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How to Be Content With Your Kitchen

How to be content with your kitchen

Actually, this is about how I stay content with my kitchen.   But hopefully it’ll help you figure out how to be content with your kitchen too!

My house was built in the 1970s, an era when open floor plans with an airy feel were just not something most people did.   In fact, in its original shape, I believe my kitchen had actual doors at both entrances.

(Based on the door jambs that were there, at least.)

frugal girl kitchen before

(my kitchen the day we bought the house.)

Also, my kitchen, while not teeny-tiny, is not exactly spacious.

The bigger my kids get, the smaller it seems, actually…there’s more and more running into each other at meal times.

And while I have a respectable number of cabinets, there aren’t many deep ones and there’s no pantry to be found.

I run out of counter space all the time too.

messy kitchen

What’s that?   I should clean up as I go? Oh, I dunno…

Anyway, there are lots of reasons that I could wallow in a state of discontent over my kitchen, but mostly, I’ve managed to maintain a cheerful attitude about it, and 95% of the time, I am indeed content.

The other 5% of the time?   Well, following are the top ways I shoo away those clouds of discontent.

Fix what you can.

To make this a spacious, open kitchen, we’d have to knock down walls, gut the kitchen, move a sliding glass door, and so on.

This is a little a lot out of our budget, though, so instead, we’ve worked with what we have to make things better.

FG kitchen before

(my kitchen the day we bought the house.)

frugal girl kitchen after

(my kitchen now)

Here’s what we’ve done to our kitchen in the last decade:

-bought new appliances (we brought our dishwasher from our townhouse)
-removed wallpaper (So. Much. Wallpaper.)
-painted walls
-painted the cabinets
-put new hardware on the cabinets
-put new flooring down
-put in a new faucet


frugal girl kitchen before


frugal girl kitchen after

We still plan to eventually buy granite remnants to replace our old formica countertops, and we’ll replace the green backsplash then too, because it won’t match up properly with the new countertops.

Even when we do get new countertops, the total cost of bringing our kitchen more up-to-date is far, far less than the cost of a total remodel.

It’s not perfect, but it’s way, way better than it used to be.

cabinet near oven

Declutter your kitchen items.

I may not be able to make my kitchen larger, but I can make my possessions smaller!   I’ve pared down my kitchen items to the things I use regularly, and I’ve donated most of the rest.

the frugal girl's minimalist cookware

Keeping only what I really need in my kitchen helps it to feel more spacious.

(Here are the 7 pots and pans I use.)

Don’t own lots of small kitchen appliances.

Because I don’t have a pantry or deep cabinets or lots of counter space, it’s hard to make room for appliances in my kitchen.   So I keep those to a minimum.

Think outside the box.

I don’t have a pantry, so I use some of my cabinets for food items.

(Decluttering kitchen tools helps free up room for that!)

I also have a rack in my laundry room that I use like a pantry.

Is it super handy?

Nope.   It’s about as far away from my kitchen as you could get without going outside.   But it works!

And since I have little space for appliances in my kitchen, my grain grinder lives on a shelf in my coat closet and my electric griddle sits at the top of my linen closet.

(Owning minimal linens helps to free up space there.)

Focus on practicality.

Could my kitchen be more awesome?   Yup.

But does it do what it’s supposed to do?

onions in drawer

Well, yes.   I mean, I’ve been churning out three meals a day for my family for over 10 years now, so I’d be hard-pressed to say this kitchen isn’t working for me.

Consider how much harder you could have it.

When I feel like this amount of counter space I have is REALLY not cutting it, I remind myself of the women who for centuries before me have fed their families in teeny tiny kitchens with almost no counter space at all.

My own grandma had quite a small kitchen, no bigger than my own, but she raised four hungry boys there.   And she cooked way more stuff from scratch than I do.

how to be content with your kitchen

Or I think about Deb Perelman’s (Smitten Kitchen) tiny NYC kitchen, where she cooks and blogs and writes cookbooks.   If she can manage that in a teeny-weeny kitchen, then surely I can feed my family in my much larger kitchen.

And if I want to bring out the big guns to fight discontent, I think about how fortunate I am to have a kitchen at all, with workspace! and cleaning running water! and refrigeration! and electricity!

slicing bananas for freezing

An awful lot of people would be delighted to have what I do, and that’s good to think about.

Look at the upsides.

I can make a long list of downsides about my kitchen, but there are also upsides.

-The existing backsplash and formica counters are not a terrible color. The counters could be mauve, or the backsplash could have tiles with turkeys* on them, you know?   I’m so fortunate that they’re both pretty neutral.

*You did notice the overwhelming poultry theme in the original photos, right??

-I have a big sliding glass door in my kitchen, which gives me a pretty decent place to take pictures, even in the winter.

-My cabinets are solid wood, they have classic lines, and they look pretty good now that they’re painted white.

oak kitchen cabinets painted in Benjamin Moore Advance paint

-My wood floors are beautiful.

-I have enough cabinets to house what I need to cook.

-I have one large-ish counter area that works nicely for food prep/kneading.

-Two of my cabinets have sliding drawer/shelves, and I love, love, love them!

drawers in cabinets

-Since my formica counters are old and scarred, I don’t stress if they get further scarred.

old countertops

-There’s an open pass-through type area between the kitchen and dining room, which helps it to feel a bit more open.


In case you got lost in the forest of words above, here’s a review:

  • Fix what you can
  • Declutter your kitchen stuff
  • Don’t own lots of small appliances
  • Think outside the box
  • Focus on practicality
  • Consider how much harder you could have it
  • Focus on the upsides

I’m sure there are some other kitchen contentment techniques out there…would you share yours in the comments?   What helps YOU shoo away the clouds of kitchen discontent?

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Thursday 2nd of January 2020

Use the space to your advantage and THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!!

We have a floating countertop in our square-ish shaped kitchen, and when we first moved in naturally I purchased stools to put under it. What else are floating countertops for? Well we never used the stools, they just managed to get shuffled and kicked around a little and when someone DID use a stool they were then in the way of making supper (not much countertop). Nonetheless they weren't working for our family - AND THATS OK!

We got rid of them, no one missed them.

What we got a little while later was a three bin laundry hamper. Yes that's right, a laundry hamper.

No, it is not used for laundry instead we line the bins with large clear garbage bags for our recycling - in Nova Scotia Canada, you cannot use bins, you have to use bags. So we have one bag for cardboard/paper, one for plastics/aluminum, and one for refundables (bottles, cans) this we take to a depot and get reimbursed some of our deposit.

I don't LOVE our laundry hamper recycling centre but it is 100% functional, fits in the space PERFECTLY - literally can place the kids stool beside it and that is it. It holds an entire garbage bag and on recycling day I pull up and toss to the road. It also washes up easily (turn inside out and throw in the wash), and is very functional when tidying kitchen as it only needs emptied once a week or so - meaning it can fit a lot without much effort/going to basement garage etc.... and lastly what I really love, is my next house may not have this counter, it also may not be in Nova Scotia so we may use recycling bins again - who knows?! But my laundry sorter, can be used in a garage to sort basketballs/soccer balls/etc, a playroom for stuffed animals and dolls etc, or one day a laundry room or wide hallway for laundry is in it's future - at least hopefully ;)


Friday 9th of February 2018


I agree with making things work and decluttering and yes, yes I have it much better than many. However, I have a 1950s galley kitchen with 3 feet of usable counter space and 8 oddly shaped (I think they were homemade) cupboards. Then, the cook top went (1 burner worked mostly reliably and the rest not at all) and then the oven started not working (built in and 4 inches smaller than today's ovens). Because our appliances were so much smaller than the norm, any appliance change was going to involve something major. But, we were fortunate and came into some unexpected money and we hired a designer and made the plans and renovated the kitchen. Now I have 30 cupboards. They all work fantastically, a functioning cook top and modern size oven and I find so much joy in this kitchen. I keep it cleaner, I enjoy baking more and I am so glad we were able to do this. If we hadn't, I would have still cooked with my 3 feet of counter space and the aging appliances. We did what you did before we remodeled. Took off wall paper, painted, change hardware, change lights. Anything that was an easy, relatively cheap fix. But, I am so happy I was able to do a proper remodel. Thank you for reminding us of contentment. It is a good thing to be reminded of.


Sunday 6th of December 2015

I lived in a tiny bachelor apartment for four years with a small size oven and fridge, and very little cabinetry but I made it work by staying organized and having a shelf in the entry closest to act as a pantry.

Now I am so grateful to have a bigger kitchen (although far from the size of the average new home), with standard size appliances and a dishwasher. Oh the dishwasher is one of the best things!!

Kim S.

Friday 4th of December 2015

For all of you who pine for the beautiful "open concept kitchen", not long ago I heard a firefighter say that fire also likes this layout. Where there is an airy open space, fire can move quickly. I appreciate my smallish kitchen with the sliding door which separates all those cooking smells from the living room. (Burned toast anyone?) Also, I dream of a linoleum floor to replace the slick white tiles the previous owner installed. Not only are they like slipping on ice when they get wet, but several are cracked. I really liked this post also. PS - I collect rooster items.


Friday 4th of December 2015

Oh, man...if only you'd been lucky enough to have my original kitchen! You'd probably have enjoyed the wallpaper.


Friday 4th of December 2015

I recently renovated my small kitchen and, while its still small, its much more efficient. I thought carefully about how I would use the space and what it needed to house, and I designed it accordingly. I chose a particular drawer configuration to house the appliances and enable easy access (no digging around the back of cupboards, in fact I don't have ANY cupboards, only drawers). I have no over counter cabinets, just 2 small open shelves that hold all of my glasses/crockery, but bear in mind that I only have what we need for the 2 of us e.g. 4 drinking glasses, 6 mugs, 4 plates, 4 bowls etc. I keep my grandmothers full set of beautiful china in a cabinet in the living room for special occasions when we have the extended family over. I absolutely love living this way, its simple and way less stressful for me, although I appreciate it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea.

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