Imagine it's Thanksgiving and your kitchen is filled with your loved ones assisting you with the big meal or simply enjoying a glass of wine and good conversation. You open a cabinet door to pull out a saute pan, and all of your pots, pans and lids some crashing to the floor. That's what can happen if your kitchen is disorganized. That, and added frustration when you can't find your vegetable peeler among a huge collection of kitchen gadgets jammed into a drawer. Since your kitchen is the heart of your home, and the heart of holiday gatherings, it's well worth your time to give it a good organizing makeover now, before the holidays are upon you.
Julie Morganstern, New York Times best-selling author of "Organize From the Inside Out," says on her tip-filled site that before you reach for catering menus to avoid kitchen frustrations, "Seize this holiday opportunity to create an efficient kitchen that encourages cooking and makes cleanup a piece of cake. Invest a mere six to eight hours organizing now, and you'll reap the benefits all year long."
First, go through your kitchen drawers and cabinets to remove all of the non-essentials, like dish sets that you haven't used since you bought an entirely new set, extra spatulas beyond the two or three you usually use and other items just taking up space. If you have the energy, take everything out, and replace your cabinet and drawer liners for a fresh foundation. This higher-level organization step lets you rediscover all of the kitchen gadgets, platters and other wares you already own.
Next, Morganstern advises organizing your kitchen by function, using the following "Activity Zones" to help keep your everyday supplies handy and make rarely used items easily accessible yet safe from chips and damage:
--Daily Dishes Zone: Morganstern says, "Everyday dishes, glassware and flatware belong in the cabinets directly above and to the side of your sink and dishwasher for effortless cleanup." When guests look for a glass, that's where they'll look, so it's better not to have them find your prescriptions or storage containers there.
--Food Preparation Zone: "Claim the longest counter between the stove and the fridge, or between the sink and stove," says Morganstern. "Fill the cabinets above and below it with the tools, bowls and appliances needed for chopping, mixing and seasoning before cooking." An important element of the food prep zone is storing away non-essential items that take up space on your kitchen counter. A clutter-free kitchen counter area can be calming, making food prep easier when cutting boards and ingredient bowls can share counter space. In cabinets above and below this space, nest mixing bowls, and stand cutting boards on-end along the sides of your cabinet. Since knives are an essential in food prep, invest in a chef-quality knife block to keep edges from dulling or nicking -- which can happen if knives are stored in a drawer -- and to prevent injury when reaching into a drawer.
--Cooking Zone: "Pots, pans, lids and potholders should live in the cabinets closest to your stove and oven. Nest pots and pans to save space," says Morganstern, and invest in a metal mesh or wooden vertical lid organizer to keep those lids easily accessed and firmly in place. A drawer by the oven can hold oven mitts, with trivets placed below them in case you run out of burner space on which to place oven-hot trays and pots.
--Cleanup/recycling zone: Make cleanup easier by placing sponges, scrubbies, detergent and a trash can with liners in the cabinet below your sink.
Additional zones to establish include a recipe zone, such as a countertop area where you'll rest your computer tablet or cookbook for easy view of your recipes. Cookbooks can be stored in a cabinet above this space. A wine zone for wine bottles and wine glasses in built-in or portable racks, and a spice zone, which may be a magnetic spice rack affixed to the side of your refrigerator, are other good options.
Morganstern advises using space savers to stretch your storage capacity. Wire shelf racks measured to fill the entire height between shelves give you use of formerly wasted space, lazy Susans organize canned goods, plastic sealable containers store pastas, flour or sugar -- especially in taller sizes or stackables -- and sturdy, wooden drawer dividers make utensils, serving spoons and small kitchen gadgets more accessible. "Don't overlook the inside of each cabinet door, which can be a goldmine of storage, too. Shallow wire shelves can be door mounted to hold pantry items, nuts and snack foods," says Morganstern.
A bigger kitchen organization project is installing overhead pot racks above your kitchen island, bringing copper pots and saucepans out of your cabinets and on display for easy access.
One of Morganstern's top tips is to organize your kitchen supplies in every zone with frequency of use in mind, using the rule of eye-level storage for items you use most often.
Your newly organized kitchen can take the stress out of holiday dinners and make it easier for family members to help with cooking and cleanup throughout the year.