Covid has kept us out of our stilettos for so long that most of us plan to go from winter Uggs straight into summer flip flops. Kitchens are the new show-off shoe closet. There is an Austrian kitchen design company that will groove especially shaped indentations to cuddle your whisk, your can opener, your potato masher into exotic hardwood fitted into drawers that roll as smooth as grease on a hot skillet. Fortunately, even the humblest kitchen can be transformed into a satisfying workspace with some simple, budget-friendly fixes.
Obviously, cleanliness is essential. You are going to need to empty the cupboards and drawers in order to reorganize them, so take the opportunity to clean them thoroughly and reline anything that needs it.
Windex, Simple Green, Method or Dawn soap with water are all good for kitchen cleaning. Choose the one that you’re comfortable with. I pretty much use Windex for everything, like the Dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But a lot of my clients prefer gentler products. With regards to shelf liner, I use it for cupboards and drawers that store anything that might damage the surface, like pots and pans or oils and vinegars, or for items that I don’t want directly on a hard surface because they might chip, like glassware and dishes. Liner in the spice, tea or grain storage areas also makes it easier to clean up spills because you can usually just take the liner out and shake or wipe it off.
Next, organize your cupboards logically and ergonomically. Let your mind and your body reap the benefit of commonsense placement. Heavy items, like a crock pot or mixer, should either stay on the counter or be stored in a place that is neither overhead or so low that you have to crouch to get it out. Obviously, the more you use something, the more conveniently it has to be stored. If you use your toaster or crock pot more than twice a week, you should probably just leave it on the counter.
Pots and pans are on the heavy side, so they should be stored in lower cupboards. Glassware and dishes can be stored in upper cabinets, if available, and as close to where you will set the table for dining as possible. Alternatively, having dishes and glassware close to the sink or dishwasher is also a good choice because it will make putting clean things away very easy. Glasses, tea pots and coffee pots situated close to a water source also makes sense.
A lot of kitchens, like mine, are without a pantry, so you may have to get creative with food storage. Extra canned goods and beverages may need to be stored in another room nearby, such as a laundry room or even the garage. But the refrigerator is a great storage space and lack of a pantry might inspire you to eat more fresh foods.
I am not a fan of transferring items from perfectly fine containers into matching glass or plastic ones, with a few exceptions. If you buy flour and sugar in bags that easily spill after they are opened, then by all means, put those things into canisters with tightly fitting lids. I like cannisters for nuts and seeds too. It’s also much easier to use and more pleasant to look at bulk items, like oats or quinoa or lentils, in jars or cannisters rather than messy plastic bags.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on containers for the kitchen, but the good news is that whatever you do buy will tend to last years (unlike in the garage and other areas where leaks, dirt or breakage from drops means replacing containers now and then). I love shallow melamine trays (Target, Amazon, Walmart) for under oils on a shelf. A pot lid organizer from a kitchen store can be a great divider for trays in an upper cupboard. Plastic shoe bins are good for corralling protein bars together or taco seasonings and other small packets. If you can spend a bit more, the Like It “bricks” at the Container Store are upgrades from the plastic 6 qt (shoe) containers.
Lastly, a kitchen that is most efficient and a joy to work in contains only the utensils, pots and appliances you really use. You probably don’t need five spatulas. Pick your two favorites and let the rest go. Wash things as you cook and you not only won’t need that third spatula but you won’t have as many dishes to wash when you’re finished cooking. Less stuff more organized equals less work and more satisfaction.