Creating a Life Free From Chaos

Clearing Kitchen Chaos: 8 Weeks at Home Series

Welcome back for week 3 of the 8 Weeks at Home Series! We’re spending eight weeks decluttering, simplifying and cleaning up room by room in preparation for summer. So far, we’ve decluttered and cleaned the bathroom, and then we streamlined and cleaned the living room. This week, we’re heading to the heart of the home, the kitchen. It’s where family and friends gather for nourishment and fellowship. It’s also probably one of the most chaotic rooms in the house. This is a long post, so get comfy.

In this series, I’ll do two posts per week for each room. In the first post, we’ll talk about decluttering and simplifying. In the second post, we’ll clean it all up and get it looking nice and shiny. While you’re working in each space, keep some paper and a pen handy and make note of any repairs that need to be made, any supplies that need to be restocked, or any decorating changes you’d like to make. As you decide to get rid of stuff, remove it from the space right away and get it out of the house ASAP so that it doesn’t worm its way back into the space. Take out bags of trash and recycling daily so they don’t pile up in your workspace.

Chaos-Free Kitchen

In most homes, the kitchen has more stuff than any other room of the house. It’s crazy how much stuff a kitchen contains: cookware, plates, cups, silverware, gadgets, appliances, kitchen tools, towels, cleaning supplies, holiday ware…not to mention the canisters, boxes, bags and bottles of foodstuffs. It’s amazing how much we can fit into one space. But how much of that do we really use? Have you ever looked around your kitchen and thought about what you really need?

An efficient, convenient kitchen needs to be pared down and organized with like items together so they can be easily found. The less cluttered and more organized your kitchen is, the easier and more pleasurable it will be to cook dinner every day (trust me, it’s true!)

Cabinets and Drawers

  • Go through each cabinet and drawer individually and pull out all the items you don’t use regularly. Clear out tools, dishware and gadgets you don’t use. With the exception of seasonal items, items that are seldom used contribute to clutter. Get rid of the excess appliances you don’t really need. Be honest with yourself about how often you really use that yogurt maker/popcorn popper/electric griddle.
  • Get rid of duplicates. Yes, it’s perfectly normal to have more than one cup, plate, bowl, and so on. But you don’t need 20 coffee cups or four sets of dishes. Think about how many of each item you really need, then pick your favorites and donate the rest.
  • Look for double-duty items. There’s no need to keep a specialty chip-and-dip tray when a tray and bowl will do. Look for tools that can be used for more than one purpose. Before buying or keeping a specialty gadget, ask yourself, “can I accomplish the same thing with another tool I already have?”
  • Pull seasonal items out and store them in high cabinets or in another room. Think carefully about which items you really use during the holidays. In my house, the cupcake stand and large roaster get regular “special occasion” use, but the adorable reindeer plates and coffee mugs have been boxed for years. They’re gone.
  • If you can’t bring yourself to part with something, put it in temporary storage. Box up items you don’t think you use often but aren’t willing to part with yet, and put the box in the closet, garage or other out-of-the-way place. Mark the box with a date six months in the future, and see how many items you pull out of the box for use between now and then. Part with the rest with the deadline arrives.
  • Organize cabinets and drawers by use. In my house, that means dishes go near the dishwasher, and pots and pans go next to the stove. The roaster goes in the back of the cabinet, while the crockpot goes in the front prime position. Group like items together, so all the baking items go in one cabinet, while glasses and coffee mugs go in another.
  • Many people have a junk drawer, also known as a “kitchen black hole.” Using drawer organizers is an effective way to give a junk drawer a purpose. My junk drawer is more of a “multi-purpose” drawer – it’s where I keep the zipper baggies, foil and parchment paper, plus there are small bins for organizing spare envelopes, dry erase markers and charging cords. Make some time every couple of weeks to sort through the drawer and get rid of items that don’t have a designated “spot” in your multi-purpose drawer. If it’s not important enough to assign a spot, it’s probably not important enough to keep.

Fridge, Freezer and Pantry

A key habit for a usable kitchen is keeping the fridge, freezer and pantry clean and well-stocked with healthy food you actually like to eat. It’s far too easy to let food go by the wayside: forgotten produce rots in the bottom crisper drawer, leftovers get pushed to the back of the shelf, seldom used condiments get left in the door shelves “just in case” we need them later, soup cans get lost in the back corners of a dark pantry. A healthy kitchen that’s fun to cook in needs to have only the good stuff in it, and it’s hard to find something healthy for dinner when there’s an assortment of mystery meat crowding the freezer.

Start with the fridge, then do the freezer and the pantry:

  • Clean shelf-by-shelf, starting on the top shelf. Pull everything out, wipe down the shelf, then put back only the food and beverages that are still safe to eat and that you actually plan to consume before their expiration. Put all the keepers back on the top shelf, then repeat the process for the second shelf, all the way to the bottom. Pay close attention to expiration dates, and discard anything with an “off” smell, freezer burn or mold growth.
  • Try organizing food and condiments by category. Soups together, meats together, veggies together, and so on.
  • If you find food that’s still good but that you don’t plan to eat, set it aside for a donation to the local food pantry.
  • Consider storing dry goods such as rice, flour, sugar and other staples in air-tight clear containers. I use large glass jars with rubber seals for my staples. If you opt for plastic, buy containers free of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in many polycarbonate plastics that may migrate from containers to food (types 3 and 7 plastics may contain BPA).
  • Corral small items together in bins, baskets or clear boxes. An over-the-door shoe organizer with clear pockets works fabulously on standard pantry doors. Small items such as tea bags, drink packets, microwave popcorn, spices containers, oatmeal packets and bags of beans can be organized easily.
  • Keep your fridge and freezer clean by doing a maintenance clean-up once a week, removing old leftovers, wiping up spills with a warm, soapy washcloth, and arranging older items toward the front to use them up faster. Do a quick sweep through the pantry to straighten the shelves and get rid of any stale or expired products.

Next up: I’ve got a video for you to give you some ideas for organizing your fridge, and we’re going to clean the kitchen — much easier after all that clutter is gone!

Looking for the rest of the 8 Weeks at Home series? Post links will be added here as they’re published!

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