The new Netflix show, Tidying up with Mary Kondo, has taken the internet by storm. Japanese organising and tidying expert, Kondo helps home-owners in America, declutter or “tidy up” in a step-by-step process.
Kondo’s organising principles are centred on her trademarked KonMari method. This process involves sorting belongings by category rather than location. Clothes go first, followed by books and papers. The third and biggest category is “komono”, which includes the kitchen, garage and other miscellaneous items.
Kondo suggests holding your clothes/books/socks… in your hand, and checking if they “spark joy” in you. If they don’t, they must be thrown away but you first need to thank them for their service. The KonMari method uses animism to make you feel grateful for the things you used.
If social signalling is anything to go by, the entire globe is thanking their old pants, and shoes as they throw them in the bin. The passion for KonMari is all over on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook before and after photos of closets, bedrooms, and living rooms.
How effective would the KonMari system be for an Indian home? Sure, arranging clothes, books, papers in order makes perfect sense, but what about the kitchen? It is more than just “komono” for us.
It is not just Tupperware or coffee grinders in our kitchens, we have a zillion masalas, chutneys, dals, whole spices, oils to arrange. When it comes to utensils the pressure cookers, pots, pans, appam chattis, dosa tavas, sandwich makers, etc. are a constant.
There is a lot to sort and arrange in any desi kitchen. Decluttering an urban Indian kitchen seems impossible. Since most of our meals are elaborate cookouts when compared to American or European diets, how do we minimise the mess? There is no method to this madness, but here are a few suggestions:
Start with the fridge: This monument filled with vegetables, ice creams, meats, dals, flours… everything we hold dear is filled to bursting in most homes, especially those with kids. It is stuffed with jam jars, tinned foods, ginger-garlic pastes etc… that we may have used only once.
Time to empty out the shelves, recheck the labels and expiration dates. If you have a lot of produce or meat that you need to cut down, try hosting a big party, a cookout invites everyone and help lighten your fridge. Spread the goodwill. Those unused packets of pasta can be given away or bake a massive pasta casserole.
Make a list and paste it in to your kitchen cabinet doors: This will list what is inside each cabinet, even if it is out of sight. The condiments pushed to the dark recesses of the shelf have some representation. You can also list the expiration dates.
Update your masala box: The ubiquitous spice box, can hold healthy options like chia or flax seeds, and nuts which despite your good intentions, you forget to add to your food. Stock up in small quantities in your masala box, once you see it you will use it.
Buy small quantities: Buy smaller jars or sachets when it comes to chutneys or masalas. Things you will use up soon. So, you don’t have to bother with it going bad. Also, if you are not cooking a dish every day, why stock up on a massive jar of specific spice mix.
Don’t buy more gadgets or utensils: This is not new advice, but do you really need a waffle maker or another tava? Think of the machines you need in the kitchen. The basics, they need to be in your line of sight. If you are not going to use them more than once, do not buy them. The juicer, that you have planning to get, may not be worth it unless you have space for it on your kitchen counter. If you are going to purchase it, whip up a healthy smoothie once, and then store it in a cabinet. You are not going to use it for a long, long time. So, don’t impulse buy utensils. If you haven’t used an appliance in a year, purge it.
Cook clean: Apart from the space and utensils, your daily cooking habits will help you to have a mess-free kitchen. Keep a bowl or plate next to you when chopping vegetables or fruits, you can dunk all the discarded peels and bits in this bowl. This is then easier to tip into the garbage bin. Keep the trash bin at close quarters, it will help you get rid of junk faster. Remember to keep the kitchen floor clean. If you spill, mop it up at once, or else you will spend extra time scraping dried food from the floor later. Also, keep a saucer/plate next to the stove to place used ladles or spoons while cooking. You don’t want to stir a curry and keep the ladle on the countertop. This way you can avoid making a spill or reaching for a new spoon.
Be mindful when you cook: Take your time and follow a process. Prep in advance if possible, so that you don’t end up making clutter. Line up what you need including the cutting board, knives, pots and pans in advance. Wash up immediately after you are done cooking to prevent longlasting stains or a huge pile of dishes in the sink.
Cooking is not rocket science, neither is tidying up. The centre of a household, the kitchen, needs to always be clean, bright and shown an extra bit of love. You can also whisper a “thank you” for all the good food and memories.