Kitchen Intuition: A purge (and a giveaway)

Authored By aliceodea

I’m going to take a step back from cooking this week and instead look at the place where the cookery happens. I haven’t taken the week off, but the food I’ve been thinking about most during the cold and gloomy recent days are warm, cozy dishes I’ve written about before, like chili and soup (egg drop, tomato, chicken or what have you).

At the end of last year, I hopped on the mindfulness wave that’s been sweeping across the Western world (ChloĆ© Morrison has written a lot about it here on This year, I got a membership at the Center for Mindful Living, and started checking out meditation and yoga classes, and looking into the workshops they offer. They had one option to start out the year based on the Marie Kondo book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” (which has recently been followed by “Spark Joy”). The workshop was led by local life coach Stacey Castor, and it was a fun, engaging and very helpful experience (other book workshops may follow, if you’re interested).

I’ve been living in my current home for more than nine years now, and while no one in my family is at a level that would make it onto a reality television show, we do have a history of accumulating stuff (when I was growing up, everyone in my extended family had attics and knew how to use them). After close to a decade in this house, stuff was piling up, and clearly I was overdue for a purge. The house didn’t look bad on the surface, but if you peeked into the closets and cupboards, you’d find a lot of extraneous clutter.

The workshop took place in two parts. In our first meeting, we gathered to discuss the book, help each other come up with action plans and discuss strategies for letting go of things-especially sentimental objects and family artifacts. Then, a week or two later, we had a follow-up session to compare notes. I’m only just getting started on my house, but in the time between sessions, I managed to get rid of most of what I had in my closet and-I kid you not-in my freezer. I excavated some frighteningly vintage food, and now that it’s gone, there’s so much space in there! I can reach in and find what I’m looking for, and there are no avalanches caused by tumbling bags of frozen beans. Everything fits.

This week, when I turned my eye on the rest of my kitchen, I discovered that I had recent company in my quest to conquer that room. Amanda Sims at Food52 tackled her kitchen in January and wrote about it in a five-part series (read them here: sparking joy, breaking the rules, cookware storage, losing the book and what she learned).

I haven’t yet gotten as far along in the process as Amanda did, and like her, the adventure is taking longer than I thought it would. I still have a way to go before my kitchen will feel done. But I have found a few surprises already. Some shouldn’t have been unexpected, like the fact that I have way more beer glasses then I’ll ever need (I like to attend tastings at Riverside and Imbibe, and often, I leave with glassware and other sorts of swag).

Another revelation is that I somehow ended up with three sets of flatware. Three! Who needs that many eating utensils? I picked one set to keep; another went to my nephew, who legitimately needed them (I think he maybe had a single fork in his kitchen); but the other one is up for grabs in my second giveaway (the first was a cookbook a while back). To be in the running this time, make a comment on this post by the end of the day Monday. It can be regarding your efforts to “kondo” your own kitchen or even about how you desperately want an eight-setting service of faux bamboo flatware. But please be careful-don’t clutter your life with my castoffs unless you really need them! On Tuesday morning, I’ll pick one commenter and get in touch so we can figure out a place for delivery (preferably downtown). Sorry, out-of-towners; I don’t have a sponsor, so this is for locals only.

And in the meantime, I will keep chipping away at what’s left in my kitchen, before then tackling the cookbooks, pantry and refrigerator. Please share if you have any advice (let me know if you’re commenting but aren’t interested in the flatware)!

Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.