This amazing guest post is written by Kate Carpenter. It’s an excerpt from her book ENUFF: Eliminate the Needless, Useless, Foolish, and Frivolous.
Clutter seems like such a simple thing.
A little too much stuff! That’s pretty harmless, really, and something to deal with “one of these days when I have some extra time.” There are much more important things to deal with today, right?
But clutter has many more dimensions than just the physical measurements of it all. And some of those dimensions are infringing on the other important things you would rightly rather be doing with your time.
So we’re going to focus on the kitchen, but the ideas we’re going to explore apply to clutter everywhere. We’re going to examine some of clutter’s other components in order to more accurately measure its true cost.
The Cost Factor
We’ve all heard the old adage: Time is Money.
And in the business world, that’s true. Every productive minute “produces” either goods or services that bring in revenue – and bringing in money is the purpose of a business. But is it the purpose of life?
Businesses can live forever.
They have no limit on the length of their existence as long as they are making a profit. But we do!
So maybe a more accurate adage for people would be Money is Time. Making money takes time. Spending money takes time. Maintaining the things we spend money on – and making more money to pay for its storage space – takes time.
In order to buy all those kitchen appliances and gadgets, you have to earn the money. Whatever “effort” you might save by using them may well be outweighed by the hours spent at your job in order to pay for them.
And a house with a kitchen big enough to store all that claptrap may have a mortgage which forces you into more time on labor than you can begin to measure.
Spending money on clutter is one thing, because money can be replaced. But spending time to make that money and then spending time to maintain that clutter is using up your most precious resource, because time – unlike money – is irreplaceable.
The Time Factor
But, you say, that’s why I have all these appliances and gadgets! They save me time!
Sometimes things that are supposed to simplify our lives actually complicate them.
My food processor turned out to be one of those things for me. Instead of having to simply wash my knife after cutting up some cabbage, I had to disassemble and clean this giant apparatus and then wrestle the heavy brute into a large, out-of-sight “garage.”
How many of these “time savers” are really more of a hassle to retrieve, assemble, break down, clean, and store than they’re worth?
- bread machine
- ice cream maker
- yogurt maker
- rice cooker
- iced tea maker
- popcorn popper
- meat slicer
- pasta maker
- tortilla press
- fondue pot
- deep fryer
- electric jar opener
And if you got rid of all those things, wouldn’t you then have room to comfortably store some of the things that are living on your counter right now? The appliances you may want to keep, but don’t use everyday – like the blender maybe?
Those companies that live forever have to keep bringing in revenue, and stockholders even expect their sales to increase. So once every household in America has at least one coffee pot, what happens? They convince us we need iced tea makers, too!
Ummm … really?
The Hassle Factor
If your kitchen is over-crowded, you are subject to constant annoyance and irritation.
Think about it. When you bring in the groceries, do you have to set the bags on the floor? Do you always have to clear the dining room table before you can set it for a meal? Do you have to remember to take cookie sheets and pizza pans out of the oven before you preheat it? Is your refrigerator covered with things getting dusty and greasy – things that would normally live in cupboards if there were room for them? Are there things in your kitchen you have to stand on a chair to retrieve?
If that kitchen stuff that’s meant to save time and make your life easier is crowding your available space, it could very well be causing you a lot more hassle than it’s worth.
The Depressing Factor
This is probably the most obvious reason most of us want to reduce our clutter.
Just looking at a cluttered, messy room makes us feel tired. And unhappy. And not in control.
My favorite pack-rat niece must own at least 5 dozen drinking glasses. When you have 60 glasses, you can leave 59 of them in the sink before you have to wash one. If, at the other extreme, you only have ONE glass, you will need to wash it every time you use it.
In the end, you will always have to wash the same number of glasses…but your cupboards and your sink will remain uncluttered.
Keep Only What You Really Need
“Great Depression Cooking with Clara” is the popular online cooking show (along with a book) created by Clara’s grandson, Christopher Cannucciari.
In each episode, the now 90+-year-old Clara prepares recipes that her mother made during the Great Depression, sharing stories and wisdom as she shows you how to make simple, inexpensive, and delicious meals such as lentils and rice, pasta with peas, and chicken noodle soup.
Simplicity is one of the many great things about Clara. Here’s something she said in her YouTube episode of cooking peppers and eggs: “I never use a cutting board – we didn’t have all the conveniences – a cutting board and stuff.”
Now here’s a rare woman without a clutter problem! And I think the cutting board is a PERFECT example of the difference between a “need” and a “want” – an extremely important distinction.
Try to keep this distinction in mind to help you identify only what you really need in your newly streamlined kitchen.
If you’re hesitant to get rid of some things, just box them up, hide them somewhere for a while, and see if you miss them.
In fact, hard-core de-clutters may want to box up the entire kitchen and pull things out only as they’re needed. After a month or so, you’ll have pulled out everything you’ll ever need – except maybe that turkey roasting pan.
Finally, estimate how many hours a day you spend in your kitchen and then divide them by the number of hours you’re usually awake.
This will give you the percentage of your waking life spent in the kitchen. It needs to be a happy place if you’re going to enjoy the process as much as the meals you‘re preparing.
Remember the Amish family visited by Sue Bender in Plain and Simple?
“The women moved through the day unhurried. There was no rushing to finish so they could get on to the ‘important things.’ For them, it was all important.” Enjoying each task you have to do is part of living in the present and enjoying the journey.
Or as my favorite quotation by Alan Watts says:
“Getting to the end of a song is not the goal of singing.”
About Kate Carpenter
I became a big fan of simple living and minimalism in college (1972) when I read Living Poor with Style by Ernest Callenbach and it has influenced my entire life. I started writing about it in 1998 and left the rat race to write full time in 2010. My goal every day is to make something simpler, smaller, or more clearly understood. At www.enuffstuff.info, I blog about making life simpler, stress-free, and more satisfying.