Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A kitchen for your lifestyle

I like to tell my clients the urban legend about the new college campus that decided not to put in sidewalks at first. They decided instead to see where the students wore paths in the grass and lay the sidewalks accordingly. Now, I have no reason to believe this story is true, but it accurately reflects how I like to work with my clients.

Often times, when a person is trying to get organized, they fight their natural tendencies with the idea that, "Miss Organizing Expert says things are supposed to look like this." Well, that's great for Miss Organizing Expert, but does it actually work for you? When you're trying to figure out what makes the most sense for your kitchen, your first consideration must be, How do you actually use your kitchen?

Are you a gourmet chef? Are you a mom with three kids doing homework at the kitchen table while you cook? Is your kitchen simply the place where you keep the cereal and the Lean Cuisine? One of my colleagues doesn't cook at all. Instead, she keeps her pet rabbit in the kitchen! Your kitchen should make sense for how you live.

Great, fabulous! But, uh, what is that supposed to look like?

Well, the first step is to put things close to where you use them. Putting away the dishes is less of a chore when your dishes are directly above the dishwasher. Spices, oils and such are nice to have close to the stove. Now, ideally, the spices won't get too close to the stove as heat makes them lose their flavor more quickly. If you have the option of putting spices into a drawer close to the stove, I say, do it! A simple in-drawer spice rack will keep them from getting chaotic. (That's the image at the top of the post. Someday I hope to be skillful enough to put pictures in the middle of a post! :)) Along the same lines, if you have a knife block, try putting it and your cutting boards where you have counter space to do prep work. (Obviously, this won't work if you need to keep knives away from children in your house.)

If you're asking, "what counter space?!" don't despair. Take a look at your counters. Are they covered in papers? Are they covered in dishes? Are they covered in appliances? Each has its own remedy.

For papers, you probably need a filing system in the kitchen, at least a basic one. Maybe you already have an office, but paper never seems to get there. We'll talk more about filing in the future. In the meantime, accept the reality that papers DO collect in your kitchen and you need to make that work for you, not against you. A small file holder--if it's upright, no more than 6"x12" with a few simple folders will help tremendously. Tuck in an envelop and scissors for coupons, if you're a clipper, and put a pad for the grocery list with it. Shopping is easier when you have your list and coupons together. :)

For counters covered in dishes, I would like to introduce you to the Flylady. The Flylady has been my online mentor for a few years now, with her wise advice about how to set up routines and keep your house clean. Organizing, unfortunately, can only take you so far. It doesn't make the dishes wash themselves and even worse, it doesn't make your family put things away! It can make the process much easier, though! So, if you're struggling with keeping up on the cleaning, do what I do and check out She'll help you get straightened out!

Okay, back to organizing.

If your counters are covered in appliances, this is the time to ask yourself, "What do I use the most?" Do you only make toast on the weekend? Consider putting your toaster in a cupboard. If you never use your Kitchenaid mixer, despite the fact that it was a generous wedding present and someday you're going to bake three times a week, be honest with yourself and put it in a cupboard, in the pantry, or even in the garage, if comes to that. If you don't use something, it becomes clutter. One warning, make sure that the other people in your house don't use it either, otherwise you could experience a mutiny if you try to move it!

Wait a minute! If you don't use something, why are you keeping it? Do you know someone who will love it and use it? Maybe your favorite charity would benefit tremendously from the things that are actually making your life more cluttered.

Just remember, if you give your fondue pot away and then really, really miss it, you can pick up a barely used one at Goodwill for $3!

Happy organizing!


John Trosko said...

Hi Samantha,

Great post and I love the story about sidewalks. I don't believe it either, but it's a funny thought.

John aka OrganizingLA

Becky said...

Wow, great info! I think I saw you post on Meanest Mom so I bookmarked you.. I'm really looking forward to reading more.

I'm going up to my kitchen to look around and see what can be moved.

For my pictures, I'm able to just cut and past them to where I want.. try that.

Jen said...

And then there are the people like me who like their kitchens semi-cluttered because it makes everything that much more colorful. ;) I do like the in-drawer spice rack idea, though!

Please tell me you're going to post on pantries and cupboards. Pretty please?