How to Make the Most of a Small Kitchen

Tackle the Clutter Every time you cook, do you have to rummage through a disorganized mess of swallowed-up spatulas, long-forgotten

Tackle the Clutter
Every time you cook, do you have to rummage through a disorganized mess of swallowed-up spatulas, long-forgotten whisks and seldom-used garlic presses in the gadget drawer? Cleaning out that clutter can be the first step toward a completely organized kitchen!

“Everything must have a home, and that’s especially important in a small kitchen where space is at a premium,” says Barry Izsak of the National Association of Professional Organizers.

Unfortunately, many folks encounter trouble on the path to an organized kitchen. According to Barry, there are three common pitfalls:

1. Cluttered countertops
2. Storing things in the wrong places
3. Having too many tools and small appliances that are never used

Sound familiar? Have no fear — tackling that messy kitchen isn’t painful. You just have to take that first step.

A Master Plan
To begin, Barry says, develop a logical master plan for your ideally organized kitchen.

Think about your habits. Do you tend to drop paperwork in the kitchen on your way in? A mail center at the front door may keep bills better organized and off the kitchen counter. Barry stresses, “The rule should be that the countertop is cleared at the end of every evening.”

Include your personal cooking style in your plan. For example, if you like to bake, set up in a baking zone with pans, supplies and utensils in one easy-to-locate spot. If you’re a java fan, create a coffee bar that includes a coffeemaker, mugs and filters.

For Maximum Efficiency

  • Put like things together: pots with pans, silverware with silverware, gadgets with gadgets.
  • Keep kitchen tools near where they’ll be used. Store spatulas and pots and pans by the stove and spices close to meal-preparation areas.
  • Store things that are harder to carry, like mugs and glasses, near the dishwasher so it’s easier to unload.

Sort, Then Sort Some More
Once you’ve devised a plan, it’s time to organize, clean up and clear out. Break the process into manageable steps.

  • If you haven’t used something in a year or more, think about selling it, donating it or throwing it out if it no longer works. You probably won’t miss it.
  • Be realistic about what you need. “Unless you’re an avid pie maker you don’t really need 20 pie plates,” Barry notes.
  • If you have seldom-used small appliances that you want to keep, store them in other areas of the house where you have more room.
  • Set up a paper-goods area in another part of your home to store bulk items like paper towels, napkins and paper plates.

Store Creatively
After you’ve organized, Barry advises adding additional storage. “But,” he stresses, “don’t buy a lot of products until you know what you need.” Some inexpensive solutions include:

  • Adding hanging baskets under shelves or free-standing units on top to create more usable cabinet space.
  • Making your own sections in drawers with customized snap-and-fit organizers.
  • Buying single or double turntables so you can see spices, bottles or canned goods at a turn.
  • Installing shelves to transform a broom closet into a pantry.
  • Purchasing a large cutting board that fits across the sink to create more counter space.

Though everyday clutter can overwhelm a small kitchen, it doesn’t have to overwhelm you. Just be practical about what you need, consider new ways to store things and have fun. With a little work, you may never fear your gadget drawer again!

Problem-Solving Kitchen Gadgets
Have a specific challenge? These organizational gadgets may help:

  • For more work space, use a portable island. Easily wheeled to where you need it, an island is great for apartment dwellers because it can go with you if you move.
  • To declutter cabinets, hang a grid system on the wall. In addition to spatulas, whisks and other accessories, you can even hang pots from clips if you’re short on space.
  • Try slide-out caddies to organize your pots and pans. Not only do they keep everything viewable and in one place, but the slide-out feature provides extra ease.
  • Mount cutting boards, cups and many small appliances under cabinets to free up counters. Stop by a home improvement store for cup hooks and other accessories.
  • Wire organizing systems or individual baskets make food easy to see in your pantry. Available in a variety of colors and sizes, they brighten up any plain pantry.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest