Smart Ideas for Organizing Your Kitchen
Kitchen Clutter Q & A
The wizard behind so many Real Simple home stories, Chip Cordelli is an experienced organizer with insight and attitude. Here’s some starter wisdom from the smarty-pants who’s launched a thousand makeovers.
Q. What bad habits do you see when it comes to kitchen organization?
A. People keep things they don’t use, with a “maybe someday” mind-set: the bread maker, the pasta machine, the fish steamer. You don’t have to throw them out, but for goodness’ sake, don’t let them take up valuable real estate. And some folks just don’t think through the room. They’ll say things like “If only I were left-handed” rather than moving the coffeemaker to the other side of the counter.
Q. Can you debunk some kitchen myths?
A. The big crock is a crock. We shove all these utensils in there, and it becomes a vertical junk drawer. Instead, use a small one that holds only the four or five tools you use all the time. And the idea that you need a lot of cookbooks—I see people with 75 cookbooks in their kitchen. But when I ask how many they really use, it’s always one or two.
Q. Got a tip that can change our lives?
A. Tweak organization according to the season. This time of year, keep your Dutch oven on the stove and a basket of soup ingredients at the ready in the pantry. In the summer, when you’re always reaching for your blender and water pitchers, move them front and center.
Control Drawer Chaos
“I go into people’s houses and see the greatest hits of every home they’ve ever lived in—dry mustard and tarragon from their first apartment that have made the move with them seven times. Toss the oldies and anything you never use.”
Stadium seating: Designate a drawer (in a cool spot, away from the oven) for your 12 most frequently used spices. Jars can sit pretty without disappearing into the darkness of a deep cupboard— and labels are easy to read. Whole spices are good for three years, ground spices for two. In-Drawer spice-rack set, $28,containerstore.com.
Matching containers: Clear glass looks clean and crisp and lets you see what needs refilling. Spice jars, $20 for 12,williams-sonoma.com.
Side-by-side storage for tools: Spice-related gadgets, like measuring spoons and a zester, can fill out the drawer.
Conquer Clutter in Cupboards and Cabinets
“Mismatched pieces wreak havoc. Unless you won the lotto while drinking from that old mug, don’t let sentimentality make you keep it. Any sort of ‘off’ dishware causes visual chaos, and every time you open the cupboard, something in the back of your brain is saying, ‘My life is a mess.’ There’s calm and comfort in an organized set.”
Hierarchy (orlowerarchy): The bottom shelf should hold everyday items. (If you have kids, they’ll be able to reach and help set the table.) Stash infrequently used serving pieces, like pitchers and large bowls, on high shelves.
Shelves within shelves: Use metal risers to separate plates from bowls so you don’t have to lift a stack to get to items underneath. Chrome dinner plate shelf, $10,containerstore.com.
Floating cups: A row of cups looks cozy—as if you’re living in your own little bed-and-breakfast—and allows for storage below. Crown Bolt three-pound brass-plated cup hooks, $5 for 25,homedepot.com.
“Be honest with yourself about the items you really need to leave out and those that are more about wishful cooking.”
Coffeemaker, toaster, microwave: These can stay on the counter, but consider mounting the microwave under a cabinet to free up work space.
Stand mixer: Put it away in a low cupboard unless you use it more than once a month.
Blender, hand mixer: Outfit a deep cabinet with a pullout metal shelf. It will allow you to keep bulky items like these in back but still get to them easily. Lynk roll-out stainless-steel cabinet drawer, $60,target.com.
Hang Only Essential Pots
“Most of us don’t need that entire 10-piece set we bought. Weed out extras and donate them. If you have no room to hang, don’t worry. Once you edit, you’ll be able to stash the keepers in one deep drawer or cabinet.”
The fab five: A good frying pan, a saucepan, a large sauté pan, a cast-iron skillet, and a stockpot will handle the vast majority of your needs. Hang everything except the stockpot from a small ceiling-mounted rack or a pegboard on the wall. Bar pot rack, $87.50, jkadams.com.
Boarded up: Cutting boards can be a nuisance to store. Leaning them means they crash down; laid flat, they take up too much space. Buy a hangable board and keep it with the pots. Canvas small Trapezoid board, $84, canvashomestore.com for info.
Sparkle and shine: If you’re not into a lived-in look for pots and pans, displaying them entails a bit of elbow grease—and a gentle abrasive, which will make them ready for their close-up. Bar Keeper’s Friend, $4, amazon.com.
Customize Your Pantry
“If you can’t see what you have, you end up buying 15 boxes of Bisquick. This is a high-traffic, rough-and-tumble spot, so it’s got to be well thought-out and continually maintained. It’s all about smart placement.”
Wine “attic”: Move bottles to a (high) safe place. A wine rack keeps wine properly stored on its side. Stash the corkscrew here, too, so you’ll always know where to find it.
Party fare: Fill the top shelf with crackers and nuts. Double usable space with risers.
Spinning supplies: Put anything small or sticky (think honey and molasses) on a two-tier rotating rack so you can spin and search (and on occasion remove and clean). Set it in back, with high-frequency essentials, like favorite cereals, in front. Two-tier revolving spice rack, $30, williams-sonoma.com.
See-through storage: Decant lentils and the like into clear containers—eye candy that happens to be practical. Also use trans-parent canisters for spillables, like spaghetti (once the box is open, forget it). Place related items together: pasta next to the tomato paste. Blanca canisters (white), from $16 each, containerstore.com. Anchor Hocking canister set, $20, bedbathandbeyond.com.
Supermarket shelf strategies: Stock bottom shelves several cans or jars deep, with one item in front to mark the category.
Baker’s tray: Corral flour, sugar, and vanilla so when it’s cookie-making time, you’ve got everything you need in one spot.