Welcome to our series of tips and tricks for organizing every part of your home. Kitchen organization is up first.
When striving to live a balanced life, one of the things that often gets in the way is the constant management of “stuff.” But with a little intentional planning, and organization, you can save time (and money), helping you to find balance.
Let’s start with kitchen organization, probably the most used room of your home. Having a kitchen organization system in place will make many tasks quicker and easier, leaving you more time for the important things in life.
The kitchen is the one room in the home that very easily gets out of control. If you think about it, it makes sense. Most of the shopping we do on a regular basis is for the kitchen. As we prepare meals, we use up our inventory and it has to be replenished regularly.
The internet is full of various tips and methods for organizing the kitchen. I often find these a bit restrictive and they rarely address the obstacles that I personally run into when organizing my own space. If you are still trying to bring some order to your kitchen, then I hope some of my methods can help.
Making It Work for You
The most important part of organizing a kitchen is making it work for you and how you live. If you bake a lot, make sure your ingredients and supplies are easily accessible. If you are more often heating up a can of soup, then keep those where they can be reached with minimal fuss. I cook on my stovetop a lot, so I have my pans in my lazy susan (which is next to my oven/stovetop). This makes it very easy to reach all the different types and sizes of pans without having to dig back into a cabinet.
Next. I recommend you create a meal plan. There are some really great resources out there (including this Erin Condren Meal Planner), and we offer a free one, too! (Vertical version, or horizontal, whichever works for you). Don’t worry, you can implement most of these suggestions without a meal plan. If you need help implementing a meal plan, check out Meal Planning – A Great Way to Simplify Your Life. If meal planning and preparation is a real challenge for you, check out MyFreezEasy. They have a monthly subscription plan that might meet your needs.
A little further down I will share with you how I organize my own kitchen. I want to cover a few more universal basics before I do. Some things that will work for everyone:
- Designate a spot for certain kinds of items and keep them grouped together.
- Keep in mind there is no “perfect one way” to do this.
- The only right way is the way you can keep up with as you go.
- If you live with other people, make sure it works for them, too.
- Don’t get attached to how it is. If it isn’t working, be willing to change it.
- Remember the purpose is to make things easier, not more difficult.
In my house, the first craziness we had to get under control was our storage containers (and their elusive lids). What is it about these? I know that I can’t stand having to keep it PERFECTLY organized with every container fitting inside another just like it should. It isn’t going to happen in my house. What I HAVE found that works for me AND my family is having one lower cabinet (a large one with double doors) where storage items are kept. This includes both storage containers and extra boxes of storage bags. The drawer above it is used to keep the lids. It contains it without having to make my family follow in my OCD footsteps to help keep it manageable. Don’t forget, we don’t want to transfer the crazy, we want to eliminate it.
Another challenging item to store is serving platters. They come in so many shapes and sizes. Check out my post DIY Storage/Display Rack for Platters for an easy way to corral them in a very small space. Almost everyone has at least one small section of wall in the kitchen that isn’t used.
Cabinets can be a place where food seems to disappear. Most food that we put in our cabinets has a shelf life of several months (or even years) so we don’t check on it as often as in our refrigerators. One way of keeping on top of it is to categorize your cabinets. To the left of my range, in the upper cabinets, I keep food that is basically ready to eat: cans of soup, jars of peanut butter, fruit cups, ready-made ravioli (you get the idea). At times, when I have had very limited storage, I also kept crackers, bread, and chips in these cabinets (right now I keep them somewhere else, and I’ll get into that in a bit).
The upper cabinets to the right are where I keep ingredients that need to be combined with other foods to create meals. In mine are cans of beans, diced tomatoes (we do a lot of Italian food in our home), pasta, rice, sauces, and salad dressings. The main reason I keep these foods there is that my best meal prep space is the counter right underneath it, so when you are deciding which cabinets would work best, I recommend keeping it near your workspace. Also, because this IS my meal prep space, one of the drawers right under it holds my cutting boards, knives, and measuring utensils. This way I’m not all over the kitchen trying to gather the things I need. Also, my canisters of flour, sugar, and brown sugar are on this bit of countertop.
Our home has a lot of lower cabinets, so I have all of my snack foods and cereals in a lower cabinet. One of the biggest advantages of this for me is that it keeps that high calorie, easy to eat foods out of my line of sight, which means I have to be more intentional about when and how much of it I eat. One last tip on this cabinet: I put our cereals in translucent containers so I can see how low we are getting when making a grocery list.
I keep all of my baking supplies together as well (for more details, see Baking Shelf Organization). The spices are also together near the stove with the ones I use all the time on the lowest shelf (see Spice Cabinet Organization for more information).
One of the biggest advantages to the way I have my food organized comes when it’s time to shop. I can tell at a glance what is running low. This also allows me to stock up on that when it goes on sale.
The final thing I personally do to stay on top of the shopping list is a place to keep a list right inside the cabinet. I put a large chalkboard sticker on the inside of the cabinet door and keep chalkboard markers on the ledge right beside it. If I make chili and use my last can of kidney beans, I write it down immediately, so I know I need to buy them.
A few words on the refrigerator… Use the same principles. Keep like items grouped together so it’s easier to tell when you’re running low on something. This is also true for your freezer. If my produce drawer looks empty at a glance, then I know I probably need carrots and celery, bell peppers, and some romaine. The number one thing that helps me keep my fridge organized is throwing things away. Twice a week I clean it out. Because I do it so often, it doesn’t take very long, and we waste a lot less food.
Depending on your level of desire for organizational perfection, you can find all kinds of suggestions on Pinterest. There are ideas for where to hang measuring cups, how to store your knives, and clever hacks for keeping lids on the inside of cabinet doors. If you are curious about it, someone has done it and posted it on Pinterest. One of the tips I found is using plastic magazine holders to organize cleaning products under your sink. They can also be attached them to the inside of the cabinet doors to hold foil and plastic wrap.
It would be impossible to cover every single idea in one post, and a bit overwhelming to feel you have to do everything. Start with something that seems to trip you up and work from there. If you are always forgetting about your leftovers, arrange the fridge so you see them when you open the door. You could also start including a leftovers night on your meal plan. Have to dig through cabinets for the pan you need every time you go to cook, find a new way to store those. It’s really more about tracking what is working for you and where you encounter problems you want to solve.
If you have a pantry, I have good news for you! We will be covering some basic tips on pantry organization in our next article in this series, so stay tuned!
Want other ideas do you use when organizing your pantry? Check out these other posts. Tell me in the comments below or send me an email at email@example.com.
Other posts in the organization tips and tricks series are available here:
Living Area Organization Tips and Tricks