Stuff is a trap, in this society where we have access to everything. If we’re not careful, random stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time, can take over our lives and living spaces, so we must use discretion.

  • Ask yourself three questions: Do I need it?
  • Can I afford it?
  • Have I got somewhere to keep it?

When we were living on a small sailing boat the only way I could justify buying a fantastic bargain that I really wanted was by working out what was to be binned in order to make space. That discipline has given me the freedom to follow my star with minimal encumbrances, making adventures easier.

Everything we own has to be housed and kept clean. Having the right kit makes life easier, but having surplus kit gets in the way of the life.

A few words about the layout of the kitchen. You may have heard of the ‘work triangle’ an imaginary line which connects the cooker, the fridge and the sink. It should be unobstructed, and not too large. Between 3 mtrs/12 feet and 6 mtrs/26 feet as a guide. There should be worktop either side of the cooker and of the sink. The absolute minimum for a useful bit of worktop is 40cm/15″wide. You need at least one stretch of worktop a metre/three feet wide. The less stuff that has to live on the worktop, the easier the cleaning.

If your worktop does not overlap the cupboards and drawers by at least 25mm/1″ debris will fall into them when you clear the tops. A kitchen table is well worth insisting on, for social space and extra work surface. Without one the kitchen is only a workshop for one, not the heart of the home. A clear worktop, free from gadgets and odds ‘n sods is easier to wipe clean.

Sink – Stainless steel is the only option, on a budget. Twin ceramic butler sinks are lovely, but they take a massive amount of space, they can cost a fortune, and they tend to be set too low for ergonomic use. It is bad for your back to have the bottom of the sink below the height of your dangling wrist.

Dishwasher – Six place tabletop, eight place slimline dishwasher, twelve place full size, they all cost about the same, and they all need a place to stay with plumbing and electrics. They all need enough crockery and cutlery and mugs to fill them up and have a full set over. It’s worth it if you have the space, the stuff and the cash, and if your household has four people or more, it’s a total godsend. One of the great benefits is, once the residents are trained, dirty crocks are stored away out of site until last thing at night, which is the best time to run the machine.

Cooker –If you live in a rented house, the cooker you have is the cooker you’ve got. No choices, except if you take the lease in the first place. I hope you’ve got a gas hob, and an oven with a grill. If the oven gets up to 5500 then you will be able to make your own light and crispy pizza.

Fridge and Freezer – A freezer makes a massive difference to your possibilities. You can make your own ready dinners for the days when you don’t want to cook. You can freeze bread, pizza, even milk if it is homogenized as nearly all milk is these days, stews, soups… Unless you have a veggie garden, a fridge freezer (fridge on top, natch) should see to your needs. Get one with a good energy rating. How noisy it is is important too, but impossible to check unless it’s secondhand (or even from freecycle). Secondhand is relatively good bet, but check everything works and that all the plastic fittings you need are there before taking it. See if the door deals are undamaged, and the doors unwarped. Don’t turn it on for 24 hours after moving it into place, or the little bubbles that may have been formed in the coolant in the move could get into the compressor pump and block it. This would be very bad news. Newer ones are supposed not to have this (easily dealt with) problem.

Most fridges allow you to swap the way the doors open. There will be little plastic covers over the holes where the screws and hinge pins should go in. Worth doing, to get it working right, when you get a round tuit. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Have you ever seen those souvenir plates from the West Country called Tuits? They are painted with the legend “At last! I have got a round tuit!”

Microwave – I’m not that keen on microwaves, but they do reheat stuff easily, speed up your baked potatoes and cook frozen peas nicely. They are cheaper on power than the big oven. I have a simple one I bought for £30. It’ll need a home though. On a shelf or on top of the fridge ideally, worktop space is precious.