Quick Ways to Organize Your Kitchen

Not just the place where meals are made and sometimes eaten, the kitchen often does multiple duty as home office,

Not just the place where meals are made and sometimes eaten, the kitchen often does multiple duty as home office, family center, and hobby room. No matter how many square feet it measures, a kitchen seldom seems big enough. The challenge is to put the space you have to its best use. Smart organization of your kitchen equipment and supplies is the quickest way to make the room seem more spacious and efficient.

There’s no avoiding some reaching and bending in a kitchen. To make it easier on yourself, however, try to store items that you use every day no lower than knee level and no higher than 10 inches above your head. Reserve the higher and lower shelves for things you don’t need to use very often. You should put lightweight items, such as the stemware that you save for parties, on the highest shelves. Then you won’t have to hold heavy things over your head as you remove them from the cupboard. Put awkward and hefty equipment, such
as infrequently-used small appliances and large Dutch ovens, on the cupboard’s lowest shelves.

Try to store cooking tools and utensils near the area where you normally use them. Keep pots and pans, spatulas, wooden spoons, and hot
pads, for example, by the stovetop. In the same spirit, put knives, cutting boards, measuring cups and spoons, and mixing bowls near the food-preparation counter.

Not everything has to go into a drawer or a cupboard. You may find it even more convenient to take the tool that you need off a hook on pegboard or a wire rack that’s mounted on a wall; off a magnetic bar designed to hold steel utensils that’s fastened on the side of a cupboard; or out of a handsome wide-mouthed pottery jar or pewter mug that sits on the counter.

Pots And Pans
Identify the pots and pans that you use most often, then find a place to store them where they’ll be easy to pull out. Store heavy pots and pans that you use frequently no more than a foot above or a foot below waist level, making certain that they have sturdy support and can be removed and replaced without upsetting other cookware.

If the storage space in your cabinets is full and there’s no room on the walls, consider suspending a metal rack from the ceiling to hang your cookware. (Be sure it is installed properly in a joist, so that it can carry the weight of the pots and pans.) Save your most frequently used — and most attractive — pieces for hanging on the rack. If you can position the rack directly over the cooktop, you can take a pan from storage to service in one quick motion.

Small Appliances
Toasters, coffee makers, food processors, and other small appliances that you use almost daily need their own space on a kitchen counter with a nearby receptacle. Many of these appliances now can be mounted under a cabinet to allow you more working counter space. Consider an under-the-cabinet model next time you need to replace an appliance. Appliances that you use only occasionally, such as a standing mixer or slow-cooker, can be kept in cupboards. If you only use an appliance — the waffle iron, for example — once or twice a year, you can store it in the back of a cupboard or shelf in order to free up more usable space in the kitchen.

Linens
Store sets of place mats or everyday tablecloths with a piece of cardboard between them. Then, the ones that are on top of the pile won’t get disheveled when you pull out the ones that you want below. You can make the dividers out of suit boxes or posterboard.

Pantries
Group pantry supplies so that it is easy to do a quick inventory of what you have and what you need. Cereals, pasta, canned soups, cooking oils, condiments, and beverages like coffee and tea should each have a designated space. Store small cans, jars, and boxes in front of larger items so they’re as easy to see as they are to reach.
Stepped plastic cupboard insets also help in keeping supplies visible.

Clutter Control
Once a year, you should go through each drawer and shelf in the kitchen, checking for unnecessary duplications and items that you don’t use. Do you really need more than one melon baller? Have you ever tried the gadget for making radish roses?

Discard any canned goods and jars that have passed their expiration dates or are more than a year old. Box up the non-food items you don’t need and put them in a neighborhood garage sale, or give them to a friend who’s just setting up housekeeping.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest