“My kitchen is littered with mail, newspapers, and homework.”
Get a roll-around file cabinet. The kitchen is a great place for opening mail, reading newspapers, and doing homework. The problem is that stuff piles up on the table and countertops. Those things need a place to be stashed right in your kitchen but out of the way. There’s an easy answer—a small portable file cabinet on wheels, found at any office supply store. Place a one level in-basket on top for mail. Simply roll the file cabinet under the counter or the table or into an out-of-the way corner.
“I hate having to toss out expired food.”
Store food so you use the oldest first. If you frequently have to throw away packaged food because it’s passed its expiration date, start using the LIFO (Last In, First Out) method of pantry stocking. Always put your newest purchases on the back of the shelf or on the bottom of a stack. That way, you and your family members will always use up the oldest (and easiest to grab) food first.
“My undercounter cabinets are a nightmare.”
Hang your most used pots and pans. Start by putting your most-used pots and pans on racks. These are simple wooden or metal bars with hooks that attach to your kitchen ceiling or wall. The holes on your pot or pan handles fit the hooks. Just like that, you’ve cleared out a good chunk of clutter from your cabinet and positioned your pots and pans for easy access. Next, get mixing bowls that nest. If you don’t have a set of mixing bowls that nest, buy one and get rid of your old ones. Three or four bowls now take up the same space of one old one. You can even keep them on the countertop or on an overhead shelf to free up more undercounter space.
Keep the bags in the trash can. Bulky items like that 30-count box of garbage bags often end up down the hall in a closet, forcing you to march around the house looking for a fresh bag every time you take out the garbage. To end this little annoyance, take some or all of the garbage bags out of their cardboard box. Put the bags loose in the bottom of the trash bin. That way, every time you take out the trash, there’s a fresh bag lying there ready for service.
“I don’t have enough shelves for food.”
Put screw-on jars under shelves. If there’s a lot of space wasted between shelves, try this trick from the workshop: Attach masontype jars to the underside of the shelves. Using a small nail and a hammer, punch a hole or two in each metal jar lid. Then screw the lid to the shelf using half-inch (1.25 centimeter) wood screws. Install a lid about every 5 inches (12.5 centimeters). Now, fill the jars with rice, beans, and other staples and screw them into their lids.
“I’ve got soup packets and dried-food bags falling from every shelf.”
Put them in transparent containers. Use see-through, stackable plastic containers to hold loose packets of soup mix, hot cocoa, tea, and condiments. They’ll be much easier to find than tucked away in piles of plastic bags. Kitchen supply stores carry nice-looking sturdy glass or plastic containers, or you can convert jars you already have. If you have counter space or areas available on top of your wall cabinets, keep the jars of dried foods outside the cupboard, where you won’t forget they’re available.
“My spices are in permanent disarray.”
Get a lazy susan. If you have a potpourri of containers that don’t always fit right in a spice rack, put them on a revolving lazy Susan. A lazy Susan can accommodate spice containers of any shape—tall skinny bottles, short fat ones, little bags, bigger bags, and plastic containers as well as the classic little bottles. And as long as you keep it on a shelf at or near eye level, you can easily spot the spice you’re looking for as you turn the tray.
“I can never find the can I’m looking for.”
Install stepped mini-shelves. To corral the chaos of cans in your food cupboard, try a stair-style minishelf unit. You can find these two or three-tiered shelves at kitchen supply stores. Buy one that’s about one can-height short of touching the shelf above it and one can-width less wide than the main shelf you’ll be setting it on. Fill the minishelves with your canned goods. Now not only can you see the can you want, but you can also pull it out without toppling others.