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Three Step Process for Sure Success
It is a lot of work to be organized, but it is so much more work to be disorganized. So why not take small and simple steps to bring more order to your home?
Right now, let’s focus on the kitchen. It is one of the most active places in the house and is often in a state of confusion and clutter. After all, you eat there several times a day, gather there for conversation and fun, and walk through there many times on our way to and from other activities.
How can you help your kitchen help you? First, focus on clearing off the counters. With empty counters, the kitchen seems to expand in size. All at once, there is more space for cooking and working on other projects. In addition, the kitchen becomes easier to keep clean. Most kitchen counters are “decorated” with small appliances, trinkets, a spouse’s treasures, children’s schoolwork, and an assortment of other clutter. It is time to decide what items can be cleared off permanently.
You might ask, “Is this item a friend or freeloader?”
Friends are a kitchen tools that are frequently used. These belong on the counter. Other tools should be stored in the cupboard or on a shelf because they are more trouble to keep out than they are used. Freeloaders, which are infrequently used tools or trinkets, should be stored elsewhere or even sent to charity. They will not be missed.
A “honey keep” drawer is a wonderful way to keep a spouse’s treasures, keys, cell phone, and wallet handy but not cluttering the counter top. Simply empty a drawer near where the treasures have been habitually deposited. When the treasures appear again, suggest they would just as well be safely kept in a drawer, thus allowing for freer counter space. If they continue to be deposited absentmindedly, they can be slipped safely into the “honey keep” drawer for later retrieval.
“In and out” plastic trays, which can be purchased from an office supply store, can organize papers of all kinds. There should be one tray for each member of the family. Mom’s tray usually goes on top because she tends to handle a great deal of paper. Trays are labeled with each family member’s name. School papers, phone messages, mail, and other papers that come into the house will have a “home” where they can go. This immediately reduces the paper clutter so often found on the counters.
Finally, decorate your kitchen with trinkets that can be hung on walls or cabinet sides instead of placed on the counters. The glamour of having a trinket on your counter is soon lost to the chore of keeping it clean. How much nicer it is to have the counters more empty!
As the counters become more cleared-off, you will notice how much easier it is to work in your kitchen. This is an essential, first step to helping the kitchen help you!
Clean Out Cupboards
Kitchen cupboards are meant to be helpful, but they often seem to hinder. Sometimes it is because they are simply too full of items which are out of place within that cupboard or should even be kept elsewhere. So let’s help the kitchen cupboards help you.
First, open all the cupboard doors in your kitchen. Then sit in a chair where you can see them and begin evaluating. Why is that item stored there? Why are there so many of those items? And, why aren’t there enough of these tools? Why is that item in the kitchen at all?
Make a written list of what can be discarded, what is to be kept, what items need to be multiplied, and what items can be reduced in number.
Next, decide where to put what. Items in the kitchen should be stored using the A-B-C process. Items that are frequently used, “A” items, should be stored in “A” places. These are areas where there is minimal reaching either up or down. The top row of drawers, the lower shelf of your upper cupboards, and the front area of your lower cupboards are examples of “A” storage areas.
Items that are used less often go in “B” places. These are drawers and shelves where you have to stretch up or hunker down to reach tools. Items that are rarely used can go in “C” places. These are the rear of shelves, the lowest or highest cupboards, and the deep corner cupboards.
Keep only essential “A” tools such as spatulas, stirring spoons, peelers, scissors, and knives in the top drawers. Most kitchens only need three knives in an “A” drawer: a large, a small, and a serrated. Store other knives and specialty tools, which are needed but used less frequently, elsewhere.
In many cases, the kitchen needs “multiples” of some tools. For instance, if you are always retrieving measuring cups or spoons from the dishwasher, you may want to keep up to three sets on hand. This will facilitate having one ready to use at all times.
In addition, you always seem to need the item at the bottom of the stack. So “unstack unlikes.” As an example, have a separate stack for large plates, small plates, and cereal bowls.
On the other hand, “stack alikes.” Items that are the same shape and use can be stacked, such as mixing bowls, plastic storage containers, or plastic drinking glasses.
Make use of the inside of your cupboard doors. They can become “hidden” bulletin boards. They can also be transformed into an additional storage area by storing measuring spoons and cups on them. Use a thin, crosswise board screwed to the frame behind which to tuck the handles.
The average stove only has four elements, so store your favorite four pans, unstacked, in an “A” place and put less-used pans elsewhere in your cupboards. You will find cooking much easier, with far less hassle.
The goal is to make all kitchen retrieval a “one-handed” motion: one hand to get out a knife, one hand to bring down a bowl, one hand to retrieve a pan.
There might be “maybes” in your kitchen. These are items which are you not really sure about. It is best to put these in a box in another part of your house and retrieve them as needed during the next week or so. Leftovers still in the box after that time can be stored in “B” or “C” areas or even given away without any loss.
Kitchen cupboards are meant to keep kitchen tools convenient and orderly. Everything that is clogging that process, getting in the way, or just not needed can go. Cleaning out your kitchen cupboards will significantly contribute to your kitchen’s well-being and make cooking a simpler and more pleasant project.
What can be done to reduce the amount of time and energy you spend getting meals on the table? How can the kitchen continue to help you? Condensing kitchen tools is one answer that helps in many ways.
The kitchen usually has three work centers: the sink, the stove, and the mixing counter. Putting tools near where they will be used for the chores of these three centers will make kitchen work much faster.
For instance, the sink is where you clean produce, peel vegetables, and wash dishes. Peelers and knives should be stored within easy reach of the kitchen sink. Dish soap, scrubbers, and dish racks should be right there, too.
The stove is where you stir foods, scramble them, and flip them over. Spatulas, stirring spoons, and wooden tools should be stored nearby. Stove spices should be in an adjacent cupboard. Pans and their lids should be in the immediate vicinity.
The cupboards near the mixing counter should hold measuring spoons and cups, baking spices, and mixing bowls to make mixing quick and easy.
The best way to see if your kitchen has tools condensed at their “place of best use” is to stand at each of the three work centers and reach for your tools. Can you get the pans standing in just one place? Can you get the peeler without moving from the sink? Can you mix a cake without moving around a lot?
Every time a tool is moved nearer to its place of best use, the more time you save each and every time you are in the kitchen.
If a tool is used frequently, sometimes it is well worth having a several of them. For instance, table knives are needed near the toaster in order to butter toast, but they are also needed at the kitchen table. Why not have two places to store knives, one near the toaster and another near the table?
Another item of interest is the wastebasket. Most kitchens don’t have enough wastebasket space to handle one day’s kitchen garbage. In fact, most kitchens could use two wastebaskets, both of them out in the open where they are easily used with “one-handed” motions. One wastebasket could hold “non-wet” items such as packaging, plastic grocery bags, and bulk mail. This one won’t need a liner. The other wastebasket should be lined and hold “wet” items. This second wastebasket should be near the sink where most of the “wet” items, such as produce peelings, are found.
Setting the table is often a laborious task. One way to simplify this chore is to take all of the items from the cupboards and drawers when it is time to set the table and put them in a large plastic bin. Carry the bin full of tableware to the table and go to work. Wow, just one trip from the kitchen to the table does the job! Use the same bin to gather dirty dishes after the meal and again it only takes one trip.
Look for additional storage spots in your kitchen to put tools near work centers. For example, a mixer often has several different types of beaters. These could easily be hung from the underside of the upper cupboards so as to be near the mixer. With one hand, the necessary beater can be retrieved. Paper towels can be hung near the sink, too, where they are most often used.
Remember every small improvement you make towards putting a tool at its “point of best use” will reduce time spent in the kitchen.
So, in the midst of all else your life demands, take time to organize your kitchen to help it help you!
Find more helpful ideas in the House of Order Handbook, Chapter 6, “Kitchen.”
Return to Organize Your Home – Master Plan …
Photos used with permission of sxc.hu.