There are lots of benefits to having an organized kitchen: You know your inventory, can easily find what you need and are not overwhelmed with clutter. But getting organized can be a challenge, as family needs, storage options and other factors differ from house to house. Organization experts share their tips for tidying your cupboards, pantry and drawers so your daily life flows smoothly and you get the most out of the space.
Katy Winter, who runs the home organizing service Katy's Organized Home, says the first thing to do is to go in the kitchen and take everything out, as that's key to helping you "reimagine and rethink your space." Next, sort items into categories, such as baking, snacks, breakfast, pasta and grains, etc. Then sort your prep items such as spices, oils, utensils, cups and dishes.
The key to staying neat and lessening waste is to see all items at any given time. "You don't want items to be placed behind other items in a deep cabinet," says Winter. "They easily get lost, forgotten and expire." Use risers or Lazy Susans in your cabinets so you can see what you have in the back. Make sure bins are easy to access and pull out. Use organizers to keep drawers neat and store utensils or spices.
*Keep It Convenient
"Keep the items you know you use often easily accessible," says Adriana Dikih of the Willamette Transplant blog, which focuses on DIY home projects. "Maybe even store them within arm's reach in decorative containers appropriate to live on the counter."
She says navigating your pantry should be easy and convenient. For example, store cooking and baking items separately. When you're preparing a savory dinner, you shouldn't have to fumble through sweet ingredients like baking sugars to find what you need.
If you buy in bulk, Bri Bell, registered dietitian and kitchen expert who runs the Frugal Minimalist Kitchen website, recommends labeling your food or taking items out of their original packaging. She uses mason jars to items such as nuts, quinoa and beans.
Bell suggests doing a quick inventory before you go shopping. Knowing what you have will help you avoid buying duplicates. And only buy what you plan to use in the next few weeks so there is less waste and more space in your cabinets.
Regularly emptying and rotating items in your pantry "saves time, money and efficiency in the kitchen," says Dikih. She often finds at least two dinner options hiding in her pantry, such as rice, beans, lentils or polenta. Move existing items to the front, and place new items in the back to see what else you can cook up that you may have forgotten.
Productivity expert and bestselling author of "Listful Living: A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You" Paula Rizzo recently redid the pantry in her New York City apartment, planning the project step by step and sharing details on her List Producer blog.
In just 30 minutes, she chose a date to clean the pantry and made a list of kitchen essentials. She spent an hour on that chosen day clearing out the pantry, throwing out unused or expired items. Similar to tidying expert Marie Kondo's approach to decluttering, Rizzo held each item and decided what earned a place in the pantry. For example, she decided to get rid of a juicer she received years ago as a gift but had only used three times.
After the pantry purge, Rizzo spent 30 minutes buying organizational items including containers, reusable labels, a spice organizer and scoops. Reorganizing the pantry and putting everything back together took one hour.
"Before I started stuffing things back in the pantry I thought about how we live and what we use most," she wrote. "I have six shelves and baskets on the door for extra storage." The top shelf holds extra pans and serving dishes; the second shelf is for the crockpot and bulk items. The third shelf, one of the most used, hold snacks and breakfast essentials like oatmeal. Spices, oil and vinegar are on the fourth shelf; cans and jarred items are on the fifth. The sixth stores frying pans and sheet pans.
Now Rizzo and her husband know where everything goes. They feel lighter and more organized. "I'm happy I don't have to dig through things to get to the one thing I need," she says. "I don't like over buying and now I won't."
*Tips to Get You Started
Kitchen tidying is as easy as you plan it to be. Use these four tips as a guideline for your project, and see how you want to customize from there.
1. Empty the cabinets, and then clean and vacuum the space.
2. Get rid of items you don't use.
3. Sort storage containers, making sure each one has its matching lid and that they aren't stained or cracked.
4. Designate a place for everything you have in the pantry.
Home should feel like home, and messiness can get in the way of that. Organizing your kitchen is a guaranteed way to be less stressed and more efficient so you are freed up to do more of the things you love.
Image courtesy of Willamette Transplant