Organizing Your Kitchen

Keeping an organized kitchen is easier than it seems, when you follow some basic steps and routine maintenance. Follow the advice shown here and you'll find yourself with an organized kitchen that saves you time and headaches.

It happened again last night. While preparing your family's favorite spaghetti sauce, you reached for the minced garlic you knew you had, but after emptying nearly every cabinet and drawer in the kitchen, you decided to settle for garlic-less pasta. This morning, while hastily fixing breakfast, you spotted the garlic in the vegetable crisper. Does this sound like you? If so, your kitchen could use an effective organization plan. If that sounds daunting and impossible, think again. By following some initial steps, and following through with a simple maintenance plan, you too will be able to find your garlic (or anything else you've lost.)

The first, and probably biggest, step you must take is to perform a complete cleaning. Devote an entire day to this project. Go through your entire kitchen, emptying drawers and cabinets, and throw away any items that you do not use, or any food items which are expired or looking past their prime. Here are a few basic rules when considering what to toss:

1. If you haven't used it in a year, toss it or give it away.

2. If the item is covered in a layer of grime and dust, let it go.

3. If you can't remember when you purchased that cake mix, or how long the spices have been on the shelf, throw them out.

4. Chipped dishes, lids without bottoms, and other containers or glasses you don't use should be disposed of.

5. Discard any swollen cans, and donate any canned goods that you know you won't be utilizing to a food bank.

After you've completed the "throw-away, give-away" step, it is time to do some scrubbing. Wipe down all of the cabinets and clean out the drawers with warm soapy water. Vacuum behind the refrigerator. Clean the inside and outside of your refrigerator as well. Wipe down the microwave, stove and oven, the dishwasher, and any other small appliances you own. Take down the curtains or blinds and give them a good scrubbing. Don't neglect the lights, the ceiling fan blades, and any pictures you have on the walls. And even though it's a thankless job, wash the walls also. Finally, give your floor the cleaning it's always wanted. You now have a very clean, but still unorganized kitchen. But it is easiest to organize when things are clean. Next, you will learn how to make your kitchen more orderly and user-friendly.

By now, you may be thinking that this organization thing is possible. It is! But chances are, if you are reading this article, you have always had a little bit of trouble maintaining a sense of order in your home. You've probably had dreams of the perfectly immaculate kitchen, with nothing out of place. Those are the ideas that set you up for trouble. Perfection is simply not possible (unless you have a team of housekeepers at your beck and call), and when you see that as your goal, you've set yourself up for failure. Instead, think of the more realistic goal of a workable, organized space, and you will more likely meet with success.

The following are broad guidelines for an organized kitchen:

1. The less clutter you see, the more organized your kitchen will feel.

2. Remove any appliances that you seldom use from your countertops. Store them in a cabinet, or instead, try using one of the appliance cupboards that can store these items on the counter for ease of access, but keeps them out of sight.

3. Store your pots, pans, and other cooking utensils close to the stove.

4. Before putting things back in your drawers and cabinets, line them with shelf liner, which makes them appear newer and cleaner.

5. Place dividers in your drawers. This makes it easier to keep all of those little bits and pieces straight.

6. Examine your shelves and imagine how they could be used more efficiently. Try using some plastic baskets to keep tea bags and spice mixes neat. Lazy susans are an excellent way to enable you to fully utilize the depth of a shelf.

7. Keep all of your spices in one area, close to your cooking space. Some organizational "experts" would have you alphabetize your spices, but this seems like a rather compulsive thing to do.

8. Keep a cleared area close to your stove where you can place hot dishes as they come out of the oven.

9. Store like food items together, veggies on one shelf, fruits on another, boxed meals somewhere else.

10. Conquer the paper monster in the kitchen. Have a designated spot for your mail, and examine its contents daily. Throw out what you don't need, and move the bills and other keepers to another location. (Household paper management is a problem of its own, and cannot be thoroughly covered here.)

11. Use the refrigerator or a bulletin board to hang schedules, reminders, etc.

12. Clean your refrigerator inside and out. Remove those "mystery foods".

13. Finally, reexamine your kitchen to determine if there is any storage space that you've overlooked.

So now that you have gotten your kitchen in an organized state, you're probably wondering how to keep it that way. Maintenance is the key. Always put things back in the spots you've designated for them. Do the basics. Just making sure the dishes are washed every day is a great way to keep from becoming overwhelmed again. Once a week, do a quick run-through in the kitchen, putting away items that have strayed from their homes, and wiping down surfaces. Check the refrigerator for any items which are expired or starting to turn. Toss any of the leftovers you know you won't eat. You'll find this becomes a habit, one which will keep your kitchen organized for a long time to come. The next time you prepare your spaghetti sauce, the garlic will be in its place, and dinner will be on the table on time.

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