Q: My daughter just moved into her first duplex, and she had no idea how to organize her kitchen. Can you help?
A: Often, simple rearrangements will help you keep everything you need close by. Instead of organizing things by where they fit, try to place them in easy reach of where they will be used. Consider creating “centers” in your kitchen.
Centers are places within the kitchen where you can readily do a particular task because you have arranged together the necessary equipment (or appliance), storage space, supplies, counter space and utensils.
Kitchen plans vary on the number and kinds of work centers needed, just as family needs vary. Basic centers needed:
• Cook and serve center: This center is planned around the range or cooktop. In this area, you would keep your pots, pans and cooking utensils, serving bowls and platters, potholders and trivets.
• Sink or sink-dishwasher center: The sink center is generally the most frequently used area in the kitchen. Poor storage space is usually a problem in the sink center because of the plumbing lines and fittings, disposal and dishwasher. Some of the usual items to consider storing in this area are tools to clean food (brushes, colander, etc.), storage supplies for leftovers, dishwashing supplies and tools, dishtowels, cloths, detergents, pitchers, coffeemakers, cutting board and wastebasket. Cleaning supplies are stored in this area in many homes — if possible try to locate these out of the reach of small children.
• Refrigerator center: Next to the refrigerator, other food pantry items can be stored, such as canned foods and ready-to-eat foods. In addition, you may want to store accessory items such as foil, plastic wrap and storage containers in this area.
• Mixing center: The mixing center or food preparation center is ideal for mixing bowls, measuring equipment, baking equipment and utensils used for food preparation. In addition, food ingredients used in baking and food preparation should be stored here, such as flour, sugar, salt, liquid oils, dry foods (like pasta and rice), herbs, spices and seasonings.
There are two thoughts on where the tableware (plates, glassware, silverware) should be stored. Some prefer them close to the sink/dishwasher for easy storage after they are cleaned — others prefer them close to the table or eating bar for easy table setting.
An organized, uncluttered kitchen is a pleasant place to cook. If you are time-strapped, keeping your kitchen organized can reduce your stress and help increase your cooking efficiency.
De-clutter by getting rid of duplicates in the kitchen that you don’t need. However, if tools are frequently used, have several of each, usually at least three: i.e., measuring cups, measuring spoons, rubber scrappers and wooden spoons. Unstack items wherever possible so bowls, pans and tools can be reached with one hand. Use stackable storage containers to save space when they are empty.
Remove everything but the essential tools from kitchen drawers so that retrieving a tool is a “reach in, pick up, and go to work” motion. Do the same with cupboard and shelf items.
You may want to apply the A, B, C storage rule. Can you reach it without stretching or bending? It’s an “A” location. Do you have to reach or stoop? It’s a “B” location. Must you kneel, stand on a stool, or stick your head in a cupboard? It’s a “C” location. Obviously, put the most frequency-used tools in the most convenient “A” locations, others in the rear, upper or lower “B” and “C” areas.
Controlling kitchen clutter takes some personal discipline and help from others in your household. Instead of dropping items on the counter, provide a rolling file cabinet or plastic tub in a designated spot for “stuff.” Consider picking up a set of stacking trays to keep papers in, designating one for each household member.
When re-organizing your kitchen keep this phrase in mind, “Less is more, because more is a chore.”
— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.