume that it will always be this way.

I understand where they’re coming from, but I feel bad for them. There is more to the story.

Simple is relative. It’s better realized when compared to the alternative.

Wherever you are, things can get simpl…er. In fact, if you really work at it, you can even get it down to where you drop the “r” and just call it plain “simple”. When compared to the whirlwind you see around you, your life can look like a peaceful walk on the beach.

Hopefully, you hear the honesty in my approach. I’m not going to make any promises about a trouble-free life where everything is serene and natural. Simplicity takes work. But it’s good work. And it’s worth it.

It’s not the “easy way out”. It comes with effort. But the value is great.

There is a famous quote that has been attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Perhaps you’ve heard it.

“For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.”

As is the case with all fairly-old quotations, these words are used in a variety of ways to prove a variety of things. I’m not going to try to prove anything with them. They just inspire me. In fact, this quote is the source from which I chose the name of my blog.

Here’s what it triggers in my mind: An idea of simplicity that doesn’t acknowledge the fact that life is complicated is naïve. However, there is a different kind of simplicity that is found when we don’t surrender and keep working toward it.

That’s the kind of simplicity I am realizing. It’s a more realistic simplicity. Joshua Becker, of becoming minimalist calls it “rational minimalism”.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Nice quote, Mike, but what do I DO about it?”

Good question.

Here are four things to get you started:

1. Scrap the unrealistic ideal.

It doesn’t help anyone when we paint an unattainable picture of a life with no complication or drama. Whether we communicate it blatantly, or by implication, we do ourselves and the people around us a disservice. Life isn’t easy.

2. Embrace conflict.

It happens. We should get used to it. We don’t have to like it. We just have to accept it as a reality that will be with us for the rest of our lives.

3. Don’t be content to live your entire life as a slave to the whirlwind.

Accept that conflict is a reality, but REFUSE to let it stop you from going forward. You are not doomed to being the victim.

4. Work through the complexity and find focus.

As you encounter resistance and things get more complex, learn from them. Push through the mess and find the clearing on the other side. Many people never do. They drown in trivia. Don’t let that be the case in your life.

If you look around, you will find plenty of people who are overwhelmed with all sorts of things. In fact, at times, it feels like they are the majority.

But there are also others who have determined that life is too short to be cynical. They are learning that there is joy to be found in a life lived in spite of the negative things that try to hinder us.

That’s what I want for my life. How about you?

3 Simple Steps to Find Your Soul Food

 

If we don’t eat good, nourishing food, we get sick. We become weak. We have poor energy. But if we feed ourselves healthy, nutritious, satisfying food, we become happier, healthier, more energetic.

This is not rocket surgery.

And yet, so many of us forget about feeding the parts of ourselves that drive us. The parts that define us. The parts that set us apart, make us ‘us’, make us happy or make us content.

We forget to feed our soul.

Feed your soul by giving yourself time. Feed your soul by putting that need high on the priority list. Feed your soul by finding its best food and relishing in it.

I feed my soul by waking early and soaking up the quiet. By gardening, belly laughing and writing. When I don’t make time for these things, I come up empty. I haven’t invested enough in my soul and I feel it. I’m depleted. Undernourished.

Discover What Feeds Your Soul:

1. How do you know your soul is nourished?

There is a feeling of contentment. Of fullness. Of pride for having done something for you. Something that will sustain you for days. It will carry you through difficult times, tantrums, sleep deprivation, sickness. And it will make the good times feel even better.

2. Question: When was the last time you felt this way?

Take a pen and paper and jot down the last five times you felt like this.

  • Where were you?
  • What were you doing?
  • Who were you with?
  • What were you thinking about?

3. Make time to do these things.

Talk to your loved ones, tell them you need time. Tell them you’re out of the house for an hour on Saturday morning, or that you’re taking a pilates class every Thursday night. And tell them that their support is important.

And as you try each of these nourishing activities, you will discover what it is that is your ultimate soul food. You will find that thing, that activity that makes your heart full and your spirit happy.

Then – and this is the key – do that thing. Often. As often as you can.

 

It may be:

  • writing for 30 minutes every day
  • jogging 3 times a week
  • gardening – digging, weeding, planting
  • painting
  • building model planes
  • renovating old furniture
  • singing
  • mountain bike riding
  • going to church
  • playing guitar

Whatever it is, make a promise to yourself that you will care for your soul as much as you care for your body.

You and those you love will reap the rewards.

 

 

Let us know – what feeds your soul?

 

June is the Month of Change

June is the Month of Change - 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge

And so we roll into June (June?! Really?) which brings us to the Month of Change.

As part of the 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge, June sees us decluttering the linen cupboard, decor, seasonal clothing and parts of the garage/basement. Specifically though, we are looking at those seasonal items that are switched out at this time of year. And while your thoughts might be with red wine and fireside chats, or camping trips and lake swimming (depending on your Hemisphere!) this month is the perfect opportunity to do a little work – and save yourself a lot of time later in the year.

To jump straight into the challenge, you can download the June checklist here. Or keep reading to find the full list, as well as added tips and suggestions below.

(If you haven’t started the challenge yet, it’s never too late to join. Click here to find the first six checklists, as well as the Slow Your Home forums, where many of us are keeping track of the clutter leaving our homes.)

My Progress from May - 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge

My Progress…

At the beginning of May I got a phonecall from my Dad saying he and mum had been inspired to clear out their storeroom at home. The downside was they had found four huge boxes of my stuff and wanted me to pick them up. Some were filled with wedding gifts, some from my days living in the city. Some from school and others from University.

Suffice to say, I had kept a whole heap of crap for no apparent reason and the majority of it never made it in the door of our home.

The combination of those four boxes, and working through the kitchen, dining and storage spaces has made it an interesting month.

This month I…

Threw Away/Recycled:

  • textbooks x 12
  • photo albums and boxes x 17
  • notepads/journals x 8
  • folders x 14
  • miscellaneous papers x 37

Donated:

  • cutlery x 28
  • crockery x 12
  • wine glasses x 12
  • martini glasses x 9
  • kids crockery sets x 2

Sold:

  • wine carafe
  • wine bottle holder
  • chopping boards x 2
  • board game
  • salad servers x 2
  • second-hand paving bricks x 180

TOTAL:  338 items

Progress to Date:  1348 unwanted items are gone!

(Over halfway there – and it’s feeling awesome at this stage.)

 

And now on to this month’s checklist.

June is the Month of Change

For us in the Southern Hemisphere, the change is all about winter sheets, chilly mornings and ugg boots as the footwear of choice. But for those in the Northern Hemisphere, June brings longer days, warmer temperatures, pretty blooms and the end of the school year.

I’ve found that building this seasonal switch into our yearly rhythm helps in maintaining not only our level of stuff, but also the little tasks around the house that need doing once or twice a year. Viewing June as the Month of Change means you’re less likely to forget to clear the gutters or wash the curtains – they’re simply part of your rhythm.

Anything seasonal will either be packed away or brought out at this time of year, and you should ask yourself the fail-safe decluttering questions, to avoid keeping a heap of stuff you don’t even want or like.

  • Did I use this (last season)?
  • Do I like this?
  • Do I want it, or will I need it?
  • Is it in good condition?
  • Do I like it enough to have it repaired or cleaned?

Using these questions as your guidelines, work through the areas of your home listed below.

The June Declutter Checklist

Click here for a printable version of the checklist.

Linen Cupboard

  • sheets
  • blankets
  • quilts/duvets
  • throws
  • pillows
  • towels
  • guest linens (how many do you really need?)

Clothes

Yes, we have just worked through the wardrobes, but this is a good opportunity to establish what we actually wore over the past 6 months, and only store that. As we pull out our winter coats and scarves, or our swimming costumes and sun dresses we can now judge what we want to keep, what is still in good condition and what we need. The rest can be donated.

  • adults winter/summer wardrobes
    • swimwear
    • winter coats
    • scarves
    • boots
    • sandals
    • dresses
    • shorts
  • kids wardrobes
    • swimwear
    • coats
    • scarves
    • boots
    • winter uniforms for school, sport etc
    • dresses
    • shorts
    • lightweight clothing
    • cold weather clothing
  • specialist clothing – wetsuit; hiking or snow gear

Basement/Garage

  • seasonal hobby gear – fishing or snow gear, camping equipment
  • beach equipment – shelters, umbrellas, body boards, surf boards
  • outdoor furniture

Decor

Some people like to swap out decor for the seasons. To be honest, we don’t have much so haven’t seen the need to swap things around. But if you do, it’s a good idea to approach the process in a similar way to your clothing.

Whatever you do, don’t use it as an opportunity to add useless stuff or clutter back in to your spaces. In fact, you will likely find you have much less need for the bulk of your decor. And this (to me) is an added bonus of simplifying your home. Less to dust!

  • soft furnishings – cushions, throw rugs etc
  • prints, wall hangings etc
  • quilts, decorative linen on beds
  • tabletop decor – vases, bowls, etc
  • mantlepiece, coffee table and hall stand decor

Again, the June Checklist can be found here.

Establish Your Own Seasonal System

If you don’t yet have a system where you swap out your seasonal clothes, linen, decor or recreational gear, this is a great opportunity to start. Storing what isn’t currently needed means you keep the wardrobes, cupboards and garage much less cluttered. You can see at a glance what you own, what you need and what to wear. Plus, you’re more likely to pull out the surfboard and head to the beach if you can actually reach it without an avalanche of stuff coming down with it!

For clothing and linen, I simply have a lidded storage box that holds the gear I don’t currently need. I keep it stored out of the way and don’t think about it for another six months. For bulkier items (surf and snow gear, outdoor furniture etc) after decluttering, I simply rotate them to the back of the storage space when they are out of season. It’s a simple solution that works.

 

I’d love to hear how you’re finding the challenge. I know many of you aren’t keeping count (and who can blame you!) but let me know your best guess. How much have you gotten rid of in the first five months of the year?