Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

The Kitchen: Rearranged (Deranged?)

October 15th, 2012 · 18 Comments · KS lifestyle

I have a love/hate relationship with organizing.

Every time I emptied a cupboard completely and prepared to wipe down the surface, my chest literally felt lighter. I would take a deep breath and just feel happy. It was an accomplishment just to do that, and I knew good things were happening.

Then I would turn around and look at the counter and take pictures like this:

messy counter (2)

That light feeling was fleeting! Winking smile

I did hit a certain point where I bemoaned the process with exclamations like, "Why am I doing this?" "I’m stuck! I don’t know where to put this!" and "Oh, my goodness, what am I doing!?!"

Hubby said, "What exactly caused you to want to reorganize the kitchen? Was it not working before?" and reminded me that now he really won’t know where anything is. "We were getting there, about 80% of the way before, but you realize we’re starting over here and it will take me even longer because I used to know where some things went."


It was an all-afternoon process with highs, lows, and a super quick dinner.

See more at the Organizing in October series…

Sanity Saver

I unearthed a "Pot of Gold" box of candy from last Christmas that had one or two pieces missing. I announced to anyone in the house at the time: "Let’s all have one piece of this candy now, because at the end of the night, I’m throwing it away!"

And I did.

I also dumped a few bottles of sports drink with artificial sweeteners that we had from baseball season treats and recycled the bottles.

I am very proud of myself. (Usually I have trouble "wasting" food, even if it’s not food and I know it.)

I was more ruthless than usual about diving in headfirst, getting rid of what needed to be out of there and thinking out of the box – or rather IN the box, as I used some shoeboxes to my advantage to tame some previously wild places. 

The "After" Kitchen Tour

This video was intended to be one full-length kitchen tour, but we got a little interrupted by a bump on the head, so "part two" is a bit further down in the post, since it had to be split up anyway. (Here is the "before" video.)

I think the kitchen is still a work in progress, but here’s a little tour:

If you can’t view the video above, click HERE to see it on You Tube.

Before and After Pics

I did my best to follow my own "Top 10 Do it Now Tips for Organizing Your Kitchen…"


DSC06636 (375x500)


new lunchbox drawer (2)

large plastic organization (2)


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new lunch packing station (2)


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new pantry (2)

Darn. I was hoping my "after" pictures would be a little more like "choirs of angels singing" than "that still looks kind of cluttered. Here’s hoping it comes out in the usefulness! Winking smile

For those of you wondering, here are some things I changed:

  • Andrea (of Simple Organized Living, who visited and talked me through my kitchen) noted, "You have nuts in, like, 3 places," after she’d been in my kitchen, like, 3 minutes. For real. I had not thought of that! There were nuts in the snacks area, nuts in the kids’ snacks, nuts with the power ball supplies…the dried fruit was just as bad. Now I totally reorganized so that all the dried fruit and nuts are in one place for making trail mix and snacking, and then the "back-up" dried fruit and nuts are in one place that is not as accessible. Then there’s some single-serve dried fruit in the snacks tub and just a little, just the dates, in the power ball/smoothie/baking area. See how much better that is? Trust me, it really is better. For trail mix making. Winking smile
  • I was having fits ever since I moved in because I could not figure out where to hang aprons. I needed them to be super easily accessible or I’d really never wear them (I forget 95% of the time anyway until a splash greasy homemade chicken stock on my shirt and then kick myself…hindsight…). Andrea mentioned putting them in a box. *dawning realization* I hadn’t thought of that. Duh. Aprons are now in a shoebox under the Berkey. Finally! They have a place!
    new lunchbox drawer (2)
  • Lunchboxes are the first thing I moved – all lunchboxes and clean water bottles now are in a bottom drawer just barely outside the kitchen (above). I hope I like them there!
  • All large plasticware is now in one place, fairly organized. There’s room in that cupboard, so I’m not sure if I’m going to add to it or just leave it as is. John likes to empty it, so perhaps less is more.
  • I got rid of the George Foreman (well, I moved it to the basement, and if we don’t use it by April when garage sale season starts, I’m donating it), my pastry mat (it had peeling plastic and was unsafe for food in my opinion – although it KILLS me to toss it!), and moved an extra rolling pin downstairs. I might bring that back up, just not in the main baking drawer. It’s for when kids help.
  • Booting the George makes space for my second tortilla press, one for corn tortillas and the other for making homemade whole wheat tortillas. That will honestly make me work up corn tortillas more often, since I really do have a block about trekking downstairs to get a tool for cooking.
  • I moved the pitcher we use to fill the Berkey out of the "breakfast cupboard" and into the very front of the blender parts shelf. It’s easier to access and made room that I needed to have all the dried fruit and nuts in one place.
  • My toaster oven trays got moved into the extra space I realized I had in the "pots" cupboard since I never put away my cast iron pans. Super happy with that move as they always bugged me taking up space in the upper cupboard, but I could NOT figure out where else to put them that was still close to the toaster oven.
  • Wine glasses got booted from the kitchen to a corner cabinet in the dining room. It has glass cabinet doors and housed all our other fancy drinkware, so the move really does make sense and opened up an entire shelf…which remains empty…
  • All candy is in exactly two places: The kids’ individual stashes, which they can access, and everything else, including our chocolate chips and my extra dark chocolate bars, which I really need after filling my countertops with a kazillion things from my cupboards and questioning after 3 hours if I really did anything worthwhile or just moved stuff around! (I know, I know…we shouldn’t have candy at all…but it COMES into the house all. the. time. They only get one a day or less…you win some, you lose some.)
  • There’s a shelf for homemade foods again. Except for crackers. Crackers have their own place, homemade or not. If I start making homemade regularly again, I’ll have to get them down low so kids can access for easy snacks, but for now, I’m happy (sort of) with their shoebox.
  • I did NOT expect to move my big jars of honey. I rather liked where it was, and it was doing just fine there. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that there was no reason I couldn’t slide them into the lazy Susan so that all sweeteners, except for those that we use daily, are together. There’s still a squeeze bottle of honey in the breakfast cupboard, and the stevia is in an upper cupboard because it gets used a lot by my husband, and there’s no way he wants to get in the lazy Susan for it.
  • I moved the coffee mugs away from the sink. (!) I didn’t see this one coming, either, but I was thinking about the fact that I don’t love the travel coffee mugs hanging out by my colander, and that they don’t make sense there. I think they just ended up there because (a) I felt I had to keep all drinking things in one cupboard and (b) they were there in my old house. *eye roll* All coffee drinking things – mugs and travel cups, which mostly get used for smoothies anyway – are now on the opposite side of the stove, which is actually where the coffee maker gets set when it’s out for company. I have more room next to the sink for drinking glasses, including the new influx of sippy cups now that John is drinking, and I put my husband’s protein drink mixers there instead of on a top shelf on the other side of the stove since they get used nearly every day. I love it!!
  • I moved the "lunch packing" shelf over to the staging ground for food. I can now make yogurts and pack lunches all in one place, and they’re also near regular dishes, which makes a little more sense than having them over the fats and oils. Andrea would still probably balk at the fact that I have up to four different places for "food storage containers," but she’s not packing lunches yet. The little one-cuppers just aren’t in the same category as all my Pyrex and my Gladware and old cottage cheese tubs.
    new pantry (2)
  • All my canned goods got moved! This is the one I’m really not sure about (photo above, more in video). They’re in the pantry, and they’re fairly organized, but I’m just not positive it’s a good move:
    • a. The location is super accessible, and I don’t really use canned goods all that often.
    • b. The shelves are SO deep, it took a long time and lots of thought to make sure I could actually get to everything.
    • c. If I get any new foods or new categories, it might not fit the "system" I set up .
    • d. Now I have empty shelves where the canned goods used to be, and if I don’t use them wisely, I’ll have moved things for no good reason.
    • It took a few tries…the first attempt included a cookie sheet of canned beans, which my husband pointed out was so heavy that I would surely drop it someday:
      new canned goods attempt 1 (4)
  • My cookbooks are on a low shelf in the old microwave cabinet which now holds the Berkey filter. When we moved in, I made an effort NOT to use that space, simply because I thought we might get rid of the entire cabinet and put a desk there instead, or some other wise use of space. In my old house, I needed those shelves to supplement my tiny kitchen’s lack of space. I thought I might not in the new house, and I don’t, but the Berkey is a permanent fixture and I can’t imagine it anywhere else (it wouldn’t really fit anywhere else).
    • Side note: Andrea was in "let’s move this where else can it go" mode when she noticed the Berkey. She stuttered for the first time in the visit and squawked, "What is THAT!?!" It’s a water filter, I said. "Whoa, what does it DO?" she asked, shocked at its size. Winking smile Everyone always thinks it’s a massive coffee maker, I said.
    • The cookbooks are a good move, since I really could never, ever have accessed the "second row" of books the way I had them in that deep pantry. I found my husband’s freezer mugs behind my cookbooks, too, and I would not have been able to tell you where to hunt for them had I been asked. Not my best item placement when we moved in.

      why the cookbooks didn't work (4)
      See? How could I ever see what was behind when the shelf on the right was full of stuff? Duh.

what was behind the cookbooks (2)
All this stuff was hidden behind a row of cookbooks. I was never going to find it!

  • I got a bigger basket for cloth napkins and a basket for bibs. I put away stupid stuff that should NOT have been on top of that microwave cabinet. It feels so. darn. good. to have that space decluttered! It’s been a long time coming!
    DSC06662 (500x375)
    Those cookbooks were just there temporarily; this was a "during" picture. I don’t know why I didn’t take an "after" picture of my beautiful cookbooks – reason no. 57 why I’m NOT an organizing blogger!!!
  • I have room in the kitchen for my new ice cream maker! I thought it would live in a closet for sure.
  • And finally, remember those empty plastic bags that were cluttering up the space behind the KitchenAid mixer in a really embarrassing way? I divided those into three groups:
    1. bags that held nuts that would be refilled the next time I made crispy nuts (they are stored with my backup nuts)
    2. bags that held things in packages, like cheese, which I didn’t want to wash in between but also didn’t want to use on unwrapped food. Those got folded nicely and tucked upright into a cupboard in that area so I don’t forget where they are.
    3. bags that held freshly ground flour in the freezer and needed to be filled again. I used to store them in the freezer, but they kept getting shifted around and would take too long to find. Now I folded them and store them in between the jars of whole wheat berries in the lazy Susan. Ta da!

Now I feel kind of silly because I have all these empty cupboards, and I might just fill them up with stupid stuff like I did before, just because "they’re there."

I need to brainstorm what to do with them!

Just this morning as I put a few things away off the counters – see what a good influence you are on me, ye kitchen stewards!! – I started thinking about a "launch pad" for the week where I could collect "things I’m going to use soon," yet have them in a cupboard. Check out the video, which also includes the redone lazy Susan and some more counter-clutter excuses, even blaming other people for the mess!

If you can’t see the video above, click HERE to see it on You Tube.

Here’s what I have yet to tackle:

  • Supplements, mostly because they’re just still out on my counter. I’ll figure them out – I think 2 baskets instead of one is the trick, one dedicated to only fermented cod liver oil, which tends to drip no matter how hard I try to avoid it. It contaminates the whole basket and everything in it!
  • Junk drawer. I’m planning to put batteries in there, in baskets, sunscreen/bug spray for easy access when we’re playing out back, in a basket instead of just floating around like they are now, and manuals, in one nice, neat stack. I’ll need to clear out some junk, mostly stuff that should go in the workshop area downstairs but got plunked in that drawer because it was on the counter as we were moving in and organizing stuff.
  • I need a narrow little basket for my measuring spoons. Other than that, I don’t think I’m going to do anything in my baking drawer. I like it the way it is.
  • Where is my glass jar "overflow"? Is there a good space in an upper cupboard, or should it just be downstairs since it doesn’t happen very often?
  • What do I put in all my empty space? Bulk backup foods? Tiny little faeries? Cotton batting?

Are you exhausted yet? Winking smile

Please, for me…go take a look in your kitchen and see if you can find ONE thing that should be moved somewhere else. I can’t be the only one with a messy kitchen, right?

We’re only halfway through the month! Be sure to follow the Organizing in October series for one more day on kitchens, then recipes and spices!

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18 Comments so far ↓

  • Alice via Facebook

    I’m actually doing the Simplify 101 “Organize Your Kitchen” workshop right now. I just somehow never realized before what a giant pile of unnecessary stuff I have in my kitchen… I’m picking my way through it slowly! :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah

    I always reuse empty gatorade/powerade bottles for water bottles. They’re really sturdy and have a nice wide mouth for drinking. We rarely get powerade (usually at someone else’s house), but I always save those bottles!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Tammy Reply:

    Here is another use that we came up with for them: Storing rice, popcorn, and other things that come in bags at the store. They are small and portable for a campout or for a bug-out-bag. Furthermore, they are mice resistant, certainly more so than the original bags. One medium-sized Gatorade container held an entire package of popcorn.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    That’s a good idea for camping; I do usually use plastic zipper bags and glass jars for that, too.

    We always use reusable water bottles, so saving them for that wouldn’t make sense in our household.
    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Erica via Facebook

    Katie, thanks for keeping it real. I love your blog. I feel the same way about organizing. I am sitting on the floor of my family room with kid socks all around me that I am trying to match up so I can store the outgrown ones.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jesilee

    You know what I did with my coffee cups? I talked to my husband and we barely used them, so we gave them all away! Some we gave to friends, the rest were donated. Now we each have one reusable large coffee cup (think starbucks travel mugs) We use them at home for hot drinks and take them with us whenever we go out. (Coffee/hot chocolate is our favorite treat when out and about since we know the organic places). I don’t know how it would work with your kids, but have you thought about switching out your cups and glasses for jars? We use the pint jars for smoothies even and fill a half gallon jar with water to take on trips with us in the car. No trying to stack different cups organizing here! There is a full shelf/drawer of pint and a half of quart sized. Best part, no trying to figure out what lid went with what?!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • via Facebook

    an organised kitchen means a quicker cooking time when you make your meals. gr8 for days when you are in a hurry.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Tammy

    If you can get a label maker, you may want to consider labeling the cabinets and drawers to make things easier on your husband and children so you all know where things go. Another option is removable printer labels to serve the same purpose. After you get a handle on where things are, you can remove them (or if something does not quite work out in its new location.)
    For some of your extra storage space, if you use your George Foreman at all, you may consider bringing it back up and putting it in one of the empty slots that would make sense for it.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Kathleen K Reply:

    Hey, I was going to comment on “LABELING CABINETS” too! We have family staying with us, and to minimize the confusion of helping in an unfamiliar kitchen (this is their first visit to us in this house), I labeled all of the cabinets with taped on post-it-notes. It also helps hubby and sons since I did rearrange some of the cabinets just before family arrived!

    At some point when we are done with the labels, I’ll just pull them off and have my nice, tidy kitchen again.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Temporary labels might be a good idea – then once DH (and I!) learn them more or less, I can take them off. Thanks! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Judith via Facebook

    You should really organize your kitchen into small work stations. Dishware station should be between the dish washer and the table to make both unloading the dishwasher and setting the table much easier and quicker. Baking station should have everything from bowls to mixers and ingredients within arms length of each other. All your spices, oils, pots and pans and supplies to cook a meal should be located right around the stove. Coffee cups… right above the coffeepot. Move your water-maker right over there above the drawer where you keep the water bottles. To decide if you have too many things like plastic cup in the cabinet… turn them all upside down and when you put them back after washing, put them right side up. If they haven’t been turned right side up in a month… you don’t need them. Too much stuff can make you feel anxious and unorganized. Just because you have all those cabinets, doesn’t mean that you need to fill them.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sharon

    There’s a yard sale at my church this weekend, and you’ve inspired me to go through cabinets and donate some unused stuff. The foreman grill and the microwave are going for sure. And do I really need 8 pie pans?

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Mom24boys

    My pantry is in my laundry room; out of the kitchen, through a corner of the living room and around a corner. It’s really only about 5-8 steps but for some folks would be a hassle to access. However, after 30+ years of housekeeping and 10 different homes/kitchens, I actually found it works out pretty well. I keep the majority of foods in the pantry (baking ingredients basics, sandwich makings, hot drinks stuff are kept in the kitchen) and the once-a-week appliances like crock pots, jaffle, rice cooker, juicer, waffle maker are in the pantry also. When I start to cook, I just go “shopping” in the pantry and get everything I’ll need from there in one fell swoop. If I’m baking, I can get the specialty ingredients like dates, choco chips, canned fruit before I begin.
    One of the benefits has been that if someone (hub or one of the 4 boys) puts some food stuff away on the wrong shelf, it is still in the local vicinity and easily found; unlike the past with a different set-up when “someone” kept putting cereal with crackers (shouldn’t all tall, skinny boxes be in the same place?).
    My sisters and I were trained so well in setting up a kitchen that when I was confined to bed but had just moved, they could set up my new kitchen in a manner that was so intuitive, convenient and logical, I never had to move or rearrange a thing!
    I didn’t realize we had these skills so I quizzed them on their thought process. Both said they thought about how things are used and put away, who would need to use or put away and the space available. Spices, seasonings and baking goods are used ‘out of’ then need to be put away (and might need to be used again to adjust seasoning, etc.) so they should be convenient. If they were in the pantry, the tendency would be to just leave them on the counter or shove them on a shelf or in a tub so you’d have to sort through every time you needed them. Main ingredients are usually used up in the cooking session or in big containers and measured out once: they are good pantry denizens. All cookware, bowls and utensils need to be easily returned to their home by the clean-up crew so should be close-in to the sinks and dishwasher.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Kate S.

    A lot of people are mentioning labeling the cabinets and we do that, too, just inside the cabinet doors, with a label for each shelf, invisible unless the door is open. But to help your husband (and you) learn the new locations for items, I highly recommend using index cards on the exteriors or your cabinet doors. Just label the card with a general contents like “glassware” or “dried fruit/nuts” and tape it to the door; one card for each shelf or section (like in your pantry, where you have specific categories). It’s a visual cue for everyone in the family and will help you visualize and learn the new locations. This is how I teach my husband where things are whenever I move something and he LOVES it.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Bobbey M

    Katie, I think you’re doing an awesome job of decluttering and reorganizing your kitchen. Thank you for being an inspiration to the rest of us!

    I’ve been bugging my youngest to put away some extra containers that aren’t being used right now. I told him again tonight and gave him ideas of where to put them, so hopefully they will NOT be on my counter and work cart after tomorrow.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • via Facebook

    Judith Nelson Cruzan – I pretty do have “stations” as much as possible with the shape of my space. The water filter doesn’t fit under the cupboards, so it’s really in the only possible spot – but it’s awesome b/c I can reach it from my dinner chair when I’m nursing at the table! ;)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Darlene

    I have 2 tips.
    I keep frequently used recipes on 3×5 cards taped to the inside of the cabinet closest to where I usually make those foods. (Bread recipe in cabinet over the bread machine; marinate master mix recipe in spice cabinet; etc).

    2.) Gather all recipe sheets/cards/clippings together. Get (acquire/re-purpose) a largish binder, a set of divider sheets, blank paper and some page protectors. In the binder, set up the dividers in the divisions you like most (breads, main dish, veggies, pies, cakes or desserts, etc). I use a lot of divisions because I use subheadings and add to the book. (Make a reminder on calendar/tickle card to once a month add any recipes you’ve downloaded to the book). You may even need two smaller binders rather than one large one.
    Then sort your recipes into piles according to the dividers you’ve made (use the dividers – in alphabetical order, as place mats so you know which pile is which). After getting them divided, place each pile into a few page protectors until you are ready to process each division (that way, if you need to put it up, you don’t mix the piles back up or have recipes dropping all over the place to have to resort!) and then place everything in the binder, by divisions, in alphabetical order.

    Doing one divider pile at a time, leave that divider in the binder, remove the corresponding batch of recipes from the page protectors and take each recipe and put it in it’s own page protector. If a recipe is only on one side of the page, find another one that is also only on one side of the page, and let them share a protector. If it’s a 3×5 card or small clipping, tape/glue a bunch to a blank sheet of paper and place that in the page protector (you can double up the smaller recipes on one sheet – front and back). Then place the page protectors as you fill them, in the binder behind it’s divider. And since you’ve only taken out one divider’s worth of recipes, they can be easily packed up in a hurry.

    Break this up and do it in stages as the baby naps. It may take you a week or two to get it done, but it will eventually be done and the up side is that those recipes will be easier to find and the book is more secure – it can then go with the other cookbooks!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Come, Look Inside Our Kitchen Cabinets! « Simple Organized Living

    [...] But first, I want to quickly share my friend Katie’s newly organized kitchen with you. She blogs over at Kitchen Stewardship and during the month of October, she’s [...]

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.