How to Adult Better Part 1: Stop Buying Ugly Kitchen Stuff

Stop Buying Ugly Kitchen Stuff

When we were 19, my friend Mahsa and I moved to New York together. After spending a summer living separately in various temporary dorm rooms and one memorable Avenue B tenement, we got our shit together and rented a two room apartment on St. Marks Place. It had exactly two windows, cost approximately eleven billion dollars, and didn’t even have a proper kitchen. Points in its favor, however, were the fire escape that overlooked Cafe Mogodor, the exceptionally cute boys who lived upstairs in 3R, and its stumbling-distance-proximity to the legendary 6th & B deli.

We decorated the ceiling with Korean karaoke laser discs we found in a box on the sidewalk and for the first few months our only furniture was a mattress, two broken lawn chairs, and a small metal slide (like this but, you know, apartment sized.) All of our spare money went to deli sandwiches, vintage party dresses, and enough vodka cranberries that I’m honestly surprised we never died, so our general domestic situation was, um, not great.

Fast forward a bunch of years and I’m still living in various questionable Lower East Side hovels, but Mahsa has managed to acquire a Real Job and a Real Apartment. During our various Lost viewing parties, her apartment made me start to reconsider the way I shop for home stuff. Her apartment was small but uncluttered–she didn’t have a ton of stuff, but what she did have was all nice. She had one really good skillet, and one really good cutting board that could double as a fancy charcuterie tray. Meanwhile I had four semi-broken can openers that I couldn’t get rid of because each one only worked on a particular kind of can. I always bought the cheapest garbage possible, and I had to buy so much of it because none of it was ever quite right. I thought  I was being frugal, but I was actually just surrounding myself with junk that actively made me unhappy.

So fast forward a bunch more years the present, and I’m living in my very own Real Apartment. My quantity-over-quality, faux frugal hoarder tendencies are something I still struggle with (“but what if I’m baking nine cakes at once and I need 11 spatulas??”), but before I buy anything new I ask myself the question we should all be asking ourselves, What Would Mahsa Do?

Most stores, by the way, DO NOT make it easy to only buy the one thing you actually need. Sure, you could buy the one good knife, but the set of 14 almost-as-good knives is only $8 more! I was looking at wooden spoons on Amazon for this post, and it’s insane how many sets of, like, 20 wooden spoons are out there. NOBODY NEEDS THAT MANY WOODEN SPOONS. STOP.

Now that my kitchen is no longer a complete nightmare, I’ve decided to upgrade from the garbage-grade plastic Ikea implements you see pictured above. (Does anybody else have those plastic “tongs”? Are they the most totally useless tongs ever or what?? You can grab, like, one green bean at a time with them!) So here’s my latest cheap-ass haul of kitchen items I’m pretty sure Mahsa would approve of.

Stop Buying Ugly Kitchen Stuff

  1. Ikea Rört wooden utensils, $1.79 each. These things are massive, feel great in your hand, and look very Grown Up sitting on the counter in a utensil caddy. The handles on some are the tiniest bit rough, so if you’re a crazy texture person like me you can go over them once with some 400 grit sandpaper. If you are a normal person you probably don’t even notice.
  2. Bamboo dish brushes, $5 and $8. OMG DISH BRUSHES! I LOVE DISH BRUSHES. Seriously, dish brushes are the best. They don’t get smelly like a sponge and you don’t have to get your hands wet when your’re washing your peanut butter spoon at 2am. It is SO HARD to find good, cheap dish brushes though. Usually the bristles are too stiff, and if they’re not too stiff they get all mashed out of shape in a week. After a year of trial and error, I finally found these guys by Full Circle. I’ve been using these for two weeks and they still look brand new. When they do start to get gross, you can just order new heads. The super-chunky handles don’t make my hands cramp up and again, they look very fancy sitting in a jar next to the sink.
  3. The cutest, teeny-tiniest broom ever, $6. It comes with a tiny dustpan and is great for sweeping crumbs off the counter. I’m hoping that the people I live with are so charmed by the adorable-ness of this broom that they will use it on their own crumbs. No, you don’t NEED an adorable broom for your counters, but you didn’t NEED that seventh drink last night either, did you?

So seriously, stop buying the cheapest shit possible. You deserve a nice wooden spoon goddamnit!

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  1. My kitchen draw is literally filled to the brim with cheap, crappy plastic spatulas, ladles, tongs, etc! I find it so hard to justify buying a good quality new something when I have 20 of said item sitting in a draw already!

    1. Yeah this has always been my problem too. I solved it by getting really drunk and throwing away all of my awful utensils, and then I really had no choice except to go buy some new decent stuff when I sobered up. (It’s actually a really effective strategy for all sorts of things, it turns out.) I also started reading up on the ratio of municipal/household waste to industrial waste and it made me feel a LOT better about throwing away useless plastic ladles.

      Getting rid of stuff is harrrrrrd but it feels so amazing to not have to battle with my utensil drawer every day.

      PS Good luck and let me know if you discover any awesome non-expensive kitchen stuff!

  2. Ugly kitchen stuff can just go die. I have slowly been replacing my kitchen “basics” with higher quality stuff that also looks nice. I feel so much happier without the visual clutter of 10 different colors and materials and whatnot (aka my old dollar store kitchen stuff).

    I’m doing the same thing with the bathroom…it’s amazing what a marble toothbrush holder, a nice glass/metal soap dispenser (instead of the ugly container it comes in at the store), some bamboo boxes for storage, etc, can do for the general sophistication of a bathroom.

    1. Oh man, I feel SO STRONGLY about bathroom storage! For the last few years I’ve had a rule that no personal products whatsoever are allowed on the bathroom counter, and all hair and makeup stuff has to happen in the bedroom. A big change I made recently was to start ordering all my bath products from a place with super minimal black and white packaging ( think Dharma Initiative style) and it’s been life-changing.