Kitchen re-organization (a pain in the patootie, but so worth it!) Part 1: The cabinets

A few weeks ago I became obsessed with reorganizing the kitchen. Every time I opened the “black hole” cabinet or had to empty out the entire drawer in order to reach the cookie sheets I cringed and groused and complained to myself or anyone who would listen. IĀ  convinced my sweetie pie husband that we should tackle it all in one day (a Sunday) so that our kitchen would only be torn apart for one day. It was a huge ordeal, a major pain, and kept me standing and kneeling for hours (once I get the bit between my teeth there’s no stopping me…anyone relate?) which I paid for in sore feet and legs for the next few days (guess all my teacher muscles have atrophied). But in the end it was so rewarding! Now I can get to everything easily, and have that satisfaction of knowing we don’t have any useless, unused items hanging around at the back of the cabinets anymore.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty details, I thought I’d list some tips and tricks I figured out along the way…you know, in case you’re reading this for practical advice and not just to see all my newly organized cabinets. šŸ™‚

1. Do it all in one day

It was exhausting, but much better to just get it over with than to have the kitchen guts spread out everywhere for weeks on end. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do it all at once, tackle only one or two cabinets at a time. That should allow you to finish the task before you have to (or want to) stop. My problem was that I had to do so much moving around…it was like a game of musical chairs. When I moved one pan I had to move a pot in order to make room, then I had to make room for that pot by moving those serving dishes…you get the idea

2. Enlist your husband’s help

Or roommate, or close friend if you’re not married. It probably won’t be at the top of hubby’s list of most favorite things, but if he has a say in the new design he’s more likely to remember where things are now and where they should go. He also will have some excellent ideas for flow and the logical place to group things (at least mine did) and will offer a much-needed second opinion about what to keep, sell, or toss. Two heads are better than one, many hands make light work…you get the idea šŸ™‚

3. Have a plan

Don’t just pull everything out of drawers or off shelves unless you have some idea of how you want it to go back again. Otherwise you will just be staring at empty cupboards feeling completely overwhelmed with the desire to just shove everything back where it was. I sketched out a rough drawing of my kitchen (because I’m nerdy like that) first and thought about where things were now and where they should go before I started the process.

3. Be flexible

Of course once I got into it I realized that some of my plan would have to be altered, but that was ok. At least I had a starting point, and could adjust where I put everything according to how much room I actually had when I was finished sorting.

4. Be willing to let go

Have piles for keep, sell or donate, store, and toss. Be realistic. If you haven’t used something in six months to a year, you probably don’t need it. At least think about boxing it up and sticking in the attic if you’re not quite willing to part with it (then when you clean out the attic, if you haven’t missed the item you can feel better about getting rid of it). If you can pare down your stuff to only what you really use, you will have plenty of room to put everything in a place where you can actually find it!

5. Prioritize and group like-items together

Think about how often you use something. Every day or weekly? Then it should go in an upper cabinet at eye level or at the front of a drawer. Monthly or less? Tuck it away on a top shelf or in the corner cabinet where it’s hard to get to but still available. Now make a home for everything where it wants to live. Think of your kitchen like a small city. It’s like real estate, and location is everything. Those spices don’t want to be far from the stove. Neither do the skillets and pots. Dishes should be near the sink and dishwasher, and mugs want to be close to the coffeepot. I even moved all my baking items out of the pantry and into a corner cabinet to make them easier to get to when I get the urge to bake (and to free up space in the over-crowed pantry).

Feel free to stop reading now, since that’s all my kitchen organizing advice in a nutshell. However, if you’re interested in how I applied these principles to my space, well here you go:

As usual I jumped in headlong, pulling everything out of the cabinet willy-nilly, remembering as I emptied the last shelf that I hadn’t taken any “before” pictures. Shoot! So you’ll have to put up with a couple “in progress” and then the “after shots.” I promise I will take some time today to go take pictures of all my cluttery areas (yes, I have them!) so that for my next organization post there will be horrible befores to compare to fabulous afters. šŸ™‚

This is only the stuff from half the upper cabinets that we decided to keep. Sheesh.
Stuff to get rid of or to store…My fabulous husband took care of boxing everything up and putting it in the car or the attic.

Now for some pretty after pictures:

My spice cabinet next to the stove. This one was already pretty organized, but I had more spices than could fit on the 3-tiered organizer, so they ended up all crammed in the extra space. I solved the problem by finding a longer organizer and stacking my seldom used spices that come in shorter containers (I would still like to find a tall, clear bin to put them in to make it easier to pull them in and out). Spices and seasonings that don’t fit on the risers are easy to reach now. The top shelf holds my liquid measuring cups, and the middle shelf hold cups for solids, the cheese grater, and my measuring spoons in a small bin (I thought about hanging the spoons on the door, but decided I couldn’t put up with the banging every time I opened the cabinet).

My “cooking utensils” drawer, next to the stove and below the spice cabinet. I already had the bins, but they were over-crowded and only served to separate the mess into smaller piles. I still had to dig in order to find anything. I weeded out any utensils that I don’t use regularly, and spaced everything else out so I can find and grab without any digging.Ā  My toes feel tingly every time I open this drawer :).

It takes confidence to let people see under your sink, let me tell you. I had high hopes of installing pull-out shelving, drawers, tension rods, the whole nine yards, but I have very limited vertical space thanks to pipes, garbage disposal, and our RO filtering system (all of which I am immensely grateful for) so in the end decided just to rearrange what I had. Dishwasher liquid next to the roll of trash bags, sponges, scouring pads, and scrubbies in a plastic bin (they sell these bins at Walmart for super cheap…I use them everywhere) and cleaning products and extra dish soap in a bigger plastic bin (plastic is key here for easy clean-ups in case of spills). Not Pinterest worthy maybe, but organized and easy to find what I need, which is all the really matters.

Turns out I have more “before” pictures than I thought! The difference here doesn’t look that dramatic, but it’s huge. Let me explain. The top picture shows a bunch of randomness, piled sideways yes, but still a pile. It has muffin tins, a pizza pan, splatter covers, cooling racks, cutting boards…all tangled up together and impossible to remove easily. It was like a Jengo game gone terribly wrong. I ended up taking everything out, grouping like items together, and finding them new homes where they are so much happier. The cutting boards stayed, and were joined by my skillets that used to live in the drawer under the oven…the one that threatened to come off the rails every time I opened it, which was daily. I’d like to put them all in a vertical wire rack that would separate them, but until I get one this is still a huge improvement!

The “under the oven” drawer now hold less-used baking pans and muffin tins.

Talk about poor use of space. I used this huge drawer to house sandwich baggies and saran wrap. Not super efficient, it’s just where I stuck this stuff when we first moved into the house and never moved it.

Now the drawer hold my cookie sheets (they used to be under the skillets…which I would have to unstack every time I wanted to bake cookies). I also put the cooling racks, pizza pan, and my favorite tupperware container (it’s round, so hard to store, but perfect for cookies or cupcakes) in here, with room to spare!

The cling wrap etc. found a new home in the old junk drawer, along with the clothespins I use to clip open bags of chips closed. The junk drawer moved to my new Command Center…but that’s a different post :).

Again, the before picture’s not bad, but I desperately needed a better place for my slow cooker than the bottom of my pantry with bags stacked on top of it. Now it’s right her with my other pots. Perfect.

The top picture is where I remembered to stop and take “before” photos…that’s why it’s half empty. Again, it wasn’t messy but it was full of seldom-used items that could easily be moved somewhere less accessible to make way for the storage containers, mixing bowls (a Christmas present from my wonderful sister-in-law…it’s actually four stainless-steel bowls stacked inside each other, with lids. I love them!) and casserole dishes that I use all the time. A lot of these things were stored in the “black hole” corner cupboard:

Which now houses my food processor, mixer, small chopper, and dutch oven, all of which I only use occasionally but were taking up prime real estate on my counters or in upper cabinets.

There you have it, my newly-reorganized kitchen cabinets. If you made it through this entire post, I applaud you. It’s not the most compelling content, but I promise it has done wonders for my peace of mind, not too mention lessened my aggravation levels while cooking by 100%. I’ve even stopped wishing for a bigger kitchen! Now we have plenty of space, and there’s a place for everything, so everything can go back in it’s place! Ahhhh…

Hungry for more? šŸ™‚ Look for my next organizational post, where I will display my newly sorted pantry and cleared-off counters. šŸ™‚


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