Tip #1: Get rid of unnecessary stuff.
Treat your kitchen like you treat your closet: Every year or so, look at each item and ask yourself when you last used it. If the answer is “never” or “seldom,” it’s time to sell, donate, or toss it.
“Gadgets exist for just about every function, but that doesn’t mean you need to purchase all of them,” says organizer Dawn Falcone of Dawn Falcone Lifestyles in New York City. “It becomes clutter.” (Did you know clutter is a factor in depression?)
Couponers, remember: Today’s great deal can turn into tomorrow’s hoard.
You might be surprised how liberating a minimalist kitchen can be. And even foodies struggle with kitchen storage.
Tip #2: Relocate seldom-used items.
Holiday dishes, large roasting pans, and the good silverware — these items can all go on the highest shelf of your tallest kitchen cabinet, assuming you have the space. If you have space atop your cabinets, stash the items up there in a decorative basket.
If not, move these items to a dining-room buffet, the spare room closet, under the bed, or the basement — anyplace where they won’t be in the way of your daily cooking and cleaning.
Tip #3: Keep the things you use most close at hand.
Pastry chef and food writer Katherine Sacks has several suggestions: “We have a hanging rack and a wall knife strip. I also keep a jar near the stove for wooden spoons, my thermometer, and a small offset spatula that I use for everything.”
Tip #4: A place for everything, and everything in its place.
“Just like in a professional kitchen, if you always put something in the same place, then you’ll always know where it is,” Sacks says.
So, where are those places and where are they not?
Tip #5: Avoid hot locations for food storage.
Outside of the fridge, food should be stored in a cool, dry location. I once stored my wine in the cabinet above the fridge. I had a small kitchen and didn’t want to accidentally break the bottle. Instead, the wine soured from the heat of the refrigerator compressor and coils. Oops.
Mounting a spice rack on a wall by the oven or in the sun, where it’s exposed to light and heat, is the most common food storage mistake kitchen designer Kelly Morisseau, author of Kelly’s Kitchen Sync, sees.
“Herbs and spices should have a scent. And green herbs shouldn’t be beige,” Falcone notes, with more than a hint of sarcasm.
Tip #6: Keep items near their place of use.
Store pots and pans, cooking utensils, potholders, and spices and herbs near the oven or cooktop.
But, per tip #5, put spices in a drawer or on a rack inside a cabinet rather than directly near the heat source. Also, you can store bulk spices (if you go through a lot) in the pantry, and just keep a small amount in a jar near the stove, then replenish as necessary.
Dishes and silverware should be near the dishwasher or the table, for serving.
Keep cleaning supplies near the sink.
Tip #7: Heavy things don’t go in high places.
I learned this lesson after storing a set of glass mixing bowls on an upper cabinet shelf, then nearly knocking myself unconscious trying to get them down when I wanted to bake. Now they go in the bottom drawer of a base cabinet.
Tip #8: Place like with like.
As a baker, Sacks keeps flour, sugar, and baking soda on one cabinet shelf; spices on a second; and nuts, raisins, and syrups on a third, so she has everything she needs in one place. For you, this might mean keeping all bowls on one shelf and all plates on a second, or keeping all the canned goods together in one area.
Tip #9: Customize your cabinets.
Not everyone has a pantry. And while storing food in lower cabinets might work great for some, designer Michelle Drenckhahn of Spacial Adaptation in St. Louis Park, Minn., points out that could be disastrous for those with small children.
She likes to add cabinet storage by adding more shelves to fit in shorter items like coffee mugs and tumblers or a stack of plates. Hanging storage racks on doors is another option.