Kitchens are undoubtedly the most frequently used room in today's homes. Many kitchens are actually multi-purpose rooms. They are used for doing homework, paperwork and just good old "hanging out." I know of many people who would like to redesign their kitchen. I love organizing them because they provide the greatest timesaving opportunities for families who are on-the-go.
I must warn you, however, you will need to schedule some significant time to get your kitchen reasonably organized. Of course the time your take to organize this room will be returned to you repeatedly. You will be able to cook, bake, work, clean-up and put things away easily because you have a system and a better place for everything.
As I often suggest, schedule a half hour and spend it in your kitchen with a notepad and pen. Write down answers to some/all of these questions: What isn't working?
What am I always looking for? What would I like to change? What do I prepare the most? Can I add more storage? Do I have too much in the cabinets? Can I eliminate some of the items on the counters? Do I need drawer dividers? What am I repeatedly doing?
The answers to these and other questions will provide the blueprint for your kitchen organizing project.
The most effective way to organize a kitchen is to move everything out. If you are willing to tackle this enormous undertaking, it might be wise to hire a Professional Organizer to assist you and to speed up the process. In addition s/he will be able to offer helpful organizing ideas customized to your specific kitchen and encourage you through possible feelings of "overwhelm" as you move back in.
If you do not have the time to organize the entire kitchen, start with one cabinet or area at a time.
Confidence Booster: Start with the Pantry. Grab the camera and take a "Before" photo!
Take everything out and sort into categories:
Breakfast: Cereals, Pancake Mix, Syrup, Granola Bars
Soups: Canned, Boxed, Starters
Condiments: Ketchup, Mustard, BBQ Sauce, Salad Dressing
Dry Goods: Pasta, Beans, Rice
Baking: Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, Vanilla
Snacks: Chips, Popcorn, Crackers
Spices: Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder
You get the idea...
Check expiration dates and throw away anything you won't use or if it is still good, give to a Food Pantry.
Store open bags of dry goods and snacks either in Zip-Locks or clear plastic containers both for freshness and for easy identification. If you have the time and inclination, consider purchasing some stacking containers in a variety of sizes.
Make sure the containers are four-sided as round containers are not efficient use of space.
There are several ways to store canned goods so that you can easily see what you have. One way is using a gravity-feed can rack which dispenses a can and allows you to view all cans inside. Another option is to stack cans on a two or three tier shelf, but make sure that the labels are facing forward so that you can read them at a glance.
Spices can be stored in the pantry but ask yourself if it makes sense to store them closer to where you normally assemble dishes which call for them. Make sure you check each jar for freshness. A general rule of thumb is to shake the jar and then smell. If you do not smell anything, you probably won't taste much. Also, throw away spices that you don't like or plan to use. Unless you just have a few spices, I recommend that you use some sort of spice rack or organizer. There are lots of spice organizing options from using a utility tote with handle for easy portability to elaborate custom-made units. The important thing is to contain them and make sure that the labels are facing out.
Now put everything back in logically. Put the breakfast items in a spot that is convenient for everyone, including children. Put like items together, i.e., cereal boxes, oatmeal. Then put larger items toward the back of shelves with smaller items in front of them for quick visibility. You can also use "stepped" organizers or turntables.
Continue to load the pantry in this way until you are satisified with the location of everything and the neatly arranged look of it. Some of you may even want to label the shelves so that other family members can help put the groceries away!
Stand back and admire! Oh yes, and take that "After" photo!
Your confidence is soaring now, isn't it?
Yes? Then let's continue...
Since we just organized the pantry, how about we move on to the refrigerator? This will be fast (don't want cold items out too long!) and easy. After all, you just successfully organized all that food in the pantry, right?
Clear off a table or countertop. Quickly empty the fridge. Clean the inside, including drawers, racks and door shelves. While that's drying, go through everything, throwing away the obvious.
Next, sort into groups:
Refrigerators today are designed for product-specific storage. See your Refrigerator Manual for details. Usually there is a crisper designed to keep in humidity for veggies. As well, there is probably a meat drawer in the coldest area designed for safe defrosting and storing of meats. The door has shelves for condiments and bottled foods. Some doors have a spot for milk, and butter. Use these designated areas! They will help preserve your cold food and save you money by decreasing spoilage.
There are many helpful refrigerator organizing products available. You can use pull-out trays, turntables, see-through(!) plastic containers, can dispensers and so on. You will have to decide on these depending on what your staples are. Why do we call them "staples"? I'll have to look that up someday...
Okay, ready to re-load? Put everything away in the designated areas grouped in your categories as closely as possible. Of course things like milk and cheese won't likely be stored together but I think you know what I mean.
Try out your new arrangement for a few days or so. Then move things around to suit your needs if necessary. Be sure to communicate to family members that you would like them to put things back in the right spot. Please don't expect perfection, especially from young children. If they get it close, that's okay!
Next time you hear "Can I please have some milk?" it will be a pleasure to open your refrigerator and serve with a smile!
There is not much to organizing freezers so this will be a breeze...
Take everything out and get rid of anything you don't recognize :)
Sort into groups:
It's a good idea to label and date (most) freezer foods and to put new items toward the rear, so that you are always rotating out what has been there longest.
Store frequently used items such as breakfast foods and juices in the door.
I have seen some wire baskets which can be helpful for containing items in the freezer but for the most part, just try to keep like items together.
So reload and that's it for the freezer!
I'll be upfront...it gets a bit challenging here. However, remember all of those questions you answered a while back? You practically have your blueprint right there in your answers!
Take a look at your cabinetry and think about everything inside. Don't worry, you can do this! Here are some ideas to get you started. Everyone uses their kitchen differently so pick and choose according to your preferences.
Think about the different activities that take place in your kitchen. Write them down as column heading across the top of a sheet of paper. For example:
Then underneath each column jot down what you use to perform these activities. For example:
Pots and Pans
This will be different for everyone! Just think about what YOU use for each of your activities.
Next think about where you do each activity. For Example:
On the counter by the sink
Now look at what storage is available nearby. Example:
Cabinet above and below counter in this location
Plan to store as many of the Food Preparation items in the cabinets above and below this counter space. Note: there will be some crossing over of items that are used for multiple purposes. Sometimes this can't be helped but it's okay to store duplicates of certain things.
Here are some more examples to help you think more about storing near the most frequent place of use.
Salt and Pepper
You might also consider using some of your wall or ceiling space for hanging items such as nice pots and pans and oversized utensils...but only if you like this look and don't mind rinsing these before use.
If you wish, you can even start to think about what appliances could possibly mount under cabinets. For Example:
Whew! That's a lot to think about! Take a break...I'll wait right here :-)
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...oh, you're ready to organize those cabinets? Let's go!
Take everything out of all of the cabinets. Just kidding! Of course you can if you have the time but if not, just empty one for now.
*Never Use/Have Too Many
You may need to empty a few cabinets in order to change things around a bit but please don't get overwhelmed. Just stay with me and I will guide you through.
The reason for the "Pre-Sort" is now that you have your Kitchen Blueprint (from the answers above), you will want to organize everything back into the cabinets near where they are most frequently used.
Seasonal Items can actually be stored way up high, down low, or even in a storage area in another part of your home.
Moderately Used Items can be stored behind Frequently used items which will be put in the areas easiest to retrieve from. Still with me? Great.
Never Used Items can be... given away! Yeah! More room in those cabinets for what you really need and use.
If you are ready to reload, go ahead. Try this new arrangement out for several days. It will take some time to get used to new locations and you may find yourself going to the same cabinet for something out of habit but that doesn't mean it won't work better there once you are used to it.
After a week or so, if you really dislike where something is, it's perfectly fine to rethink it and relocate it. Try it till you like it!
Move onto the other cabinets until you have organized them all.
Organizing Cookbooks and Recipes may require a session in itself depending on how many you have accumulated. Cookbooks are being published in huge numbers which means of course we as consumers are either purchasing them or are giving and receiving them in abundance!
Since I am an avid internet user and not much of a cook, I don't really use a lot of cookbooks. I have my favorites, all of which have been given to me by family and close friends. I use these for holiday pot lucks and so forth. For the most part, I find recipes online. If I have a round steak in the freezer, I key in "roundsteak recipes" and find one I like. Then I print it, make it, and depending on whether we liked the meal or not, keep the recipe in a 3-ring binder.
Back to Cookbooks...If you have lots of them, pull them out and make two piles:
Box up the Give Aways and put them in your car to be donated to your favorite charity.
Now locate an area that makes sense to you to either display or store your cookbooks. Some like to arrange cookbooks "bookshelf style" while others prefer to line them in an upper cabinet. It's best to keep them in the kitchen if you use them frequently.
Now, do you use an area of your kitchen for a home office or for doing homework? If so, check out the Home Office/Paperwork pages.
Well... now that your kitchen is more organized how about taking the time to re-establish regular family dinners?