The Holiday Kitchen: Downsized

 December 2014

By Nan Hayes for Caring Transitions®

The kitchen is often a focal point at the holidays. Preparing family dinners, assembling a dish for pot luck and baking cookies for neighbors are important traditions for many of us, even as we downsize.

When a Caring Transitions® expert helps people sort their belongings during fall and winter months, we ask a lot of questions and pay special attention to holiday habits. Even when moving to a kitchen with limited space, we do our best to find room for the holiday punch bowl or well worn rolling pin if those items are going to be used year after year.

Many kitchen shelves are bursting with seasonal tradition. An inventory of any cook’s kitchen may include: cookbooks, stemware, dessert plates, baking pans, multiple sets of measuring spoons, liquid and dry measuring cups, cookie cutters, cake plates, assorted utensils, muffin tins, cookie trays, Jell-O molds, pie plates, loaf pans, spice racks and on and on. So how do we downsize and reassemble all of this for a smaller apartment or kitchenette?

Space Plan: before moving to any new kitchen, decide how much cupboard and shelf space you will have and then compare it to your existing kitchen. This will give you a better idea of what you really can take with you. Don’t take too much. Tough decisions are called for. Bringing too much “stuff” to a new home is often the cause of regret, stress and additional expense.

Define Needs: As you start to decide what will go into your new cupboards, be realistic. Begin with your everyday needs, which typically include 4-6 place settings, including bowls, plates, cups, mugs and silver. Most of us truly don’t require more than that, unless we entertain often. In those cases, an extra set of spoons, forks, and dessert, luncheon or salad plates will typically do the trick. Apply the same rule to utensils, pots, pans and serving dishes. Focus on need and utility.

Add Joy: After making room for the basics, move on to the fun items. If you have kitchen goods that are precious, family heirlooms or items steeped in tradition, and if room allows, be sure to bring them along to your new place. If you do not have room for everything, you will need to make some choices:

  1. Reassess and possibly reduce the number of daily items to create more space
  2. Take pictures of the sentimental but not really useful items and then sell, donate or gift them to others
  3. Find additional storage

Find Value: It is difficult to part with possessions when they have great sentimental value. When we take pictures it may help us capture memories while moving on to establish a new home environment that is comfortable and not overcrowded with boxes and storage bins.

Great value can also be discovered when we are able to see our favorite things enjoyed and appreciated by others. The holidays are an ideal time to share family traditions by passing heirlooms and their stories along to new generations. As an alternative, charitable contributions will go on to support families and non-profit organizations.

Selling Goods: Because Estate Sales are typically held indoors or even online, they continue throughout the winter months. Some people believe they should get rid of small household goods and only include large items and furniture in an estate sale, but that is a myth. Kitchen goods can often add value and depth to a sale.

Bakeware, cookware, small appliances in good condition, complete sets of utensils, dishes and china are all valuable to today’s consumer. Collectors will pay more for highly unique, retro or antique goods. If you are unsure how to set up a sale or establish value for your possessions, consult with a professional estate sale specialist.

Creative Storage: Moving quantities of items to storage is typically considered a "last resort" when downsizing. It many instances, storage is just "putting off for tomorrow" the tough choices we cannot make today. Yet, in some cases, when downsizing is the result of personal loss or a traumatic event, storage may be a short term solution to help us postpone decision-making while we move through the grief process.

In additional to remote storage, there is much we can do to create space, such as using stackable containers or cabinet organizers available through the Container Store or Organize It. Remember, if you choose to add new storage solutions, be sure to apply the "1 in = 1 out" rule to every purchase; for every single thing you buy, be sure to get rid of something else!

With the right amount of planning and resources, downsizing near the holidays does not need to be an overly stressful event. Decluttering prior to a move gives us an opportunity to take stock of our belongings and our personal lifestyle. During the long winter months, household projects that include assessment of our many possessions often lead to the discovery of memories and traditions long forgotten.