New Year: Get Organized!

Getting (and staying) organized doesn’t have to be a daunting task, and instead, once you’ve put things in their place, you’ll have such a sense of accomplishment and be ready to tackle what’s next! Let’s take a look at the kitchen – the meeting place of the entire house, the hub for so many activities, and probably the first and last place you visit every day.

 

So where do you get started? One step at a time, even if that means it takes a day or two to get everything done. Before you begin, think about how you use your kitchen and keep similar items together, like small appliances, pots and pans, specialty cookware, dish towels with potholders, etc. Cookware should be closest to the stove, then preparation items like mixing bowls and casserole dishes nearby, and place your serving ware, utensils and glassware to the outer most part of the kitchen since that’s the last part of meal service and easy for anyone to quickly grab without causing congestion in the kitchen. If you have time, consider pulling out everything from your cabinets and drawers, grab a stack of sticky notes and pen and write down each category, then post the note on the appropriate place where you think it belongs. This way you can quickly move the note around until it’s just right, then fill up the space! Anything you have extras of, consider donating them, or if you’re so inclined to organize the rest of your house, have a garage sale!

 

Here are some pointers on each section of the kitchen that are easy to follow and help maximize your space.

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Cabinets:

  • How many mixing bowls do you really need? In all likelihood, probably not more than four in various sizes unless, of course, you’re a baker, so start by reducing the amount of extras you have. The same applies for multiple pots and pans if you don’t use them.
  • Consider departing with mismatched and random cups that have a tendency to quickly accumulate.
  • Nest (stack) anything that will fit inside each other to free up more space, and use a thin liner or paper towel between non-stick cookware or any breakable item.
  • If it’s a specialty item, like a gravy boat, cake plateau or specialty platters that you only use a few times a year, place those at the very top of your cabinets to free up space for items you use more often.
  • Storage containers seem to hog a lot of space and lids often going missing like the elusive sock does in laundry. Pare down to just what you tend to use and any remaining storage containers will come in handy in the pantry (see below). If you have leftover lids with no match, throw them away or recycle them if your city permits disposal of the number imprinted on the plastic.
  • Find spices easier by arranging them in alphabetical order and place them on small “steps” that make it easy to see them all!
  • Get a small step ladder to allow you to more easily access hard to reach cabinet space.

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Drawers:

  • Utensil storage with multiple slots is a must. Look for ones that are adjustable so you can fit as much in it as neatly as you can. Also, if you have service for eight or more, each slot may be able to accommodate them neatly in one compartment if you ying-yang the flatware instead of stacking them all on top of each other, which can cause them to topple over.
  • If you have specialty flatware you only use for special occasions, store that in a hutch (or maybe one of the high shelves in your cabinets) so that frees up your much needed real estate.
  • It seems like everyone has a “junk drawer” that is a catch-all for everything from pens to coupons, chip clips to keys, and business cards to nails and screws that you meant to hang that picture with, but couldn’t remember where you put the nail, so you bought new ones. Sort through all of this and put things back in their rightful home, which will free up some space, then use another utensil storage container or small, shallow bins to put similar items in.

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Refrigerator & Freezer:

  • Most of us have a plethora of condiments that are only partially used, and for some reason these bottles and jars continue to grow and take over our door shelves, and maybe even encroach onto the main shelves. It’s something we all face, so go through each one to check the expiration date. If it’s expired, throw it away, unless it’s a glass jar, then consider reusing it in the pantry (see below). Next, try to be resourceful and use what condiments remain in your cooking whenever possible, and only buy more once you run out.
  • The freezer is much like the junk drawer – it’s a catch all for leftovers and grocery deals that were too hard to pass up like the buy one, get 11 free bags of corn. Great, now we have a dozen of something we may never use in our lifetime, and once we do get around it, provided that we can find it buried amongst the value priced meat, it too, is expired. Just like the condiments, check the expiration date and throw out anything past its prime. The same thing goes for anything you can visibly see is freezer burnt, which will not taste good and has lost its initial quality. It’s a good practice to vacuum seal food, or at least put in a zip top or air tight container and label it directly on the bag, or write on a piece of masking tape and stick to the container. The information should indicate the contents and date it was packaged and frozen. Most items, when properly packaged and sealed, will last about six months.
  • As both of these get cleaned out and more room is made, there will be improved cold air circulation throughout and you may be able to turn its thermostat up a degree or two since it’s not working as hard to keep everything cold, which can save a little bit of money throughout the year!

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Pantry:

  • Much like the rest of the kitchen, you’ll want to address the pantry by grouping like items together (oils, canned and boxed items by type of food, grains, cereals, chips, etc.) in order to quickly find what you need, and then place the most commonly used items at eye level then move down the shelves. All other items that are infrequently used or are excess from the cabinets should be stored at the top. Don’t forget your step ladder!
  • If you ever buy items in bulk, such as oatmeal, rice, dried fruits, seeds, nuts, etc., you can repurpose your storage containers and your empty and cleaned condiment jars and put these types of items in there, which makes it easy to see the contents and make you more inclined to use them. A label maker is great for this project by identifying the contents, which helps keep things clean and tidy!

 

Many retailers have all kinds of items for organizing your stuff, and there are even specialty stores that feature nothing but organizational tools, so once you have a plan in place, visit one of these wonderlands of orderliness and discover what will help you maintain your newfound organization!

 

Being organized helps you move more fluidly throughout your day, offers a sense of calm and order, and also allows you to be more efficient with your time. Now what do you say about tackling the garage? Maybe next weekend.

 

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