Who organized your kitchen?
If you are a new stay-at-home-dad who has not been primarily responsible for cooking, it was probably your wife. While there is nothing wrong with that, men and women tend or organize… differently. If the person responsible for cooking has changed, it may be time to reorganize the kitchen so that you are not constantly trying to determine where your significant other put something! It may be helpful to put some labeled post-it notes on the drawers and doors to help everyone adjust to the new organization.
When I organized our kitchen (I have always been primarily responsible for cooking), I had some challenges that others may also have experienced. Our house was built in the 50′s, and while the kitchen has been updated to get rid of those metal cabinets, there is still a lack of storage space. I cook very seriously, and have many kitchen gadgets, so this problem is compounded. I have utilized some unique storage options — many of which are not my ideas — that I would like to share to help you find more space.
In general, I try to put similar things together. For example, I have a cupboard that houses white sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar and powdered sugar. I also try to keep ‘back stock’ separate from open containers to prevent having 2 or 3 open containers of the same item. If you have a standard unfinished garage, the fire breaks (the horizontal boards nailed between the studs) can be used to store unopened pantry items (if you can, put them along the wall that is shared with the house, as this wall will stay cooler than external walls). A simple shelving system could also be installed using 1×4 stock, if your garage is finished. If you have a bedroom that is used as an office, you could consider converting the closet into additional shelving space by removing the shelf and hanging rod and installing wall-mounted shelving or a free-standing shelving unit.
I use small metal tins to store my spice inside of a cupboard. I attached a metal strip using command adhesive and stick the tins to the strip. This can also be done with velcro, if you prefer. This way the cans are accessible, visible, and they stay out of the way and off the counter. I keep more than 40 spices on hand at any given time, so it is probably a bit more of an issue for me than for most, but it has proven to be a great way to store those little things that always seem to be in the way. I have found that I can fit about six canisters on each metal strip.
You know those pans that are always in the way? You know, pie tins, loaf pans, bundt pans, and cupcake pans? Try attaching the same strips above and hang them upside down inside the cupboard, or if you have room, to the doors of the cupboard. You will need to use a couple of magnets to attach them.
I am a fan of knife blocks. The wooden blocks help to wick moisture away from knives that are often made from carbon steel (carbon=rust, but also holds a sharper edge for longer) and helps to protect the blades. It also prevents the “Drawer of Doom” which upon opening looks like something from a horror flick. If you hate blocks, and some people do, look for one of these. They take an entire drawer, but hold a variety of knives and help to prevent rust.
I don’t have a good answer for this one, as it depends on your particular situation. In our house we don’t have a typical 6-ft high deep cupboard. We do have two counter-height corner units that house a 3/4 round (a circle with a 25% pie-slice removed) lazy suzan. One of these houses our pots and pans, and the other is used as a pantry. I organized it with tall items in the middle and shorter items towards the outsides to allow for easier access. If your cupboards are deep, I would recommend considering a lazy suzan. You lose a bit of space in the corners, but it makes the space much more usable.
Also, get some containers. The link has the ones that we use. In spite of a nasty ant-infestation that has been going on for the last couple of weeks, they have not managed to find any of the sugar that those containers hold. Sure, you could use plastic bags — but they make for a mighty messy cupboard! I label my containers with a labeler to prevent someone else from mistaking flour for powdered sugar. I also keep cake flour, rice flour, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour and bread flour on hand, so labeling is necessary. If you have a bunch of containers of the same size, it can also be convenient to adjust your shelves so that the containers fit somewhat tightly. This can provide quite a bit of extra height on the other shelves for taller items.
If you have very many kitchen electrics (toaster oven, food processor, stand mixer, vacuum sealer, microwave, blender, etc.), they are going to end up on the counter because they take up SO MUCH cupboard space. If you are fortunate enough to have an appliance garage, get as many inside as you can! Otherwise, try to have a couple of work stations (at least two) where there is nothing on the counter, and keep the appliances against the back-splash one deep. This provides space to put down groceries when putting them away while providing depth that you need not to feel claustrophobic when performing tasks like cutting. I have a nice thick butcher block that I keep permanently in one of those spaces, right next to my knife block. I have also found it necessary to hang a lot of my kitchen tools to get them out of the drawers — this also makes grabbing them very convenient. Think of it like pegboard in the garage. I used these, although there are more attractive options if these don’t pass the WAT (wife approval test).
There are an infinite number of ways that additional storage can be ‘found’ in the kitchen. I hope that these ideas stimulate some thought and help you to make the kitchen your own!