Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to clear your counters and make sure you can get to the things you use the most. Take a critical look at your kitchen and reorganize for efficiency.
Trust me, you will feel so much better.
Yes, some things really do belong on a counter. I’m not putting my KitchenAid down low. I have room for it on the counter, and it’s heavy. If you really use something every day, go ahead and leave it out. Just make sure you’re making the conscious choice to do it and not just setting something out because you don’t know where else to put it.
TTLTGTI Syndrome Kills Productivity
I think many people are probably like me and actually avoid certain appliances, foods, tools, items, etc. in the kitchen because of the takes-too-long-to-get-to-it syndrome. If you have to move more than two things to access something, it’s much less likely to be used. The stuff you use every day or even weekly should, whenever possible, be in the front of a cupboard or drawer, a one-touch wonder with nothing in its way.
What do you avoid because it’s hard to get to? Aprons? Trays? Appliances?
What do you use all the time but yet you still have to reach behind something else or head to another room to get to it? Bulk foods? A mixer? Your coffee filters? Supplements?
It’s time to rethink the location of something in your kitchen, I’m sure of it.
Go on, go take a look.
Find one thing that is either in your way (on the counter) that shouldn’t be or is too high/buried/far to be convenient. Move it.
There you go.
Don’t you just want to keep going?
“I Don’t Need to Reorganize”
Perhaps you think you have your kitchen just the way you want it. Perhaps you have a tiny kitchen and it truly is perfectly organized. Maybe your counters don’t need clearing! (Lucky you.) If that’s you, get into those cupboards and make a mess on the counter!
I’m willing to wager that you’ll find some surprises you forgot you had if you clear entire shelves or drawers.
I’ve only been in this house 10 months, and I absolutely found stuff I should just throw away, crumbs and dust that didn’t belong, and plenty of stuff I forgot I had and really need to use before it expires (or because it just expired last month but is surely still good as that’s pretty close…).
I’m thinking home cooks should go through their cupboards thoroughly, either in one messy day like mine, or one cupboard/drawer at a time, at least once or twice a year. You have to get in there to find the meal components people have given you that you forget about when you’re meal planning or the meat marinade you bought at the such-and-such party your friend threw. Either put them on the menu plan ASAP or make a note in your calendar for later. If you stick them back in your cupboard, you probably will still find them there when you do this next year.
Here are all the things that surprised me:
- a meat rub and bean soup mix that I received as samples and need to use!
- a meal kit that a friend made that I should use, donate, or give to another friend with a new baby
- salt blends that I received as samples for chicken and potatoes
- dried anchovies from Radiant Life that I should be putting in my Caesar dressings but forget about – I moved them by the vinegars so they make sense for dressings
- almost-expired whole foods vitamins we forgot to take
- a Mickey Mouse plastic plate (disposable) from Disney World, all by itself near the supplements and butter dish. Really?
- an open box of gluten-free angel hair pasta – that stuff is too expensive to waste!
- slightly expired box of gluten-free baking mix – ditto above, that’s in the menu plan for tomorrow
- samples of lucuma and yacon powder that I really don’t know what to do with – I decided to put them in smoothies, so of course, cough, ahem, downward glance…they’re on my counter.
- about 5 dark chocolate bars in two different places that I didn’t know I had. These will come in handy when I deal with all the reader comments about putting more stuff on my counter. 😉
Here are some words of wisdom from Andrea:
If I could banish one misconception about getting organized — it would be that it has to take lots of time and effort. Organization CAN be simple (not easy, but simple).
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by an entire kitchen (or home) full of clutter, but instead focus on one small drawer, one cabinet, or even one shelf inside one cabinet. Once that’s finished, pat yourself on the back and move to the next shelf or the next drawer.
Start small, do a little each day (even if you don’t want to), never leave a room worse than when you entered it, and just keep pushing forward. 15 minutes a day WILL make a difference over time!
- Tips to stock and organize your pantry from Andrea
- Frugal pantry storage tips (for bulk purchases) from Whole New Mom
From moving wine glasses to consolidating plastics to clearing that counter, Andrea of Simple Organized Living has shared a ton of tips and ideas with me.
- See my embarrassing kitchen counters before and after
- Kitchen tour videos and commentary on the organizer’s visit
This is my own rendition of some of her best tips that anyone can use:
- Take everything off your counter (especially if you’re feeling unmotivated). Put it on the table. Now your family can’t eat until you put everything away (properly). Incentive!
- I kind of wanted to be realistic and tell Andrea that in my house, I’d run out of time to finish (or even properly start) the job, and my family would end up either (a) eating in the living room, or (b) moving everything on the table to another random surface in the house – or back to the counter – so that we could eat. I’m trying not to be completely obstinate, though, so I just smiled and nodded.
- The counter is not “away.” Nothing should “belong” on the counter. Find another place for everything – if you don’t have space, maybe you have too many things. What can you let go of?
- If you have deep or tall cupboards, you need to break them up into smaller areas.
- Deep: Use shoeboxes or baskets at the front so you can pull the whole thing out to access the back.
- Tall: Use those coated wire half-shelf thingys to make two shelves where there was just one. A huge stack of stuff is always a recipe for disaster and messiness. (And sometimes avalanche.)
- In drawers, use small baskets and boxes to separate the space and make it feel more organized. Again, if you don’t have enough room, maybe you have too much stuff. (I really did learn this when we moved – I pulled half my kitchen utensils…okay, maybe a fourth of them…to “stage” our tiny house to sell, and I never missed them. Many things hit the garage sale pile after that.)
- It’s not about having the perfect organization tools or supplies. You don’t have to go out and spend $100 on a zillion organizers. Visit a good dollar store, cut the top off a clamshell container from berries, use a shoebox without a lid, collect baskets at garage sales. Shoot, use all those plastic containers you’re not really using anymore to organize small things! I can’t tell you how many times Andrea would explain a helpful item she thought I should use and I sheepishly said, “I have one in the basement…”
- If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it – especially if it wouldn’t be expensive to just replace if you change your mind. (My George Foreman is the example – still not sure if I’ll completely let it go, but it’s at least relegated to the basement until next garage sale season when I’ll make the call. I will get rid of all my potholders except two wooden trivets, freeing up a whole shelf. I was surprised when Andrea asked how often the potholders get used – it’s hardly ever, considering I use my old glass cutting boards as trivets!)
- Evaluate your cabinets. What should go somewhere else because it matches a different category? What is really too far from where you use it? What never gets put away because that’s too complicated? What doesn’t get used very often that could easily go in a totally different place?
- Even if you have to take four steps across the kitchen to get something you need, it’s better than having it (a) on the counter or (b) difficult to access in a cupboard.
- Success breeds success! Take this from someone who cleared most of her counter last night and then felt compelled to put things away when I really just wanted to leave the kitchen after doing dishes and packing lunches tonight. Once it’s clean, you’ll want it to stay that way.
If you saw Monday’s video, you’re applauding for me, right? I promise I didn’t just move everything to the other counter.
- If you have a small space, think creatively. Is there room on top of your cupboards for things you don’t use often (that wouldn’t be an eyesore)? Can you make a “pantry” out of a closet in another part of the house, or even store bulk goods in under the bed boxes if necessary? (Thanks to ‘Becca for some of the small kitchens advice.I also guest posted years back on my petite kitchen and some strategies I used to keep things sane (maybe not off the counter, but purposeful!).
- JUST DO IT. Andrea has 5 good reasons to organize your kitchen, ending with a challenge to set your timer for 15 minutes and see what happens. I know the biggest obstacle for ME to doing any organizing is lack of time.The first day after the visit, I did 15 minutes, and because I had thought through a few changes I wanted to make, I didn’t feel like I had to “do it all at once.”
One counter looks better. The other has new “stuff” on it so I can organize, see?
And next is to put this:
An empty drawer! It only had phone books in it. Six of them. Talk about underused space!
I think I can do this job in 15 minutes, too, but I should quit writing about organizing and get off my duff and into the kitchen…
Want to see me start organizing on accident while trying to do part of my “kitchen tour” video? Here you go – the “baking system” of Kitchen Stewardship:
If you can’t see the video, click HERE to view on You Tube.
If you’re loving this series, take some time the next few days to put these strategies in action.
See more at Organizing in October.
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