Tuna Lentil Chili in my One Pan
The most frequent question I’ve gotten about my 30-day Ultra Minimalist Kitchen Challenge is some version of, “Why?” and a few people have added, “You don’t have to, you know.”
I’ve encountered more than a little of what seemed like people calculating in their own minds if they could do it too, and going through some mental gymnastics to forgive themselves when they conclude they could not.
I want those people to know. The number one reason I did this challenge? I wanted to.
I’ve been flirting with minimalism for a long time. Pretty much across the board, I feel better when I have less stuff.
I grabbed onto the idea of minimalism when I started reading about it 3 or 4 years ago, and it just spoke to me. Since then, I’ve downsized and re-upsized and downsized and re-upsized. This Challenge seemed like a good way to determine what I really, truly need in the kitchen so maybe I could just settle on that and move on.
Things I expected that came true:
- I think a lot less about what else I might need in the kitchen. Which grater would be best or which spatula. I’m not buying a grater or a spatula, so no need to consider it.
- I do think some about what else I could get rid of. Yes, minimalism is another way that I get into thinking about “things.” I’m not sure if that is a wonderful effect of it for me, but I do like that it’s at least an examined approach. And I can tell that the commitment to live with exactly this list of items is helping me, as time goes by, to let go of thing-thinking.
- I am more likely to eat my leftovers cold rather than dirty my skillet, since I ejected the microwave. Though I do prefer heated leftovers usually, it’s not like I can’t heat them, I just don’t sometimes. So far this isn’t a reason to want my microwave back.
- I gravitate toward one-pot meals, and when I have to cook 2 or more things separately it does take more time with only one pan. Unexpectedly, it’s not making me want to bring another pan into the day to day picture.
- Cleanup, as I’ve written before, is so much easier.
- Challenging myself to stick to a short list of items did indeed help me to actually do it. Previously I might have intended to live more or less this way, but having multiples of things in the kitchen would have been just too tempting without the clear commitment to stick with less.
- I expected to feel free and unencumbered, though I was surprised at how immediate and intense the freedom was.
Things I expected that didn’t come true:
- I expected to hate having to clean something in the middle of cooking, or to have to wash something prior to eating or drinking if it’s not already clean (rather than just grab another clean one out of the drawer or cabinet). Actually I didn’t mind, and I ended up really loving that cleaning that thing meant I wouldn’t have several of them to clean later.
- I expected to want to bring things back into the kitchen from the dining room, where they’ve been stacked. If anything, I’ve wanted to move more out of the kitchen.
- I also expected to miss certain beloved items. I did, but for less than a week. And I expected to miss having different sizes of things, like a teaspoon and a tablespoon or actually even a salad fork and regular fork. Turned out to be a non-issue, and I swapped chopsticks in for my fork anyway.
- Finally, I expected to maintain a minimal kitchen kit but had some ideas about additional items that would be added to it after 30 days. Right now, I’m not feeling inclined to add back any of those items.
Things I didn’t expect:
- The rock-bottom “ultra” aspect of this minimalist kitchen approach was super important to the benefits I received. This has been very different from times I’ve assembled “essentials” lists with multiple different types of things, different tools for different tasks, etc.
- I didn’t expect to use some of my stuff so little. I used the butter knife so infrequently it started to feel redundant and I ejected it. I didn’t use my stainless bowl or colander or glass measuring cup much and the pepper grinder almost not at all. Stuff I used all the time: Bowl, spoon, chopsticks, mug, skillet, silicone hot pads, knife, cutting board, wooden spoon, water filter pitcher, stovetop espresso maker.
- That the roughing-it, makeshift aspects would be so gratifying and enjoyable. I really don’t know why, but I love that I “measure” spices, scoop coffee grounds, slice off a hunk of butter, stir some things, and eat with the same spoon. I chop cheese into little chunks rather than grating. I’ve always liked chopping and I’ve hated grating and cleaning graters; who knew how little you really need to bother with that?
- I started doing things that used to seem like just impossible tasks to even consider. Wiping the stovetop. Even when I would previously clean the all the dishes in the kitchen, I rarely got to the point of actually wiping the stove. That was just too much to bear. But I’ve wiped my stove more times in the last 30 days than probably in the 6-12 months before that. I think it’s a combination of having less to clean in the kitchen so more mind-space for this task, plus the stove itself is much more clear of items most of the time so it’s easier both to notice the mess and get to it to clean.
- I did not include storage items in this challenge as they are critical for discouraging pests and encouraging the bringing of leftovers to work, and home-making things like lentils or stock. But since the challenge, far fewer storage canisters and containers are used in the regular rotation. The cabinet and drawer are full of containers that are not used even with a completely liberal attitude about them.
- Same for dishtowels/teatowels, which I did not include because I just really like having as many as I need and having bright, cool-looking ones. I used to go through them like paper towels pretty much, but I feel now like I only need a few in rotation, maybe 3 at a time and as many backups. I don’t know if it’s the generally lower level of chaos maybe, and it’s just easier to always find the one I was already using?
- The complete lack of challenge in continuing this project was dumbfounding to me. Much more than counting days till it was over, I’ve been daydreaming about keeping it up indefinitely.
Conclusion: I love it. I love, love, love it.
Will I chuck all my other stuff at the end? No. A lot of it, perhaps. But my list was made for my typical day to day, in which I’m just cooking for myself. If I never expected guests, I might get rid of everything else.
However, my plan is to keep some things in the china cabinet in the dining room to be used when entertaining. Or if I really, really need 2 cooking pots at once for myself. I have some nice things that I really like and see no reason currently not to have them in my house, rather than borrow for occasions or use disposables. It’s possible that I could even move them back into the kitchen without returning to chaos, since I’m so in love with my new kitchen habits. But we’ll see about that.
Next post will be the end-of-challenge wrap up and I’ll try to photo all the other stuff that I’ll have waiting in the wings after the challenge ends.