Modern families really do live in their kitchens, the most used and vital room in the house.
Which of these things happen in your kitchen?
- Watch TV
- Working on the computer
- Make and receive phone calls
- Keep a calendar of events and schedules of family members.
- Dealing with incoming groceries and mail.
- Recycling and garbage collection to go out.
- Organize paperwork and files for a home office or small business.
The fact that the kitchen is used for so many different activities means that every square inch of the room is prime space, from the countertops to the cabinets, to the pantry shelves, to the trash can and recycling bins. Tidying up your kitchen requires an extra dose of cruelty. Nothing should be kept in the kitchen that is not used there regularly.
How to organize your kitchen
If there’s no room to work on your kitchen counters… If your drawers are full of expired groceries, unused bedding, dishes, appliances and other things you haven’t touched in years… get ready to transform your kitchen in a space where you will love to work and play.
Kitchens are likely to have clutter “hot spots,” places where a mess builds up over and over again, even as you clean it over and over again. Fresh mail and papers kids bring home from school are big contributors to clutter hot spots.
Check these points frequently. Once a week, check the hot spots. Throw out the trash you find, recycle old papers, and put things away that don’t belong there. It only takes five to ten minutes a week to prevent clutter hot spots from turning into an impossible mess.
Ideas for organizing drawers and kitchen cabinets
It’s funny, isn’t it, how plastic storage lids, grocery bags, and coffee mugs seem to reproduce in your kitchen cabinets? Go through these items once a year and sort them to get rid of the ones you don’t use:
- Plastic storage containers and lids.
- Water bottles, plastic beverage containers, and glass jars.
- Tea and coffee cups.
- How much do you actually use specialized tools like electric wine openers, electric carving knives, or citrus presses?
- Small appliances such as coffee grinders or mini-food processors.
- Wedding gifts, gifts and things you inherited.
Things to leave behind include chipped or broken china, mismatched silverware, leftover old dinnerware sets, ugly things you’ve never liked (including wedding gifts), and anything you don’t use regularly or really like.
Dry and canned foods and spices should also be checked for freshness and thrown away if they are past their expiration date.
To decide how to get rid of things you dispose of, check out my article on deciding when to sell unwanted items and when to give them away.
Kitchen storage solutions
1. Put things you use frequently in the easily accessible area
Keep anything you use often in a place that doesn’t require you to bend down or reach high to get it out. Keeping them in this area makes it easier to get them out and put away. Use the areas above and below the center area for things you don’t use as often.
Your kitchen counters are the most valuable space of all. Save them for the things you use every day. It makes sense to leave the coffee machine on the counter if you make coffee every morning. If you only use your food processor once a month, put it in a cabinet so you can use the counters for your daily activities. It is important to leave space on the counters for daily work related to cooking and cleaning up after meals.
2. Store things near the point of use
Look around your kitchen and make a mental sketch of where you eat, cook and clean. Are the things you use to do these everyday jobs located where you can get to them in one or two steps? Do you have to walk from one end of the kitchen to the other to get the things you need to your work areas?
If you haven’t already, you can save yourself a lot of steps by moving your kitchen utensils and supplies as close as possible to where you use them. Here’s how to store many commonly used tools and supplies:
What to keep near the stove
- Pots and pans. If you cook frequently, consider hanging them on the walls or ceiling.
- Kitchen utensils such as spatulas or wooden spoons. Place them in a holder on the counter, so you can reach them and grab the one you want. You can buy them at kitchen stores or use a wine cooler or a short, wide-mouthed vase.
- Spices. Store them in a shallow drawer, if possible. Store them in their original boxes. (Never waste time and effort extracting spices from their original containers.) A spice drawer allows you to see all your spice labels at a glance and quickly find the one you’re looking for. One of the worst places to store spices is right on top of the stove, where they quickly overheat and lose their freshness.
What to keep between the dishwasher and the dining room table
- Dinnerware, glasses, silverware, and utensils should be stored between the table (where they are used) and the sink/dishwasher area (where they are cleaned). Cups and tea cups should be kept near the kettle or coffee maker.
- It’s also helpful to have dry cereal near the dining room table so people can eat breakfast or snack without interfering with someone cooking in the kitchen.
What to Keep in the Stove-Sink-Refrigerator Work Triangle
- Canned and dry foods. Keep them in cabinets or drawers as close to the food preparation area as possible. If you have more than one of the same type of can or container, store them one behind the other so that the one in front is the same as all the ones behind. If your kitchen cabinets are so deep that you can’t see what’s in the back, place an empty box at the back of the cabinet to keep things from sliding out of sight.
- Cutting boards, cookie sheets, cake pans, or cooling racks. These take up less space if you put them on their side and store them vertically in a kitchen cabinet. If you have a narrow cabinet, that’s best. You can also buy “bookedn” inserts for larger cabinets. You screw them into the bottom shelf to make vertical storage for items like these. Remove a shelf if necessary to create vertical storage.
- Small appliances and containers for flour and sugar. If your counter space is limited, store them in lower cabinets and lift them up to the counter only when you need them.
- Cups and bowls. Store them near where you use them, probably the kettle or coffee pot.
- Compost bin. If you can compost or your garbage company collects green waste, composting dramatically reduces your garbage usage and disposal.
Kitchen Storage Ideas for Toddlers
- Set aside a closet or drawer for your children. Store unbreakable toddler plates, cups, and utensils in a bottom drawer so they can get things out themselves. Young children also love having a play cabinet with wooden spoons and pots and pans that they can play with while you cook or clean up.
- Lock up dangerous or valuable items. Be sure to put childproof locks on kitchen cabinets that contain poisonous or breakable items.