9 Things to Purge from Your Kitchen Today, According to This Chef

published Dec 29, 2021
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Credit: Viv Yapp

The new year is a great time to form new habits and routines at home. Maybe you plan to meal plan each week in 2022, or you want to dust off that KitchenAid mixer and try your hand at baking. Perhaps your only goal is to keep your kitchen cleaner and more organized. No matter what dreams you have for life in the kitchen next year, one thing is for sure: Kickstarting new routines requires letting go of some old ones. 

Set the stage for habits that stick by decluttering your space. As you take inventory of what’s been working and what hasn’t, you’ll find yourself with more room — and more mental capacity — for what really matters to you. Have high hopes for your kitchen, but not quite sure where to start? Chef and food stylist Carla Contreras has some great suggestions about what to let go of before 2021 ends.

Food you won’t (or can’t) use

If you’re having a hard time keeping your fridge or pantry organized, or you want to cook more in general, start by going through your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Contreras recommends taking everything out, donating any non-perishables you know you won’t use, and tossing anything that’s expired. In general, she says items are good in the freezer for about three months, so either make a plan to use that frozen soup you made or toss it. “To make that easier, create a list on your fridge with items you need to use up in the freezer,” she says.

Broken gadgets

Duplicate or broken kitchen utensils, tools, and gadgets hog valuable kitchen storage space and make it hard to find what you need in a pinch. That’s why Contreras recommends sorting through them and making a plan to keep, toss, or donate what you don’t use. If you’re not sure about getting rid of a duplicate, designate a duplicate box or bin to keep outside your kitchen, then grab another spatula or can opener when your existing one is past its prime. “While you’re at it, make a list of items that your kitchen is missing or that you would like to have,” Contreras says.

Damaged pots and pans

Those beat-up pots and pans you’ve been holding onto just in case you need a backup? Now’s a great time to decide what to do with them, says Contreras. Do you need to get rid of the scratched non-stick pan that keeps getting food stuck in it? Is there a baking sheet that is so caked with grease, no amount of scrubbing will get it clean? “Consider what would make cooking easier, even if that means getting rid of an old one and investing in a new one,” she says.

Your junk drawer

If your kitchen junk drawer isn’t as functional as you think it is — for example, if it’s full of stuff you don’t need or items that belong somewhere else — consider using it for something else. “I know it’s controversial, but that space could be better used,” says Contreras. “Give the items inside of it a home and start using the junk drawer space for spices or your favorite teas.” If you want to keep your junk drawer around, go through everything and keep it organized

Dull knives 

Take a look at your knives. Have they seen better days? If so, the end of the year is a great time to take action by trading them out for new ones or getting them sharpened. In general, Contreras recommends home cooks get their knives professionally sharpened at least once a year. Just be careful with how you dispose of your knives. If you can’t donate them or if there is no knife disposal spot near you, wrap each knife in a few layers of newspaper and a layer of folded cardboard, then securely tape it shut and put it in a small cardboard box or another garbage-safe container before throwing it away.

Your beat-up cutting board

While you’re at it, check out your cutting board. If it’s cracked or beat-up, consider swapping it out for a new one, given that bacteria can grow in those grooves and knife marks. Contreras recommends a non-slip option. “If you’re not using a non-slip cutting board, now is the time, or maybe place a non-slip mat underneath yours when you use it,” she says. To keep her board from moving around when she’s chopping, she cut down a grippy, non-adhesive shelf liner to fit beneath it. 

Unusable cleaning supplies

Once you tackle your food and cooking supplies, go through your cleaning gear. “Toss moldy sponges, the broken soap dispenser, and turn those dish towels that are badly stained or ripped into rags for cleaning,” Contreras suggests. Bonus: Clean under your sink and use up or toss the items that are hanging out down there. Always remember to dispose of chemicals responsibly. (Check online or with your local garbage collection service if you’re not sure.)

Dry hands

You’ll be way more likely to spend time on habits when you don’t dread them. One simple way to make cleaning your kitchen more bearable? Invest in some dish gloves and use them whenever you hand wash dishes or clean with chemicals. And keep lotion nearby, too, since washing hands a lot can dry them out. Contreras has a super-smart tip for keeping hands soft: “Add lotion on your hands while they are still damp, but not soaking wet, and then rub it in to seal the moisture.”


As motivated as you may be to meet your goals in 2022, be realistic with what you can accomplish and don’t compromise your mental health just to keep up with routines. “It’s OK to have shortcuts like pre-washed greens, canned beans, pre-cut veggies, dried sauces, or frozen meals,” says Contreras. “Nourishing yourself doesn’t have to be draining or exhausting.”

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 9 Things in Your Kitchen a Chef Wants You to Get Rid of Before 2021 Ends