How would you describe your kitchen? Is it a clean, well-organized space, or do you struggle with clutter, unused appliances and even messy chaos on occasion? If the second scenario sounds familiar, you may be interested in exploring ways to minimize the madness and create a more soothing, functional, Zen-inspired kitchen environment.
The Zen philosophy, from a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism which emphasizes meditation and intuition, has come to represent concepts beyond its original definition. It may now apply to everything from lifestyle principles to home and garden design reflecting minimalism, functionality and clean, harmonious spaces. To apply these ideas to your kitchen, consider these tips.
Tips for a Zen Kitchen
The first thing to determine is what might be superfluous in your kitchen. Do you maintain an array of appliances you rarely use? Is the pantry overstuffed? Is your counter an unruly tangle of keys, mail, receipts, sunglasses, notepads, to-go condiments, lipstick and other miscellaneous items? Do you dedicate entire cupboards to neglected stemware or “fancy” dish sets that gather dust? Start to pinpoint areas you would like to streamline initially.
Remove before you add
The best way to implement Zen kitchen principles is calmly and thoughtfully, since greater serenity is the larger goal. Before you decide what to add, determine what you can remove. This might include seldom-used dishes, stemware, and/or appliances, décor that creates a cluttered image and anything else that doesn’t feel necessary, attractive or useful. The minimal or zero waste concept, which is part and parcel of the Zen aesthetic, can be applied to lighten up your space while helping the environment as well. Consider these 4 Next-Level Zero-Waste Lifestyle Tips.
Based on the daily flow of your household, you may want designated spots for items like keys, sunglasses, mail, notepads, pens, etc. To avoid counter/island clutter, consider hooks as well as wall-mounted baskets for these daily essentials, allowing for cleaner, more streamlined kitchen surfaces. Similarly, you can organize your pantry by grouping items in baskets by type, such as pasta, sauces, snack items, etc. Another great space-saver is to install a spice rack on the inside of a cupboard door.
Designate a utility drawer
If you don’t already have one, a “catch-all” utility drawer can be a very helpful kitchen addition. To create a functional, well-ordered zone, take advantage of simple tools like drawer organizers with slots for rubber bands, scissors, pens, scotch tape, and other small necessities. Doing so will lighten the visual load, keeping these items out of sight but easily accessible.
If you have a massive coterie of pots, pans and skillets, you can potentially streamline here as well. Determine what you use daily; is it often the same few pans? Unless you are regularly preparing large amounts of food, you might find you manage quite well with a mid-size skillet, a small or medium-sized saucepan, and a larger pot for cooking pasta, steaming artichokes, etc.
Refresh your kitchen aesthetic
To further enhance your kitchen space with a more soothing look and feel, tap into the Zen technique of emphasizing natural light. For starters, consider swapping dark drapes for white/sheer versions, or losing window coverings entirely. A soft color palate is another hallmark of the Zen aesthetic; especially light, calming hues from nature such as white, or pale, soft greens and blues. Keep décor simple. Houseplants and fresh flowers are not only beautiful but healthy to be around, which makes them functional embellishments.
Buy in bulk
Food, paper and plastic waste, so common in many American kitchens, runs counter to Zen ideals. To minimize this, buy in bulk, which saves both money and packaging. Fresh, healthy produce is an ideal place to start. Become a habitué of your local farmer’s market! Other useful bulk items include herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, whole grains, flour, pasta, tea and more. For storage, consider square glass jars, which are far more space-saving than round ones. For additional ideas about conservation in the kitchen, check out these 4 Next-Level Zero-Waste Lifestyle Tips.
Emphasize whole/plant foods
Choosing whole, unprocessed foods rather than relying on prepared/packaged items is healthier, cheaper and more eco-friendly. If this resonates with you, check out The Best Foods to Eat to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint. Embrace simple meals you can make from fresh, local, seasonal produce. You don’t have to go vegan to benefit from a whole foods/plant-based approach. Learn more here about How to Ease Into a Plant-Based Diet. You may also like 5 Keys to Optimal Plant-Based Nutrition.
While your Zen-inspired kitchen may evolve over time, these ideas can get you started in creating a more soothing, efficiently organized kitchen space, which in turn can help support a healthier, more serene lifestyle.