The kitchen has always been known as the heart of the home—the place of delicious meals, cookie baking, after-school snacks and gossip, and discussions over midnight snacks. Unfortunately, the kitchen can also be a magnet for misplaced items, clutter, and unorganized chaos. Here are a few tips to help you reign in your kitchen and make it the family hub it should be.
Create a command center
Many kitchens are now equipped with built-in desk areas. Use this space as your family’s command center: mail, electronics, school forms, and other important documents can all find their places here. When documents like this are properly stored and filed in one place, you are less likely to forget to sign Tommy’s field trip permission form or forget to send off that check to the utilities company (if only bills were that easy to forget…).
Mail and Documents
Sort mail as soon as it is collected each day. Buy a mail filer or a simple, upright divider that you can use to organize. Suggested labels are Bills, Mom (and other family members), School, Bank. Don’t make a label for junk—just throw that out. Store important documents in a secure place in your command center, like a locking filing box or divided portfolio folder. Items to include might be passports, social security cards, birth certificates, and insurance policies. Nova Scotia auto insurance companies suggest keeping copies of your policy in both the car and in a folder at home.. You can also include warrantees, receipts (for work done on the house or car, big ticket items, etc), and school papers like report cards. Create a family calendar to post in the area, marking important events and appointments for family members.
Many families like to put their main computer at the desk in the kitchen. This allows for public viewing of web surfing, insuring safe internet practices in the home. It also assists with organization because you can take care of your mail and bills all at once; many bills and banking services are online, so you can now take care of mail and online bill pay and services conveniently. In addition to a computer, consider setting up a “charging station” for your family’s phones, iPods, and other electronics. Having a designated station allows you to help limit screen time and insure that your family dinner will be phone-free.
Have a Junk Drawer
Even though a junk drawer seems the opposite of organization, it actually helps to have a catch-all for useful and frequently used items. At the desk, put in some notepads, pens, scissors, and whatever else your kids always call you for. Now you can just respond with “junk drawer”.
Free up the counters
While having a few cute storage containers and a knife block belonging on the counter is convenient, many kitchen counters become overcrowded and unusable. Free up your counter space for food prep and a chic, clean look with some of these ideas.
Attach select items to the underside of your cabinets. Here you can hang a paper towel holder, banana hook, or a retractable cookbook stand, just to name a few. This is also a handy place to add some extra lighting. Home improvement stores sell many options for under-cabinet lighting, from simple strip lights with small power buttons, to more sophisticated lighting that connects to your existing electrical system.
More Cabinet Space
Free up space on the counter by adding space to your cabinets. Consider purchasing small wire shelving (think mini locker shelves from grade school) to use the vertical space between shelves and securely stack cups, plates, spices, and cans. You can also install easy pull-out shelves. These are especially helpful for skinny, deep cabinets because they maximize the use of depth, without making you lose your arm while reaching in the back for the honey. For another mobile approach, try out a few lazy Susans. They come in all different sizes, allowing full accessibility to your appliances or groceries.
Prevail your pantry panic
Food storage doesn’t need to be difficult. With the correct organization, you can have a stocked pantry without the clutter.
Use plastic or glass canisters for bulk items such as rice, pasta, flour, and sugar. These items usually come in easily-ripped packaging, and when you are running low and get a new package, you’re stuck with two, awkwardly shaped bags. Just avoid this altogether by investing in some containers that will make cooking a breeze. Make sure you select a size that will fit a standard size bag of the item, plus a little more (helping you avoid the double package dilemma).
Put a Lid on It
In conjunction with buying containers for bulk items, please control your habit of buying or keeping Tupperware. Tupperware hoarding is a serious problem, and it’s got to stop. Somehow, Tupperware collections go from an even number of containers and lids to an overflowing cabinet of cottage cheese containers and mismatched tops and bottoms. Conduct a thorough examination of your stash, and throw out the discolored, solo, flimsy containers. To try to cut down even more, do the monthly box test. Put all of your Tupperware in a box. Take out and use what you need over the month (while still cleaning out leftovers and washing containers). Whatever is still left in the box after the month has officially received its eviction notice.
Over the Door
If your pantry is a stand-alone closet, take advantage of every inch, you lucky mom, you. Hang an over-the-door storage organizer on the backside of the door to hold storage baggies, grocery bags, and cleaning supplies. You could even store spices, cookie cutters, and other small kitchen tools. Over-the-door organizers come in all shapes in sizes; some even have compartments large enough to hold onions and potatoes.
Reclaim Your Fridge
While no one sees your fridge unless they open it, a lot of people open it. You should want the storage for your fresh food to be clean, easy to manage, and usable. And believe me, you can do it.
Line the shelves of your fridge with sticky saran wrap (you know, the kind they say you can make baggies out of, but is really just useless?). Even if your fridge has the removable glass shelves for “easy cleaning”, you and I both know we’re never going to take them out of the fridge to clean. These sticky liners help you clean up sticky messes in a flash with easy removal and replacement.
Keep a Rotation
While leftovers are awesome for lunch the next day (or for the next week), stinky, moldy messes are anything but awesome. Make a rotation of your contained leftovers to keep them current and to let you know when they are ready to be tossed. Put new leftovers towards the back of the fridge, and move older leftovers to the front.
Set Up Stations
Grab some cheap plastic tubs or containers from the dollar store to make stations in your refrigerator. Make a snack station with healthy tide-me-overs such as string cheese, applesauce, and yogurts for little, hungry hands to find. Make a sandwich bucket with lunch meat, cheese, and spreads to easily take out for the school-morning-mayhem. You could even make a leftovers bin to better implement your rotation.
While the kitchen seems an endless source of organizational problems, you can tackle them one at a time and create the family oasis you desire. Using these tips, you will be ahead of the curve next time kitchen clutter comes knocking.
Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose pride and joy is her family. In addition to spending time with her husband and daughters, she loves being outdoors, playing sports, and organizing her life.
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