Organization is one of the cornerstones of family life, and as there are few places more important to your family than your kitchen, it’s important to keep your countertops, refrigerator, and pantry clean.
Cooking can be both an art and a science, and you’d almost never see a well-trained painter or physicist dig for hours trying to find that one perfect tool -- or in this case, ingredient. If it takes an hour just to locate the food you’re going to cook, you’ll soon come to loathe cooking as a tiresome, wasteful chore. Yet as long as you keep your ingredients sorted and accessible, you’ll be able to speed through recipes by the dozen, keeping the kitchen a light-hearted room that buzzes with love and enthusiasm.
Here, we’ve put together a list of five tips that can help you catalogue your kitchen’s contents and, more importantly, to keep it that way. Check them out below!
When working through a messy, confined space like your fridge or pantry, you’ll want a kind of “neutral area” to place all of the items you’ll be cataloging as you remove them from the shelves. Trying to sort bottles and jars still on the shelf can be a dreadful experience, so a “neutral area” such as a countertop or dining table should smooth out the process. Once everything is laid out on an easy-to-view surface, sorting becomes much easier, which leaves you with a clearer head and less frantic fingers.
It goes without saying that you’ll need to have a plan, but what should that plan be? You’ll want to keep your ingredients in places where you can easily find them, with bonus points going to whichever arrays of foods let you get the most done without having to think too much about where you left something.
To that end, you’ll want to avoid mixing things up. Keep areas with clear contents; have a “breakfast shelf,” a “snack shelf,” a “sandwich shelf,” and so on. Sort by purpose first and identity second; keep the “breakfast shelf,” broken up into cold cereals, hot cereals, baked goods, and so on.
Organizing an entire kitchen can seem like a daunting task, but it might help to break the process down into a series of smaller, more easily digested steps. Don’t take everything from everywhere out at once; instead of removing all of the contents of the refrigerator, you might first remove the items from the top shelf, sort them, remove any expired foods, decide what you want to go on the now-empty shelf, and place everything relevant back, now in its proper place.
Try to go shelf by shelf, cleaning surfaces and disposing of rot as you go. Once you’ve cleared out a shelf, you don’t necessarily have to put everything back, but you do have to put back everything that you’ve decided belongs there before moving on. This way, you don’t take up miles of countertop surface, and you reduce each part of clean-up into a much simpler stepping stone.
Whether you’re dealing with a tired spouse home after a long day at work or a trio of rambunctious kids, your family will undoubtedly need all the help they can get to prevent your kitchen from falling right back into chaos! To that end, use clear labeling and even physical dividers to keep things in place after you’ve finished.
You can also sit your family down and tell them clearly what goes where, or assign each child to keep a certain shelf organized. That way, they gain practice with responsibility while feeling as though they have an investment in the cleanliness of your home.
The inner workings of a kitchen can be a powerful lens into your family’s habits and expectations. Use this organization a an opportunity to get a feel for what your family needs and what it doesn’t. If you consistently find a certain type of product expired on the shelf, consider buying less of them in the future, or at least placing them more prominently.
Keep in mind high-activity areas like breakfast cereals, pastas, leftovers, or juice when you’re sorting, and make sure to keep them accessible -- though not so accessible that your more esoteric cooking and baking ingredients are left forgotten in a dark corner. Above all, make sure that everyone can find anything that they need; if your youngest child can walk into the pantry and come out again within five seconds holding the exact thing they went in looking for, then you’ve succeeded.
Those are our five tips for organizing your kitchen. What about you? What have you found that works for you and your family? Let us know in the comments!