For some, organizing a kitchen may seem a no-brainer. Put all your stuff wherever there’s space. But without some planning, your kitchen will not be a comfortable place in which to work. Instead, you’ll find it as irritating as having a tiny pebble in your shoe.
The first step is to take a few moments and look at your space. I mean really look at it. Try to see it as if it were the first time. Note first where the large appliances are. Is each situated in the ideal spot? Should they be moved to accommodate a more convenient arrangement? Do you have empty wall space where racks or shelves can be mounted to create more storage, if needed?
Now, think about how you use your kitchen. One popular organization technique is called the kitchen triangle. It involves setting up designated work areas for the three regular tasks performed—prepping, cooking and serving and cleaning, all typically done in the area between the refrigerator; stove/range; and sink and dishwasher. Effectively, the fewer steps you must take, the faster you can work. And that makes for a happier cook!
Now make a mental list of what you have to store: pots and pans, utensils, small appliances, non-perishable food items, dishtowels and other cloth items, and your remaining household goods. Frequently used items should be at closest reach, waist-high and above, while rarely used items should be stowed away in lower cupboards and uppermost spaces near the ceiling. Seasonal and bulky/infrequently used items can also be stowed in a garage, basement or other out of the way storage area.
Ideally, you want to store items logically – for example, dishtowels should have a storage space right by the sink so you can reach for one when your hands are wet without having to cross to the far corner of the room.
Dishes, flatware and other table-setting items should be situated either next to the sink and dishwasher or near the dining table itself. Linens, candles and holders, matches and such are best stored in or adjacent to the dining area.
Pots and pans will be happiest near the stove along with oven mitts and perhaps a utensil jar containing only those utensils – spatulas, slotted spoons, tongs, etc. – that you use regularly. A mounted bar for hanging utensils is also a good option for this area.
Non-perishable foods, if not stored in a proper pantry, will reside near your preparation work surface. Work knives and cutting boards should also be stored next to each other adjacent to the work surface.
Do you bake? If so, then you’ll want a space near your work surface for frequently used items like flour and sugar, salt and spices, mixing bowls and measuring spoons and cups. Consider what items you reach for regularly, where you are when you need them, and store them so you can grasp them while working without stepping away from your work area.
Unless you have no other option, avoid storing items inside the oven. Not only will you have to remove them every time you want to use the oven but you have to find someplace for them to sit until you are ready to store them again.
Now it’s time to get to work. Empty each cupboard and drawer one at a time, taking a moment to clean the interior after you empty it. As you go, put to one side all items to be discarded – stuff that’s broken, excessively worn or never used. Set aside any knives that need sharpening, too. Jot down items to replace. Also note what needs to be repaired, such as a cabinet door that hangs crookedly or the handle screws on your pots and pans that need retightening. You can return to these later.
Assess what you have and divide it into what you use regularly, what you use occasionally and what hasn’t seen the light of day in years. If space is at a premium, consider parting with the ice cream or pasta maker that’s been hibernating since Day One. Find it a loving home with a friend or charity shop.
Take your regularly used items and begin storing them with the kitchen triangle in mind, in cabinets and drawers at waist height or higher. Reserve lower spaces for less-used items to reduce future bending. If work surfaces are limited, consider storing a large cutting board or other flat surface below the sink that can be placed temporarily atop it in order to expand workspace at a moment’s notice.
Don’t store spices and oils near the stove or in warm, brightly lit areas, which can dramatically shorten their lifespan.
Resist the temptation to clutter your work surfaces with small appliances and knickknacks. You want to make cleaning your counter area as easy as possible. Small appliances, except those used daily, should be stored close to the floor and out of sight. Use twist ties to bundle appliance cords to keep them neat. Tip: twist the tie first around the cord base before bundling the cord and tying off. This way, whenever you untie the cord, the twist tie will remain attached to the cord and you’ll be more likely to tie up the cord after each use.
Locate the best spot for your garbage can. Between the cleaning and prepping areas is ideal; it’s important to ensure it doesn’t impede traffic. If the space beneath the sink is sufficient, there are cans available that mount to the floor of the cabinet and automatically emerge when the door is opened. (Make sure it comes with a lid that also automatically opens.)
Are your work areas adequately lit? Consider mounting light strips beneath cabinets or spotlights to shine downward instead of in your eyes. Make sure you’re not standing between the light source and your work surface!
A well-organized kitchen is a dream to work in and you’ll find yourself actually looking forward to prepping and cooking food for a change!