There are plenty of reasons to have a clutter free kitchen. It makes a good impression on visitors, makes meal prep more efficient and makes it easier to keep clean. But there is another reason you might want to declutter your kitchen: it could help you lose weight.
The stress of a disorganized kitchen can make you munch mindlessly on fattening snacks, according to a study by the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University. The study found that women who had to wait in a messy kitchen said no thanks to carrots and dove right into the cookies.
Researchers asked half of the about 100 women in the study to wait in a kitchen with newspapers and mail strewn around, dishes piled up in the sink and a choice of snacks in easy reach. The other half waited in a well-organized kitchen.
“The ones in a crazy environment ate about 44 percent more snacks,” said Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.”
That’s not surprising, says Kelly Jayne McCann, a professional organizer and clutter coach who teaches online organizing workshops on kitchen organizing for healthy eating.
“Clutter gets in the way of our fitness goals and healthy eating goals,” McCann said.
Ready to make your kitchen clutter free and slim down while you are at it? Follow these tips to get it done:
1. Contain Random Clutter.
Use a pop-up cloth grocery basket to stash clutter that would otherwise take over your countertops, McCann suggests. Start tossing stray items like cell phones, keys and hats into this basket. Each evening, grab the container and put stuff back in the right spots.
2. Make Space for Paper.
In the study’s test kitchen a stack of mail sat on the counter. Because kitchens often act as landing pads, junk mail and other paper clutter can be a big problem.
Get into the habit of sorting your mail and throwing catalogs, ads and other junk straight into your recycle bin. Buy an attractive letter tray without a lid that can sit on the counter to hold bills, letters and other papers.
3. Get Rid of Extra Gadgets.
Go through your kitchen and donate, give away or sell small appliances and other items you don’t use.
If you can’t decide whether or not to part with that quesadilla maker you got for your wedding, do the “cardboard box test,” recommends Peter Walsh, professional organizer and author of “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight: the Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down.”
Stash the questionable items in a box. Each time you use one, put it back in your kitchen. If you haven’t used an item at the end of the test period, maybe two or three months, it should go, Walsh said.
4. Organize Your Junk Drawers.
Having messy drawers can make it hard to find the simple tools you need to prepare healthy munchies.
“You open a drawer and can’t find what you need when it’s full of clutter,” McCann said.
5. Store Items Based on Frequency of Use.
Put small appliances you use daily, like your coffee maker, on the counter, McCann said.
Appliances you use once a week or month, like your food processor, should go on a lower shelf or in a cupboard.
And the stuff you use once a year, like your turkey roaster? “Store it in a basement or garage or somewhere out of the way,” McCann said.
6. Keep Healthy Snacks in Easy Reach.
Put a bowl of fruit on your counter, Wansink recommends.
In a different study Wansink found that those who had breakfast cereal sitting on the counter weighed 20 pounds more than neighbors who didn’t. But those who had fruit sitting out weighed 13 pounds less.
When you get home from the grocery store, take 15 minutes to wash and prep fruits, veggies and other healthy snacks, McCann said. Then put them in clear glass containers near eye level in your fridge.
“Store them front and center,” McCann said.
7. Clear Your Countertops.
In many homes, countertops are covered with everything from stacks of mail to phones to kitchen appliances, and all that clutter isn’t conducive to healthy eating.
“Flat surfaces are not for storage,” Walsh says.
If you want to take a shortcut, clearing your counters is the quickest way to have a clutter-free kitchen. Just be mindful where you put everything!
8. Nix Fattening Foods.
After you’ve decluttered your kitchen appliances, cookware and tools, tackle your pantry, fridge and freezer.
Walsh says to take the food out and divide it into three piles:
- Expired items
- Junk or processed foods
- Healthy foods.
Toss food that’s expired. Donate or give away food that will impede your weight loss goals. Organize healthy whole foods, grouping like items together to make cooking easier and quicker, he says.
“Arrange the food that is the soonest to expire in front and put the freshest stuff in the back so you start a food rotation,” Walsh says.
9. Plan Your Meals.
Create a meal planning and grocery shopping system. One easy way to plan meals: pick 15 family favorite recipes that are based on whole, minimally processed foods, says Jill Annis, a professional organizer and columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal.
“Less thought and work will be required when you rotate meals,” Annis says. Plus keeping a clutter-free kitchen will make you want to cook more.
Use a grocery list template to simplify planning and shopping, she recommends. Or, use Grocery IQ or Evernote to organize your meal planning, professional organizer Ellen Delap recommends.
Finally, stock your kitchen with ingredients for super simple meals, like omelettes or salads, for hectic nights when you might otherwise get tempted to order takeout, Annis says.