3 Principles of a Minimalist Kitchen + A Before and After Look at Mine

Inside: Here you’ll find an inside look at my own minimalist kitchen and learn three principles to follow as you create your own.


I love my kitchen. It’s not fancy, large, or gourmet. It isn’t what you’d consider to be high end, trendy or even “up-to-date.” Our dishwasher is nearing the end of its journey and the timer button on my oven has become rather temperamental.

I don’t love my kitchen because it’s perfect, I love it because it’s simple, functional and easy to manage. My kitchen serves me, rather than the other way around.

However, it hasn’t always been this way. Just as with the rest of my home, I thought the purpose of a kitchen was to store every kitchen item one could ever possibly need during a lifetime. Our cabinets and drawers were filled to max capacity and the stuff overflowed onto our counters and into our basement storage area. Minimalism changed all that.

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Kitchens have since become my favorite room in the home to help others declutter because the impact of a clutter free kitchen is far reaching. When your kitchen is streamlined and clutter free, it sets the tone for your entire home.

No Minimalist Kitchen is the Same

The thing you need to remember when looking to permanently declutter your kitchen is that no minimalist kitchen is the same. There isn’t a list of minimalist friendly appliances or a list of items a minimalist shouldn’t own.

A minimalist kitchen is simply a kitchen stocked with only the things you actually use. 

If you’re here for an easy to follow list of must-have or must-not-have items, then I’m afraid you’re going to be rather disappointed. What I’ve got for you instead are three principles that make-up every minimalist kitchen + an inside look at mine. You’ll notice in the photos below, we keep a coffee-espresso machine on our counter. It’s used every morning, for hours, and twice on weekends. Perhaps you make pour over coffee every morning or don’t drink coffee at all. What is essential in our home, may be a giant hunk of junk to you. What you own, will be up to you.

While I can’t tell you exactly what to own, these three minimalist kitchen principles will equip you to declutter the excess and maintain a more simplified kitchen.

Principle #1: Simplicity

A minimalist kitchen is one that has been intentionally simplified. We know that organizing our stuff doesn’t necessarily ever lead to organization. The secret to getting organized is to own less stuff all together. Your kitchen doesn’t need thousands of items, it just needs the right items for you. Here are two concepts to keep in mind as you trade your overcrowded kitchen for a more simplified one.

1. Stay in your lane

Keeping a simple and clutter-free kitchen starts by getting really honest with yourself about the kind of chef you are and the things you really need in your cabinets. Do you own all the supplies necessary to can a year’s supply of fresh vegetables, yet you’ve never canned a jar in your life?

Do you own a juicer and gag at the thought of choking down homemade juice?

Are you holding onto a pasta maker, but always defer to a $.99 box of spaghetti noodles because it’s just so much easier?

Is there a wok in the back of your cabinet, but your whole family hates stir fry?

Stop holding on to items that don’t fit your real life. Now, I’m not suggesting you never branch out or try new things. Instead of buying a new gadget for every new Pinterest recipe you stumble across when you’re hungry, how about borrowing what you need first. Don’t add new items to your kitchen until you’re sure they need a permanent place there- also, never Pinterest while hungry.

2. Consolidate

Like mine did, your kitchen probably holds a number of items all capable of performing the same task. Do you have multiple size blenders, whisks, mixing bowls, knives, and spatulas? Could you accomplish the same kitchen tasks by owning just one or two of each. While decluttering, look for items you own that can take on the job of many so you can let go of duplicates.

Principle #2: Clear Counters

Keep as little on your counter as humanly possible. Now don’t get me wrong, your kitchen will still look like a bomb went off after you’ve rushed your three kids out the door for school in the morning. Just speaking from experience. Your counters won’t always be clear of daily debris, because you still live there and you’re still going to use your kitchen. The difference between a cluttered kitchen and a minimalist one is that everything has a place, preferably out of site.

minimalist kitchen

On our counters used to live a canister stuffed full of utensils, spice rack, olive oil, toaster, block set of knives, mixer, blender, coffee maker, espresso maker, coffee grounds, bread, fruit bowl, vitamins and a cutting board, at all times. And that was just when it was tidy- which was rarely. Our overabundance of kitchen accessories didn’t just overflow onto the counters, they also migrated down into the storage area of our basement as well. We stored stuff we never touched, for years.

Today, the only items that have a permanent place on our countertops are our coffee maker, block set of knives and paper towel holder. All three kept there with intention.

Convenience Fallacy

Part of the reason we stored that stuff in plain site was yes, because there was nowhere else to cram it all, but also because we had bought into the convenience fallacy hook, line and sinker. What is the convenience fallacy? It’s the belief that your daily use items are more convenient when kept out, within arms reach all day, rather than put away after each use. I can tell you from experience, that’s just not the case. The chaos of my cluttered counters was far more disruptive to my daily life than, say, bending down to grab the dish soap before washing the dishes, or reaching up to grab the toaster before making everyone toast.

Clearing your the counters will reduce the amount of visual noise in your home and more importantly, your stress level. Keeping a regularly tidied, minimalist kitchen has made an incredible difference in my mood and the way I move through my day all together.

Principle #3: Boundary Lines

How exactly do you go about getting your stuff off of your counters? By viewing your kitchen cabinets, drawers and pantry as the helpful boundary lines they are. You’d never attempt to park two cars in a one-car garage. So why are you trying to fit twenty kitchen appliances into a space that can’t hold them all?

For example, as you pry open your utensil drawer, sliding that potato masher to the side so that it will open all the way, I want you to think about that drawer as a delightful boundary line for your utensils. This is the space you have for your utensils and simplifying your kitchen requires that you make it work.

When I approach my space with gratitude, regardless of its size, I find letting go of what I don’t need becomes much easier. This is your space and it can work for you. You first have to be willing to embrace the boundaries within your space.

In the words of Tim Gunn from Project Runway, “Designers, make it work.”

These three minimalist kitchen principles function as a three-legged stool. You won’t be able to maintain your clear counters without also sticking within your boundary lines and simplifying. And you’ll never have a simplified kitchen if you don’t also embrace those boundaries and also keep your counters from becoming a dumping ground. These principles work together to help you create a kitchen that reduces stress rather than adding to it.

My Minimalist Kitchen Before and After

I don’t have a really great before picture. What I have are short, shocking glimpses of my once cluttered life in the background of family photos and videos. As I scoured our photos for a picture of my kitchen, I realized I rarely allowed it to be photographed. I’d snap a photo of my kids making cookies, always positioning them in a way that cut out the clutter. I never liked the way our kitchen functioned, I just didn’t know what to do about it. Then I met minimalism.

Here is an inside look at how our kitchen looks today, and the few before photos I could find.

Note: We replaced our countertops shortly before becoming minimalists. I had spilled acid cleaner on them, and as you can imagine, they were in dire need of replacing because of it. #Imtherealreasonwedonthavenicethings

Before

minimalist kitchen before photo
2015: Making Lebanese Easter cookies with my sweet Teta. While the kitchen is being use being used, everything along the walls and on the shelves lived there permanently.

After

Before

After

Note: We no longer keep a jar of spatulas and spoons on the counter.

Before

Note: Along with these, we also had a jar of spatulas and spoons that lived on the counter.

After

Before

After

Before

minimalist kitchen before
Circa 2014

After

There you have it.

At the end of any given day, assuming I haven’t opted to leave the dishes from dinner out all night, this is how our kitchen looks.

Our toaster now lives in the cabinet where the extra mugs and wine glasses once were. The blender fits in the lazy-Susan thanks to the elimination of approximately one thousand mixing bowls, and the mixer now lives on the pantry floor. The spice rack is long gone, since I only ever used four or five of the spices off of it anyway.

Simplify your kitchen and you simplify your life.


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2 thoughts on “3 Principles of a Minimalist Kitchen + A Before and After Look at Mine

  1. I love this post. I love the visuals. This is what I need. Not just words, but visuals.
    Thank you so very much.
    Excellent!

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