5 Must-Have Kitchen Stations

Welcome to my new readers! I enjoyed meeting you at last weekend’s Portland Gluten-Free Food Fair. I hope you find my articles informative in organizing your life. I specialize in kitchen consulting, but write about all sorts of organizing topics from paperwork to recycling to downsizing. This month, I thought it would be helpful to review the five stations I feel are most important for an organized kitchen.

Do you have these five?

5 Must-Have Kitchen Stations1. Prep

  • Place your prep station by the kitchen sink. Rinsing, washing, and cleaning becomes a smooth process while you prepare your meal.
  • Keep the counter space clear. Move papers off the counter and to your desk area. Put seldom-used appliances in accessible storage.
  • Keep your knives nearby in a knife block, in drawers, or on a magnetic strip.

2. Cooking

  • Keep utensils such as large spoons, ladles and spatulas nearby in a crock or drawer organizers.
  • Place oils nearby, but not too close to the heat source, so they maintain their freshness.
  • Organize your spices in a drawer or spice rack or cabinet using turntables or shelf organizers. Put the ones you use the most in the front.
  • Place cooking pans within easy reach. Utilize a pot rack or organize them by size or type in lower cabinets. Contain lids in one spot with lid organizers.
  • Put hot pads in the drawer right next to the oven for quick access.
  • Consider a toaster oven as an alternative to a microwave for reheating leftovers.
  • Minimize the number of appliances on your counters so you have space for recipe books and for hot meals just out of the oven.

3. Serving

  • Keep large bowls and platters nearby. Silverware, dishes, and glasses can also be in your serving area. However, they are easier to put away when stored next to the dishwasher.
  • Put tablecloths, place mats, cloth napkins, and candles in a buffet or kitchen drawer closest to the table.
  • Keep salt, pepper, and salad oils on a serving tray for easy mobility or on a lazy Susan on the table.

4. Storage

  • Reduce. This important first step creates needed space. Go through and remove items you don’t need or want. Ask yourself questions, like…Does packaged food fit into my diet? How many canned foods do I eat? Can I give some away to a local food bank?
  • Sort. Take what you have left and place them into groups of similar items. For examples, place baking powder with baking soda; foil with plastic wrap; olive oil with coconut oil; pasta with rice; and canned tuna with canned beans.
  • Separate. Divide spices, herbs, flours, oats, and other baking items into containers and label them clearly. Try using clear containers to see at a glance when you are running low and need to refill an item.
  • Organize. Put your reduced, sorted, and separated items into the storage space. Use tiered shelves or turntables for oils, spices, or baking supplies. Consider purchasing pull out drawers so you can see what’s in your pantry. Be sure and leave space for new items that you bring home from shopping.

5. Mail Center or Desk

  • Designate an area for mail. If you don’t have a desk, then create a small home on your counter for paperwork with a mail sorter or desktop filing box.
  • Reduce. Go through your current piles and separate recycling from “keep” papers. If you have trouble making decisions quickly, set a timer and see how fast you can sort through a paper stack.
  • Categorize and file. Create files or hot boxes for “keep” papers, such as Bills to Pay, To File, Upcoming Events, etc. Colorful hanging file boxes are fun and best for viewing paperwork. Keep it simple and label them whatever makes sense to you. If you have children, you may want to create files for each child or for their school or sports activities. Remember these are current daily-access files; monthly or archive files should go somewhere else.
  • Start and continue a daily mail habit. It only takes 5 minutes. As soon as you pick up your mail, stand over your recycling container and shredder and take care of junk mail. Then file your “keep” papers. Make decisions right away or as your mother used to say, “Handle it once!” (Or was that just my mother? 😉 )

These five are the most important, but I recommend you add more kitchen stations based on the needs of your family. Consider a recycling station, a lunch-packing station, and one “organized” junk drawer.

What other kitchen stations do you think are necessary or helpful? Share your comments below. Enjoy organizing your kitchen and call me if you need personalized help. After all, kitchens are my favorite space to organize!

Your Clutter or Your Life

Did you know there are four times as many storage facilities in America as McDonald’s restaurants! Your Clutter or Your Life, by Howard Mansfield of the LA Times, recently detailed eye-popping statistics such as this one. He shares thoughtful insights on how overcrowding our homes, offices, lives, and minds with physical and digital clutter can affect our health and families. He sites a study that shows the average parent only spends 14.5 minutes a day in conversation with their child. We have forgotten how to dream and use our imagination, because our clutter overwhelms us. What a burden!

How much clutter can one nation hold? How much clutter can your family hold? How much clutter can you personally hold?

Can you answer these questions without throwing up your hands and running the other way? Don’t ignore your clutter. Instead, I challenge you to put your clutter behind you. The foundation of good organizing is simplifying.

Let go of your stuff. Get rid of it. Recycle it. Give it away. Then don’t buy more.

The five stages of organizing are:

  1. Make a Plan
  2. Sort and Reduce
  3. Assign a Home
  4. Contain and Label
  5. Maintain

These stages build on one another. You cannot maintain a space without sorting and reducing what you have. You must complete numbers 1 and 2 before you can accomplish 3 through 5. Buying cute containers and color-coded labels won’t help you if clutter is still overtaking your life. If all you do this year is reduce what you have, more power to you!

Here are some ideas to overcome your clutter habits:

  • Recruit a friend’s help – Don’t try to let go on clutter on your own. It can be emotionally difficult at times. Call on a supportive advocate to encourage you during the process. (Take them out to dinner or a fun activity after your organizing project is complete. Don’t give them a gift. It might be more clutter! :)
  • Apply the 15 minute rule – Take a few minutes each day to throw away or recycle things you don’t truly need. You will see results when you are consistent. Do this everyday. Set a timer if it helps.
  • Keep going – It’s easy to get complacent when we achieve a big goal. So, you finished cleaning out the garage! Great job. Celebrate and press on. As you finish one area, go to the next. Use that momentum to propel you forward. Don’t stop.
  • Don’t buy more – This is very important. Once you organize, don’t fall prey to advertising gimmicks, even if it’s on sale. Ask yourself, “Do I really need that?” If you do, then give away a similar item before you bring it into your home.
  • Hire a professional – That’s what I’m here for. If you are struggling to reduce your clutter, call me. I’m good at asking the right questions that will lessen your anxiety and motivate you to let go of your unwanted stuff.

Mansfield quotes the owner of one the nation’s largest house cleaning businesses: “If it doesn’t enhance your life, don’t keep it.” I agree. When you simplify, you make room for friends, family, love, and hobbies. You also save time and money. You start to enjoy what you have, without the entrapment of more “toys”. After all, the best things in life are not things. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by William Morris. Good luck in letting go of clutter in 2014!

“Do not keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”