A Guide To Slow Home Principles: The Kitchen

The kitchen often serves as the heart of the home—whether it's just you and the dog, or friends and family (and especially at holiday get-togethers), people tend to gather in the kitchen. Making it a place where you can truly appreciate the space and time you have there is part of enjoying a slow home. Creating an efficient and conscious space can help make it all the more enjoyable.

The kitchen, at its core, is a place to cook and nourish. The Slow Home Kitchen is compact, efficient, workable, and has the right amount of storage.

1. Layout and footprint: While you may not be able to dictate the layout or size of your current kitchen, it's worth looking at to see if any improvements can be made. Kitchens in the slow home, like the rest of the house, should be compact and efficient as opposed to opulent and oversized. We have a small galley-style kitchen, and while the aspiring chef in me longs for a big kitchen island and walk-in pantry, I have realized that our limited space has lent itself to much more efficient meal prep, cleaning, and more. If you're about to move, consider the fact that a smaller kitchen could actually improve your cooking skills.

Natural light through a window in the kitchen will allow you to save energy by keeping the lights off longer and encouraging you to open the window in lieu of turning on the fan.

2. Work space: Keeping the kitchen counters clutter-free will not only help bring balance to the kitchen from a design standpoint, but also from an efficiency standpoint. Take stock of everything on the countertops currently: small appliances, knife blocks, fruit bowls, bottles of wine or oil, spices, and more.

Now see if you can minimize that by leaving only on the countertops what is essential to your everyday routine. Make exceptions only if they're truly compelling: for instance, our standing mixer lives on the countertop. We don't use it every day; however, the effort it takes to move it around makes it a good candidate for the corner spot on the counter. Likewise, the toaster oven is easy to move and fits perfectly on a shelf, so it's out of sight, out of mind. Ingredients all go in the fridge, freezer, or pantry. Only the essentials (salt, pepper, and olive oil) are left out. See what you can minimize to make your own counters feel and look more spacious.

3. Storage space: Having a smaller kitchen also means less storage space, so use it wisely. Learn the best organizational system for your space, and make concessions if need-be. When we realized we could either have another two feet of counter or a microwave, we decided to go nuke-free and enjoy the space. We keep lesser-used kitchen items (bread machine, wok, grill tools) in a clean space in the garage that's accessible when needed. See if a similar tactic can be employed in your place.

4. Tools: Take inventory of your dishes and utensils. You might find, like I did, that you are the proud owner of four spatulas, 15 coffee cups, and more excessive kitchen tools than you care to count. Be honest and pare down to what you really need, use, or love. We like having a mix of essentials and sentimentals, and if an item can be both—even better! When it's time to purchase something new for the kitchen, approach it thoughtfully and remember to buy once, buy well.

5. Food: This can be an important focus of the slow home. The slow food movement has had its own time in the spotlight, and there's plenty to learn there. Within the context of the kitchen, focus on limiting or eliminating food waste by composting, eating whole foods, and even taking reusable bags and containers to the store for bulk items. Purchasing in bulk helps control how much you bring home, and then how much you waste.

Be mindful, too, of food choices. Eat close to the earth, grow whatever you're able to, and make conscientious food choices for your body, family, and community.

What other tips do you have for creating a slow home kitchen?

Related:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race: A Slow Home Manifesto
Beyond Small Living: The Slow Home Movement
A Guide To Slow Home Principles: The Entryway and Landing Strip

(Image: Leela Cyd Ross, originally posted in Lupine & Dan's Joyful, Organized Kitchen Tour.)