It’s easier to prepare food in a kitchen that’s clean and orderly. But crowded countertops, disorganized spices and herbs, and jammed cabinets commonly conspire to make cooking a meal more of an ordeal than a pleasure. As the hub of many homes, the kitchen also tends to accumulate more extraneous stuff than almost any other room in the house.
But order can be yours. We’ve mined the strategies of top organizing experts to help you tackle the small tasks that can rein in kitchen chaos. They have provided time estimates and recommended supplies for completing each job.
Ready? Prepare to experience extreme clutter-busting satisfaction, one square foot at a time.
Small Appliance Overload
Time required: 1 hour
Helpful supplies: bins, baskets, shelves
Give Appliances a Home
Any gadget you use often should have a set spot on the countertop, but it also needs to have a home in the cabinet directly below or above it to store it effortlessly when you’re finished. You can also give the impression of a clutter-free kitchen by leaving appliances out of your direct line of vision, like putting the coffeemaker in the nook beside your refrigerator.
Consider Other Storage Options
Lesser-used appliances can go behind heavily used ones in the harder-to-reach recesses of your upper cabinets, on the top shelf of the pantry, or even on a basement shelf. “I know some people who keep their small appliances on a shelf in the garage,” says Amy Tokos, certified professional organizer and founder of Freshly Organized. Common sense: Don’t put heavy small appliances up high.
Keep Accessories at Hand
Store stand-mixer attachments and the like in a bin, decorative basket, or zip-top bag close to its appliance.
Measure Your Space
Whenever you need a new small appliance, be sure to take into account its footprint and measure the area where it will live before you shop. Air fryers, for example, can take up a significant amount of room, but there are top-rated small air fryers from Consumer Reports’ tests that don’t hog as much space.
Jumbled Up Herbs & Spices
• Time required: 1 to 3 hours
• Helpful supplies: Turntable, expandable shelf or drawer organizer, matching jars, labels, erasable marker
If you keep herbs and spices in a cabinet, consider a turntable (two levels if you can fit it) or a tiered shelf so that everything is visible. If the spice jars live in a drawer, try a liner such as the YouCopia 10-Foot Spiceliner Roll ($17 at Amazon), an in-drawer spice rack, or an expandable organizer such as Expand-A-Shelf ($12 at the Container Store), all of which let you see the bottles clearly. These units are so common now that you can choose ones that match your décor, from clear acrylic to stainless steel.
Choose Your Own Order
Sort herbs and spices in a way that works for you: Divide by type of herb/spice (one example: savory, sweet/baking, salts/peppers, and seasonings), separate herbs from spices, or loosely alphabetize them all.
Make a Matching Set
Decanting spices into matching jars makes for “a beautiful, consistent spice cabinet, which will bring you joy each time you cook,” says Cary Prince, certified professional organizer and founder of Cary Prince Organizing. If you’re refilling from bigger jars that have leftovers, stash those jars in a nearby cabinet on a two-level lazy Susan such as the 2-Tier Bamboo Lazy Susan ($20 at Home Depot), says Kay Patterson of the Organized Soprano.
Label and Date
Ground herbs and spices may last up to four years before losing their punch. To keep track of freshness, Patterson recommends placing an erasable label on the bottom of the jar with a “best by” date. Then, when you refill the container, erase the old date and write in the new one.
Kitchen Dumping Zones
• Time required: 30 to 90 minutes (organize twice a year, or as needed)
• Helpful supplies: Drawer inserts
Create a Utility Drawer
Got a kitchen “junk” drawer you shove odds and ends into when you can’t find a place for them? Rethink that habit, says Lucy Milligan Wahl, founder of LMW Edits, and rename that catchall the “utility drawer.” Place items in it only if they have a useful purpose, like a tape measure, scissors, and tools like pliers and a hammer. Use drawer inserts such as IDesign Linus Shallow Drawer Organizers (from $4.49, the Container Store) to order the drawer, keeping often-used items (such as paper, pens, rubber bands) near the front.
Kitchen surfaces are meant for food prep, cleanup, eating—not to hold mail, your purse, or keys. In spots where nonculinary items pile up, ask yourself: Do I need these things and do they belong in the kitchen? Creating new habits—like putting the mail into a sorter and your purse in the hall closet—works better than any product you can buy, says Jeffrey Phillip of Jeffrey Phillip Organization and Design.
Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the May 2022 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
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