If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time in your kitchen. I feel like all I do sometimes is make meals and snacks — and then clean up after those meals and snacks. With all the time I spend in the kitchen, I would be one grumpy person if I didn’t like the space itself. While it’s far from my ideal kitchen setup (damn not being able to have the dishwasher and fridge open at the same time!), I’ve learned to work with what I’ve got and make it as happy a place as I can. Here are just a few ways you can make your kitchen a little happier too!
1. Make updates where you can. When we first moved in, our floor was cracking, the counters were old, appliances were outdated and the wallpaper was circa 1980. We tackled one small project at a time, and over a couple of years had new floors, counters and appliances, had taken down the wallpaper and updated the cabinets with a much-needed paint job (an affordable if labor-intensive project!). Now, it’s a whole new space with a much happier vibe.
2. Clear the counters. Clutter is a total zen-buster, so put stuff in the cabinets, drawers and cabinets whenever you can. A clear counter will help give you room to work, and it’s particularly important if your counter space is limited. One crazy thing my husband did? Remove the drying rack. I hated life without it for about a day, until I realized that it really just took up a lot of space and was a place for pots and pans to rest for days. Without it, I have extra counter space and I’m forced to wash and hand dry — and put away — as I go. Even the high chair tray gets washed, dried and put back on the high chair for the next time. Turns out hubby is a clutter-busting genius.
3. Keep it clean. It goes without saying that a clean kitchen is a happier kitchen. Try to clean as you go when cooking to make the final cleanup easier on yourself. Wipe spills as soon as you can get to them to prevent spending 20 minutes scrubbing at a caked-on splash of marinara. I also try to wipe down the microwave and fridge often; the more frequently you do those tasks, the less time they take in the long run.
4. The right stuff. Use cleaning supplies you love. Seriously, the right tools make all the difference. That goes for cooking too.
5. Rethink your storage. Put staples in glass jars. Protein powder, almonds and unpopped popcorn all look prettier in glass. Pretty, useful and way better than looking at a tub of protein powder on your counter all the time.
6. Pops of happy. It’s so easy to add happy colors and touches to your kitchen. Dish towels, area rugs, fridge magnets, curtains, bowls, utensils — they’re all easy places to add cheer and personality.
7. It’s alive. Or cut. But whether you grow your own herbs in a pot on your decluttered counter or windowsill or have cut flowers on your kitchen table, bringing the outdoors in is a great way to make you feel alive, too. I love getting a bouquet of flowers at Trader Joe’s. For less than $5, I’ve got a week of flowers on my table.
8. Get the list. I’m telling you, the OurGroceries app on my phone changed my life. It makes it so much easier for multiple people to add items to different lists. And since I always have my phone, I don’t have to worry about losing my list. As I run out of items around the house, I add them to the list and I’ve always got a running list of what I need to pick up.
9. Give yourself time — or at least be prepared. There’s nothing worse than starting dinner when you’re already starving — or when your kids are starving. The other day I started making lasagna at 3 p.m. because I knew that my nap-refusing daughter would start getting really grumpy around the time I needed to get serious about dinner. It was so much more fun to cook when I could take my time over the course of an hour and deal with her grumpiness when the lasagna was in the oven. For yourself and bigger kids? Have munchable veggies on hand to take the edge off while you’re cooking.
10. Cook like a chef. Know what mise-en-place means? It basically means get ready to cook before you cook! It will turn your cooking experience from a frazzled back and forth to the fridge nightmare to a zen dream.
11. Wine. Always wine.
How do you make sure you cook happy? —Erin