Who couldn’t use a little more organization in their life? Today I have an expert on organization here to share some tips. Brette Sember is the author of The Organized Kitchen published by Adams Media. She writes the popular food blogs No Pot Cooking and Martha And Me. She is also the author of The Parchment Paper Cookbook and the upcoming The Muffin Tin Cook Book from Adams Media. Sember is a former attorney and author of more than 35 other books, as well as a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband, two children, and two golden retrievers. You can follow her on Twitter @brettesember.
The kitchen is one of the rooms in the home that produces the highest amount of waste. An organized kitchen allows you to use less and use what you have more responsibly. Learning to improve kitchen efficiency will not only save time and money, but will make you more likely to want to spend time cooking at home and making the most of this important space.
Multiple Uses Creates Multiple Confusion
Your kitchen is probably the most used room in your home, even if you don’t cook at home every day. It’s the room in the home that has the most traffic and which we ask to do the most. Think about the activities that are happening in your kitchen. Most people use the kitchen as a multi-purpose room and homework, laundry, crafts, bill-paying, and more all take place in this one space. If you can shift some of these activities to other areas of the home, it will free up storage space (keep your scrapbooking supplies in a hall closet and move your household files to a box under your bed, for example) and make the kitchen feel less cluttered and over-used.
Take It One Day at a Time
The thought of completely re-organizing your kitchen is just too daunting. Instead, tackle one drawer, cupboard or shelf a day to make progress. Completely reorganizing your entire kitchen is an overwhelming task, but if you can find 5 minutes a day (while your pasta is cooking, your coffee is dripping, or your broccoli is steaming), you can get a lot done over a week’s time.
Make Your Space Work for You
The biggest complaint people have about their kitchens is that there just isn’t enough storage space. No need to build out though! In truth, most people don’t maximize the space they have. You likely have wasted or under-used space in your kitchen and if you can turn that into workable space, your kitchen will feel much bigger.
- Keep your eyes open for square storage containers at the thrift store and use them for pantry items like flour, pasta, cereal, rice, beans, etc. Square containers stack and fit together on shelves much easier and actually save space (eliminating those gaps between round containers). Your food will also stay fresh longer and you’ll be able to see how much you have left, so you won’t overbuy.
- Look up for more storage space. Install shelves over the doorways of the room. Hang a three-tier basket from the ceiling for additional space. Put shelving around your soffits for tons more storage. If you have a separate pantry with a door, install storage above the door on the inside.
- Add metal standing shelves to double your storage area in cupboards. Instead of one level of cans or glasses, you can now fit two.
- Bring in a recycled book case and paint it to match your cabinets and give it the same drawer pulls–it will look like additional built in cabinetry.
- Use the insides of cabinet doors for storage for spices (using wire racks), pot lids (a metal towel rack works well for these), a message board, plastic bags. and more.
- Install roll out drawers inside your lower cabinets. These cabinets often end up messy and underused because no one wants to crawl on their hands and knees and reach back into the dark corners. You’ll double your usable space with this trick.
- Banish the junk drawer. This is additional storage space you could be using. Dump everything out and sort it. Put everything away in a newly identified home (pencil cup on the counter for pens, small container in the plastic wrap drawer for twist ties, Velcro a flashlight to the inside of a cabinet drawer, add a magnetized notepad to the fridge, etc.) and gain an entire drawer.
When your kitchen is not easy to use, it can be hard to motivate yourself to cook dinner at home, which we all know saves money and leads to healthier choices. Make cooking a snap with these tips:
- Create meal kits—groupings of all the ingredients you need to make your go-to dishes. This way you can just reach into the pantry and grab everything you need to make tuna noodle casserole or chili. It also makes it much easier to direct someone else in your home to make dinner this way.
- Keep a running list of what’s in your freezer. Post this on the door and cross items off when you use them and add them when you buy them. This way you will always know what you have and won’t spend your time rummaging and things won’t go to waste. Use this technique for your pantry items as well.
- Make a list of the dishes your family enjoys that you make over and over. Buy all the ingredients and always keep them on hand. You will always have something to cook.
- Use the one out, one in rule. If you use up a bag of rice, buy a new one. This way you will always have the same basic items for easy meal prep.
- Prep food before you put it away. Make hamburgers from ground beef, trim meat, wash lettuce and vegetables and divide things like bacon or chicken breasts into serving sizes before freezing.
- Date your leftovers. No sniff test needed to determine if you can use them.
Bring Your Kitchen to Life
Too often when we organize we forget about comfort. The kitchen needs to be a room that is welcoming and warm, so although you are clearing your counters and shelves of clutter, don’t forget to keep some touches that express your personality and make the room comfortable. Stencil quotes on the wall, frame children’s art or family photos, rotate seasonal decorations, and choose one really gorgeous expensive item that makes you happy (like a big throw rug, pricey vase, or framed print) and expresses your personality.
With a little thought you can make your kitchen a place you love to spend time in.
Want even more ideas for organizing your kitchen? Brette has graciously offered to send one of my readers a copy of The Organized Kitchen. To enter, simply leave a comment below, sharing one of your organizational challenges by midnight, January 17, 2012. I’ll draw a winner by January 20, 2012. (All dates Hawaii standard time.) Residents of the USA only, please.