A well organized and decluttered kitchen will vastly improve the functionality of your cooking space. By implementing the tips and tricks suggested here, your kitchen will be easier to clean, you’ll minimize food waste and improve your cooking efficiency. I recommend dedicating one weekend afternoon to kitchen reorganization; I promise this time investment will pay off in the long term.
Declutter your kitchen. Decluttering is key to kitchen efficiency. Your kitchen is the most used space in the home with its primary purpose is to cook and store food. If you have items in the cupboards or floating around the counters that do not support your cooking efforts, like paperwork and old batteries, then these don’t belong in the kitchen.
- Clear the countertop. A counter’s primary purpose is for food preparation. The less stored on your countertop the more sanitary and easier it will be to clean. Think of your kitchen counter as prime real estate. Keep items on the counter to a bare minimum. I recommend installing a magnetic wall rail system for your knives and kitchen scissors. Place all utensils, spatulas, and cutlery in drawers with dividers.
- Re-home appliances. Appliances tend to clutter up countertops; and, and all of them need to be stored there. Appliances that you use daily such as a water kettle, coffee machine, or toaster deserve prime spots. Everything else should be stored elsewhere and taken out as needed.
- Weed out your cooking tools. Kitchen gadgets you never use or multiples, un-opened wedding gifts like ice-cream makers, leftover party supplies, holiday serving platters, cocktail accessories, BBQ equipment; they can all creep into the cupboards and onto the shelves of our kitchen crowding the space needed for our everyday items.
- Find new homes for less used items. Do you use your appliances or fancy dishes less than once a month? Find a more suitable storage area for them to make space for the everyday. Cookbooks do not always need to be housed in the kitchen. If you are short on shelf space, consider moving these to a bookshelf in the living room.
The action triangle. A well-designed kitchen is based on a triangular configuration between the sink, stovetop, and refrigerator. The primary goal of the triangular configuration is to keep major work stations near the cook and minimize the need for unproductive walking around. Understanding the layout of your kitchen will help when organizing your cooking and storage zones.
- Store in line with the action triangle. Most people look at an item and then look for the nearest available space that it will fit. Designate cooking and storage zones and rearrange shelves or cupboards to accommodate an item, so long as it fits within its zone. Pots and pans near the stovetop and glassware/dishes near the sink.
- Keep staples within easy reach. Store herbs and spices in glass jars near the stove but away from heat. Open shelving is great if you have space, otherwise, organize them in a nearby drawer. Store seasonings that you use the most on the counter next to the stove.
- Store similar items together. For optimum efficiency, dedicate one cupboard/drawer to baking tools (tins and trays, silicone molds, and measuring devices) and one near the stovetop for cooking essentials (spoons and spatulas). Store your cutting boards flat in a drawer or vertically in a cupboard. Graters, mandolins, and other small prepping tools can be kept in the same cupboard/drawer.
- Divide the pantry. Sort and store spices, dry ingredients, canned goods, and other non-perishables as they would be grouped and stored in the supermarket. Storing items this way will save space and make it easier to quickly see what supplies may need replenishing on the next grocery run.
Maximize storage space.Storing like with like helps you save space and creates more usable kitchen space. Here are some of my tips for making the most of your storage space.
- Make items accessible.Move plates down to lower cupboards and less frequently used serving dishes to higher shelves. If you have space above your kitchen cabinets, consider storing cake plates and other oversized items on top of the cabinetry.
- Adjust the shelves. Often, we lose valuable storage space by not taking advantage of the vertical space between shelves. Invest in stacking shelves to gain extra shelf space or adjust and add an additional shelf. Don’t forget that the inside door of cabinets, with a few hooks or open-wire shelves, can be used for storing pot lids, spices, or other small kitchen items. Corner kitchen cabinets can benefit from rotating shelves to make items easier to reach.
- Use bins to group similar items together. Spices, seasoning packets, sauces, and oils can quickly become a jumbled mess. These are best stored in a deep drawer for easy overview and access. If this is not an option, use a revolving tray (lazy Susan) or bins to corral flours, sugars, flavorings, and similar items together.
- Decant dry pantry goods into clear, uniform containers. Food packaging
is oftenbulky, leaky, and restricts your ability to quickly assess your stock levels. Decant flours, grains, legumes, spices and nuts into clear, uniform glass or plastic storage containers. Ensure that you can see through the sides and/or lids for quick reference when making your shopping list.
A word on the refrigerator: If you haven’t decluttered your refrigerator, do so now.
- Clear the condiments. Toss out expired or unused condiments and sauces in your fridge. Many of these tend to be stored for extended periods of time going unused, taking up valuable space.
- Create storage zones. Re-organize the fridge into zones by grouping like items together. Many modern refrigerators come with useful, labeled sections. Beverages go on one shelf, condiments and small containers on another. Reserve one drawer for meats and cheeses, one drawer for veggies, and the largest large shelf (which can accommodate storage containers and other odd sizes) for all food preparations and leftovers. The door best stores
butter,spreads, and open drink containers.
- Repackage freezer items. Freezer bags are a great alternative to storage containers for vegetables, meats, sauces and other liquids that will be frozen.
As a professional organizer, I don’t believe in the adage “a messy cook is a good cook”. I believe an efficient and organized cook is a good cook. Take Julia Child as an example, she had “a place for everything and everything in its place”, including the outline on peg boards for every kitchen item.
Designating a place for everything will help you maintain your newly decluttered kitchen. Routinely return items to where they belong after use. Clean out your fridge and pantry periodically. Keep drawers orderly, with stacks of pots and pans arranged from biggest at the bottom to smallest on top. Once you’ve set up your kitchen to work efficiently, ease and enjoyment will follow. Your cooking routine will reflect the change and you’ll feel it every time you walk in your kitchen.