How to "Kondo" Your Kitchen

Clear the food clutter in your kitchen and uncover the path to clean eating.
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By now, many of you have probably “Kondo’d” your living spaces using the signature de-cluttering process made famous by organizational guru Marie Kondo. The result: cleaner homes, more functional work spaces and greater peace of mind. But what if we thoughtfully applied these principles to our pantries, refrigerators and freezers? The baseline for healthful eating can be measured by what lives — or lurks — inside these realms, and by clearing out the rubbish and restocking your kitchen with nutrient-rich, whole foods, you improve your odds of clean eating — and reaching your goals — exponentially. Here are some steps to help with the process.

Envision an Eating Plan

Reality check: The only ideal eating plan is the one you can sustain long term, and in order to succeed, you need to define what that looks like for you. For many, the 80/20 rule is a good place to start. Here, you’ll eat whole, minimally processed foods 80 percent of the time and will sensibly indulge the other 20 percent. One you’ve decided on your plan, you can begin your kitchen cleanse and replenish with clear purpose.

Woman looking for food in the fridge

Break your kitchen into zones, and tackle each of the zones on a different day.

Baby Steps

Tackling your entire kitchen all at once can be overwhelming, so break it into manageable zones — for instance, pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Tackle each of these zones on different days when you are alone and can make a (huge) mess without upending your entire household, and allow for focused, uninterrupted time blocks to accomplish each task properly.

Kitchen Drawer Organization

Organize items you intend to keep by food group.

The Zone Diet

Choose a kitchen zone, remove every item from that area and evaluate it. Box up things that can be donated, throw away the processed junk, then organize the items you intend to keep by food group. Clean and sanitize all the surfaces of that zone, and return your kept items to their newly sanitized home. Yes, it can be hard to throw away food, but are you really going to eat that turkey soup from last Thanksgiving that’s languishing in the freezer? Embrace the process and own your decisions; throw out that soup as well as other items that are expired, nearly empty, frostbitten or stale.

Toss That Which Sparks Joy

Kondo’s advice to “only keep items that spark joy” might be counterintuitive when it comes to food because TBH, chocolate sparks joy in nearly everyone. But for now, if an item contradicts the nutritional parameters you’ve defined, get rid of it for now, but give yourself permission to revisit it in the future.

Tidy by Category and Location

Group your kept food items into categories such as condiments, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds or leftovers, then store them in common areas together. Invest in airtight, see-through containers, and create a labeling system to help de-clutter each zone and visually help you track inventory. This also helps eliminate food waste and overbuying.

Organized kitchen jars

Refill your kitchen with items that will help you achieve your goals.

Restock and Restart

Now that you’re completely Kondo’d, it’s time to refill your kitchen with items that will help you achieve your goals. Remember your intentions and head to the store with a detailed shopping list of the healthy items you want to add or are missing from your inventory.

So take a deep breath and dive in. While the process might be challenging, it also can be cathartic. Have fun, be creative and savor the finished task as a major step toward healthier behavior.

Tidying Tips

Use these suggestions to help you organize your newly cleansed kitchen. The items in each category should live together in the same zone, shelf or drawer.

Pantry

  • Dried goods/staples (beans, rice, grains, pastas, cereal)
  • Oils/vinegars
  • Jarred condiments (pickles, salsa, sauces, nut butters)
  • Canned goods (soup, beans, tuna)
  • Herbs and spices
  • Baking essentials (sweeteners, flour, baking soda)
  • Snacks (nuts, seeds, pretzels)
  • Root vegetables/aromatics (onions, potatoes, garlic)

Refrigerator

  • Perishable fruits and vegetables (strawberries, grapes, baby carrots)
  • Salad ingredients (dark leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers)
  • Deli/sandwich items (meat, cheese, hummus)
  • Dairy (yogurt, eggs, soft cheese)
  • Condiments (ketchup, salad dressing, hot sauce)
  • Beverages (juice, milk, seltzer)
  • Leftovers/prepared meals

Freezer

  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Fish, poultry and meat
  • Leftovers/batch-cooked items (dated and labeled)
  • Bread
  • Healthy convenience meals
  • Healthy treats (ice cream, popsicles)