Friday, December 31, 2010

5 Steps to Loving the Kitchen You're In: Step 5: Divide and Conquer

From the title of this post, you'd think that I'm talking about division of labor. Sorry, but that's just a clever way to get you to jump on in and read all about it. No, I'm talking about organization. And there's no better time to be talking about this very subject. Every year, when I get my brand new calendar, I try to savor that moment when it's completely empty and fresh, nothing written on it. I am literally turning over a new leaf when I break that calendar out. So, while many of us are thinking about the changes and weaknesses we want to work on during the year, let's tackle one that sometimes goes under the radar: Kitchen Organization.I am by no means an expert on organization, but I am pretty dang good at it. I have had to be, with so many children and a compulsion to never say no to pretty much everything anyone asks me to do, I've had to be streamlined in my scheduling and also in my cupboards. You see, I am what is known as a slave driver around these parts. I have older children that I make do dishes and I have younger children that I make sweep floors and put groceries away, and they are all expected to get their own dishes if they're hungry or thirsty, so that means that things have to be find-able and logically grouped so that if you came across something you didn't know where it went, you should be able to find it based on what kind of item it is. I've divided the stuff so I can conquer the chaos. I kind of like that last bit. What a great tagline...

This concept is not new. Check out this book by Julie Morgenstern at your local library if you want a more in-depth explanation, but in it she talks about the concept of organizing by zones. This means that all the things you need to do a certain task should be kept in the place where you would normally do that task. It's like when you keep the flashlight in the garage but the batteries are in the drawer in the kitchen. That's when you not only waste time but you get frustrated that things take so long to do. So, in the kitchen specifically, I have a cooking zone. All pots, pans, strainers, bakeware, utensils and spices are located right next to the stove and microwave. I have a dishes zone. All the dishes and glasses, cups and spoons are housed right by my dishwasher, so that when my slaves, er children, do their dishes they can easily put them away. I have an appliance zone, which I am very lucky to have, where I house all of my plug-in items. There's an outlet in there, so some of them can stay plugged in all the time. I also have my measuring cups and baking needs there, since I usually only measure teaspoons or tablespoons when I'm using the mixer. I have a central command zone. This is where the bills, stamps, phone books, phone, medicines, back issues of Everyday Food, and cookbooks are. All the miscellaneous crap that you definitely need but don't want to trip over while you're cooking is housed here. I have a pantry zone. Now, I know, this pantry is over the top. But it's my one claim to fame here in this house. I have a cracked countertop but a huge pantry. It's a trade-off I'm willing to make. I also group foods by zone in a simplified way in the pantry. I have my spaghetti stuff all by each other, my gluten free stuff has its own shelf, all the cereals and chips are together, canned goods are right there in the middle, and I have a box on the bottom shelf for my kids that has "kid food" like fruit snacks, granola bars, and individually packaged fruits and applesauce, so they can get food for themselves if they're hungry. Shelley from House of Smith's has a super cute pantry project, check it out if you need a little inspiration.

Zones. What a great concept. Divide the stuff so you can conquer some chaos. Some of these cupboards need this example applied more than others. For example, the bakeware is always a mess because I have way too much of it and it's not a great place to put things away. But I took 10 minutes to purge and reorganize this one cabinet and made it work. And this used to be the tupperware cupboard which was a disaster until I realized I really needed to move the tupperware down where I could see the lids to match them up. I think I threw about half of it away because I never use it. It's all in the fridge! Ha ha ha. Purge, purge, purge. You can never do too much purging in the cupboards. Keep what you love and use, chuck the rest. And, most importantly, don't go buy more! Unless it's from LeCreuset or All-Clad...that's totally acceptable.

I hope something in these last few posts has helped you come to terms with the place you cook, and helped you turn it into a family kitchen...because that's where the magic happens.

Happy New Year!


  1. Love your pantry! And I was wondering, where is the best place to buy snacks in Utah? (I'm in Cache Valley) The dietician that met with me after my recent surgery said to get at least 5 ready made snacks and rotate through them to avoid headaches from not eating enough carbs. Also, I didn't know this until I married into a family that sells insurance but it's not a good idea to leave appliances plugged in when not in use. It's a huge pain but your home owner's insurance my have a problem with that should something go wrong. Thanks for your great blog and sharing your knowledge!

  2. Margo, will you come over and organize MY pantry for me? Just kidding. (not really) You have some great tips here. I'm inspired!

  3. Thank you so much for the tip on the plugged in makes sense but I would never think of that until you pointed it out! And Pattie, it's so tempting just to come over and have a good chat!


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