10 Things You Didn’t Know About…Organizing Your Kitchen
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about packing up your kitchen to move, so it only seemed logical to follow up with the next step: organizing your new kitchen.
But even a familiar kitchen can benefit tremendously from an organizational makeover. I speak from experience. Once upon a time, before my many moves, I actually lived with the same kitchen for ten years straight. It was in New York City; predictably, it was small. For half the time I lived there, it was like the kitchen and I were in a state of — let’s say, civil unrest. Not warfare, no, but a constant low-grade running tension. I hadn’t really given much thought to where I put everything when I’d moved in. Over time, this semi-accidental arrangement achieved a state of permanence.
I learned two things: one, a person can live for years grumbling to himself as he hunts for a measuring cup, and two, there’s no reason to live like that for one more minute. Some rainy afternoon, I finally pulled the whole kitchen apart and reorganized everything. And as far as the kitchen and I were concerned, we lived happily ever after.
Categorize everything in your kitchen based on how often you use it: every day, often, sometimes or hardly ever. (What about “never,” you ask? Get rid of it already.)
Now think of your kitchen in terms of the number of things you have to do in order to get something. I call these “steps,” though I don’t mean the actual number of footsteps you take. What I mean is, having to open a drawer. That’s one step. Having to move something out of the way to get at something else. That’s another step. Etc.
Here’s where (1) and (2) come together. My general rule of thumb is that for items you use every day (cereal bowls, say, or your favorite knife), you want to be able to get them within 0–1 steps. For items you use often, 1–2 steps; sometimes, 2–3 steps; and rarely, 3 or more steps. (I have tins for bite-sized muffins; I make bite-sized muffins maybe twice a year. Hence these tins are in a fairly inaccessible cabinet above the fridge, which requires me to get a step stool, open the cabinet door and move the Christmas cookie cutters out of the way in order to get them. Three steps.)
What do I mean by “zero” steps? Out in the open, within immediate reach. This likely means on the kitchen counter. “But all the home organization articles I’ve ever read say you should keep the counter free of cutter,” you say. Yes, but you see, it’s not clutter if you use it daily. That said, items in the “zero step” category should be kept to an absolute minimum. My silicone spatulas are in a canister on my counter because I use them practically every time I cook. Ditto my cutting board. My citrus zester? It’s in the back of some drawer.
Yes, this approach means putting accessibility ahead of aesthetics. In other words, when it comes to organizing your kitchen, what works comes before what’s cute. I have a set of pretty (and not cheap) toile canisters for flour, sugar, etc. But I do not make cookies and bread every day. I do make myself a smoothie almost every morning. Hence, my blender is on my counter; the canisters are in the pantry. And my life is easier for it.
This approach also means putting functionality ahead of fantasy. Don’t think that just because you keep your bundt pan close at hand that you’ll actually make more bundt cakes. You won’t, and that bundt pan will just be in the way.
Consider a pot rack if your kitchen will accommodate one. I’m a big fan, even as they are a pain to install. But before my pot rack, I simply pounded a few big nails into the wall near the stove and hung the two or three pans I used most often. Shocking, I know. But it had a certain rustic charm.
Drawer organizers are essential—nothing is more maddening than fishing through about five different things to find a tablespoon. That said, just because you have an equal number of compartments in your fancy organizer, don’t think you need to fill them equally. Again, consider what you use most often. My measuring cups and spoons are given their own separate, luxurious space, while various other miscellaneous items (cheesecloth, kitchen twine, melon baller) are packed more tightly in the back.
Get a knife block if you don’t already have one. Not only does it keep your knives at the ready, it keeps them from going dull by banging around in drawers.
For heaven’s sake, store your dinnerware, glasses and everyday cutlery as close as possible to your dishwasher.
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