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Why Thanksgiving is a Great Time to Get Rid of Stuff

Kitchen Pantry

I know not a few hoarders of kitchen things. These folks have kept every dish they’ve ever owned, no matter how chipped or abused. Every burned pan, even single-use object, every obscure ingredient remnant.* They move these items from home-to-home, even if they rarely see the light-of-day at the back of a forlorn cabinet.

These people give me heartburn.

Thanksgiving is actually a great opportunity to reassess your kitchen. After all, if you haven’t used a tool or a tray at Thanksgiving—the most epic day of all meal-making—is it really needed? Or in such a quantity? Maybe it’s even time to upgrade the version you have?

This year, I hosted a Friendsgiving event (a veritable practice-run for the big day), and as I carefully executed the meal, I gave myself time to notice which objects became invaluable and which were never touched.

Ditch Single Use Objects

Like Alton Brown, I despise single-use tools. Ice cream makers, pasta makers, those weird corn-cob things owned by people who never eat corn on the cob. I will also put apple corers, chopsticks and nutcrackers in this category.

Take a look around your kitchen and see what kind of single-use tchotchkes are cluttering your space. You can probably find at least a few hidden offenders in your pan collection: unless you make muffins, donuts, or other irregularly shaped food items, time to ditch the baking tins.

Eliminate Items That No Longer Match Your Lifestyle

When I became mostly vegetarian, regular use of my slow cooker ground to a halt. My rice cooker, blender and bread maker? I realized I wasn’t using them very much either. On to Craig’s List they went. Revisit your kitchen through the lens of food prep on an average Thursday night—I doubt those super fancy napkins rings or margarita glasses play a part in it.

And while you’re at it, give your food cabinets this same once over. Rid yourself of rare ingredients that you’ll never use again (er…candied ginger) or that will have expired by your next use anyway (ahem, yeast). I once bought bags of quinoa only to learn I hate quinoa. I’ve off-loaded it to my quinoa-loving friends, making more room for things that really matter…like chocolate.

Get Serious About Extraneous Items

When I think of the number of ketchup and soy packets I cleaned out of our fridge, I’m a little ashamed. We stockpile that shit from takeaway bags like we don’t have full containers of both already in our fridge. Now is the time to pour the remnants of old products into new ones (or toss them entirely).

When I looked in our silverware drawer, I noticed a random assortment of spoons, knives and forks—and absolutely no idea how they got there. We cleared out all but our original set. We also checked plates, bowls and glasses for chips or breaks—no use waiting until they shatter in the dishwasher.

It’s also a good idea to take a closer look at the total number of items you are keeping. We had 50 different leftover containers for just 2 people. We threw away our hodgepodge of containers and invested in one set of matching Rubbermaid pieces designed to fit together nicely in our drawers.

Face the Scourge of Emotional Baggage in the Kitchen

In the South, it’s very common for mothers to bestow their daughters with a “hope chest” of things she will use when starting her own home. As the recipient of a rather robust hope chest from my own mother, I entered my first apartment completely prepared to make all of my favorite meals (thanks, mom!). Over time, however, these well-loved objects have become either outdated or obsolete. Of all the things in my kitchen, these are the hardest to let go. Thanks for the weird emotional attachment to objects, Disney.

It might seem cheesy, but Marie Kondo suggests that you thank these items for their service before they leave your kitchen. This simple act has helped me to find greater appreciation for the items that remain.

And finally…

As your kitchen empties out, you’ll be tempted to restock it with new things. Don’t. Give yourself and your appliances a little breathing room—after all, Christmas is just around the corner.


**I once cleaned out my mom’s fridge and found ingredients that were more than 10 years old. shudder