Chances are, you’re well-versed in the virtues of decluttering: Things are generally easier to find around the house, fewer duplicates get accidentally purchased, cleaning up is faster, and you may even be happier overall.
But did you know that decluttering your kitchen can provide you with all these benefits plus the power of reducing your food waste? Which is a good thing, since roughly one-third of food produced globally for human consumption – a whopping 1.3 billion tons – gets wasted every year.
With a quick evaluation and brand-new decluttering plan for your kitchen, you can bring that number in your own household down to zero.
Here to show you how is MakeSpace, the brilliant full-service alternative to storage units in Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Below are their top four ways to harness the power of decluttering, so you can transform your kitchen from a garbage generator into a sustainable, food-waste-free powerhouse.
First thing’s first: Take everything out of your fridge so you can truly see all the food you actually do or don’t need in there. And wipe down the inside and tackle any potentially crusty corners.
Eliminate any rotting, spoiled, or moldy has-beens. Think (or smell) twice before tossing any food based on its expiration date alone. When possible, consider composting.
Then it’s time to plan your new setup.
One solution to the food we throw away the most is to label your separate crisper drawers as “Week 1” and “Week 2.” For anything that hasn’t been used after one week, toss it into the “Week 2” drawer. It’ll encourage you to eat that food item sooner.
The Kitchn recommends keeping produce at eye-level in the fridge, which will remind you to eat it every time you open the fridge.
Want to save shelf space?
Place the perishables on a Lazy Susan.
Also, don’t limit yourself to inside the fridge. Hang a whiteboard on the outside to keep a running list of fruits and vegetables you have that spoil quickly, so you remember to eat them sooner.
No matter where you store your produce, be sure you know what other foods they should and shouldn’t sit next to.
The surest way to extend the shelf-life of perishable goods and reduce waste is sticking them in the freezer. But before you can chill your make-ahead stews and leftover cheese (really, you can freeze cheese), make space in your freezer.
Not sure what to keep or throw out?
Reference A Part of Life’s list of when to toss the food in your freezer. Just as you did with the fridge, consider composting when you toss old goods. You might not be able to stomach frost-nipped waffles, but some squiggly fertilizer-producers will love them!
Next, figure out what you’re going to do with all your newly-created space.
For example, maybe when tracking your food waste you find that you constantly toss half a loaf of bread because it goes stale before you have a chance to eat it. In that case, put your leftover bread in a reusable bread bag and stick it in the freezer. The bag’s double lining and airtight roll and lock closure help preserve the bread for up to three months.
Or maybe you save veggie scraps to make nutritious vegetable stock, meaning you’ll need an airtight scrap-collecting bag.
Love Food Hate Waste reveals tons of food we can freeze but don’t. (You can freeze eggs?!)
3. Cabinets + pantry
We’re all familiar with the kitchen-cabinet jumble: a disarray of Tupperware lids, measuring spoons, and half-finished oatmeal tubs that threaten to spill every time you reach inside.
It’s time to tackle that jumble. Start by putting all the necessary food items in 5 gallon food safe plastic buckets and getting rid of any tools, utensils, and lids you no longer use.
Worried about those “what if” items?
Keep them in a box. And if you haven’t used the items in six months to one year, donate the entire box without opening it.
Once your cabinets have more space, organize them in a way that makes your zero-waste efforts easier.
Repurpose a wine rack to stack your reusable water bottles, for example. Or store items that go stale quickly, like cereal or dried fruits, in airtight containers (such as Mason Jars) to preserve freshness.
Hang your coffee mugs on a pegboard, or corral them in a bar cart. Not only are you reducing paper and plastic waste generated by disposable cups, but by controlling how much you pour into the cup, you’re reducing the demand for excess beans and milk ingredients.
Dark cabinets are also a great place to store home-preserved foods. It’s a fantastically gut-healthy way to prolong the life of your produce. Hello, pickled onions and canned peaches!
4. On the go
You can take the spirit of these tips with you outside the kitchen to reduce your food waste, too.
Why not declutter your entryway so you can prime it as your hub for on-the-go sustainability?
Leave your reusable produce bags on hooks by the door, so you can buy the exact amount of dried goods or produce you need from the bulk or loose sections of the grocery store. And if you’re prone to supermarket pop-ins, take a refrigerator shelfie (apparently it’s a thing) every week so you don’t buy any duplicates.
It’s no secret that clearing clutter from your home will make you happier. With these simple eco-friendly tips, Mother Earth will be a lot happier, too.