Saturday, 28 June 2008

Cooking Up Solutions For Your Kitchen Clutter

If your family is like most, the kitchen is the heart of the home. This is truly evident in home construction and renovation over the past 10 years which fashion kitchens that open up to eating areas and family rooms. Yet with all of its prominence in the family, it is usually one of the most disorganized rooms of the home. The constant stream of traffic and the home management that takes place here only adds to the chaos. So what can you do?

First start with a plan (this is the underlying theme of all of my articles - so now you know the secret to productive organizing!) When you think about it the kitchen generally has four to five zones: food preparation, cooking, cleaning, food storage and household management. Food preparation takes place on a counter top and/or an island, so that will be the best place to store knives, measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls and any appliances related to preparing a meal. For cooking you will need utensils, pots and pans, baking dishes, and toaster. This zone should definitely be next to the stove and if you are lucky your microwave will be conveniently housed above. Cleaning of course will be located under the sink and next to the dishwasher. Here you will store all your cleaners and sponges. If you have little ones around the house, a child safety lock on this cabinet is a MUST! And finally food storage, located near the fridge, will need room not only for the food, but the wraps and plastic storage items as well.

The household management zone is probably the one area that seems to take over the entire room, and sometimes even oozes into the dining room. Paper is everywhere, but you can never seem to find the one piece you need when you need it. And if you do it is splattered with spaghetti sauce. The key to this zone is to make sure that the only paper that is kept in the kitchen is "active" paper; things that need to be acted upon. The paper that you need to keep in storage should be removed immediately and given a new home (a home office perhaps). How the active paper is stored is a matter of personal preference, but generally people choose either categorically (pending folders like "bills to be paid", "calls to make", etc) or periodically (tickler folders based on a perpetual calendar). You will also need room for basic office supplies and postage material.

Depending on the size of your family and home, the kitchen may also have to double as homework and craft zone. If that is the case, then be sure to carve out some space for these things as well. A good solution for materials your children may need to access is a small bin or two in the bottom of a cupboard.

The kitchen can easily take an entire day to organize, but if the thought is too overwhelming, then break it into smaller tasks. Perhaps you start with the infamous junk drawer one day and move to cupboards the next. As you sort through the various things in your kitchen, be sure to put them in piles of like items. You will quickly be able to see where you have too many of one item and thus find it easy to begin to part with things (purging - the hardest part of any organizing project!)

Purge items that you no longer need or food that now qualifies as a science experiment. To help you with this effort, make sure that you always have a bin for items to be donated. Sometimes you don't feel so bad getting rid of that kitchen "chatchky" that you never used, but paid good money for, if you know that someone else will. Empty the trash often so that a full can does not become an excuse to keep something that you really don't use or need.

When the dust settles (or better yet is wiped away) and you are ready to put your kitchen in order, be sure to make an investment in storage paraphernalia. Just like a carpenter, the right tools make all the difference. Lazy Susan's (or spin trays) will help you to maximize space in even the deepest corner. Expanding step shelves will ensure that the tomato paste does not get lost in the back of the pantry. Drawer-style pot and lid organizers will make getting down on your knees to find the skillet a thing of the past. And pull-out shelves, under-shelf baskets and hanging storage organizers will allow you to make maximum use of even the smallest space.

So if your kitchen is the heart of your home, do yourself a favor and lower your "clutter" so that you can enjoy a long and healthy life.

Kathy Jenkins is a Professional Organizer based in Mechanicsville, VA. Through her business, Come To Order, she offers residential professional organizing services tailored to meet the specific needs of her clients, and operates a retail site for organizing products, She is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD), Faithful Organizers, and Women Entrepreneurs of Virginia, and serves as marketing director of NAPO Richmond. You may contact her through her website at

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