Winter Purge/Spring Cleaning 2020: How to reduce the number of appliances and gadgets in your kitchen

For every new health food craze on Pinterest, there is a kitchen appliance or gadget to go with it.  When I was doing a cleanse in 2016, it was making noodles out of veggies with a spiralizer. Last year it was the instant pot. And these days the Air Fryer is the star of home kitchens.

If you bought each one of these items, I bet things get out of hand in your kitchen very easily. You probably aren’t using the spiralizer anymore. Mine has shuffled from apartment to apartment since I bought it, unused except for that brief period in 2016.

Generally, appliances help speed up food preparation. They also create a mess that can be tedious to clean and take up valuable space.

Who am I to ignore the fact we live in modern times, and appliances can make life simpler. The problem is when those appliances take over your kitchen.

If you want a simpler life and less clutter, you may have to make a few lifestyle changes—you cannot have an appliance for everything. Here are some questions and ideas to help you purge yourself of the excess.

What are you willing to do by hand?

I am not willing to shred carrots by hand: carrot bits end up all over the kitchen.

I cook in very large batches, and many of those recipes include carrots, so I rely on a food processor to do the part I don’t like: chopping up tons of veggies.

On the other hand, as much as I’d love to crank out bread like a factory with a bread machine, it seems pointless to duplicate the mixing part that my stand mixer can do.

If you make dough often enough with a KitchenAid stand mixer, the gears wear out very quickly. Now mine needs to be repaired. But this has not stopped me from making bread. I mix and knead my loaves by hand. Tedious, yes, but I love bread so much, I’m willing to make do without.

A knife & cutting board, or a spoon & bowl can accomplish just as many tasks as one-off kitchen appliances. Is there anything you don’t mind doing by hand?

Choose multi-use and frequent use instead of single-use.

I’m not suggesting that a food processor will be a suitable replacement everything— for kneading or mixing dough—it seems too aggressive for bread afficionados like me. I’m suggesting keeping appliances that you can use for many sorts of different projects and many meals.

I had a vegetable steamer I hardly used because it made more sense to cook veggies on the stove where I could add flavor and other seasonings.

This means keep a toaster oven instead a toaster.

I use my food processor to make veggie burgers and soups, mostly. In a short amount of time, I can chop three onions, as opposed to the 30 minutes it would take by hand because I have to keep stopping to attend to my toddler.

My KitchenAid stand mixer is a real gem—once I get it fixed. Because I love baking (eating healthy & pure foods) I use it for many projects.

Don’t underestimate what a stove can do.

I’ve been toasting bread on the stovetop and under the broiler with oil or butter since 2015 when my husband and I moved into a tiny dorm room. At first, it was tedious and annoying. I missed my toaster oven. But now, when I visit my parents and use the toaster, it just doesn’t have the same effect.

A stove and burner can cook anything individual appliances—like bread makers quesadilla makers, cupcake makers, omelette makers—can cook.

Are you keeping it because you want perfect looking food? Or is it your sous chef?

We chase aesthetic perfection in the kitchen, and these “makers” and gadgets help us do that. However, aesthetic perfection doesn’t mean easier. If you didn’t care if your homemade tortillas weren’t perfectly round and flat, would you really need that tortilla press? Real food isn’t perfect looking. Fake food is. Food marketers have conditioned us to desire perfect looking food. At home, we attempt to replicate uniform cookies and other food items made by machinery. Of course you require a specialty appliance to do it.

Consider learning proper technique to enhance your food’s presentation instead of relying on oversized appliances and gadgets to help you. In the long run, you may find your improved technique more efficient than a clunky appliance.

Food presentation may be important, but so is taste.

Just because it’s supposed to make your life easier, doesn’t mean it will.

We buy appliances because they are supposed to make our lives easier. And a toaster can do that. Quick toasted bread. Smear on butter and jam. In less than 7 minutes, you’re done. It requires less (electrical) energy and user attention than the broiler.

But if it takes up too much space, is a pain to clean, why keep it? Toasters get crumbs everywhere and they collect kitchen splatter. And nothing is worse than attempting to pull out a quarter slice of bread stuck in the bottom. Time saved chopping veggies for instance, may be reallocated to soaking, scrubbing awkward parts, and washing more dishes.

If you cuss every time you use the appliance, why keep it?

Nowadays, many appliances (including my beloved food processor) break around the time the warranty expires. They are fickle and don’t always work properly. Small appliance repair is expensive—most of us don’t have the practical skills to do it ourselves.

Kitchen gadgets like an avocado slicer may not be worth the effort need to clean it, when a knife is just as efficient.

If it’s not living up to the hype, get rid of it. (Or if it seems too good to be true, don’t buy it.)

I love fried food. And I really wanted an air fryer. However, I’m suspicious of fads and anything immensely popular. Every review I read suggested that air fryers aren’t nearly as good as deep frying, and I would get results similar to air frying by roasting in the oven.

As it turns out, air friers are convection ovens. If we ever buy a house, I’ll make sure my home oven has a convection setting. Problem solved.

Get rid of appliances that are collecting dust and reminding you of failed goals & dreams.

Specialty machines are great, only if they will get tons of use.

Machines that I have considered buying: bread maker, dehydrator, air fryer. I’ve had a juicer, a vegetable steamer, air popper, electric tea-kettle, ice cream maker and ninja blender (Best blender I ever owned. Too bad I broke it.) The one thing these machines have in common is they all were purchased (or going to be purchased) with a goal in mind. Eat healthier, less processed foods.

I’m not saying they weren’t used, but the juicer sat in a box for two years when we moved into the dorms. We could say lack of space or lack of time was the reason for its prolonged storage. But it was easier to take a knife and cut up the fruit—eat it whole or throw it in the blender. These machines are all clunky and take up counter space. And sometimes it’s not worth the loss of space.

There are tons of other specialty machines and gadgets that promise to help you complete tasks difficult to do without a proper machinery.

If you rely on your dehydrator to process tons of fruit from the tree in your backyard, by all means keep it. If you thought you were going to juice everything, but it turns out you prefer blended fruit, chuck the juicer. Most of us don’t have the space to keep everything.

We buy many of these machines to fulfill a dream: Sometimes that dream—or what we think is the dream—isn’t practical in our lifestyle.

If you want to eat healthier, you don’t need appliances and gadgets to do it. I still improved my diet after some of my appliances broke or were given away when we left Florida. My goal wasn’t tied to the appliances, but to my motivation and willpower.

What appliances are you willing to get rid of and why?