1. Take everything out of the cabinets, drawers, cupboards, closets, etc. and lay it on a table.
2. Clean off the counters, the cabinets, the cupboards, the drawers, etc.
3. Go through all the STUFF and throw out anything you don’t use on a regular basis. Especially if you have a tiny New York apartment, there’s no sense keeping that cracker meal from the time you made salt and pepper shrimp or half-empty boxes of rock-hard brown sugar or two bags of corn meal when one will suffice, etc. etc. This is the hardest part because the frugal part of you will want to keep everything–waste not, want not–but you have to think more like a zen master than a Jewish grandmother: the more you get rid of now, the more peace you will find when you open your cabinets later and boxes and bags don’t come tumbling out. Believe me, I lived in a cluttered kitchen for the past year (as you can see from the picture above); clutter is not your friend.
4. Once you’ve purged, begin putting things away. Here’s where you get organized: choose the items you use most often and make those the most accessible. Over my sink I have a shelf that’s just an arms-reach away while I cook; there, now, I keep my olive oil, a few vinegars, a few different kinds of salt, my pepper grinder, vanilla, baking soda and twine. These are the things I use most often in my kitchen. In my biggest cabinet, now, I have a shelf for flours and sugars: bread flour, cake flour, all-purpose flour, etc; and white sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, etc. Below that I keep extraneous spices that don’t fit on my spice rack as well as all the chocolate I use for baking (Ghiardelli bitersweet mostly); on the top shelf are all the extraneous items that I didn’t throw out because I do use them somewhat frequently: corn meal, malt powder (to make David’s ice cream), etc. Above the stove, I’m storing my dried goods–pastas, dried beans, polenta–and miscellaneous oils (corn oil, canola oil) as well as other bottled items like pomegranate molasses, Thai fish sauce, etc. It’s not smart to keep oils above heat so I should probably move those (they may get spoiled) but for now, I think they’re ok.
5. Behold my organized kitchen!
Follow these steps, and you too will live in organized kitchen bliss.