Let’s face it, it’s tough to make guacamole or other delicious snacks with little to no elbow room in the kitchen. So, how does one declutter and organize their kitchen to make it safe for slicing and dicing those delicious avocados?
Doing it well occurs in two main stages: (1) Setting up a new, effective system, and (2) maintaining that system. Whether your kitchen is big or small, and whether you keep it stocked with the latest gear or just the basics, these essential tips will help you get — and stay — organized.
As with socks in the washer and dryer, so it is with plastic containers and lids in the kitchen: one member of a pair will always get lost. Before you set up your new system in earnest, clean out the items that are less useful because they’ve lost their partner, are broken or have missing parts, or are otherwise past their prime. If you can salvage a major appliance with a repair, make a service appointment and plan to get the piece back in action.
Treat your kitchen like your clothes closet: Haven’t used an object in a year? Give it a new home. Most of us have a drawer full of kitchen tools and doodads that might be useful … if only we remembered that we had an extra refrigerator light bulb or replacement moka pot gasket. The problem is, we don’t. Pack up some boxes or bags of those items you don’t use (here’s a good starter list) and donate them to your local thrift store. And if you have items you want to keep but didn’t even remember you had, consider how you might make them more visible in your new organizational system, or add them to a list of objects you don’t use often but want to remember you have. Don’t want to write that down on paper? Use an app like Evernote to get — and stay — organized.
Tools and utensils, cooking vessels, and spices are just some of the items that clutter our kitchens. If you cook regularly, you probably keep at hand those ingredients that you use on a daily basis (like avocados!), and you likely store those ingredients or tools that are in less frequent rotation. But is your storage system sensible or chaotic? As you start to organize and implement a new system, think about how you can organize items in a way that makes sense. When it comes to your spices, for example, group dried herbs and leaves (bay leaves, avocado leaves) in one section, powders like turmeric, cumin, and curry in another, and spices you tend to use for baking — cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla — in yet another.
The “Kondo approach” to organizing makes for pretty pictures, but in real life, the “nothing on the kitchen counter” system doesn’t make sense for most people who cook daily. There is an abundance of advice out there (including ours!) about the “best” way to declutter a kitchen, but if certain tips don’t make sense for you, your family, or your lifestyle, don’t feel obliged to follow them. Do what works for you.
The catalogs and shelves of kitchen and home improvement stores overflow with bottles, bins, baskets, and other organizers that lure with their promise of magically tidying up our lives. But in addition to the fine print (you have to use them well and maintain them to reap their benefits), there’s usually a significant cost for this pre-packaged organizers. Instead of spending the kids’ inheritance, look at the underlying concept of the organizer and consider how you can set up something similar on a more reasonable budget — and maybe even with items you have at hand.
Use the backs of cabinet doors to install hooks that can hold small objects like measuring spoons, and take advantage of vertical (rather than horizontal) space by rescuing gently-used objects like wooden wine boxes from your local liquor store to store everything from plates and glasses to cookbooks. If you’re handy with tools, you can even make your own spice rack or shelving system. Cast-offs from other parts of your home — like wooden-slat closet doors — can become a fantastic organization system for the kitchen with a new coat of paint and some hooks.
Sure, it’s tempting to stock your shelves with sale items or bulk purchases at wholesale warehouses, but sometimes deals end up creating a level of stress that undermines the joy of having saved a few bucks. Bulk purchases may make sense money-wise, but they tend to create clutter, and clutter, in turn, takes up mental space. Shopping smaller — buying only what you need, when you need it — is one sure way to prevent cabinets, shelves, fridges, and freezers from overflowing and contributing to kitchen chaos.
Preventing clutter from overtaking your kitchen is one sure way to help yourself stay organized, but even with a “buy only what’s needed” approach, you’re still going to need to schedule regular cleaning time. Beyond the daily dish washing, add periodic deep-but-fast cleans to your schedule. Doing this helps keep mess from escalating; regular spot cleans of the fridge (Wipe up those spills!) and freezer, as well as monthly washes of the utensil drawer holder, a quick wipe of the cabinet fronts, and a rapid recon of the oven will seem painless when they’re part of your scheduled routine (as opposed to, you know, a “How did this get so messy? I have to clean it NOW!” meltdown).
Sure, you could be the best dinner party hostess in the world if you just bought the latest salad spinner, but take a step back from the shelf and consider: Do you really need the newest kitchen tool? One of the surest ways to send yourself into a spiral of kitchen clutter despair is to keep accumulating gadgets that aren’t essential to your daily cooking routine. For every gadget you want to buy but don’t, put the equivalent amount of money in a savings account or vacation jar and reward yourself later for your smart restraint.