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!

The Useful Junk Drawer

Is your kitchen “junk” drawer overflowing? Does it need a good cleaning? This drawer doesn’t have to be a scary mess! A neat junk drawer can be super useful. It can house practical items, such as scissors, tape, extra batteries, permanent markers, rubber bands, clips, lip balm, a few Band-aids, and common household tools like a screwdriver. If you feel overwhelmed about where to start organizing in your home, a junk drawer is a great place to start because it’s small! Once you have success here, hopefully it will give you motivation to organize other areas!

  • Before you start organizing, measure the dimensions of your drawer and purchase an organizer that fits your drawer and your style. Look at Storables, The Container Store, or Bed, Bath and Beyond. I don’t always recommend spending money on organizing products, but in this case, a drawer organizer makes organizing and maintaining that organization much easier! If you’d prefer to use what you are already own, checkbook boxes, small shipping containers, and department-store jewelry boxes make good drawer organizers.
  • To begin the organizing process, remove all the trash. 
  • Recycle and relocate items, as needed. For example, I commonly find receipts in my clients’ junk drawers. It’s best to find a place in your office or mail center to file receipts.
  • Once you’ve reduced and recycled, place the remaining items in separate compartments that make sense to you.
  • To maintain a neat junk drawer, don’t stuff it full of unwanted things. Only keep items that belong in the junk drawer IN the junk drawer, just like you would any other space in your home.

Take fifteen to thirty minutes this week to organize your junk drawer. You’ll be happy you did. Instead of slamming it shut and screaming, you’ll want to open it again and again. Take a picture and send me the photo of your newly organized drawer!

As always, I love to help my clients create beautiful and useful spaces. So, give me a call if you need help organizing your junk drawer OR kitchen OR garage. I’m here to help! Good luck.

Portland’s 10th Annual Gluten-Free Food Fair This Saturday

Join me and other gluten-free vendors for Portland’s 10th Annual Gluten-Free Food Fair this Saturday April 26 from 11am-3pm at the Double Tree Hotel at Lloyd Center.

GIG Fair April 2014Visit local bakery and restaurant owners, eat tasty samples, and meet new gluten-free friends. At my table, learn how my organizing service can benefit people with food allergies, especially those with gluten intolerance and celiac disease.

This family-friendly event is sponsored by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) of Portland, of which I’ve been a member for several years. Well worth the entrance price, I know you will enjoy attending! I encourage you to invite your family and friends, as well.

Visit the GIG of Portland Facebook event page to learn more!

My husband and I would love to see you Saturday at our Work in Progress Organizing booth.

Drop by and say hello!

Using Lists for Successful Holiday Planning

Does planning a Thanksgiving meal seem daunting? Add in-laws or distinguished guests on top of that, and holiday dinners can drive you crazy before the event even happens!

Whether you are a seasoned cook, or a novice in the kitchen, you can organize and execute a welcoming Thanksgiving party with good planning. One of my favorite organizing tools is lists. Yes, you heard me correctly. The value of creating and using lists is often underestimated. Lists not only start your event on the right track, but help you remember every detail to the end. The key is to write it down, or in today’s technology, put it in electronic form. Lists do no good in your mind. If you are like me, you will forget what you were supposed to remember five minutes later.

The great thing about lists is that they are customizable to your needs and personality. There is no right or wrong way to use a list. Just do it, in other words. Here are some tips to get you going.

  • Decide what kind of list to use. Some people love paper. If that’s you, then write down your lists in a compact notepad that can be carried with you. If you have a smartphone, I suggest you download a list app, like Remember the Milk, Things, or Evernote. Things is my favorite organizing app. The initial cost may seem steep, but it’s worth every penny in the long run. Evernote is free and has multiple organizing tools, like taking photos and audio clips, in addition to typing notes.
  • Keep your list with you at all times! This may not seem important at first. But you’ll remember the next ingredient of your gluten-free pumpkin dessert at the strangest time! Like while listening to the radio in the car. Just write it down at the next stoplight!
  • No matter how small, put it in your list. It may sound funny, but I don’t trust my mind to keep track of my life anymore! Do you? You’ll ease the pressure of remembering every detail by using your lists continually, even if the reminder seems insignificant.
  • Create many lists and use liberally. You can have as many lists as you want. Electronic space is virtually unlimited with current technology. You can use a list for everything from recipe ingredients, to grocery shopping items, to gift-giving ideas, to party favor details, to phone call and email reminders, to workout goals after the new year!

Does this stimulate your appetite for using lists? Well, maybe turkey with dressing and apple pie sounds more mouth-watering. Still, creating and using lists can ease your stress this holiday season. Try incorporating lists into your everyday life. You’ll be glad you did.

I wish you and your family a well-organized and delicious Thanksgiving holiday! Whatever happens with your planning, remember that relationships are the most important part of the season.

Tips for an Allergy-Free Kitchen

Welcome to new subscribers who attended the Gluten Intolerance Group Gluten-Free Food Fair on May 18! A little bit about my business – I organize all areas of the home, including offices and garages. What I love most is kitchens. Kitchens are the center of social gatherings, family bonding, and food that supplies health to our bodies. And organizing my kitchen helped me more successfully manage my food sensitivities.

What if you found out you are allergic to the food you eat? Here are some tips to get you started.

First, make sure that you have at least five stations incorporated into your kitchen, including the prep, cooking, serving, storage, and mail center. Other stations can include a recycling and kids’ lunch packing station. Next…

  • Make your entire kitchen allergy free if possible. That means no gluten if someone in your family has celiac disease.
  • Keep snacks in separate containers, labeled clearly.
  • Label shelves with easy to read words or stickers. (Photographs are great for young children.)
  • Dairy alternatives include coconut, rice, or almond milks and yogurts.
  • Peanut butter alternatives include almond, sunflower, or hazelnut spreads.
  • If you cannot make your kitchen entirely gluten-free, then use two toasters, two pasta strainers, two waffle-makers, and separate cutting boards, wooden spoons, peanut butter knives, butter dishes, sponges and hand towels.
  • Place gluten-free flours high above all other flours, since flour can stay in the air for several hours.
  • Do not make gluten-free cookies the same time as wheat-flour cookies.
  • For local grocery shopping, Whole Foods, New Seasons, Trader Joes, Lamb’s Markets and Bob’s Red Mill offer allergy-free foods.

Good luck organizing your kitchen! It will benefit everyone in your family, especially those with food allergies. Now is a great time to begin! Call me if you get stuck in your organizing adventure. I’d be glad to help.

Organizing Tips for Celiac Awareness Month

My favorite part about specializing in kitchen organizing is that I can make a difference in people’s health and happiness. When I discovered my own gluten sensitivity, the fun challenge was how to re-organize my kitchen. Yes, fun for me since I love organizing!

To celebrate Celiac Awareness Month, I want to review tips for an allergy-free kitchen. First, make sure that you incorporate at least five stations, including the prep, cooking, serving, storage, and mail center. Other stations can include recycling, kids’ lunch packing, and gluten-free snacks. Next…

  • Make your entire kitchen allergen free if possible. This is the best way to protect your allergic family members. That means no gluten (no wheat, rye, barley, and contaminated oats) if someone in your family has celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
  • Keep snacks in separate containers, labeled clearly.
  • Label shelves with easy to read words or stickers. (Photographs are great for young children.)
  • Dairy alternatives include coconut, rice, or almond milks and yogurts.
  • Peanut butter alternatives include almond, sunflower, or hazelnut spreads.
  • If you cannot make your kitchen entirely gluten-free, then use two toasters, two pasta strainers, two waffle-makers, and separate cutting boards, wooden spoons, peanut butter knives, and butter dishes to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Place gluten-free flours high above all other flours, since flour can stay in the air for several hours.
  • Do not make gluten-free cookies at the same time you make wheat-flour cookies.

I’m also celebrating celiac awareness by showcasing my business at the 9th Annual Gluten-Free Food Fair sponsored by the Portland area chapter of Gluten Intolerance Group or GIG. Please join us from 11am-3pm on Saturday May 18th at Mittleman Jewish Community Center. Enjoy gluten-free samples, educational lectures, and a community of like-minded individuals seeking better health through gluten-free living. Click on the poster below for more information. I hope to see you there!