Raise your hand if your house has a junk drawer. You know, a place you put things because you’re not sure where else they should go. It doesn’t take long before the drawer is overflowing with tape, bag clips, pens, thumbtacks, and other odds and ends. NPR’s Lincoln Weeks calls them “accidental time capsule[s].”
Most Americans stash their clutter in the garage, according to a survey from Moen Consumer and Market Insights Group. The kitchen comes in second in a tie with the home office. From stacks of mail to small appliances, those who responded to the survey complained that their kitchen counters looked a lot like their junk drawers.
Experts have a lot of advice for organizing and uncluttering your kitchen. Whether you’re selling your home in the near future or not, these tips can make your life a whole lot easier.
Good clutter vs. bad clutter
According to the Moen survey, there is good clutter and bad clutter. Good clutter includes cutting boards, scrub brushes, and yes, even the random small appliance. But professional organizers will tell you that seldom-used appliances belong in the cupboard, not on the counter. You’ll free up valuable counter space and create a less-cluttered kitchen.
“Coffee makers are typically used every morning, so it makes sense to have it out all the time,” says professional organizer Helena Alkhas. “On the other hand, you may only use your crockpot once a week so the best place to store it is in a cabinet.”
Once you’ve decided what will stay on the counters and what will go, it’s time to come up with a decluttering system. Alkhas has pared the duration of hers down to 15 minutes.
A place for everything
Another school of thought approaches kitchen clutter differently. It includes removing everything from every drawer and cupboard and sorting it. Get rid of the things you never use, store what you seldom use, and put frequently used items in an easily accessible spot.
We love real estate, so cookbook author and pastry chef Alice Medrich’s system appeals to us. Her system has a relaxed pace, calling for you to “do it in small bites, an hour at a time, over several weeks.”
Medrich divides the kitchen into three regions.
Prime real estate: The areas of the kitchen where you do the most work. This includes counters and cabinets that are easily reached.
Suburbs: Storage areas closest to the kitchen, like a pantry or closet.
Outlands: These storage areas are further away or harder to reach, like the basement, garage, and cupboards that require you to stand on something to reach them.
Everything in its place
Begin wherever you choose, but Medrich suggests tackling prime real estate first. You’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor right away, and this instant gratification may help keep you motivated to finish the project.
Once you’ve cleared everything from your cabinets, put each items away according to how often it is used. Seldom-used appliances and gadgets go in the back, while those you use more often go in the front. Anything used once or twice a year – like that huge turkey roasting pan – should go in the outlands.
Use storage space wisely
If kitchens sell homes – and they do! – then pantries sell kitchen. A roomy pantry is a must, but even a smaller one can be put to good use.
Break the space in the pantry into zones. These zones can be anything that makes sense to you, but some of the more common ones used by professional organizers include: Baking, snacks, canned items, breakfast items, pasta, and rice. Just like the cupboards, put rarely used items at the back and items used every day at the front.
Use baskets to keep like items together, such as one for food storage (sandwich bags, foil, and plastic wrap, etc.), another for snacks (chips, pretzels, etc.), and a large one for pet items. Woman’s Day offers up several suggestions to whip the pantry into shape.
Once the pantry is done, look at other clever ways to store frequently used items rather than stashing them on the counter. House Beautiful, for instance, offers a brilliant idea for storing cutting boards and we love this storage idea from Real Simple for those annoying but useful plastic containers that end up all over the kitchen.
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