Minimalism has a tendency of finding a way into every aspect of life. Once I started experiencing the incredible freedom that comes from simplification of things like developing a capsule closet, scaling back skincare products, or scanning and recycling heaps of paperwork, I became more aware of when things in other areas of life were unnecessarily complicated and burdensome.
When it came time for a kitchen declutter, the shift first occurred physically, in my pantry and cabinets, removing expired items, excess storage containers, and way more silverware than I could actually utilize. Soon after, my attention morphed towards an observation of how much management and resources my actual food and eating decisions were demanding of me. Once I started analyzing my habits within the realms of grocery shopping, meal planning, prep cooking, recipe development, food waste…it turned out that I was quite inefficient in the kitchen and I was spending a tremendous amount of time, and money, doing something that needs to be done every day, eat! I realized it was probably a good time to optimize my daily menu.
There is intentionality in my minimalism, and when I moved recently, I went tiny, or, I should say, tinier. With each move I’ve made since 2016, I have chosen to live in smaller and smaller quarters. Of course there was also a period of time prior to 2016 that I lived out of a suitcase for my job and stopped having a residence at all, but that’s a story for another day! As far as abodes go though, my latest move in 2021 gave me the smallest kitchen yet. While the overall square footage of my 2020 studio was smaller, the kitchen was much, much larger.
Historically I have always chosen a larger kitchen where I spend more time, and find a smaller cozy living room, or tiny bedroom where I literally only sleep, totally acceptable. I have been known to convert walk in closets into bedrooms on multiple occasions to maximize the rooms I spend my waking hours in. So now my kitchen was the size of closet and had very little counter space. When it comes to prep cooking I usually take up alot of room. I pull everythingggg out and leapfrog between recipes. Toss veggies for roasting over here, multiple cutting boards for chopping veggies for everything from raw consumption to soups, stews, salads, and smoothies.
Speaking of multiple cutting boards, breaking up with kitchen supplies was as hard as it was with my art supplies. These were the 2 areas it took me longest to downsize in my minimalist journey. I had to go into big observation mode and use methods like putting items in a box in the back of the closet for 3 or 6 months just to realize I don’t actually use that thing that I kept holding onto “just in case”. In our consumer culture it is so easy to hold onto things because we spent our hard earned money on it, or it was gifted, or I might host a dinner party with 20 people someday. Finally I decided that if these things weren’t happening on a consistent basis, I was holding onto a fantasy, not reality. Plus, there are solutions for those one offs, borrow items from a friend or neighbor, buy compostable serving dishes, get items from your local buy nothing group and then re-gift them when you’re done.
Refactoring the way I cooked and prepped also meant I needed to consider a few additional factors. For one thing, I didn’t want to sacrifice flavor, but I also didn’t want to own every spice known to humanity. I love simple yet layered flavors, and bringing out the natural flavors from fruits + veggies is better than most over-flavored sauces and dressings in my opinion. I’m a big fan of Samin Nosrat’s basic principle of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. I decided that I’m ok with having a few combo spices such as “Curry” as opposed to owning one of every spice that makes up curry seasoning, or having an Italian Blend, instead of having a separate shaker of oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, rosemary, and sage. To each their own, but I’ve found that this works for me to have more flavor and less clutter. Plus, I tend to keep live herbs so I can just pluck some of these fresh off my plants.
Finally, there was the health factor. I have definitely gone through stages of eating healthy and eating junk, but I’ve recommitted to my health the past few years. 2016 wasn’t just the year I began moving towards minimalism, it was also the year I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. I’m not one to lie down and take it, so I decided right away that I had to do everything in my power to combat my diagnosis. I am a firm believer that movement and nutrition are the most powerful healers there are so I had to make some serious lifestyle changes in order to remove the disease and the symptoms it was hurling at me from my body. I have been extremely successful with this and will share My Thyroid Diet on another post soon, but the real kicker was the pandemic.
When I was first diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, I got sick ALL the time. I had chronic fatigue, endless joint pain and muscle aches, constant chills, dysfunctional levels of brain fog, and on and on. My body could not regulate any function and had no ability to heal on its own from the slightest assault. If something was going around, I got it. Even when nothing was going around I just kept getting sick and sucking at living. Being healthy my whole life prior, this was devastating. I could barely move, or think, or function. Everything hurt and I was miserable. I was genuinely concerned that I would no longer be able to work and for the first time in my life, felt threatened that I would stay sick enough to no longer be able to support myself, and I have no one else to fall back on. I don’t have family ties and I am single. It was a really, really hard reality I was facing, like looking down the barrel of a gun.
When Covid kicked in, I was fairing pretty well and had pulled myself out of the deep mire, but I was still in a job with no work life balance, working extreme hours to try to keep up with my job duties. When I work alot of overtime I tend to forget to hydrate and make poor nutrition choices. Then my body starts to revolt and I feel the inflammation kick in, which triggers the gut to get disrupted, and a myriad of symptoms start to flare up. I was managing it somewhat because I began to recognize those symptoms earlier and earlier and would make shift changes to try to counteract developments, but I was definitely not at peak health prior to going into quarantine.
In March 2020, like so many others, I did not know what to think of this illness that was suddenly in front of us all. Wash your doorknobs and stay away from each other was not exactly comforting. I was worried that my health was not strong enough to combat whatever this Coronavirus was. So I did the only thing I could do, get back to my personal health commitment. I got back into my daily superfood smoothie habit and started prioritizing exercise again. This was another layer to catapult me further into a sustainable wellness ritual with optimized kitchen efficiencies.
All this and more to finally develop the tastiest, most nutrient dense overnight oats one could only dream of, but dream no more, this vegan, gluten free delight is here in the 3D!
2 C Oats
1/4 C Pepitas
1/8 C Chopped Nuts
1 C Coconut Flakes
1/4 C Chia Seeds
1/2 C Hemp Seeds
1/2 C Raisins
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ginger
1 tsp Almond or Vanilla Extract
1/2 C Pumpkin Puree
2 C Vegan Mylk
Yields ~ 10 Cups
❊ Save Half the Mylk for Topping Off ❊
✷ Mix Ingredients in a Large Mixing Bowl Until Moist
✷ Fill Jars 2/3 with Mixture
✷ Put Lid On and Shake Vigorously
✷ Remove Lid and Top off with Additional Vegan Mylk until jar is Full
✷ Leave in Fridge Overnight
✷ Pour Mixture into a Bowl and top with Fresh or Frozen Fruit
Enjoy for breakfast or a snack then go Slay The Day!