How To Organize Your Kitchen

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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!

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Follow these steps, and you too will live in organized kitchen bliss.

14 comments

  1. Instead of throwing things away, you can find someone to take them on freecycle – http://www.freecycle.org.

    Even half-used boxes of cornmeal. You send an email – “Offer: Half-empty box of cornmeal. Still good.” – and someone comes and takes it off your hands. I’ve gotten rid of bags of sand this way – someone needed it – and gotten a mandoline slicer, a laundry rack, and an almost-full bag of cacao nibs. Almost nothing has to go to waste. Frugal Jewish Gramma would be proud.

  2. Oh, goodness, I love doing that! I do my mom’s pantry just for fun about twice a year! That is the best feeling.

  3. I can relate to the malt powder! I bought David’s book too and I was going to try the Malted Milk ice cream, but instead I put the malt powder in his Philadelphia style chocolate ice cream. Tasty! Especially when topped with his Marshmallow Fudge sauce!

  4. Ah I wish you had posted this earlier. A close friend of mine just moved and my boyfriend and I were furious with him that he wanted to move all 50 boxes of tea with him. He also argued the necessity of having 24 pint glasses, 14 coffee mugs, and 24 plastic cups. For a one-person apartment. *yargh*

    Also, I’m amazed that you can put your cutting board behind the sink knobs. I always find water to pool over there and encourage funny, living things to grow over there. =P

  5. I can do that… What I can’t do is keep it that way.

    My new challenge is: next month we are moving to a very old French stone house with no kitchen. There are 4 big, square rooms and I get to choose one to be the kitchen.

    I’m both terribly excited and excitably terrified.

    I also may have had too much caffeine this morning.

  6. thank you for this post! i’ve been needing the motivation to clean out my kitchen. question: do you keep your dishes somewhere else? where did all the appliances go?

  7. thank you for this post! i’ve been needing the motivation to clean out my kitchen. question: do you keep your dishes somewhere else? where did all the appliances go?

  8. Adam: Good job, but one suggestion — get your spices and oils away from the stove. I know its convenient to have them at hand while you cook, but heat is the enemy of spices/oils, and keeping them above the heat source will diminish their already short shelf life.

    Also – next time your mom goes to Macy*s, tell her to get you some of those nifty turntables – you can double your storage space with the two-tiered versions.

  9. Great job and you actually have some upper cab. space available. Wonder what you’ll put in there ?

    I guess you put your appliances in the base cabs. or gave them to “Freecycle” that’s a good thing and almost every city has one.

  10. I just completed the same project whilst housebound by tropical storm Fay. Two words for you: Wire Baskets! Oh and where do you keep your cereal boxes?

  11. Adam: please drive in a westernly fashion until you reach my house. It is green with a surprising number of trees and 2 yappy dogs, 1 of which might pee on you. Come on in and help yourself to my cabinets and drawers as they are in desperate need of cleaning and organizing. Except the ubiquitous junk drawer, I finally cleaned that out the other night. The rest is yours.

  12. You got a point there! An organized kitchen means

    faster and stressless cooking..

    You’re invited to check my blog for some Moroccan gourmet & yummies :)

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