I love cooking.
I don’t just cook because I have to. I love feeding people, providing both nourishment and pleasure. For me, it’s not a chore.
The kitchen is my favorite room in a house. But what happens when you downsize? Gulp! Please don’t make me lose my kitchen!
Guess what? You can absolutely thrive — even if you are a gourmet chef — with a smaller kitchen.
The Kitchen of My Dreams
Before we downsized, the home we lived in had a huge kitchen with a gigantic center island. It was one huge space with a 16 foot farmer’s table, two couches and a TV. It was perfect. We all lived in that room. Seriously. We barely used the rest of the house. Bedrooms at night. And bathrooms.
So when we became empty nesters, it was clear that all we really needed was a big kitchen and a much smaller house. No more spending money heating and unused rooms!
Only problem? Littler houses don’t often come with big kitchens.
Downsize the House, Downsize the Kitchen
We ultimately moved into a house a third the size — with a kitchen a third the size as well. And I was sad.
Then I remembered the kitchen in the house I grew up in. It was tiny, and my mom was able to make amazing multi-course meals that I can still taste. Once I had this realization, I understood that a big kitchen isn’t necessary; it’s just a trend.
With a smaller kitchen, I thought I’d have to make a lot of adjustments. But really, it was pretty easy.
How Do You Adjust to a Smaller Kitchen?
Here’s what I did:
I couldn’t fit all my handy dandy semi-professional cook’s equipment in the cabinets. I didn’t have the counter space for the food processor, the mixer, the juicer, the list goes on. So I set up a standing rack in my basement — just steps away — and they are readily available to me at all times.
When I packed up, I saw I sometimes had duplicates of the same things. I had been a slave to William Sonoma. Too much stuff! If you really know how to cook, you just need the essentials. Several good pots and pans of different sizes. A handful of wooden spoons, not a dozen. Pare it all down to equipment you really use.
My new refrigerator is smaller than the big fancy one I used to have. And I have to confess, I’m still not used to to it. But it’s forced me to better plan out my weekly meals, and as a result, I don’t purchase unnecessary items at the supermarket. I’m saving money by using what I have and I never throw things out that have gone bad sitting in the fridge.
It’s so much better now. I make sure to have great flexible proteins in the extra freezer I have in the basement. My pantry has grains and pasta and I use them up before buying more. No more half-used boxes of rotini sitting at the back of my shelf. What I buy weekly are perishables — fruits and vegetables. Plus, I’m using my crockpot a lot more and freezing for future meals.
I have to admit that I can put out a terrific big meal. Whether it’s for the holidays or just for a large group of family or friends, I’ve always liked to show off a little. And I depended on my double wall oven for perfectly timed popovers and glorious soufflés.
But really all I did was spend most of my time in the kitchen when we had company. Now my meals may not be as elaborate, but I plan ahead and spend time with my guests. Much more fun. It took a while but I finally understood they weren’t visiting for my ridiculously over-the-top culinary creations. It’s never about the food; it’s all about the sharing and connection.
We bought a home with easy access to our deck and grill. That was a priority for us. In fact, it’s even more convenient than our prior home and we use it whenever we can.
This was the toughest one for us. There was just no room for that big table. It was filled with memories and stains and the scratches from homework being done. So I replaced it with something really offbeat — an antique Amish door with legs attached to it. It’s an incredible conversation piece and I’m happy about the replacement. I saved the big farmer’s table and I’m sure that sometime in the future it will have a place of honor in one of my children’s homes.
And that’s it! Your turn… if you’ve downsized your kitchen, please share how you did it in the comments below.