Tips to Declutter and Organize Your Kitchen
Here are the tips I shared when interviewed by the Huffington Post for their National Spring Cleaning Week 2012 series. You can view the full story here.
1o Tips to Declutter and Organize Your Kitchen:
1. Clean! Remember when your mother spring cleaned the entire house every year? It sounds dramatic, but unless your kitchen is enormous (in which case, round up a helper), there’s no reason you can’t empty and clean every cabinet. Since most of us rarely do this, you’ll feel great knowing that everything corner is clean as a whistle. Most importantly, by emptying out all the “stuff” you’ll be able to do the most important step…
2. Purge. Get rid of things you don’t use. Almost all of us have food items tucked away we’ve completely forgotten about, and way too many gadgets taking up space. If you only use the garlic press once a year (when you can remember you have it), you’re better off using the flat side of your chef’s knife and a cutting board. Many of us waste a lot of time and space on neat-looking gadgets that don’t get used. A few good knives beat a drawer-ful of cheap knives every time. If your kitchen is overflowing, sending unused items to charity will make a huge difference.
3. Sort. When you’re ready to put everything away, put “like items” together. As you do this, take a second look at what you have. If you’re trying to cram 20 soup bowls into a cabinet and you never use more than 6 at a time, donate 10 of them to your local charity. Make sure you gather all the mixing bowls to one place, snack foods to one place, glasses and mugs in one place, plastic containers to one place, etc.
4. Location, Location, Location. Put high-use items within arms-reach. In a perfect world, everything you need is where you can grab it easily. (Think of books by your reading chair, your mobile in your purse pocket.) The same principle holds true in the kitchen. Put dishes in the cabinet next to the dishwasher, pots near the stove, dishcloths near the sink, and food items all together.
5. Stash low-use items. Rarely-used items should be stored farther away from the prime real-estate of the main kitchen cabinets. Store christmas cookie-cutters with the christmas decor. Put the slow cooker in the back of that impossibly deep cabinet over the summer. Put the large turkey platter you use once or twice a year in a labelled box in the garage, making it that much easier to grab the casserole pan you use 100 times a year.
6. Clear the Decks. In many kitchens you can hardly see the counter tops for all the clutter. Find a home for everything that’s out, and try to keep your counters completely clear. You’ll be much more inspired to cook and clean up effectively if you can actually use your kitchen. The small appliances you use every day (toaster, coffee maker, etc.) will probably stay out, but get as much as you can put away and off the counters.
7. Donate unused food items. Sometimes you realize you just aren’t going to use all 20 cans of diced tomatoes you bought on sale. Donate all those never-to-be-used items to your local food bank. Do this a few times a year, and you’ll have a much better feel for what you actually need, and what’s lurking in your cabinets.
8. Update your garbage station. Almost every house I’ve been in needs a garbage and recycling station overhauled. Make sure you have easy-to-use recycling bins that are large enough to hold all the items between pickups. Put these in the garage if they are taking up your whole kitchen. If you have a tiny kitchen garbage can that barely makes it to the end of a day, get a bigger one. A few simple changes can make a big difference to this part of your kitchen usage.
9. A junk drawer is just that – junk! Scissors, string, coupons, batteries, screwdrivers, old lipsticks, play tickets for the play you missed, 10 year old crayons, and take-out menus are not “like items”. Transform your junk drawer by purging and sorting, then install some dividers in the drawer to keep things sane. If you don’t have a bulletin board somewhere, put one up and use it for important notices, calendars, etc.
10. Add the fun stuff. Now that you know where everything belongs, assess your space, take some measurements, and get some organizers where you need them. A small inexpensive wire rack can transform your dishes cabinet so you can grab what you need easily. Install a cutlery tray that actually fits the drawer. Look at your walls – can you hang some pots and pans from an inexpensive pot rack? How about a magnetic strip for often-used knives. Maybe a spice rack on a cabinet door. Get the mops and brooms up on hooks instead of leaning against the wall. Use a plastic caddy under the sink for cleaning supplies so bottles don’t fall over and leak. Do this step at the end so you aren’t buying organizers for items that you decide to get rid of, or move elsewhere. (Don’t forget to take good measurements to the store with you so you know things will fit where you want to put them!)