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Reclaim your kitchen space

A clutter-free kitchen

Is your hard-working kitchen getting cluttered and unmanageable? If you need more storage, but every cupboard, shelf, nook and cranny is filled, it's time to take a second look at your use of space. Chances are you can reorganize and reclaim more storage than you ever thought possible.

Well-planned cabinets, drawers and shelves maximize space, save steps and eliminate frustrating searches for necessary kitchen tools and gadgets. An organized kitchen doesn't cost a lot of money, but does require a practical plan to keep items handy and easy to reach. Here are a few ideas to help make efficient use of your kitchen space and create some new storage areas as well.

Clear the Clutter

Your kitchen holds an awesome amount of stuff. The more stuff you collect and store in the kitchen, the more you have to manage. It makes sense to get rid of anything you don't need or want anymore. Reducing clutter is a must. If you do nothing else to organize your kitchen, do this.

A well-designed, folding step stool is an indispensable tool for your reorganizing strategy. Choose one that helps you access storage space without requiring much of its own. Be sure it's sturdy and can easily hold your weight while you're stretching and reaching into upper cabinets, shelves and closets.

Pick a starting point and begin at the top. Work one shelf, cupboard or drawer at a time and remove everything you find. Most items you run across will require a decision, so group your “stuff” into categories. For each item, ask yourself:

  • When was the last time I used this?
  • Do I want to keep it?
  • Donate it to charity?
  • Save it for a yard sale?
  • Transfer it to another area of my home?
  • Throw it away?

Create separate stacks for each category and stick to the plan.

Remember these tips:

  • Put dishes, pots and utensils you use every day into one stack where they can stay until you are ready to reorganize the kitchen.
  • Place items to be banished from prime kitchen space, but are still too good to throw away, into another stack. For example, pans you don't use, dishes you don't like and specialty cooking tools that are more trouble to clean than to use can all be given to a friend or neighbor, donated for the church bazaar or put away for your next yard sale.
  • Round up the stray “stuff” that ends up in the kitchen when it really belongs in other areas of your home. Put them into another stack to be redistributed.
  • Throw away any broken or chipped dishes or glasses, lids without bottoms, canned or packaged goods that have expired or look past their prime. If you can't remember when you bought a cake mix, or how long the spices have been on the shelf, throw them out. Discard any swollen or old cans, and donate canned goods you won't use to a food bank.

Look For Extra Storage

To make the most of potential kitchen storage, think beyond the individual cabinets, shelves and closets to every available inch. A careful inventory of existing space can help you plan how to use it effectively. Start your planning process by searching for unused or underused spaces. Examine all surfaces, including the area above or below appliances, behind doors and unused floor space. Grab a notebook and pen and make a list of any potential storage spots or areas that can be better organized.

  • Make the reorganization of shelf space, cabinets and drawers your next consideration. Visit a home center or discount store to find new ways to increase your kitchen storage. For example, buy different sized stacking platforms and place them in taller shelf spaces to save room, or install pullout shelves or baskets that can utilize all the space in a cupboard. Transform a jumble of pan lids by mounting lid racks on cabinet doors.
  • Reclaim your wasted drawer space by inserting compartmentalized organizers. Put together drawer partitions of various shapes and sizes inside wide drawers or stack two in deep drawers. Turntables and other handy cabinet organizers not only store things in their correct places, but also make them much easier to reach. Use products such as racks for glasses and hooks for cups to maximize every bit of cabinet space.
  • Corner base cabinets are notorious for dark, difficult-to-reach corner space. The most common solution to maximize accessibility and storage in a corner cabinet is to install a lazy Susan. Choose from a full turnaround in which the entire interior of your cabinet revolves, half-moon pullouts that rotate on a pivot or half turns that are a fixed semicircle. You can set a lazy Susan on fixed shelves as an independent unit, or install it on a center pole that pivots.
  • Individual turntables are perfect for organizing and storing spices. Just a small twist of the wrist puts each spice at your fingertips when they are placed on either a single or double-tiered turntable. Turntables can be used inside cabinets or on your counter top. You could also add a narrow shelf along one wall at eye level for spice jars, sauce bottles, salt and peppershakers or other small items that require quick and easy access.

These quick and simple pointers will also help you gain extra kitchen storage in unexpected places:

  • Mount under-cabinet racks to display your prettiest stemware or teacups. Paper plate holders, electric can-openers, automatic coffee makers, or even a small TV can also be mounted beneath cabinets to provide extra room on your countertops.
  • Reduce paper clutter by hanging a bulletin board on unused wall space. Don't overlook the insides of cabinet doors to display your most used phone numbers, recipes and emergency information.
  • Buy a butcher-block cart on wheels for moveable storage from a home center or discount store. This handy “island” is a good place to store small appliances or baking equipment.
  • Use a muffin tin filled with small kitchen odds-and-ends as a drawer divider.
  • Hang potholders and dishtowels on a section of wood trellis or weathered wooden stepladder that has been securely attached to an unused wall. Or, install a hat rack at the kitchen door for shopping bags.
  • Use your oven for hiding seldom-used pots and pans, but remember to remove them before turning on the oven.
  • Install a series of corner shelves to hold collectibles or cookbooks.
  • Hang a graduated trio of wire baskets from a kitchen ceiling corner and fill with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Get Reorganized

Now that you've cleared out the clutter and discovered a few new storage areas, it's time to take your final step toward creating an efficient, well-organized kitchen. Think of your kitchen as a single room with three separate work centers: preparation, cooking and cleanup. Keep in mind where, what and how you use an item before you put it back into each cabinet or drawer.

Easy access and return is important. If you can get to something and return it to its designated space without a hassle, the chance of your kitchen staying organized is greater. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Place food supplies and cooking utensils as close as possible to the area where you'll use them most.
  • Save easy-to-reach shelves and cupboards for items you need every day and store items used less frequently on top shelves and out- of-the-way places.
  • Put pots, pans and other cookware such as griddles, casseroles and other specialty cooking dishes near the range or oven for easy access.
  • Stack saucepans by size with lids in a rack alongside them. Place large pans and skillets in a nearby cabinet.
  • Store baking sheets, muffin tins and cake pans in a cabinet next to your oven or in a cabinet beneath a built-in oven. Arrange them by size and those used most often. A rack works well to store baking sheets on their side.
  • Stack mixing bowls by size and store in the cabinets or drawers where you do most of your food preparation.
  • Keep large knives, spoons, spatulas and other preparation tools in a top drawer near the dishwasher and counter where you prepare food.
  • Store staples such as flour, sugar and spices near your food preparation area.
  • Locate flatware, dishes and glasses near the dishwasher so you don't have to haul them across the kitchen to put them away.
  • Put cleaning supplies, the wastebasket and kitchen linens closest to your clean-up areas like the sink and dishwasher.
  • Place microwave containers in the cabinet nearest the microwave oven along with leftover storage containers.

How to Arrange a Food Pantry

When your pantry or food storage cabinets become packed with food that isn't sorted or organized, you will eventually have a huge mess on your hands. The pileup of ingredients can be avoided without spending a lot of time or effort. It just takes about an hour from start to finish.

Start by emptying pantry shelves and moving everything to boxes or a nearby countertop. Clean shelves with warm, soapy water and wipe dry. Before you put things away, think about how you will fill prime and non-prime spaces. For example, prime, eye-level shelves should be reserved for your items used most often.

  • Store canned vegetables, fruits and soups together, organized by contents, for quick access.
  • Keep all baking ingredients together on one shelf, such as flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Cake mixes, muffin mixes, Jell-o and pudding mixes go on the same shelf with baking ingredients.
  • Place pastas, rice and boxed quick meals together on another shelf.
  • Designate a lower shelf for paper storage, then place napkins, paper towels and plates together.
  • Keep heavy items, such as soda bottles, on a lower shelf.
  • Place smaller items in a shoebox or plastic container that keeps them easy to find.
  • Put single ingredients like dried beans, rice, and noodles in clear containers or canisters so you can easily find what you are looking for.
  • Rotate dried and canned goods, using those with the closest expiration date first.
  • Throw out old food or items you aren't likely to use again.
  • Keep your pantry organized by putting things back in the spots you've designated for them.

Kitchen Storage and Organizing Resources

    This site has hundreds of reasonably priced space-saving items that help organize kitchen cabinets, shelves drawers.
    Get a free printable household organizer then surf this site for practical kitchen organizing and storage articles. If you have a storage problem, post it on the message board to see how other people have solved it.
    Lid organizer racks, wire-shelf liners, turntables, a magnetic rack system and other kitchen storage items and ideas can be found here.
    Look under the home organization section and click on kitchen storage and layout for simple, but effective pointers.

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