Kitchen

IMG_6975I am a food fanatic.

I love food. Not just any food, but quality food, nutritious food, elegant food, tasty food, exotic food. I truly enjoy food: shopping for it, cooking and creating it, eating it, serving it.I love checking out new restaurants. I read foodie blogs. I watch foodie shows like MasterChef and a number of kitchen-variety shows. I am amazed by the new breed of food-creation tools—moulds, pipes, smokers, mixers, crushers, sprayers, vacuum sealers, siphon guns, blow torches. . . .

Both my pantry and my cupboards show my food obsession. And this was a great cause of concern for me when I started down the minimalist path. What was I to do with all this food-related stuff?

Lucky for me I had an ‘out’ clause: creating, serving and eating food brings me joy. By the ‘rules’ of minimalism, I’m allowed to keep stuff that brings me joy, right?

Joy is a very subjective term and, while the various food experiences brought me immense gratification, the cupboards full of ingredients, containers, pans, cookbooks and utensils was not a joy to me. It brought added stress: storage, use-by dates, unopened multiple bags of ingredients (they were on sale at some time I’m sure), washing up, mess. . . .

So here’s what I did.

I started small.

My first attempt at de-stressing my food life was to decide that one-quarter of all my food-related gear had to go. If I had two of something, one got donated to the op shop. If I hadn’t used a cookbook since I bought it, it was gone. I got a stack of glass jars and put all my ingredients in them, labelled and visible, only replacing ingredients when the jar was empty.

I created a few basic rules.

Do not buy anything just because it’s on sale and I plan to ‘use it someday.’ My cupboards were overflowing with excess flour, sugar, nuts, grains, flavourings. I had a huge jar of maraschino cherries my mum bought me 4 years ago in the back of one cupboard and a mini-muffin maker in the back of another.

No more cookbooks. There is so much now online that hard copy cookbooks are no longer necessary in my life. (As it is, I hardly ever use them except for getting ideas.)

Clear the counter tops. I saw Josh Becker’s kitchen counters on YouTube after watching the Minimalism documentary and that ‘blank slate look’ was my goal—but it didn’t work out that way for me. I still have our coffee maker (can’t live without!), fruit bowl (healthy snacks) and knife block (easy-to-reach) on the counter and our stainless steel dish drainer lives on the sink. There is a candle and a box of tissues in the corner, but, apart from these few everyday-use items, our counters are clean and clear.

If you already have one, don’t buy another. I had accumulated multiple sets of things simply because I liked the look of those glasses, even though I already had a set in the cupboard, or I needed (no, I had convinced myself I needed) that kind of mug, even though the ones I had at home worked just as well.

Clean the Fridge. No more bills, photos (apart from on each of my kids and their partners), or takeaway menus hung piecemeal by magnets, clips or blu-tak.

Get rid of the catch-all spaces. In my case, I chucked out a multi-compartment wooden box we had been using for bills, pens, paper, mail and lots of other useful and useless items. I replaced this with one drawer and a drawer tidy, throwing out 90% of what that catch-all space had ‘caught.’ I still can access a pen if I need one, and I know where the stamps are, but they are not taking up counter space.

Always leave the kitchen better than you found it. I borrowed this from Cambria Bold (www.thekitchn.com). She explains that: ‘This might mean quickly wiping down the table when they pass through the room, or taking the water glasses out of the sink and loading them in the dishwasher. It means always looking at your kitchen with a discerning eye and asking yourself: “What small thing can I do in this moment to make my kitchen a little bit better?” Small things grow up to be great habits.’

I made shopping easier. I did this by refusing to allow myself to be sucked into sales or ‘bulk buy’ specials. I also started creating a shopping list and am (slowly) learning to stick to it. As Vicki reminded me just the other day, ‘The shop’s only up the road. If you find out that we really need that, you can just run up the hill and buy it.’ That’s a great line, especially since I usually find that I don’t need that item after all.

The kitchen is still a work in progress, I am still a MasterChef addict. And, although my Instagram is still filled with food creations, I am finding out that so much is possible with a lot less, and the additional effort exerted when you perhaps don’t have the exact tool you need makes the resulting dish all the more delicious.

Explore Further

Bargains (ozminimalist.com)

The 10 Commandments of a Clutter Free Kitchen (thekitchn.clom)

The Best Route to a Cleaner Kitchen (realsimple.com)

The 19 Items You Need on Your Next Grocery List (Huntington Post)

 

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Winter

imageToday I’m sitting in a warm living room while, outside, the wind is blowing up a gale and hail is hitting the front window side-on. It’s a blustery, winter day.

Yesterday we experienced a short time where the power went out. We lit candles, bundled up and knew that we would be fine. Our stove and hot water is open gas, so we weren’t concerned about a prolonged outage.

A short drive away, my son who is an apprentice gardener on a 9-acre country garden estate, was dealing with his boss in her massive house complaining how the floor heating wasn’t working and they would have nothing to do without the TV working that night. All he could do was stoke up their three fireplaces and come home to his small but cozy and warm home.

I am fascinated by the Tiny House movement and one of the big reasons I am drawn to a smaller home is the pure economics of it. Let’s face it, the monetary savings are enormous. Very ltitle energy is needed to heat a smaller space (and it takes far less time to get it up to a liveable temperature than a big house). Many of the tiny houses I’ve seen have more energy-efficient features such as loft beds which capture the rising heat, solar electricity and hot water, and cleverly-designed areas to maximize heat transfer and make the most of natural light and warmth.

That said, even our 1200-square-foot home is far more efficient than those near us that are far larger.

Minimalism is not simply about having less stuff. It is also about using resources efficiently with as little waste as possible.This not only makes sense in that it saves me money, but also helps us to makes as small a footprint on our planet as possible.

I am warm. I am clean. I am well-fed. I sleep comfortably.

The wind can blow, the rain can fall, the power can go out, and I’ll still be fine.

Explore Further:

How to Make Your Home Energy Efficient (WikiHow)

What We can Learn from Norwegians About Surviving Winter (Vogue)

Tiny Homes are Big on Energy Efficiency (Alliance to Save Energy)

Meaning

Last night Vicki and I had the privilege of viewing Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things (see the trailer here) at our local Indy Cinema. The theatre was packed with many like-minded and curious people who laughed, clapped and gasped together in all the right places.minimaldoco

This doco is a well-crafted work and follows, loosely, one of The Minimalists’ (Joshua Fields-Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus) book tours, inserting commentary and analysis from a wide range of folk, from Neuroscientists to Culture-watchers and Media personalities. Through the story were inter-woven ‘chapters’ on topics such as fashion, tiny houses (one of my current favourites), advertising, meditation, and how to minimalise in a family setting.

All in all, this documentary perfectly captures the minimalist movement and the philosophy behind this growing phenomenon.

I have been immersed in the minimalist culture for a while now. I have read most of the books mentioned in the documentary and regularly listen to several podcasts featuring some of the major players. What I took away from the film is this idea of meaning.

Everything I own, must bring some meaning into my life. Everything must serve a useful purpose or bring joy. It’s not the number of things I have, but the fact that the things I have are my favourites and are put to good use in my life. Sometimes minimalism can bring meaning to my life in a different way than I expect. I appreciated the story of one couple who decided to pare down the number of possessions and found that, in doing this, it opened up opportunities to borrow from and to share with others, thus building relationships in community with like-minded people.

Vicki hasn’t had the same exposure to minimalism that I have and what she took away from the film was a greater awareness of the effect of modern life and culture—especially advertising and fashion—on our lives. What all those featured in this production had in common was a determination to make a new path for themselves in saying ‘No’ to the expectations of culture and say ‘Yes’ to what brings joy and meaning into their life. It wasn’t simply a philosophy of having less stuff, but having more time, more quality relationships, more freedom, and more focus.

The film is still playing a few Australian venues (not in Adelaide again, unfortunately) and I hope it achieves good success. (It is also available to pre-order online for under AUD$30 including 6 hours of bonus content.) Its message speaks to a great need in the lives of most of us who share this planet: a need for meaning, for an awareness of the cultural pond in which we swim and how we can respond to this in a purposeful and responsible manner.