How to deal with a complete kitchen renovation
Here's what to do when you can't use anything—including the kitchen sink.
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An upcoming kitchen makeover might have you fantasizing about gleaming countertops and stunning range hoods. Maybe you’re going for tuxedo cabinets or replacing outdated appliances to boost your home’s value.
You’re not likely daydreaming about the disruption to your daily life to get from point A to B.
I’m almost on the other side of a kitchen renovation, with a few pointers to share if you’ll be in the same spot.
Get rid of the stuff you don’t need
As you’re clearing out drawers and cabinets to install new ones or give them a facelift, seize the moment and toss all those mugs you’ve picked up at road races and the mismatched measuring cups you’ve been meaning to replace.
While you’re at it, maybe the cookware set from your wedding registry—that was filled decades ago—should see its way out, too. I’m not one to get rid of something that is in perfectly fine working order, but if they’ve seen better days, they may look out of place in your brand-new, sparkly kitchen.
For instance, I’d wanted to upgrade my wine glasses, so off to Goodwill the old ones went, and in the meantime, Mason jars did the trick.
Basically, embrace your inner Marie Kondo before the renovation unleashes its mess. Organization will lead to a few less things you’ll have to deal with. You might even have a contest with your spouse or kids to see who can find the oldest expiration date in the pantry.
Set up a temporary kitchen
We set up shop in the dining room, and the new food-dedicated area was a retreat from the chaos happening elsewhere. A few other bare essentials we reach for on a regular basis made the trip, too.
Relocate your fruit bowl, plug in your toaster oven, pull out the air fryer—maybe you even have the Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven, which combines both those appliances. Take a minute to think about whatever it is that you absolutely can’t live without for several weeks—and store the rest. You can probably do without more than you think.
Personally, I ditched all of the pots and pans and heavily relied on a pressure cooker, which can nearly replace your range. After many tests, the Instant Pot Ultra came in at the top of our list, partly due to its more-than-a-dozen cooking programs: sauté veggies, bake cakes, whip up soup—you name it. There’s not much it can’t tackle, plus it cuts down on cooking time and cleanup. That’s what I call a win-win.
And, if you’re in need of some inspiration, one of our editors used an Instant Pot for every meal for one week.
Plan your meals
Speaking of cooking, you’re going to want to give mealtime some forethought. Gather your favorite takeout menus and freeze some already-made dishes ahead of time.
I’ve owned our favorite storage containers for years, and I give them my personal endorsement, as well. This Pyrex Ultimate set is another great kitchen multitasker that holds up in the microwave, dishwasher, freezer, and oven.
If you’re looking to forgo some of the work, you can revisit meal kits. A few years might’ve passed since you first tried the craze. There are now pre-made options that skip slicing and dicing and nearly all the rest of the prep involved. One of our all-time favorites is Freshly. Home Chef even sends a pan, though there are plenty of others to choose from.
Invite yourself over to a generous friend’s or relative’s home, and offer to do the dishes in exchange for a working-order kitchen.
Be prepared for a mess
Living in a construction zone is not easy, though a little preparation goes a long way. You’re not going to want to put that fancy vacuum of yours through the ringer. It may be able to handle pet hair—but sawdust, not so much.
Microfiber cloths are among my secret cleaning weapons, partly because they can pick up sawdust when you don’t feel like breaking out the wet vac. They’ll even come in handy post-renovation to keep your cabinets looking like new.
I’m not a fan of shoes in the house, so I lived in these LL Bean Wicked Good Moccasins. They’re toasty, but more importantly they have a tough sole. You’ll want to avoid the chance that bare feet may strike stray broken backsplash tiles or other debris. One thing to note: They run a little small, according to our review, but you can also check out some of our other top picks for women.
Don’t add to the clutter
Easier said than done, for sure. But with your dishwasher and sink out of commission, you’re going to want to skimp on cleanup duty, unless you have another sink—or spare bathtub—that’s handy. Even then, taking over a bathroom with dishes is not ideal.
A few simple tips to keep kitchen clutter at bay:
- Measure your dry ingredients, then your wet ingredients.
- Line your baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
- Chopping multiple ingredients? Wipe your cutting board, then flip it over to use the other side.
- Put your cast iron skillet to work with some one-pan recipes.
Some disposable plates and utensils may soften the blow—and I say this as someone who is firmly Team Zero Waste.
Our lives often revolve around food—and the kitchen. It isn’t called the heart of the home for nothing. My advice: Try to get away from it as much as possible.
During the summer, the grill at our house always gets a workout, and it was very much our go-to with the kitchen out of sorts. It may be worth investing in a basket to fire up vegetables, or one of these other accessories that have a cult following so that you can up your grilling game.
I mentioned that my Headspace subscription got a lot of use. There’s a lot to like about the app, including that the company recently added guided mindful walks and runs, which can help get your mind off of things while you get in a bit of exercise.
Maybe you can even get a little further away by cashing in your travel credit card’s perks with a free hotel night for a staycation.
And, if all else fails, there’s always noise-cancelling headphones.
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