In a kitchen, placement is key! Often times there are so many drawers and cabinets that at first everything has its own place. Then more items get added to the kitchen piece by piece and suddenly the kitchen is overflowing and it is impossible to find anything you are looking for! When placing items in a kitchen, think carefully about how they will be used. For example, oven mitts and pot holders should be in a drawer next to the oven (or hanging on nice hooks!) Large utensils used while cooking (spatulas, spaghetti spoons and ladles) should also be placed near the oven. This can be in a drawer with drawer dividers grouping like items together or in a utensil holder on the counter. For me, the less clutter the better, so anything that can be hidden away in drawers is better than anything sitting on a counter.
Everyday Ware – All of the items used for everyday eating should be placed together. Your everyday silverware should be placed in a drawer underneath the cabinet that holds your plates, bowls and glasses.
Coffee – If you drink coffee, everything involved in making the coffee should be located next to the coffee maker. Of course I don’t mean on the counter next to the coffee maker, I mean in the cabinets/drawers next to the coffee maker. This includes coffee mugs, coffee filters, sugar, etc. Everything you need to make the coffee should be in one easily accessible location.
Kids – Ideally, items meant for children should be within the children’s reach so that they can become more self-sufficient and learn how to navigate a kitchen one step at a time. This can often be accomplished by putting the plastic cups, dishware and even school lunch boxes into a large drawer instead of in a high cabinet.
Bulk Items – While you want to have a roll of paper towels in the kitchen along with a handful of paper napkins to use whenever you need, you do not need all of the paper towels or all of the napkins to be taking up precious kitchen space! Designate a place in your home (the pantry, a back closet, a remote cabinet, etc.) in which you will store all bulk items. This area can also contain unopened sponges, dish soap, soda, etc. Anything that will eventually be used in the kitchen, but doesn’t need to take up space while it is waiting, should find its way to the bulk item area.
The general rule to follow is to group like items together. Don’t have the two drawers of utensils across the kitchen from each other or the two cabinets of pots and pans separated by baking sheets. With everything grouped together, all of your items will be much easier to find!
Get everything that isn’t used in the kitchen, out of the kitchen! Often times we find ourselves placing items in the kitchen that don’t need to belong there (typically because they are associated with food). For example, party pieces are good things to find another home for. These can go in the pantry, a cabinet or even in dining room furniture, they don’t need to be in your living space. Matching paper plates, napkins and cups used for a birthday party that won’t be used again until the next big bash can be stored elsewhere. Any serving pieces that are only used when having a large get together also don’t need to live in the kitchen. If you don’t use it while cooking or preparing food on a monthly basis, get it out.
The second aspect to this is purging. If there are any items in your kitchen that you know you will never use again such as: an old waffle maker, the chopper that never worked like it did in the commercial, or the handheld mixer you used before you got your stand mixer – decide who would most benefit from owning them. You might have friends or family members that are just starting out and would love to get their hands on some slightly used kitchen items, give them away! If you don’t know anyone who would benefit from them, but they are still in good working condition, consider donating them. If you know no one in their right mind would want your old kitchen gadgets, toss them! Don’t hang on to something you will never use.
During college and the years after, there were many times when I thought I had a small kitchen, but my first kitchen in New Orleans truly was the smallest kitchen I’ve ever had and I think the smallest thing that can actually be considered a kitchen.
One indicator of a small kitchen: mysmall oven (no full-size turkeys here!) could only be opened by first opening the refrigerator door. The extra two inches of clearance that provided allowed the oven door to open all of the way. To give you an idea of what else I was working with in this kitchen, let’s talk about the counter space, or lack of. There were less than 7 inches between the sink and the stove and only 2 inches between the sink and the wall, no usable space there. The only real counter space was the 30 inches on the other side of the stove, but it was only accessible while standing in the 12-inch gap between the fridge and counter, so preparing food there was not really an option. I thought I could never manage the space and definitely not learn how to cook in it! Luckily, I was wrong!
To get around the counter issue, I purchased a piece cabinet furniture with a large counter top in the living room and placed it right outside of the kitchen. I used that space to prepare the food and then bring it in. It is nice how big areas can seem when you re-purpose them depending on your need. The piece of furniture contained many kitchen essentials, but by keeping it in the living room (it obviously didn’t fit in the kitchen) I gave myself more room for cooking and opened the kitchen into a bigger space.