We often hear that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Has your kitchen shown you any love lately? It’s where people get nourishment, where our kiddos work on their homework, where the family catches up at the end of the day.
Instead of loving us and giving us a hug, many kitchens crinkle their noses and stick their tongues out at us. We’re faced with a months’ worth of mail on a counter, a craft project on the table that has been pushed over so our children can sit and eat, and an overflowing pantry with expired food and a funny smell. You get the picture. So if you are looking for a kitchen that will show you some love and help you take care of your family, then take my hand and I will help you put the love back in the heart of your home.
Keep Your Head Above Water. Start with daily cleaning activities.. Empty your dishwasher, clear out the sink, and wipe down the counters. You will need the space and will be thankful for an empty sink when it is time to make dinner. This is not spring cleaning. Put on some lively music and spend just 10 minutes tidying up.
Sacred Higher Ground. Give your table the respect it deserves. Remove anything that doesn’t belong here. Now hold on. Take the time to put this “stuff” where it belongs, or you will just be dumping these problems on another room. Now put something pretty on the table such as simple flowers or fruit in a pretty bowl as if you were having a guest for dinner. This will not only serve as decoration but will help you think twice before leaving something on the table.
Get Lean and Mean. The pantry is anywhere you store food. The cupboard, fridge and freezer. Throw away any expired food. A jar of pasta sauce from 2005? The mystery meat in the freezer? Donate any other food you know you will never use. Be ruthless here; when in doubt throw it out (or donate). Now you can arrange what’s left. Baking supplies together on the top shelf, pasta next to the sauce on a middle shelf. Larger, heavier items on the bottom. In the fridge use small plastic bins to group small items like cheeses or condiments. In the freezer, group veggies on one side, meats on another side. Frozen treats way in the back in case you are not in the mood to share. Wink, wink!
Zone Out. Place items used for cooking and meal prep in the “hot zone” near the stove. This would include a cutting board, mixing bowls, cooking utensils and oils. You will want a “food storage zone” for easy leftover storage. Create a “paper processing zone” to handle all incoming paper. Think about where you do different tasks then make sure you have everything stored within reach.
Papermania. Deal with the paper. Take a quick glance at all of the paper that lands in your kitchen. Mail: first de-clutter. Then, recycle old magazines, catalogs, and advertisements. You should be left with mostly bills. Quick, now go put these bills in a designated “bills to be paid” container. Kids’ stuff: designate a homework area. Create a box for papers that you need to read from the school, such as permission slips, etc. Have wall of fame or a special box for your artist’s latest masterpiece.
Contain Yourself. Contain your leftovers. Standardize your food storage. Donate or recycle all of your mismatched food storage containers. Then stick to one brand of clear (preferably glass) containers. You will always have the right lid to fit your container. Ahhh, Nirvana!
Clean and Green. Rethink your need for toxic specialty cleaners. Save money and space, and help the environment by making your own. For most kitchen cleaning jobs mix a solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle then add a few drops of dish soap, and you can clean most surfaces in your kitchen. Keep a refillable bottle of glass cleaner for shiny surfaces and a box of baking soda on hand when you need a little scrubbing power.
Tableware. Think about who is using an item. Help the kids help themselves. Store cereal bowls, small plates and kid friendly cups down low so that children can help themselves to breakfast in the morning or a snack in the afternoon. Wine glasses can go on the top shelf. Tableware should be close to the table and dishwasher. Arrange your kitchenware by frequency of use with everyday dishes on an easy-to-reach lower shelf.
Every Day is a Special Occasion. Those items that are only used occasionally are better stored out of the way. Find a place for them in the garage or basement. Or better yet, consider letting them go. You can probably borrow from a friend when you need it. Use your “good” stuff every day. If it’s good enough for company it’s good enough for your family.
Maintenance. A source of frustration is when one feels like they have finally gotten their kitchen organized and realize that in a short amount of time that the clutter and mess start to come back. The key to long term success is to realize that organization is an ongoing process. Create simple routines to maintain your new kitchen. For example, a day or so before you grocery shop, make a quick menu from items you already have on hand. Use the grocery store to fill in the gaps. This will save money and keep you from overbuying.
Okay, having an organized kitchen won’t necessarily make your ground chuck magically turn into a filet mignon, nor will it make your kids suddenly want to do their homework. But it can make your day go more smoothly and give you more time to spend time creating loving memories with your peeps. Okay, now get going and create that kitchen that will show you and your loved ones some love. XOXO