I would like to start this by saying I'm not an expert. I don't think I have the answers, just some helpful hints that work for me. I cringe to show you some of these pictures because I always think I could do better: There could be less clutter, fewer items, better explanations... I just hope someone somewhere can learn from my experiences. So here we go!
- Easy Does It. I'm talking about size here. We all see beautiful kitchens on blogs and in magazines every day. I'm drawn to these kitchens because they were built with seemingly unlimited resources and were staged just so for the picture. But what is is really like? Do the owners use the space? Can it be lived in? Can your kids drink grape juice and learn to scramble eggs in a kitchen like that? I guess what I'm saying is that you might just be happiest in a space a lot smaller than that amazing feature kitchen in the latest issue of BHG.
2. A Place for Everything and everything in its place. The secret to maximizing a modestly sized kitchen is to find places for things and put them away when you're done using them. It sounds simple enough, but it can really make a difference in the usefulness of your kitchen. I prefer to have most things put away, including the toaster, blender, food processor, etc. I keep a few pretty things out for display and sometimes clutter sneaks in, but I do my best to put everything away after each meal.
3. Create Zones. This tip is handy both for what's inside the cupboards as well as what happens on the counter. I try to keep the mixing bowls and spoons and measuring cups near the dry ingredients that I might need in a recipe, and all of that stuff is used in a certain area on the counter. Not that I'm rigid about it, but it makes more sense to have things centrally located. I have a food prep zone, a place I gather things to cook on the stove top, a place I always put dishes to dry when I hand wash.
Bonus Tip: Put your most-used dishes and flatware in a lower cabinet so your kids can help set the table and unload the dishwasher. Even my two-year-old knows what it means when I ask him to get out a plate.
4. Create a Plan for Clutter. Things get left on the kitchen counter. I do it, my husband does it, even my kids leave stuff there. Mail, water bottles, charging cords, keys, toys, treasures, projects... I try to put them away by giving them a home, by taking the time to walk to another room to put something away. I found that this wall-mounted unit above keeps the mail, the grocery list, keys, sunglasses, my husband's schedule, even paint chip cards off of the counter. The drawer below is the other half of the solution: pens, paperclips, sticky notes and other little cluttery things have a home!
5. Find Creative Solutions. I had virtually no counter space in our last kitchen. I used to have one of those handy spice racks that sit on the counter, but between having to refill the small container so often and not having much counter space, I started buying spices in bulk and keeping them in small jars. I use a short, wide-mouth ball jar that I get at Walmart. I had planned to hang them on the backsplash with magnetic paint, but it didn't work. I could get a couple of those magnetic knife-holder strips, but they fit so perfectly in this drawer that I probably won't bother! I do want to buy or make some chalkboard labels though. Oh, hey, I have leftover chalkboard paint! Project!
6. Buy in Bulk. As I mentioned with the spices, buying in bulk can save you money and time. I'm usually not out of parsley when the small jar is out. Dry beans cost way less than canned beans. Yes, it requires more planning to remember to soak those beans and cook them ahead of time instead of reaching for the can. But once you get the hang of it, you'll appreciate how much better the food tastes from scratch, how good it is to know what every ingredient is, and that there is more for meals later in the week. You can also put things in uniform containers with labels! I used plastic bins with lids that I got for less than $3 each at Target about 6 years ago. If I were to do it over, I would choose glass containers, but these are pretty easy to wash and hard to break. (I need more chalkboard labels here too!)
7. Keep it Clean. I don't know about you, but when I have to make a meal but my kitchen is already a mess... Not fun! I try to clean up as I cook. I put things back in the fridge, mixing bowls or cutting boards go in the sink, measuring cups go in the dishwasher, etc. After the meal, the kids help clear the table and I finish loading the dishwasher and putting prep things away. I wipe it all down and leave it tidy before I'm "dismissed". You know? Like don't start the laundry or sit down to blog before you finish cleaning up! If you're like me, it probably won't happen until the next meal needs to be made and, well, yuck!
8. Edit. As in periodically ask yourself when was the last time you used your hand blender since you got the food processor? Do you really need 7 spatulas? Which wooden spoon do you never have to wash because you just never use it? Then it's time to toss or donate that space hog! This tip works for cleaners under the sink to small appliances to kinds of fresh fruit you keep on hand.
So where does everything belong in my kitchen? What does it look like to have "zones"? What should go above the fridge anyway? Here's a quick look at some of the organizing that is working for us.
That was fun! Now you know more about me. So much, in fact, that you could come over and make yourself at home in my kitchen! What's your specialty?
What organizational tips help you in your kitchen? I'm still working on the one where you plan the week's menu and then go grocery shopping.
Next up on the blog: Something that doesn't have to do with our kitchen!