Kitchen Quest, Part 1
June 30, 2010, By Tom McNulty
Your kitchen has more moving parts than any other room in your home. Large appliances like the fridge, stove and oven. Virtually countless small electrics, from your basic toaster, microwave and coffeemaker to the more specialized blender, ricemaker, waffle iron, fajita maker, sandwich press, coffee grinder and maybe a George Foreman grill or two.
You’re almost sure to have gadgets like a can opener, corkscrew, cheese grater, spatula, tongs, kabob skewers and MANY more, plus knives, tableware, plates, bowls, mugs, glassware, pots, pans, cookie sheets, cake pans and Tupperware.
And over here, plumbing! The sink, dishwasher and garbage disposal cannot be disregarded, nor can the electricity that runs the whole room.
With this much stuff, we should first discuss organizing all of it, because a decluttered space is easier to clean and saves you time when you’re looking for, say, those corn-on-the-cob holders (next week we’ll drill down on cleaning tips and quick fixes in the kitchen).
1. Countertops. Keeping countertops clear is one of my two keys to being organized, or at least looking like you are (the other is making the bed first thing every morning). Clutter-free surfaces aren’t just easier on the eyes – you can clean them more quickly when there’s no stuff to move around. Suggestions:
- Put all dishes into dishwasher right after eating.
- Have “a place for everything” and everything in its place. To help you here, storage is discussed below.
- Minimize knickknacks like porcelain chickens and Milwaukee Brewers bobbleheads.
- Keep infrequently-used small appliances out of sight.
- If you have cookbooks, keep them inside a cupboard.
- Use clear containers for leftovers so you can see what things are; mark with the dates you stored the food.
- Set aside a specific time, say every Saturday morning, to review what’s in there, shelf-by-shelf. Otherwise you’ll discover it the hard way … by smell.
- To minimize odors, fill a deli container with baking soda or coffee grounds (new or used).
- Freshness dates? I’ve always looked at them like the “E” on my gas tank: I think there’s always some margin for error. If you don’t eat something within a year or two of purchase, you probably never will.
Many refrigerators disappear under layers of magnets and taped-up lists, invitations, stick-on notes, snapshots, kids’ artwork, coupons, schedules and cartoons. Ditch this crap, I say. It only creates visual clutter, making the whole kitchen seem messy.
- Right now, seek out and discard all the spices you haven’t used since the invention of the cell phone. Yes, I’m guilty too.
- Get rid of esoteric ingredients you’ll never use (like that bag of flour you once made something with), plus any items that just don’t belong in the kitchen, like candle holders, office supplies, stuffed animals…who knows what you got up there?
- Purge all empty containers, and all that contain something you’ll probably never eat.
- Place dividers – plastic, wooden or wire ones - into any drawers you’ll be using for silverware, gadgets, tools, and all the odds and ends that constitute “junk.”
- Store like items together: gadgets in one drawer, silverware and knives in another, then tools/batteries, napkins/placemats, foils/wraps/Ziploc bags/twist ties, and “misc.”
5. Other Storage
- Stash lesser-used items (waffle iron, ricemaker, etc.) out of sight in cupboards, or even the oven. Caveat: remove any combustibles from oven if you ever fire it up.
- Create extra storage behind pantry doors with a hanging shoe rack; place everything from cleaning supplies to cooking utensils in the compartments.
- Store your most-used cookware toward the front of cupboard shelves for easier access.
6. Be safe!
Most third degree burns guys suffer occur in the kitchen, from cooking fires. Invest in a fire extinguisher and know how to use it.
Tom McNulty is the author of CLEAN LIKE A MAN - Housekeeping for Men (And the Women Who Love Them). He is a featured contributor to ManoftheHouse.com.