Welcome to winter. If it's not your favorite season, you're certainly not alone. While you may enjoy certain aspects of winter, after a few months of it, many of us start to feel a bit dragged down by the darkness and cold. We generally run more tired, making it difficult to get those extra little things done, especially in the kitchen. Yet, many of us push ourselves to be productive, to keep the same pace we have going in the summer months, to continue being our exceptional selves in every aspect of life. It's not that it's impossible, it's just not a very healthy or happy way to live.
In her book titled Wintering, Katherine May shares this loving and honest insight about the darkest time of year:
"Plants and animals don't fight the winter; they don't pretend it's not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximising scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that's where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but it's crucible."
As someone who loves spending time in his kitchen, I'm intimately familiar with the feeling of wanting to perform to my usual standard of culinary genius and just not having the energy or desire for it. Part of it is the time of year, of fatigue, of boredom or apathy in regards to my routine. The other part relates to the actual environment in my kitchen and how welcoming (or not) it feels.
For that reason, I walk myself through the following list each year to improve my kitchen's overall mood so I can also enhance my mood through the long winter months.
Use one suggestion or all 14--it's up to you. I recommend starting with whatever task is most obvious and relevant to your kitchen situation. Keep in mind that not all of them are grunt-inspiring tasks, so don't think you're walking into a giant to-do list. I guarantee that if you take 15 minutes now to read this guide, it'll change your whole attitude towards your kitchen (if it needs changing, that is).
So, grab a cup of coffee, sit in your favorite chair, and dig into this tried, tested, and true guide for busting those winter woes from your kitchen.
#1. Declutter Your Countertops
Clearing the clutter from your kitchen countertops is the easiest and quickest way to feel better about your kitchen, which is to say it's the fastest route to feeling good while you cook or clean.
If they're completely consumed by stuff, then devote some time to going through each surface and creating space. Then, stay committed to the regular task of maintaining that tidiness. Each evening when you leave the kitchen for the day, take five minutes to sweep each surface and tuck stuff away in their rightful place. Think of it as a gift to your future self. When you enter your kitchen the next morning, you'll feel a greater sense of ease not having to face a pile of stuff. A clean countertop makes for a clean mind.
#2. Clean Out Your Cupboards
You may not welcome the idea, but a good kitchen cupboard cleanout can have a significant positive effect on mood. Whenever I'm dealing with a difficult or confusing issue, I take to cleaning out an area of my home--my workshop, the pantry, my clothes closet, or my kitchen cupboards. It's incredible how clearing and cleaning a physical space can feel like a clearing out of old, taxing emotional or mental junk.
Set aside a couple of hours or half a day, depending on the size of your kitchen, and devote the time to removing the contents of each cupboard. Throw out old stuff. Wipe down the shelves. Reorganize each space so it aligns with how you operate in your kitchen.
If you need a little motivation to tackle this task, just imagine how satisfied you'll feel each time you open a cupboard to grab a saucepan and see tidy stacks and squeaky clean surfaces. For some starting ideas, check out our blog on DIY kitchen storage and organization tips for small kitchens.
#3. Add A Little Warmth & Light
A long, cold winter can leave many of us feeling down in the dumps, which relates directly to our physiology. The hypothalamus in the brain is connected to photoreceptors throughout the body, which have the job of synchronizing our internal clock with the amount of daylight we receive. This is known as our circadian rhythm and it impacts mood, as well as sleep, digestion, body temperature, and more basic physiological functions. Getting enough light is essential to maintaining a positive mood and energy level.
Allow as much daylight in as possible during the winter months. After nightfall, keep the lights low to support the body's natural physiological rhythm, and choose warm, incandescent light over cold fluorescent lights. For a warmer, cozy feel, throw down a couple of cushy rugs in warm colors, and light candles for a romantic mood.
#4. Swap Your Cupboard Hardware
Want to give your kitchen a facelift but can't afford the cost of new cupboards? Try swapping the hardware instead. Putting new handles or knobs on your kitchen cabinets can be just enough of a change to give your whole kitchen a new look, without a huge cost.
#5. Brew Some Stovetop Potpourri
Harnessing the power of our olfactory abilities can positively impact emotion and mood, helping to lift us out of any winter blahs we may be facing.
If you've never heard of stove top potpourri, you're in for a treat. This stuff is so easy to throw together, it lasts for several days, and it fills your home with a beautiful fragrance. Whether you're into a fresh and fruity scent or something a bit warm and spicy for those cold winter months, a hot, simmering potpourri on the stovetop can work wonders on your mood and create a warm and welcoming ambience in your kitchen. Get five great stovetop potpourri recipes here.
#6. Bake Up A Storm
Filling the house with the smell of fresh-baked brownie or banana bread is, arguably, one of the best ways to lift the mood and add warmth and coziness to your kitchen. Take a day to finally whip up some of those favorite treats or to try out new recipes you've had piled up for weeks. Get the kids involved too. If you're worried about producing more sinful delights than you could (or should) eat, consider sharing them with neighbors or colleagues who could use a lift.
#7. Listen To The Music
The Doobie Brothers had it right! When you're in your kitchen just to "get the job done," music can make it far more enjoyable. I keep a portable Bluetooth speaker on my kitchen island so I can just connect to some inspiring and pick-me-up tunes when I'm cooking or cleaning up. (By the way, you can get that Doobie Brothers jingle here).
#8. Add Greenery
Fresh, leafy greens aren't just for eating. Having plants throughout the house helps purify the air and contributes to a cleaner, brighter mood. And according to some traditions, they also bring good luck. Check out our blog on 7 Unbelievably Cool Plants for Kitchen Feng Shui to get some ideas on what plants will thrive in your kitchen.
#9. Clean Out The Oven
Before you say ugh, fast-forward to how you're going to feel when it's done and you have a shiny, squeaky clean oven in which to bake those delicious cookies. We tend to forget, intentionally or not, that ovens need regular cleaning because it feels like such a big, icky job. It's not. Follow these steps to clean your oven in five minutes, tops:
Ensure your oven is off and cool, and remove the racks.
Mix a solution of baking soda and water.
Cover the inside of your oven with the paste and leave it overnight.
Wipe it down with a damp cloth until thoroughly clean.
Spray the walls with vinegar & wipe again.
Reinsert the racks.
Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
#10. Buy Some New Dish Towels
How grotty are your current dish towels? Stained, smelly, or ratty with time? Time to demote them to cleaning-rag status. Fresh, new dish towels can make a world of difference in sprucing up just about any kitchen, and they don't break the bank.
#11. Take Pantry & Freezer Inventory
Ugh is the word that rumbles out of most mouths when faced with the task of the great freezer cleanout. In any average household, there is usually a year-old--or more--stash of frozen goods. Everything from chicken breast and other cuts of meat to flash-frozen seasonal vegetables and fruit. Leftover casseroles, duly forgotten about now wearing a layer of frost, aka freezer burn.
Some of that dated stash has to do with the burden of guilt most of us in the First World carry for throwing food away. So, use the freezer cleanout as an opportunity to adjust your future behaviors regarding the saving and stashing of food. If you know you're either going to forget about it or simply avoid eating it, don't give it freezer status. Instead, give it to the earth by way of composting.
Regarding your pantry: check the date on canned goods, both your homemade and commercial stock. If cans are significantly dented or dated, chuck them. Throw out stale rice and grains or save them in a separate place for the kids' art projects. Store fresh and frequently eaten grains such as cereal in tightly sealed plastic or glass containers, preferably transparent ones so you can see their contents.
You needn't spend too much time on either task. A good hour should be enough to sweep through both areas and make a major impact. And the sense of relief and spaciousness you'll feel after may be all the motivation you need to get the job done.
#12. Make Peace With Mornings
Enjoying a morning cup of coffee in your kitchen can work wonders. You probably already do that but is that all you do? Or do you sip your coffee while putting dishes away or preparing breakfast? Or perhaps, like most people, scrolling through your phone?
The wee hours of the morning are what they call the ambrosial hours in the Vedic tradition. Ambrosia, being the revered food and drink of the Gods, signifies a special significance. Those pre-sunrise hours are considered the period of the day in which one can feel closer to God, the Divine, the source. We're not suggesting you greet the day well before the sun comes up, but rather make your ambrosia hour the first one of your day. Treat that sweet slice of morning like the sacred time it is: You meeting the world again, on a new day, with a handful of possibilities.
Make your coffee (or tea) with deep appreciation for the simple things. Select a special nook in your kitchen to hold your coffee- or tea-making supplies. Then, choose a comfortable place to sit and drink it. Watch the world outside your window or cuddle with your children or pets. Say hello to all your plants.
#13. Practice Mindfulness
Washing dishes, cooking, cleaning your kitchen--these are tasks that most of us rush through mindlessly. Have you ever noticed that assigning a particular thing to do to the status of "chore" zaps all motivation to do it? Taking out the garbage--chore. Washing the dishes--chore. Cleaning the cupboards--chore. Indeed for some, cooking is also considered a chore. How we think about something influences the quality of our interaction with it, which is to say that if you think something sucks, it likely will.
Reframing all those little "have-tos" as "want-tos" can inspire a surprising wealth of motivation. If that seems too big a jump to make, practice noting what you're doing when involved with a particularly disgruntling task. Mentally labelling your actions, without judgement, enhances your awareness of the present moment because it doesn't allow all the usual wandering to occur. That mental wandering leads us to one of two places, usually both: the past or the future. Both are nonexistent and therefore beyond our control. We mentally wander as a form of escapism from the thing we're presently interacting with.
So, engage. Fully commit yourself to a task, even if you don't like it. Put aside the displeasure and be with each small increment of the task at hand. As you wash the dishes, for example, notice how the water splashes, how the soap lathers up, the clink of glasses, the scent of the dish soap.
#14. Invest In One Piece Of Really Good Kitchenware
It all comes down to having the right tools, doesn't it? In any aspect of life, but definitely where cooking is involved.
If your inventory of kitchenware--or the kitchen itself--is feeling, looking, or behaving a bit dated, consider investing in a new appliance, dish set, or other implement. Sometimes that one new addition can be enough to freshen up the whole lot.
Check out our recommendations on some of the best kitchen gadgets. This article features simple and inexpensive items as well as more sophisticated appliances. We also invite you to visit our shop to check out our range of signature, high-quality kitchenware you won't find anywhere else.
Stay Warm & Happy All Winter Long…
We hope this free guide has helped ease any winter woes you might be feeling. If you have questions, comments, or other feedback, please feel free to contact us, or sign up for our monthly newsletter.
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