When we moved into the last rental before buying our own home, I stored a whole heap of boxes with crockery in the garage. There was no point in unpacking it just to pack it all up again in a year’s time by which we hoped to have bought a house. In a way, this is how my capsule kitchen started.
I generally like to declutter but when we had to move out of our unit suddenly because the owners wanted to sell, I started to think about what we really need in our everyday life and what we can do without for a while. Finn was three weeks old when we received that notice to vacate and I’m not gonna lie, it was a very stressful and emotional time. It’s quite the rollercoaster ride adjusting to being new parents, let alone having to move house because of someone else’s agenda rather than your own. What I craved most was steady calmness and to simplify what I could. Our lives were uprooted enough without having to deal with stacks of stuff that needs cleaning, packing up and moving. So I gave away what we didn’t want anymore and the rest of it I packed in two types of boxes: those that we would unpack in the new rental and those that would live in the garage until we’d move into our first own home.
It could have felt temporary, and it did, but by concentrating on the things that we really needed and letting go of the rest for a while, it also made life a lot easier. What could have been overwhelming actually created calm and focused our attention on what mattered: our little boy and life as a new family.
Having less is the key to having less to worry about
One thing I realised very quickly was that if you have all this stuff around you, you will use it and it will create chaos. Life with a newborn takes a lot of adjusting as it is… you are exhausted, tired and faced with a situation that is fabulously beautiful but also something you can’t prepare yourself for and which needs your full attention. The last thing you want is a pile of crap around you that needs washing, cleaning, picking up, tidying away… If you have less, there will be less to sort out. It’s quite obvious, isn’t it. We didn’t have a dishwasher so all the dishes needed to be cleaned by hand and if you have 20 dishes you will use them all, pile them up, and then have to wash them all. But if you only have 4, that’s all you need to take care of.
I set up my capsule wardrobe throughout pregnancy so I was familiar with the concept. By becoming a new mum and moving house the capsuling process of my kitchen had started organically in a way. I asked myself how can you live better with less. How can you cook more with less! As a new mum you have a lot less: less time, less energy, and less money as you are down to one income! We also had less space. And then there are the things you desperately want less of: less stress, less decisions that need to be made, less ingredients that need to be shopped and prepared, less dishes that need to be washed.
What you do want though, is a home cooked meal! Take away food is nice as a way of having a break from cooking once in a while, but really, nothing beats a home cooked meal. Apart from being comforting it is also healthier and cheaper.
Having a child, when you let it, can be a wonderful lesson in simplifying. You just don’t have the time or the energy to try new recipes, freak out when something didn’t work and dash to the shops last minute for any necessary adjustments. When you have a child you don’t want this stress. I certainly didn’t. You want to feel capable of putting dinner on the table for yourself and your family, something wholesome and nourishing, with minimal fuss.
So what happened to the boxes?
As I am typing this, I have all the crockery in front of me that was in the boxes stored away in the garage. It makes me incredibly happy because I finally have a kitchen to call my own, but I am also questioning that after a year and a half without it, do I really need it all?
It makes me reflect on my idea of a capsule kitchen, which is a lot more than just reducing the amount of stuff you have. There will be some pieces that I have learned to live without, but there are a lot of others that I love and want to keep. This doesn’t mean that I am giving up on my idea of simplicity in the kitchen though!
How to create your own capsule kitchen:
By my definition, a capsule kitchen is the practice of editing your kitchen down to your favourite appliances, utensils and crockery, but also ingredients and recipes that fit your family and lifestyle right now. To shop, cook and feed your family more intentionally, with more joy and less stress.
Creating a capsule kitchen is about intentionality, mindfulness and moderation. It is unique to you and will evolve with you and your family.
- Free yourself of ingredients and recipes that aren’t serving you.
My little boy can’t have eggs and my husband can’t eat dairy. It is far better to simply let go of any recipes that contains them, than drooling over something I can’t make (unless I want to be the only one eating it). I used to focus a lot of energy on the negative, rather than the positive – meaning all the amazing recipes out there that I CAN make.
Same goes for that wacko ingredient you once bought because you thought it sounded amazing and now it is collecting dust in your pantry. If it’s out of date by now, in the bin it goes! If not, pass it on to someone who might use it. Trying to include it in your meal planning now is only going to give you grief.
- Reserve your kitchen space for your favourite items.
And by favourite, I mean favourite! Get out the beautiful china, use it every day. Use more of what you love and let go of what you have only so you don’t use the ‘good stuff’. I hereby grant you permission to use the good stuff! All the time.
Let go of appliances that you only use once a year, if at all. Say good bye and give them away so that they may bring someone else joy. Stay away from single use appliances where ever possible.
- Focus on recipes for local, seasonal fruit and vegetables.
You will find this is the key to simple, healthy, budget friendly and stress free cooking. Apart from the decluttering, creating a rotating recipe collection that evolves with the seasons, is the main aspect of a capsule kitchen. You don’t need recipes for spring vegetables in autumn or wintery stews in summer. Develop a recipe kit for each season that will free your mind. It doesn’t mean you have to stick to it rigidly but it will give you a solid base on which to build your family’s meal planning.
Why it is good for you:
Less clutter, more calm.
You will find that when you take clutter and overwhelm out of one area in your life, it will spread to others naturally. You will be able to focus more on the things that mean a lot to you and still have time to put your feet up.
Less options, more clarity on what’s for dinner!
We can only make so many decisions in a day. By being clear on what the right food is for your family and what is in season to enjoy, you won’t have to come up with ideas anymore. They will simply present themselves.
Less overwhelm, more home cooked meals.
You will find that creating home cooked meals for yourself and your family can be a joy, rather than a chore.
These are the guidelines I go by, as I am setting up my capsule kitchen over the course of this year. I am enjoying that it is evolving, just as we are evolving as a family (no more baby purees, haha). I hope I have given you some ideas around what you can do to simplify your life in the kitchen. I will get into recipes further down the track too, so I’m wondering, what is your favourite quick dinner? Do you have one that you can whip up at a moment’s notice? I’d love it if you would share that with me in the comments below.