Winter is the perfect time for “Spring Cleaning.” When it’s cold, sleeting, windy and you have no desire to go outside, it’s ideal for doing tasks indoors.
When my friends moved into their house two and a half years ago they were busy doing renovations and planning their wedding, so they never really took the time to get their kitchen cabinets organized. It only got worse when the wedding gifts arrived and they had to make more space for things.
Baking dishes ended up being stacked in weird ways.
Pots and pans were stacked so high even boiling some water became a chore.
I decided to pull everything out of the cabinets and put the contents into several categories:
• Duplicate items
• Never used items
• Items that could be stored elsewhere
• Infrequently used/seasonal items
• Sometimes/often used items
• Everyday items
When two people move in together they often have two sets of everything. My friends are no different. Over the years they had already gotten rid of many duplicates, but they were still clinging to some weird ones. For example, they had two giant punch bowls. They couldn’t remember the last time they had even used one, so one had to go for sure, and the other had to be stored in a place that was accessible, but out of the way.
I decided to make the small cabinet over the refrigerator a place for infrequently used/seasonal items like the punch bowl, a big roasting pan and large platters. It’s easy to access with a step stool, but out of the way, so it’s not a great cabinet for everyday items. However, first we needed to clean out the picnic basket, light bulbs, appliance manuals, spent batteries and other random items that had ended up in there.
I put the picnic basket, light bulbs, appliance manuals and spent batteries all in the “items that could be stored elsewhere” category. My friends have shelves in the basement, so that’s where all of these things were going to move. Anything they had forgotten was up there that they were never going to use went into the give-away pile (or the trash if necessary).
I put a cut-up, stained piece of tablecloth in between the platters to keep them from getting scratched.
A basket holds paper plates and plastic flatware (which they hardly ever use), The roasting pan is tucked way in the back, the punchbowl they decided to keep in front, barbeque tools stacked on top (they don’t get much use in the winter), some vintage canisters fill in the center space (they hope to use these someday when the renovate a dilapidated mud room), and just one pack of light bulbs.
On to the pots and pans.
My friend claims she had a workable system with her giant stack of pots, but I’m not buying that four day old fish. Since the pots and pans are the most used items in the kitchen, I felt they needed to spread out a little.
Once we cleaned out the messiest cabinet in the house (see the photo above), I declared this to be pots and pans cabinet. I figured, for easy access, nothing should be stacked more than two items tall. The larger, lesser used stock pots and sauté pan could go in the back, the often-used smaller sauce pans could go on the top shelf, cookie sheets and pizza pans could lean on the side, the colander, cast iron frying pan and often-used cast iron stock pot could go in the front. Now cooking won’t begin with unstacking and restacking pots in a cramped cabinet.
Next, we had to find places for appliances, mixing bowls and food storage containers. There was one thing I knew for sure: this giant, never-used George Foreman rotisserie/oven either had to go, or had to be stored someplace else because it took up an entire cabinet.
Luckily, they agreed. This one act alone cleared up a lot of space. We decided to put the toaster, and ice cream maker, a stand mixer and a can opener in the small cabinet where the pots were. This gave them easy access to all the items except the ice cream maker which they don’t use much in the winter, and often use in conjunction with the mixer.
Even with all these changes, they still had a lot of stuff to store, so strategy was going to be important for the last two cabinets. They had a lot of little appliances they barely used, but weren’t ready to get rid of. I decided these could go behind mixing bowls and appliances, like the blender, they used often. Big bowls could go on the top shelf, smaller, more frequently used bowls could go in a stack in front, cutting boards which are used everyday could stack on the side and the coffee grinder—also used everyday—could go in front.
Small food storage containers were put in a paper bag so they could be accessed easily, the little pieces didn’t get scattered all over the place and they don’t take up a lot of room.
Even though this cabinet is packed tight, all the things that are used most often are easily accessible, so it should stay tidy.
The last cabinet we worked on holds the baking dishes.
Pie plates on the top and the larger dishes on the bottom. We also put some cups that are mostly used for summer parties way in the back.
Since the oval baking dish didn’t stack well into the large dish, I placed a styrofoam plate in between them.
There’s still a lot of room in this cabinet, I suggested they buy a divider to add even more storage. Larger food storage containers could then go there.
Now my friends have a well-organized kitchen where there’s easy access to everything they need. I hope this inspires you to do a little winter “spring” cleaning.
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