Step one: Figure out what you need
When I was single, I eventually figured out exactly what I needed (see my minimalist kitchen post for details) to cook my food). Since getting married it is clear that those needs have changed. Without an inventory analysis (*) it is impossible to know what needed and what is merely nice to have.
Here’s how to figure it out.
First do all the dishes and put everything back in its place. For the next week, every time something is used and cleaned put it in a corner of the kitchen table rather than putting it back. If you need something and it is in the designated corner, take it from the corner. If you need something but it is dirty, clean it and then use it. For instance, if you need a cutting board and have a cutting board sitting in the sink don’t take a clean cutting board from the cupboard but clean the one you have. I managed to convince DW that we should try this to see what we really need in our kitchen. This will be a good exercise should we be required to downsize at some point (for instance next time we move).
Improvise as much as you want. For instance, I enjoy improvising solutions hence my minimalist kitchen was quite small. Less improvisation would lead to more needs. The important thing in this little exercise is to figure out what is actually needed and what is just kept around because it might theoretically be handy.
After a week we expect to have a good idea of our needs.
Continuing the exercise for another 3 weeks will give us a list of probables – things we don’t really need but which would be nice to have on occasion. I am guessing that the breadmaker and maybe the coffee machine falls in this category. Mostly I use caffeine as a vocational drug thus I don’t drink much coffee at home.
The things that have not been transferred to the kitchen corner yet are the unneeded.
(*) A similar analysis can be done for tools, books, liquor or spices, computer games, clothes, etc.
Step Two: Adapt to your needs.
Now that you know what you really need, what you probably need and what you don’t need, I suggest the following strategy.
Keep the probables but put them at the back of the cupboard or the top shelves. Reorganize. Since these are rarely used they will probably last forever. Do not replace them. Also try to remove them from your wish list and people’s gift lists. Getting more of these is really a waste of planetary resources.
For my needs, I like to use really high quality stuff. Once you tried it, going back to Walmart quality or even Bed Bath & Beyond just doesn’t feel the same. We’re talking import here. Call me decadent, but I would like to eat my soup with a silver spoon and slice my onions with handforged steel. I like French copper pans, Japanese knives, and Swiss pressure cookers. This is less expensive than it sounds. Most likely you only need two good knives which cost about the same as a set of 12 average knives. Similar for pots and pans. For plates, spatulas, cooking spoons, etc. I prefer wood. These wear down but they are carbon neutral so they recycle instantly in the wood stove. Also they don’t scratch the pots and pans. As for bowls stainless steel last forever. I try to avoid plastics – especially black plastic. Plastic in cooking is just wrong and as far as I know black plastic releases some kind of chemical is it is heated too much. Maybe they fixed that by now, but at least with wood there never was a problem in the first place.
One problem is that I have some things from a time when I did not know any better. Rather than throwing this out, morality states that these must be worn out first. This is the price we pay for failure to plan. Of course we could throw them out or donate them to thrift stores, but I still feel/think that this is not the most ecologically sensible thing to do, since it just inflates demand of the use and discard consumption cycle.