how to downsize the kitchen

How to Downsize the Kitchen

How do the words “smaller kitchen” make you feel? For some people, the idea of taking more of their meals with friends and substantially cutting back on kitchen duties is an aspect downsizing or community living they look forward to.  For others, the kitchen has been a place of comfort and routine for most of their lives.  

Those who enjoy cooking as a rewarding hobby may find it difficult to know how to downsize the kitchen.  We asked professional organizer and kitchen specialist Debbie Smith for tips on how to downsize the kitchen.

As with any downsizing project, the first step to downsizing the kitchen is thinking through how you hope to use the area in your next residence.  When you daydream about your future, what does time spent in the kitchen look like??  

Spend some time reflecting, and  talk to friends and family who have transitioned to smaller homes to see how their approach to food preparation has changed. Consider some of these questions:

Will you:

  • continue to prepare the majority of your meals yourself or have new options for meal service or dining out? 
  • prepare complex dishes for fun or primarily focus on more simple and practical meals?
  • have (or want!) the opportunity to cook for friends and family?
  • have the space to prepare and store preserved food?
  • have easy access to fresh groceries?

Once you have  visualized the most likely uses for your future kitchen, it’s time to define the amount and type of space you’ll have available to you.  Ideally, you’ll gather the exact measurements of storage areas for both kitchen equipment and food storage. 

Most people who downsize the kitchen will need to Prioritize your must-haves, especially when it comes to items that take up a lot of space.  Space-hogging kitchen items include:

  • Oversized pots and pans.
  • Large appliances, like toaster ovens and standing mixers.
  • One-use or highly specialized kitchen tools like garlic presses and cherry pitters.
  • Multiple versions of similar items, like mixing bowls, casserole dishes, and graters.
  • Large collections of vinegars, spices, or other pantry items.

Now you’ve determined how you’ll use your new kitchen and what the limits of your new kitchen will be, but the looming tasks ahead are still a bit daunting. Take it one step at a time, and follow Debbie’s Do’s and Dont’s on planning, finding joy, and conserving space.

1) Planning to Downsize the Kitchen

Taking steps in preparation for your move is an easy way to reduce stress and anxiety when the time actually comes. 

Put a Post-It on small appliances you have stored and check back in six months.  If it’s still there, you don’t need it! 

Don’t be afraid  to break up a set.  It’s OK to keep only 4-6 place settings, juice glasses, or other rarely-used items.

Start using the things you love but have always kept “safe”, like high-end stemware or “nice” linens. 

Separate out the “best” version of duplicate items and donate the rest.

2) Finding Joy when you Downsize the Kitchen

Downsizing can be an emotional process. If cooking, baking, or entertaining has been a source of joy in your life, you may want to dedicate some additional time to honor the sentimental aspects of the kitchen you’re leaving. 

Preserve Memories
Take  photos of favorite kitchen items. If time allows, take the time to jot down the details of a memorable meal or a funny recollection that relates to the item. 

Scrapbooking these photos and stories can be a great way to get the whole family involved in your move.

Share and Gift
Pass along treasured items to family members, along with a recipe that goes with it.

Use crystal or silver-plated vases and vessels to deliver flowers as a hostess gift.

2 ) Saving Space When You Downsize the Kitchen:

Sometimes finding enough space in a smaller kitchen is simply a matter of reorganizing.  

  • Reorganize your drawers and cabinets with storage bins. These don’t need to be fancy!   A clear shoe box or storage item from other areas of the house will do fine.
  • Buy a Lazy Susan. A big Lazy Susan can even fit under the sink.
  • Use elevated racks in cabinets for spices and ingredients 

“Remember that our lives are a journey, with changes and evolution. If you’re at the life stage of downsizing and simplifying your life, consider that the work you do in your ‘kitchen’ can be applied anywhere! You want to recognize that you’ll be in a new place, with new interests and making time for new friends, hobbies, travel, etc. A downsized life allows for that!”

Debbie Smith is a professional organizer and former President of NAPO-DC. Her business Keep Your Stuff Simple offers residential organizing with a personal touch.  She can be reached at

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