How to Find Joy in a Rental Kitchen

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How to Find Joy in a Rental KitchenSometimes in military life, we get assigned housing. Sometimes we get to choose a rental house. And sometimes, when all the stars align, we get to buy a house. But for me anyway, none of these are forever homes. We’ve never been stationed in a place where we would consider retiring.

If you read InDependent’s newsletter, you know that I was recently ready to break up with my current house. Part of the problem is that it’s starting to be PCS season and after a lifetime of frequent moves, I’m getting the itch to move on. With a move, there’s always the hope that the next house will be nicer. The other part of the problem is that my daughter and I have established a firm habit of watching HGTV and eating a bowl of popcorn as soon as she gets home from school every day. It’s a nice way to connect and relax before moving on to the rest of our responsibilities. HGTV makes me want to make things better in my house, but there’s only so much I can or want to do when the home is not my own.

I love to cook and making healthy meals is a huge priority for me, so I spend a ton of time in the kitchen. It’s really important that I enjoy that space. Here are some strategies that I’ve come up with to try to look on the bright side and find joy in my rental kitchens:

  • Clean. Really clean. There is nothing more disheartening than moving into a new to you home and discovering that the kitchen is disgusting. But, working in a sparkling kitchen after putting in all of the elbow grease is definitely a joyful experience. I’ve spent a day or more scrubbing the kitchens in my last three houses. A paste made of baking soda and vinegar and a hard bristle brush do wonders on the greasy mess on the tops of the cabinets and on years of built-up grime on vinyl flooring. Bon Ami magically takes stains off of laminate countertops.
  • Create storage. I have yet to live in a home with adequate cabinet or pantry space. I have two of these 5-tier chrome shelves. I use one as a pantry for food items and one as a storage space for small appliances and large serving pieces. These sit where ever I have space close to my kitchen — laundry room, dining room, kitchen. Being able to see what you have and access everything easily is key to feeling joyful in your kitchen.
  • Collect nice things. By collect, I don’t mean load the space to the brim with so much stuff that you don’t have room to work or have a place for your eyes to rest. I mean, buy the best you can afford of everything that you move with you. You might not be able to have custom cabinets and countertops, but you can load the ones you have up with things that you love that can move with you. People often joke about being disappointed when their spouses buy them something for the house as a gift. My husband knows that I will be thrilled with nice things for my kitchen. Most recently, he and my daughter upgraded my cutting board for Mother’s Day. They ordered it online and it arrived damaged, so we returned it and I got to go pick one out. I chose a really nice walnut one from Sur La Table (they offer a 10% military discount!). It covers up a good chunk of my ugly countertops, is friendly on my knives, and will make an excellent food photography prop.

Look on the bright side. Bloom where you’re planted. Whichever mantra you’ve chosen to help you thrive in this military life, keep it handy when you start to get discouraged with things that are out of your control. Don’t throw in the towel. Focus on the things that you can control. Create your own joy.

What is your favorite part of the kitchen you have right now? Least favorite part? What could you do to make it better?