A few months ago, I might have written this article and utterly regarded the kitchen as one of my least favorite places at home. It’s true. Don’t get me wrong though, I obviously LOVE food, but the only thing significant to me during the past 23.75 years of my life in that space has been the microwave.
Now that I’ve discovered a love of cooking (thanks to Pinterest), I’ve been feeling the need to do something in the kitchen. Make a soufflé? No. Roast a duck? Not exactly. Organize? YES.
Yep, you guessed it: it’s time to put your organizing shoes on again and dance right into your kitchen. If dancing’s not your thing, that’s cool. It’s not mine either, but it seems like it might make organizing more enjoyable (especially when coupled with some funky jams from my dad’s Pure Disco CD collection).
Step 1 – Clean
I’ll admit I’m guilty of keeping food past it’s expiration date, especially bread. I swear if you keep a loaf of bread in the fridge it lasts for MONTHS, but according to my research, I’m very much mistaken (note to self: remove bread from fridge when I return home today). While an expiration date doesn’t necessarily indicate the food goes absolutely rancid and turns into a zombie after a certain period of time, it does mark the end of the window of freshness. Be sure to toss items that may have wedged themselves into the back of your cupboard or gone unnoticed in the depths of your fridge. Common assailants in my kitchen include jarred salsa and other tomato-based dips (like bruschetta), cereal, snack crackers, and of course, bread. Comb through all of all your items, and you might be surprised how much stuff is past its freshness date.
There may be a few other things you’ll want to toss besides food. Sponges and brushes for cleaning off dishes should be replaced very often (and while in use, getting frequent baths in the dishwasher to nuke germs). What about those spatulas that have melted over heat, burnt potholders, or the plastic dinnerware your little ones thought were toys to pound the floor with? I know in my cupboard there’s a collection of souvenir beer cups from Red Wings and Western Michigan University games that I should probably donate to a frat house.
The cleaning is not done yet, guys. You’re not off the hook. While you’re rooting around in the cupboards and fridge, take one more step and wipe down the shelves (and the germ-laden door handle) and trays inside. Bet you never thought you’d have to consider the five-second rule in your own home, eh?
Step 2 – Organize Food
It may not seem vital to go through and rearrange every item in your pantry and fridge, but I’m all about making my life easier when I can. Canned goods, packaged snack foods, grains, and boxed meals should all have their own area (or shelf). In my kitchen cupboard, grains (like rice, quinoa, and oatmeal) are all on the shelf that’s most easily accessible with my T-Rex short arms. Packaged snack foods are situated on the highest cupboard shelf, and since I have to climb up onto the counter like a small child to get them, I usually opt for something healthier that’s within my reach. What else might you designate a special shelf for? Maybe it’s snacks for your kids to grab after school. Maybe it’s an entire shelf of Spongebob Squarepants-shaped macaroni and cheese. How you organize it is up to you, as long as it makes sense and makes your cooking routine easier!
How about the fridge? If you’re trying to watch your weight, it’s smart to keep your healthiest stuff at eye level (and if it’s fresh produce, make sure it’s washed and chopped). Keep condiments with a longer shelf life on the door of the fridge, and store perishables within easy reach. I like to group most of my dairy items (cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream) on a shelf, while cheese shreds and slices go into a drawer to help keep their freshness. Again, it doesn’t matter how you group the items, just do it in a way that helps end those staring contests you have with the open fridge when you can’t find what you’re looking for (or don’t know what you want).
You know what’s really great for keeping bottled spices organized? A lazy Susan. Spin it and everything’s at your fingertips instead of being scattered! Keep one on the countertop, in a cupboard, at the kitchen table, or even in the fridge! You’ll find a lot of uses for this so-called “lazy” contraption.
Step 3 – Organize Utensils and Other Kitchen Staples
Here it goes, the rundown of handy tricks and trades to keep your kitchen running smoothly!
- Hang aprons, potholders, and dishtowels on pegs for easy access (plus you don’t have to fold them, yay!)
- Use a standing file folder to store aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and other boxes similar in purpose. Genius!
- Repurpose a vase (or grab a large stand-up utensil holder) to corral slotted spoons, spatulas, and other frequently used tools close to the stove.
- Contain plastic food storage lids in a magazine holder or deep plastic bin… otherwise, OPEN CUPBOARD AND LIDS FLY OUT AT YOUR FACE!
- Stash snacks, sponges, extra utensils, or anything that conveniently fits into an over-the-door organizer (one of my favorite things, if you haven’t already noticed).
- Does it sound like a brass band playing when you try to remove pots and pans from the clutter in your cabinet? It does at my house. I wish I had a pretty, matching set of pots and pans. If I did, they’d be hanging on a wall or from the ceiling to save precious space! This looks great in any kitchen, whether it’s modern or rustic!
- A rolling hostess cart or island is a great solution for kitchens with minimal countertop space. Make a rolling island your meal-prepping station, or try a hostess cart filled with your favorite spirits if you entertain a lot.
- Speaking of counter space, is yours filled with calendars, to do lists, and cookbooks? Utilize wall space to hang such items and maximize your cooking area! For cookbooks, try mounting a magazine rack. Not only will the display look classy, it just may encourage you to flip through the pages more often!
- Searching for an interesting way to store kitchen linens? Roll and display them in a wine rack in lieu of the bottles!
- Install rolling shelf organizers! Imagine how much easier it will be to access the items hiding in the back of your cupboard (like pots, pans, or even a crockpot) if you don’t have to stick half your body inside to find them. Put them in your pantry or cupboards to save your back!
- Is the area under your sink a mess? Mount hooks on the inside of the cabinet to hold gloves, rags, and cleaning products for easy access. It’s also a great place to corral your extra plastic bags into a specially designed organizer.
- I think the space underneath an upper cupboard is one of the greatest, but often unrecognized, organizational allies. Mount hooks, a paper towel holder, or even a wine rack. I saw a sweet DIY project by a user on Pinterest who mounted a wine rack underneath their cabinet, inserted clear glasses in the empty bottle spaces, and placed flatware in each glass. LOVE IT!
- Utilize clear plastic storage for sugar, flour, and other grains. It even looks pretty on your countertop! Besides, did you know sugar can outlive you? It’s true! Since sugar prohibits bacteria growth, there’s no expiration date on this deliciousness. I love fun facts like that.
And there you have it: simple kitchen organization tips that are either free or very inexpensive! Now I’m dying to get home and organize my kitchen. And oh yeah, maybe throw out that loaf of bread that’s been in my fridge for a month.
If you’re looking for more tips and ideas to take your kitchen up a notch, check out the Home Décor category or search “kitchen organization” on Pinterest. If you’re spending a Saturday in front of the tube, look for episodes of Kitchen Impossible and Design on a Dime on cable’s HGTV. Don’t forget to hit up some of my favorite stores like Bed, Bath, & Beyond, Target, and Ikea for inexpensively effective products to reduce the clutter in your kitchen!
Enjoy your organizing! And don’t forget to toss out that mysterious tuna surprise casserole that’s been morphing into a science experiment in your fridge.