Organizing a kitchen that works

For the better or worse, I’ve had a lot of experience organizing a kitchen.  Our family has moved many (many) times.  Because of this, I’ve had both the joy and the pain of being able to work in and organize many different types of kitchens.  Some big and beautiful.  Others, not so much.  But either way, all of them worked for our family, and all of them were spaces I enjoyed being in and creating wonderful memories in.  Not because of how great the bones of the kitchen were, but rather how I organized the space to work, for us

Creating a kitchen space you love, and that can work for you, isn’t about doing an entire kitchen renovation.  You don’t need thousands of dollars or a designer.  But what you do need is a little bit of planning, thought, and time to organize and set up your kitchen (not matter how big or small) in a way that works for you.Here’s what I’ve found over the years really matters when setting up a space.

Flow

The size of a kitchen doesn’t necessarily matter, but the flow of a kitchen does.  It can make or break the space.  Ideally, you want your kitchen to create an imaginary triangle between the three most used points; the sink, range and fridge.  Creating a flow between the places you most often “work” cuts down on the amount of wasted energy used “crossing” to grab this or that.  It creates a “flow”.

But just as important as organizing your appliances in a way that flows, it’s equally as important to organize the rest of your kitchen items with that same idea in mind.  I like to do this by organizing a kitchen into smaller sections.  Smaller little “triangles” that are organized together by task.

Items that work together, live together

Grouping items by task creates a much better flow for me when I’m cooking.  So, for example, my coffeepot is set out on my counter next to my fridge.  It’s a small space dedicated to my morning routine.  It’s where my coffee pot “lives”.  So, I keep my coffee beans, grinder, and filters all in the cupboard just above.  This way I’m not traveling across my kitchen gathering these small items, just to make a cup of coffee.  I also drink a cup of lemon water every morning before I have coffee, so my lemons and cutting board live next to my coffee pot.  My morning routine all kept organized, together.   It may seem like something small, but organizing things by task makes everything more efficient.

Everything has a “home”

This is probably my number one rule when organizing not just a kitchen, but any space in a home.  EVERYTHING should have a “home”.  A place where that object lives, permanently.  I find that if you don’t love something enough to dedicate a spot in your home to it, it probably doesn’t belong in your home.

It can be so easy to mindlessly collect items, and fill your shelf space or counter space with items that you don’t truly use or want.  I like to organize my kitchen by allocating the very best real-estate to the items I use the most.   This can change from time to time.  But it’s always a decision made with thought.

For example, our Vitamix gets used every day (and most days, more than once).  So, it gets a home on our kitchen counter, away from everything else.  It’s own dedicated little piece of real-estate (and in a small kitchen, that’s a big deal!).

Before I put anything in my kitchen, or in my cupboards I first ask myself what are the most important items that need a “home” in this kitchen.  The things that I use the most, get the best real-estate.  Then it trickles down, and most often I’m left with items that unfortunately, have no place to “live”.  And guess what, they find a new home.

Minimize

I’m a girl who believes that less is more, especially when it comes to clutter in my kitchen.

There’s a rule I follow when it comes to organizing my closet, and it’s that if I haven’t worn something in six months, I pass it along to another home.  I feel the same way about my kitchen.  So for example if you have an ice cream maker that’s collecting dust in hopes that “one day” you may make ice cream.  Well then I’m pretty sure you know what to do.  If you don’t use it, let it go.

You really only need a few things in a kitchen;  a great chef’s knife, a good blender, a few good pots and pans, a cutting board, a few wooden spoons, and a coffee pot of course.  The rest of the “gadgets” are just extras.  Sure you can have a zester or an ice cream scooper.  But let’s be honest, we all have a few items in our kitchen that do nothing more than collect dust.  If you really want to have a kitchen that works, it’s time to let those things go.

Get it out of the kitchen.

I don’t know about you, but I find that our kitchen tends to be the “dumping zone” for everything; permission slips, soccer cleats, backpacks.  It’s honestly doesn’t matter.  You name it, it’s come through my kitchen.  So I try (key word, try) with six people to keep everything that’s not kitchen related, out of the kitchen!

I’ve done this by creating little nooks just outside of the kitchen where things can go, and I let everyone know expectations.  So for papers, I have a desk just steps away from the kitchen.  If you need me to look at it, sign it, keep it, or frame it – it goes there.  Otherwise, it goes in a special bin I like to call, “le garbage” (when I say it with a French accent my kids think I’m less cruel).  Either way, it’s not staying on my kitchen counter.

I find that when you remove anything from your kitchen that’s not really cooking related (aka, soccer cleats) your space really opens up.  But in order to do that you have to create systems that work for your family, which takes a little bit of thought, some communication, and a whole lot of patience.  But when it’s done well, it really pays off.

Pantry Goals

A well organized pantry is worth its weight in gold.  It makes cooking so much easier when you can SEE what you have, and you KNOW where it is.

I personally like to empty everything into clear containers (these are the exact containers I use).  Everything from flour to cereal, rice to seeds.  It all gets emptied.  It makes it so much easier to see across a wide pantry, or back into a deeper pantry when everything is emptied out into a type of uniform, clear, containers.

We just moved into our current rental a few weeks ago, and wont be here very long, so this isn’t the best example of an ideal pantry, but it at least gives you a sense of what I’m talking about.

I often get asked about what you do with the “cooking instructions” for different grains or beans once I empty them into containers.  It’s simple.  I just cut off a piece of the package and tape it to the bottom of the container.  It may take a few extra minutes, but this simple step of using clear containers makes it so much easier to keep your pantry organized.

I also like to keep any “loose” items contained.  So for example the white bin on the very top shelf holds all of my miscellaneous paper items (paper plates, cups, napkins, plastic utensils) all contained, together.  Which makes accessing them easier, and knowing where anything is easier.

Sprinkles of JOY

For the most part, my countertops are clear of any items that aren’t truly functional.  But every rule has to be broken once in a while, right?  So for me, I break this rule by brining in a few items that really make me happy – plants.  I LOVE fresh plants and flowers in a kitchen.

They make the space feel so vibrant and fresh and bring in an element of beauty and peace.  In a space that I try to keep as “functional” as possible, it feels great to balance it off with something that’s there just because, well, it’s pretty.

Every space should have something in it that you love.  Something that brings you joy.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a candle, a special vase or a photo you love.   Choose something that will make you smile whenever you see it and then find a special spot for you it in your space.  We spend so much time in our kitchens, it should be space that not only functions for us, but also brings us joy.

Regardless of big or small, or how modern or outdated our kitchens are, they can be organized in a way that work for us.  These are just some of the things I like to think about as I’m organizing my space, and hopefully they will help you as you create a space that you love as well.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *