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Creating The Minimalist Kitchen

As you know, I like to consider myself a minimalist, but there are certainly areas of my life where I am not necessarily practicing  what I’m preaching. In fact, Melissa Coleman, author of The Minimalist Kitchen,” has shown me that when it comes to cooking and organizing, I have a lot to learn.

I first met Melissa when she was one of my private media training clients.

We got along straight away, as we’re both productive and practical people. Melissa’s speciality is helping you really think about the ingredients that your using as well as cutting back on an overflowing pantry. She’s like the Marie Kondo of the kitchen.

We spoke recently about all of her best minimalism tips in this video interview:

How it all started

Melissa had always been a competent cook but, after the birth of her daughter, things started to unravel:

“I had my daughter about … she’s five now, and the kitchen completely broke for me. I did not know how to get dinner on the dinner table. It was mind-blowing, and it got to the point that I looked over at my husband and I said ‘I’m going to either quit this space or fix it.’”

A big life change can often leave us having to re-evaluate the systems we have put in place.

What worked before will not always work forever.

So how did Melissa turn it around? She invented her own system.

“The Minimalist Kitchen was born. I love food, I love to eat, and so I wanted to preserve the dinner table. And getting back to the dinner table took a long time. It took making over my pantry. It took changing my shopping habits. It took convincing my husband to change his shopping habits.”

Of course, it’s important to not just find a style that works for you, but for those you live with too. Melissa saw her kitchen like a restaurant that needed to be managed.

“I’m the restaurant owner and I need to build the system for my employees. I don’t like that hierarchy, but just for an example. And it needs to work for my employees. Like, the snack bin for my five-year-old needs to be at a place she can reach it or she’s gonna scale the pantry and it’s gonna all fall apart.”

 

Fixing What’s Broken

When she was looking at what wasn’t working, Melissa started with her pantry.

“I had spilling bags of pasta and rice. I had every variety of rice, because different recipes call for different varieties.”

How many different types of rice do you have? How can you combat this? Melissa explains you have to pick just one.

“What you use most, or an ingredient that you really like how it performs. I imagine if you looked in your pantry there would be one rice that you pick up every time. Or when it runs out you replace that rice, even though you’ve got five other bags. Or, the same with pasta. There’s a bunch of different varieties of pasta, and I imagine that you go pick the same one.”

As much as I hate throwing stuff away – it’s true. There’s no point keeping things we never use.

Melissa recommends getting rid of everything at the back of your pantry and learning to work with what’s at the front – the items we use most.

 

The Concept of Negative Space

Melissa’s background in graphic design has inspired her minimalist quest.

“I am a graphic designer by trade and before that I was a painter. A technique or a philosophy or a tool that I always grabbed was negative space, and then when I became a designer they called it white space. I realized that what I’m doing now is what I was doing then. I am trying to minimize what’s around me in my physical space to create physical white space and mental white space. Just a space to breathe and think.”

Melissa also uses a lot of lists, like I do, in order to plan her meals for the week.

“I have to write down a meal plan. I have to not only write it down, I have to see it, so we have this huge chalkboard in our house that I write the meal plan on for the week. So as I’m going throughout my week, I see that list and then I make that list.I used to loathe dinnertime, and when I see that list, I know what to do, I know what to buy at the store. I just make dinner and it feels light. It feels easy and really doable, but prior to not having a list, trusting my brain, it was not working so well.”

If you feel like you need more help, be sure to check out Melissa’s book, “The Minimalist Kitchen. It features loads of great recipes that all use the same core ingredients -the kind of stuff you already probably have lying in your pantry. So you can spend less time shopping and more time cooking! My personal favorite is the take-out cashew chicken.

Melissa has something special coming up in the New Year. In January, she’s launching a deeper pantry cleanse tutorial. It’s taking the same concepts of the book, but taking a deeper dive, doing worksheets, really making it so practical so that you can completely makeover your kitchen. I’ll keep you posted on that because it’s something I need to do as well! We can do it together.

The Real Reason You Can’t Clear Clutter

Why is it so difficult to just get rid of stuff? As a recovering pack rat – I totally get it. It seems easy enough but sometime there are items like those boots you never wore or that candlestick holder your friend gave you when she moved out of her apartment.

The important thing here is to know that you’re not alone in struggling to get rid of stuff. I recently attended a Running with Heels dinner in NYC. Running with Heels is a women’s networking group run by my friend Jenny Powers. She books all kinds of speakers and interesting experts.  The dinner I went to featured productivity expert Julie Morgenstern. Julie kindly wrote the foreword to my book Listful Thinking.

The topic of discussion was about clearing clutter and why it’s so difficult to get rid of our stuff! This included a heartbreaking story of how Julie often found her kitchen over stuffed with cookbooks she never used. When she thought about why she clung to these cookbooks so desperately, she realized it was because the represented the mother she wished she could be. A mom who was well known for her delicious home-cooked meals. Read more

Marie Kondo Sparks Joy in Person

Paula with Marie

Paula with Marie

Who knew watching someone fold clothes could be so mesmerizing?  

I sat with a packed audience at the 92nd Street Y in New York City on a Friday night as Marie Kondo folded oddly-shaped clothing carefully and slowly.  

She’s the author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Her newest book and the reason for this gathering is called, “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.”

Watching her fold never got old.  (I didn’t mean to rhyme there but I was just feeling that sentence and it’s true.) The whole room was in a collective trance — Marie had our full attention.

She folded up one side of a shirt and then the other and created a small origami-esque package again and again.

Everyone was fixated on the tiny woman, who was wearing a white top and skirt with black tights, work her magic.  

It was like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.  

A real craftsman at work.   Read more

4 Rituals to Have a Productive Day

mountain-918637_640I’m a procrastinator by heart, so in order to make sure I get everything done — I force myself into a routine.

I always wake up at the same time and stand in the same spot on the subway platform — to ensure I take the quickest route. These little things help make my day more productive.

Yes – getting to know where the doors are going to stop on the platform only saves me one minute or so everyday. But it makes me feel like my commute is going faster. Which puts me in a good mood and helps to kick start my day.

Here are some other little ways you can ensure you’ll have a productive day:

Make Your Bed – I know, I know I sound like your Mom. But taking a few minutes in the morning to make your bed look nice doesn’t just give you that feel- good, post clean up feeling. It gives you something to look forward to coming home to!  And it’s the first thing you can check off your to-do list for the day – getting your momentum going.  Read more

Easy Meals to Get on the Table Quickly

Fresh vegetarian pasta (2528005054)

Fresh vegetarian pasta (2528005054) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you are having a crazy-busy work day the last thing you want to do when you come home is slave away in the kitchen to make a decent meal. I know when I’m mentally exhausted from the day, I don’t want to think anymore, so I end up ordering out and spending way too much money. To kick the dine-out habit, I found some awesome quick and easy meals to make that require little ingredients and not too much brain power!

Here’s my list:

1. Avocado Chicken Salad:

Ingredients: 2 cups of shredded chicken, 1 avocado, 1/4 cup of diced onions, juice from half a lime, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt (optional), 1 tablespoon of basil leaves.

Preparation: Just mix everything together well and you have a yummy meal 🙂 (recipe from Real Food Enthusiast)

Screen shot 2014-04-20 at 1.16.56 PM

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