Thoughts on Kitchen Organization

Or, Things I’ve Learned Through Trial and Error

I’ve come to the realization that ‘organization’ is a never ending process. It isn’t a bad thing, it just never seems to actually come to a conclusion. Perhaps it would if I never used the space or items and everything was left to its own devices.

I was lucky enough to be raised by two people who had a lot of experience putting things in their proper places. My mother’s kitchens were well organized out of necessity – lack of space will do that, you know. When you don’t have airplane hangar-sized rooms full of custom cabinetry with fancy pull out drawers and shelves, you learn to make do with what you do have.

My father’s workspaces (he had quite a few) were textbook guides on the use of pegboard, drawers, counters and even hanging shelves. Hanging from the roof/ceiling. Walk into our multi-vehicle garage and you were met not only with the vehicles in their proper spaces, but back walls full of well organized, orderly accumulations of the materials that farmers and tinkerers used. Hanging from the roof were reams of pipe and lumber that would be used in projects along with bags of potatoes and onions that were harvested from the garden. The actual workshop was originally a single car garage that evolved into a workspace with a forge, space to weld, and accumulation of tools of pretty much every type and description. All stored in proper places in logical locations and easy to hand.

My own kitchen is what I refer to as ‘postage-stamp sized’ because, well, it is. I don’t have a lot of built in storage space, so I’ve had to learn to use what I could in the best manner possible. When I was able to add storage, I thought carefully about what I would use it for and how it could be maximized.

What I’ve learned can be summed up as follows:

What do you need -vs- what do you want.

There was a time when I would have loved to have a full set of Spode Christmas ware. Never mind that I had no place to store it, no way to pay for it, and really not much use for it as I didn’t host large family gatherings. On the other hand, I loved Fiestaware but the price tag for that actually did curl my hair.

Now I look at fulfilling my wishlist with dinnerware that makes me happy, doesn’t require a second mortgage, and can be used more often.

Multipurpose pieces save money and space.

A few years back I picked up a couple of sets of canisters with vacuum seals. These handy square shaped containers hold a variety of dry foodstuffs, take up the same space as far as footprints and are stackable. And did I mention that they were reasonably priced, too?

Their shape is important. They are all square. No round containers that leave an empty shelf area. I do have a set of containers that are also square but have rectangular pieces as well. These are also space users and stack well. Round containers take up space that can’t be used for storage.

I emphasize shape for a reason. A few months back I happened to see a self described decor expert showing off her newly restyled kitchen cabinets. Behind the doors she had proudly put up round containers with chalk labels for dried goods.

Now, I have no issue with either the round containers or the chalk labels. My issue comes with spending money on these items that are clearly decorative and will live behind closed doors. Where no one but the cook will ever see them and taking up space that could be used for other foodstuffs.

Interestingly enough, the next time we were treated to a view of the once again redecorated kitchen cabinets, the round containers with the chalk labels were no longer hidden away behind closed doors.

Ask yourself if you are inadvertently making your kitchen work more difficult.

Odd as it might seem, when we put things in places that require more steps or more work we make working in the kitchen more difficult. This might seem like a non-issue unless you are one who struggles to find any enjoyment in the kitchen to begin with.

It might be aesthetically pleasing to have the spice rack on the wall opposite the stove, but if you are constantly hiking across the room to get what you need to create a meal, at some point you are going to get tired of the trek and stop using it. Ditto for putting the clean dishes far from the sink and/or dishwasher.

I can always spot a house designed by someone who has never, ever done a load of laundry or purchased groceries. How? Easy. The garage is on the farthest side of the building away from the kitchen and the laundry is tucked into a spot away from easy access points like common walkways or stairs. This can be a lot of <cough> fun if you are dealing with bad weather, especially if the laundry is located in a garage that is separate from the house.

If you have a lot of laundry or a large load of groceries, that hike can be exhausting.

Now, you may not be able to do anything to move the laundry area or garage, but you can take charge of where things reside in your kitchen cabinets.

Cabinets are where the magic happens. Get yourself a set of containers for your dried goods. While boxes and bags seem simpler and easier, they take up a lot of room and don’t seal properly once opened, so you lose the food and the money you spent on the food when you have to toss it out. You don’t have to spend a lot, but be sure you do your research to find quality containers. i.e: Read the reviews.

Do you have a beverage area? Great! Put the mugs, glasses, whatevers nearby so you have what you need at hand. If you have a coffee / tea bar, gather all the fixings together. If you have a snack section, do the same and be sure to put things like napkins and serving bowls nearby.

Baking requires specific cooking pans and ingredients. Having them in the same general area makes the process easier – even more so if it is near the oven.

As you look at your space, think about what you use on a regular basis, what you use rarely and where you use things in general. That stand mixer is great for large projects but if you don’t use it every week maybe it can be put in a place that keeps it handy but doesn’t take up limited counter space? Mine is quite hefty, so I keep in mind that carrying it is a consideration.

If you have little ones around and are teaching them to set the table or put things away, look at your lower cabinets and consider putting things at their level.

If you have a cookbook collection, or are just starting one, consider making space in or near the kitchen. Handy for actually using the books to either cook or plan meals.

If you don’t use it or need it get rid of it.

This one is difficult, I know. But at the end of the day, getting rid of things you don’t use or need will save you time, space, and a lot of frustration when you need to find a place for something you do need and use. Besides, someone else might be looking for exactly what you don’t want!

There will always be some issue with storage and organization. The key is to make the best use of what you have and keep a sharp eye on how you utilize your space. Are you inadvertently sabotaging your cookery efforts? Are you not making the best use of the space you have? Do you already have a tool, box, container, thing that will help you resolve this issue?

With that food for thought, I will leave you to ponder. I hope this has been helpful. If so, please click on the “like” button below.

About Janet

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