Monday, April 28, 2014

Tips for a Tiny Apartment: The Kitchen

Living in Paris has its joys, but tiny, antiquated apartments are not one of them. At least not if you are a family of four! In this series, I'm sharing my tips on how to survive, room by room, if you live in a tiny apartment.

Tips for a Tiny Apartment: The Kitchen

Tips for a Tiny Apartment: The Kitchen

Prioritize Your Appliances

On the counter: Only items you use everyday or are a pain to take out/put away. Examples: the beloved coffee pot, toaster (who wants to wait for it to cool and then transfer crumbs all over the place each time?).

In easy-to-reach cabinets: Items you use occasionally - not often enough to justify the counter space but if you put it too far out of reach you'll never use it and might as well just get rid of it. Examples: mixer, crockpot, waffle-maker, pumpkin bread pans.

Hidden away: Items you can't bear to get rid of but you will use once or twice a year. Stash them in under-the-stove storage, upper cabinets, or another room so they don't clutter your kitchen. Examples: Deep-fryer (even though I want to use it every night, I shouldn't, plus that thing makes the world's biggest mess each time), turkey roasting pan.

Sell/Donate: If you haven't used it since "Lost" ended (sniff, I miss you, Desmond), sell it or donate it. You were totally going to be the bad-ass bread-maker on your block but it just... never happened. That's OK! But it's not OK to keep this crap around your kitchen.

In a tiny kitchen, streamline as much as possible - appliances, color scheme, counter space, etc.

Keep It Clean

A dirty kitchen looks 50% smaller. I majored in math in college so you can trust me on that stat. Here are the areas that will have the biggest impact:
  • Wipe the counters and stove every day, either with a wash cloth (that you wash frequently), disposable cleaning wipes, or some eco/green/wonderful product you found on another blog. I don't care, just wipe that stuff up! Also, anything in your kitchen that's white (cabinets, coffee pot, fridge) should be wiped down nearly every day. Down with smudgy fingerprints!
  • Replace hand towels as soon as they get dingy, dirty, or crispy.
  • Do your dishes right away. If you always do this, then it's never really that big of a job.

Trash vs. Recycle

We all know it's good to recycle but that doesn't mean everyone does it. Here's what I do:

    In a tiny kitchen, use a tiny trash can to save space!
    My trash can is a little shy -
    he didn't know he'd be on the blog
    (that's why he's hiding in the corner).
  • I have a super tiny trash can and empty it every other day. I reuse shopping bags for the liners (it's a game to see how long I can go before I have to buy trash bags - I'm going on 5+ years!) and only toss items that can't be recyled. This ensures that my trash can is never overflowing, which is unsightly and smelly (duh).
  • I recycle everything else and use a much larger bin which I hide under the sink. Since stuff you recyle isn't smelly, you can let this bad boy really fill up before having to empty it. This way, the trash can that's out in the open (which is convenient but ugly) never gets out of control, and your recycle is hidden. Plus you save the planet.
  • Be sure to check your area's recycling rules but in Paris it's insane what you can toss in the recycle bin. I mean, obviously your usual paper, bottles, and packaging. But you can even put hair dryers and metal scraps. And I can't tell you how many hair dryers and metal scraps I get rid of in a week (ok, zero, but it's still good to know I have the option).

Rein in Those Groceries

For my family of 3, which includes a 20-month-old human vacuum cleaner and a 6'4" husband, I'm surprised by how little we actually eat in a week. Don't load up your pantry and fridge with all sorts of crap that will go bad before you use it.

In a tiny kitchen, only store what you need for the week in your pantry, plus a few staples.

  • Keep a few staples on hand so you're not tempted to eat out: rice, pasta, eggs, etc.
  • Buy what you need for the week and then make sure you actually eat it that week. I like to organize my fridge where, from top to bottom, I have the stuff that needs to go next (top), needs to go sometime this week (middle shelves), to staples (bottom). Check your fridge out a few times throughout the week and rotate as necessary. Same with your pantry - don't let near-empty packages get pushed to the back to die a slow death (and take up unnecessary space).
  • Don't go overboard on sale items. Three boxes of rice for the price of one? OK, you'll find room in the pantry but you better plan on eating rice for the next few weeks. Meat on sale? Freeze it (cutting off nasty bits first and sealing individual portions in bags so they're at-the-ready).

Minimal Color Palette

Our landlord won't let us paint the walls so I'm breaking my own rule here but not by choice. Who knew that mustard tile matched banana walls? (It doesn't.) If I were to have full control, I would paint the walls white and then the tiles wouldn't be so offensive. Since I can't do that, I did the next best thing:
  • Bought all-white appliances to match (until my microwave caught on fire, then I could only find a gray microwave to replace it - thank you, Paris, for your wide selection).
  • White stove/oven, refrigerator, rug and towels.
  • White dish drainer and coffee pot. Wait a minute, those aren't white! I know. But these items are surprisingly expensive in Paris (like $150 for simple coffee pot and $25 for a dish drainer) so we're sticking with what we got for our wedding. Sue me.

I could go on, but I need to head over to Pinterest and dream about a bigger kitchen. Hope these tips help fellow tiny-apartment dwellers.

Check out the rest of the series:
Tiny Apartment Tips: The Kitchen
Tiny Apartment Tips: The Bathroom
Tiny Apartment Tips: The Bedroom
Tiny Apartment Tips: The Closet
Tiny Apartment Tips: The Living Room

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Vicki Lesage, Author