50 Things in Your Kitchen to Get Rid Of Right Now
Imagine how blissful it will feel to reach into decluttered cabinets!
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From Trash to Treasure
The kitchen is easily the most lived-in room in the house. It’s where food is prepared, shared and stored, but it also serves as the meeting place for family and friends. Achievements are fastened to fridges, homework is completed at its counters, debates are held at its tables — it’s the lifeforce of the house. So, it’s no wonder our kitchens are overrun with stuff and the residue of those experiences.
Here are a few ways to help you separate the treasures from the trash and keep your favorite room in the house decluttered and in tiptop working order.
Mildewed Kitchen Sponge
Those squishy sponges you use to scrub your dishes clean are leading a double life — as a sanitizer and haven for nasty microbes — which is why your kitchen sponge has a shelf life of about one to two weeks. In the meantime, you can sanitize your sponge in the top rack of your dishwasher.
Scratched Nonstick Pans
The glossy coating that keeps omelets from sticking and stir-fries stirring eventually starts to break down. As soon as the gloss is gone, or a dreaded scratch appears, it’s time to toss the pan. After all, no one wants their food stuck to the bottom of the pan.
To keep your pans like new longer, avoid using metal tools on them. If you stack your pans in the cupboard, place a protective sheet of paper towel in between them to prevent scratches.
Lidless Tupperware falls under the useless category. A storage container that can no longer stow has no business cluttering precious cabinet space. Much like the missing sock mate situation, the Tupperware/lid mystery may not be solvable either, except to discard those useless containers.
BPA Plastic Containers
BPA, or bisphenol, is an industrial chemical used in plastics and resins. Worries that the chemical can seep into food and drink has pushed manufacturers to produce more and more BPA-free products. So, while you’re pairing your food containers with their lids, go ahead and toss out any old containers with recycle codes 3, 6 and 7 that might contain the toxic chemical.
Leaky or Lidless Travel Mugs
Leaky mugs, lidless travel cups — they all need to go. Edit your collection down to your favorite one or two travel mugs and you won’t have to sift through the noncontenders each morning.
Broken Blenders, Mix-less Mixers, Oh My!
We may be calling out the broken blender, but we are looking at you, too, hand mixer with no beaters and waffle iron that no longer crisps. Get rid of all those small appliances that have outlived their usefulness. Honestly, if you haven't fixed 'em by now, it's not going to happen.
Sprouted, Shriveled Potatoes
The best place to store potatoes is in a cool, dark place. Unfortunately, that means potatoes are often forgotten until found shriveled and rotten in the back of your pantry. Don’t be a victim of pungent gases from rotten potatoes. Designate a basket for your light-sensitive root vegetables that can be easily checked for spoilage.
Old Spices and Herbs
Have you looked in your spice cabinet lately? When’s the last time you reached for the fenugreek? It may be time to clean out and refresh old spices and herbs. Like anything else in your kitchen, spices and dried herbs have a "best by" date. They might not mold, but they will start to lose their potency — about three years for whole spices, two years for ground, and one to two years for dried herbs.
Rancid Cooking Oils
On a whim, you reach for the dusty, sticky bottle of canola oil in the back of your pantry; you’re going to make brownies. Unfortunately, that tackiness on the outside of the bottle is a bad omen for what’s on the inside: metallic-smelling, rancid oil.
Fruit and vegetable oils are particularly susceptible to spoilage. The less saturated the fat, the faster the oil will turn. Keep the very sensitive ones, like walnut and toasted sesame oils, in the fridge to extend their shelf life. After opening, expect most oils, like olive oil and canola, to last six months if stored properly in a cool, dark place.
Past-Their-Prime Pantry Staples
Pasta, rice, flour and all your other favorite grains eventually go bad. Check expiration dates or give it a good sniff to check for that rancid oil smell. Storing your rice, flour and pasta in airtight containers, rather than their opened boxes and bags, will help keep your dry goods fresher longer.
Dried pasta typically lasts up to two years (whole grain up to six months). Brown rice lasts up to one year; white rice is closer to two years. All-purpose flour lasts about one year.
Expired Baking Powder
Nothing is worse than working all day on a baking project only for it to fall flat because your chemical leaven of choice, baking powder, is past its prime. Throw out opened baking powder after one year. But if you need to do a quick spot check, drop some in warm water. If it activates and bubbles vigorously, then it’s good to use.
Maybe your eyes were bigger than your beer belly when you shopped for that party in July. Now you need to either drink or ditch that extra beer on the verge of spoilage. In the pantry, beer will last six to nine months; in the fridge, it's good for six months to two years.
Canned foods are safe to eat indefinitely, says the USDA, so long as they are not dented, bulging or exposed to freezing temperatures or those above 90 degrees F. But that doesn't mean they will always taste great. For the best flavor and quality, follow these guidelines:
High-Acid Canned Foods (tomatoes, fruit): Up to one-and-a-half years at room temperature
Low-Acid Canned Foods (chicken broth, beans, vegetables, meats): Up to five years at room temperature
Liquor with a Shelf Life
High-proof alcohol will last what feels like indefinitely, but other items on your drink cart should be stored properly and tossed more frequently.
Specifically, noncreamy liqueurs spoil more easily than plain spirits, so toss after one year or when you detect discoloration, crystallization or odor. Keep creamy liqueurs in the fridge for up to six months after opening, but check the bottle for an official expiration date. Bitters last for years, even after opening, so hang on to those.
If you can’t remember the last time you reached for that bag of coffee, it’s best to toss it. Whole or ground beans in a vacuum-packed bag will last up to four months, unopened, on the counter and up to one week once opened. In a can, whole or ground beans will last one year unoepened and one week once opened.
Rancid Peanut Butter
Peanut butter lingering on the shelves isn’t likely to happen in most houses, but just in case, remember to throw out peanut butter that has been sitting for more than three months. Just like other oils, the unsaturated fat in peanut butter will quickly turn rancid and bitter.
Opened Jars of Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce is often the last-minute dinner saving grace. But, once opened, tomato sauce has a surprisingly short shelf life. Store it in the fridge for five to seven days, then that jar has got to go.
Stale Snack Foods
The bag of chips you reached for once and banished to the back of the pantry is so stale it’s destined for the trash. Prevent these lost snacks by designating an opened snack basket in the front of your pantry, easy for all hungry parties to find.
Check your condiments, particularly those one-off items you bought for a recipe a year ago and never touched again. If you see separation, off-color or odor, it is best to throw those sauces out. (The same goes for salad dressings.)
If you can’t remember eating it the first time, it's probably safe to assume you shouldn’t be eating it a second time. Leftovers pushed to the back of the fridge are lost to the trash in the end. Try dating your containers and using a FIFO (first in, first out) system to keep track of leftovers.
Opened Stocks and Broths
Prepared stocks last only up to four days in the fridge. Go ahead and throw out any past-date stock. Going forward, freeze leftover broths and stocks in ice cube trays, then store in airtight bags to increase the shelf life.
Freezer burn isn’t just something you can brush off your food. It’s damage caused by dehydration and oxidation when food isn’t properly wrapped and stored in the freezer.
And while the USDA deems freezer burn no risk to your health, it’s probably safe to assume that the chicken, peas, ice cream or steak that fell victim to your freezer’s icy ways won’t taste all that great.
Some tips to prevent freezer burn include wrapping items tightly in plastic wrap and then storing in an airtight container, taking extra care to push out all the air from freezer bags, and cooling hot foods to room temperature before storing those foods in an airtight container in the freezer.
Maxed-Out Baking Soda Air Freshener
Don’t want your food stored in your refrigerator to smell like, well, the fridge? Placing a box of odor-absorbent baking soda on a shelf will do the trick. But just as all good things must come to an end, the baking soda’s stench-removal powers will last only so long — about three months. Take the guesswork out of this one by writing the date on the box each time you replace your odor absorber.
Past-Due Water Filter
Pitchers with built-in water filters are great for providing your family with purified water without relying on bottled water, but don’t forget to replace old filters every 40 gallons or so.
Chipped and Stained Bowls, Cups and Plates
Do you have an abundance of dishware and glassware? Then it’s probably time to toss out that chipped beer glass from college. Also, consider losing any stained mugs or cracked cereal bowls from the rotation.
Pressureless Fire Extinguisher
Most manufacturers give a shelf life of anywhere from five to 15 years for fire extinguishers. That’s a huge range! How can you be sure yours will put out the fire when you need it most? Set a reminder to check your equipment monthly. Make sure the tamper seal is on the extinguisher, that it's holding the pin in firmly, and that it hasn't been damaged. Also, make sure the extinguisher is full just by weighing it/lifting it.
We rely on cleaning products to keep our kitchen safe and sanitized. But those cleaning products that keep last night’s chicken from contaminating this morning’s fruit bowl eventually lose their effectiveness. Date your bottles so you know when to replace them. Most antibacterial products last about one year; multipurpose cleaners without antibacterials can last up to two years.
Yes, we used to keep drawers of takeaway menus, but now, with online delivery services and menus, this paper trail is virtually (pun intended) obsolete. However, if your favorite place still takes call-in orders, or you just like to have a physical menu on hand, consider whittling down your collection to only those restaurants you’ve ordered from in the past six months.
Old Sauce Packets
The drive-thru sauces packets — it always feels wrong to throw them out, doesn’t it? That is, until you have a drawer full of mystery sauces. Declutter. Dump anything that looks off and limit yourself to just one small jar of sauce packets for on-the-go meals.
It’s time to adult. Rather than surviving on stolen spoons and mismatched flatware, invest in a good-quality, dishwasher safe set that can go from every day to dinner party without you rifling through the drawer to find four matching forks.
Stained Dish Towels and Holey Oven Mitts
It’s time to take stock of that dish towel collection. Consider the danger of grabbing a hot pan only to find your oven mitt has a gaping hole in the thumb. Stained, ripped or torn towels and oven mitts should be tossed.
Cracked Wooden Spoons
Over time, wooden spoons lose their moisture and crack, and those cracks become home to bacteria. Since nobody wants to stir their dinner stew with a bacteria-rich spoon, it’s safer to just replace those tools. The same rule applies to wooden cutting boards.
Warped Cutting Boards
For plastic cutting boards, which are easier to disinfect, the greatest tell that your board has run its course is warping. Eventually, enough hot rinses will cause your cutting board to bow. A bowed cutting board isn’t easily secured with a counter grip or towel, and it becomes a dangerous item on which to cut. Toss it.
Old Rubber Spatulas
Rubber spatulas are the great workhorse utensil in the kitchen — perfect for folding batters, stirring together sauces and even spreading frosting. But all that wear and tear adds up to cracked spatulas, which can become home to bacteria, but also the dried rubber can start to flake off into food. Check and replace your spatulas as needed.
Broken Drawer Organizers
Even drawer organizers don’t last forever. If you find your silverware caddy breaking down or you’ve outgrown that gadget drawer organizer, then there is really no need to hang on to a failing system.
Pans You Don’t Use
We’ve all done it: invested in the 10- or 12-piece (or more!) cookware set only to discover we use two, maybe three, of the pans on a day-to-day basis. Rather than throw out those pans (because you will need them for the next holiday cooking extravaganza), instead relocate those unused pans to a hall closet or shelf in the garage.
Overflowing Plastic Bag Stash
The stash of plastic bags is a well-intended effort to not just toss another plastic shopping bag into the landfill. But those intentions have turned into an unmanageable collection of bags. Instead, invest in some reusable shopping bags and keep them in the trunk of your car, so you are never caught shopping without them. Look for recycling centers and grocery stores that accept plastic bag recycling, as the bags usually don't go in with the regular plastics.
Those half-burned dinner candles from last week’s dinner party are just taking up space in the drawer. Melt them down to make votives or toss to make way for a fresh set.
Magnets That Don’t Work
Don’t use your fridge as a wall of advertisements, particularly if those cheap magnets can’t even hold a simple grocery list on the fridge. Throw out the clutter.
Kitchenware Gifts You Don’t Use
Don’t hang on any gadget, platter or serving utensil just because it was a gift. If you haven’t used the item in years, consider donating it.
Un-Sharp Can Opener
Ever found yourself muscling through to open that can of corn with a very dull can opener? Toss it immediately so you never find yourself disappointed by that can opener again.
Baby Utensils You No Longer Need
If your kids are out of their booster chairs and strolling into middle school, you can probably toss the Toy Story plates and Barbie sippy cups.
Unitaskers That Clutter
Avocado knives, butter dispenser, apple slicer, hot dog slicer, strawberry slicer, egg slicer ... so many one-note slicers. If you’ve fallen prey to these drawer-cluttering unitaskers in the past, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" Is an avocado knife better than a chef’s knife and spoon combo?
Any cook would agree: Good tools makes for easier work. And while we wouldn’t suggest you haphazardly start throwing out bakeware, anything that’s starting to rust is better not cooked in.
The junk drawer, where batteries go to die. Rather than play Russian roulette each time you need a battery, buy a small collection of fresh batteries and recycle or dispose of them properly when they’ve reached their expiration date. Pay a little more for the lithium batteries, as their shelf life is about five to 10 years longer than alkaline.
Have you ever noticed you always end up with way more takeout chopsticks than people? Consider this, if you order Chinese takeout once a week, and receive one extra pair per order, by the end of the year you’ll have 52 pairs of chopsticks in your drawer — that’s way too many. For your next order make sure you check off the "no utensils" box.
Dried-Up Pens and Markers
You don’t need a drawer full of markers and pens to run an effective kitchen — just a one or two of each will get the job done. Then, keep them in a designated pen holder so you aren’t searching around every time you want to label some leftovers.
Fridge Note Clutter
Clearing out the front of your fridge is the fastest way to provide at least the illusion of a tidy kitchen. Keep only the necessities on there, like a running grocery list, a dinner party prep list or the latest drawing from your kid.
Old Vitamins and Medicine
Don’t let your medicine and first-aid kits grow out of control. Keep all medical supplies in one area of the kitchen. Check expiration dates and toss past-due pills and prescriptions. Then, inventory any first-aid supplies so bandages, burn cream and antibiotics are easy to find when you need them.
There are cookbooks with cracked spines and sticky pages that are a testament to just how beloved they are, and then there are pristine, barely read cookbooks in every kitchen. Once a year, take stock of the books you use and the books you don’t. Give away or move out of the kitchen any cookbooks you don’t cook from to make way for more-useful items.