Kitchen Organization Tips
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Cooking most of your family’s food from scratch can be quite a task. If you want to keep your sanity, you need to maintain an efficient kitchen. I don’t have the perfect kitchen or the perfect collection of every foodie device you could imagine. But I do have a decent kitchen space that my husband and I try to keep organized. As our needs have changed over time, we’ve adjusted what goes where. You can’t set up your kitchen once and forget it. New kitchen items come into the house and toddlers turn into teens. To keep things running smoothly in this household hub, I recommend taking several steps each year to maintain good kitchen organization.
Examine Kitchen Work Triangle
When designers develop a kitchen layout, it’s common practice to set up an efficient work triangle with three set points: the refrigerator, the cook top, and the sink. In an ideal kitchen, these points are neither too far apart nor too close to one another. There’s a formula to determine the most user-friendly area for this triangle. Whatever shape or size your kitchen is, you should take a careful look at what items you store within this prime work zone. This is where most of the action happens, so you want to keep things that you regularly use within the work triangle. Items that you don’t use very often should be stored outside this area. In our house, cutting boards, dishes, pots, wooden spoons, baking supplies, and other essentials belong in this zone.
Evaluate Outer Areas
Most kitchens have cabinets outside the kitchen work triangle. In my kitchen, this includes a floor-to-ceiling pantry on the far side of the fridge. It’s a high traffic area for the kids looking for a snack or cereal, but it doesn’t contain cooking supplies that I’d need to walk across the room for when I’m making something in the work triangle. We also have drawers under a built-in bench next to our kitchen table. These drawers hold things I don’t use daily, including tablecloths, large serving bowls, and canning supplies. It’s important to go through the work triangle and the outer cabinets periodically. You can take stock of what you have in each zone, and move things back and forth as needed.
In our kitchen, we don’t have quite enough cabinet space to accommodate stocking up on items. We decided to convert a living room closet into an extra pantry. This holds paper goods, extra baking supplies, and backups of many canned goods and cooking supplies. It’s a bit of a walk to get something from this extra closet, but it’s nice to have a spot that allows me to buy in bulk when I can get a good deal on something. In addition to this closet, some rarely used items including our wok and fondue set are stored in the basement. We want to keep them, but they would add unnecessary clutter to our kitchen cabinets.
Consider Countertop Clutter
Some people like to have everything they may need within arm’s reach on their kitchen counter. Others prefer to have completely clear kitchen counters, reminiscent of what you’d see in a kitchen design store or a house on the market. I love the look of an uncluttered countertop, but I also like the convenience of having a few things out all the time. I have a rule of thumb to determine whether something can live on my counter. Is it a bigger item that I use at least three times a week? If so, it can have a spot on the counter. Things like a toaster, food processor, dish-drying rack, or wooden spoon collection may fall into this category for you. Smaller items that I use daily, including cutting boards, vegetable peelers, and can openers, go in a central drawer with easy access. Other large items like a block of steak knives or a stand mixer may only get used once or twice a month. If you like a fairly clear countertop, those are better stored in a cabinet. There’s no need to look at them on the counter every day if you don’t use them regularly.
Maximize Children’s Zones
When my children became old enough to serve themselves their own food, we rearranged a couple spots in our kitchen. The large shallow drawer in our kitchen island became their drawer. We filled it with kid-friendly dishes and cups that they could reach themselves. We also designated a low shelf in our pantry for healthy, child-friendly snacks. The kids can get themselves a snack and drink whenever they’re hungry. It was a very liberating change for us, as my husband and I were no longer needed if one of the kids simply wanted a cup of water and a bowl of popcorn. I have a higher shelf where I keep homemade muffins and cookies, because I don’t want the kids to have unlimited access to those items. However, my 10-year-old is already catching up with me in the height department, so he’s fully capable of reaching the cookies now. Times do change, so I may need to come up with a new system. 🙂
Clean and Evaluate Cabinets Periodically
Every year or so, it’s a great idea to completely empty out all your cabinets. This will allow you to clean them and evaluate what’s in them. Once a cabinet is empty, wipe down the shelves and let them dry. Then take a look at what’s sitting on your counter. Has anything expired? Are there things that you don’t expect you’re going to eat or use any time soon? It may be time to get rid of some items or relocate them to a more remote space. After purging the things that need to go, reorganize what you have left. It’s so refreshing to know exactly what you have in your cabinets and where you can find things.
How do you maintain good kitchen organization? I’d love to hear your tips, so please share them in the comments!
I use a few baskets in my pantry cabinet to hold small items, like those seasoning and gravy packets, or left over small packet of rice or pasta. I use plastic containers for dry food items, all labeled and easily fit together, I saved and repurposed juice bottles for dry beans. Everything I need to cook, utensils and pans, dishes for serving are all near my stove, baking items in the small cabinet over the stove, all flour and meal, sugar is in containers on the shelf in front of the stove. The only thing we keep on the counter is the coffee pot and toaster, a small basket so everyone knows when there fruit, and a few decorative items. I hang my measuring cups and spoons, can opener from hooks under the top cabinets on one end by the stove, and near the coffee pot hooks for cups. Everyday everything goes back where it came from.
Great system, Donna! I don’t have much hanging storage in my kitchen, but we may add that in. My husband has always wanted a hanging pot rack.
One of the opportunities that frequent military moves provides me is the chance to reinvent my kitchen space. At least that’s how I look at it 😉 !
I’ve long been used to not having enough space to store small appliances, so the slow cookers and seldom-used shaped baking pans live permanently in the basement. The bread machine used to reside there too, but since I’ve been making sourdough bread each week for several months it now resides more-or-less permanently against a wall in the breakfast nook when not in use.
My spouse is tall, and we used to have our microwave on top of our refrigerator to free up counter space. Now that the kids are old enough to use it, the microwave has moved down and lives on top of the small upright fruit & vegetable freezer.
And guess what’s up on top of the refrigerator? My stand mixer! I know it’s not for everyone, but I prefer to have more counter space, don’t mind lifting it up and down as needed, and use my stand mixer a lot more than I access the cabinets it sits in front of.
One of the best finds I had for decreasing counter clutter is an in-door knife holder. I’d seen them online, but didn’t want to pay the high prices . . . then I saw one at a garage sale for $3. Woot! My spouse installed it inside the lower cabinet door where I do most of my chopping, and it is the handiest thing.
So you’ve got it down to a science, Kirsten! I’m thinking about moving my stand mixer off the counter since I now have a good food processor that I tend to use more often. I need to find one of those knife racks – I really don’t like the big knife block on the counter.
All great tips. We have a Kids’ drawer too filled with items they can access. There is also a shelf in the cabinet filled with snacks (dried fruit, nuts, bread, etc. they can access).
Thanks, Nicky! Kitchen kid zones are key for parental sanity, aren’t they?