Kitchen Magic

by Ramona Creel

Making Mealtime A Bit Easier

Today, pay attention to the way that you move while you cook — and the energy you expend in the process. How many times do you cross the length of your kitchen in one evening? Do you find yourself doing squats to get at your pans? Stretches to reach your dishes? Are you becoming a world-class hurdler, jumping over the dog's dish every time you go from refrigerator to stove?

And what about the time it takes to get dinner on the table — how many hours have you wasted looking for the right utensil — or trying to find your double boiler in the back of an overstuffed cabinet — or making a last-minute run to the store because you ran out of a vital ingredient? Would you be more likely to cook if your pantry wasn't cluttered with outdated canned and boxed goods that you know you'll never use? It only takes a few minutes of cleaning out and rearranging to make your kitchen storage function more efficiently, saving you a lot of time and energy in the long run.

Honey, Is This Good?

We all know how disgusting it is to pull an item out of the fridge — only to discover that it has mutated into something no longer edible and (quite frankly) a bit scary. However, we often mistakenly confuse “non-perishable” with “indestructible”. Even Twinkies have an expiration date!

Do yourself a favor today — go through your cabinets and toss out anything that is old, rancid, stale, or hairy. And as you purge, be sure to keep a shopping list of items you need to replace. It's also not a bad idea to make cleaning out the kitchen a part of your regular “home maintenance” routine. You may use these food “life expectancies” as a guide — but when in doubt, trust your gut (or your nose!):    

  • canned foods (2-5 years)
  • flours (3-6 months)
  • cereal (6 months)
  • grains/legumes (1 year)
  • pasta (1 year)  
  • dried herbs (6 months)
  • spices (6-12 months) 
  • condiments (1 year)

Five Centers

Every kitchen implement or supply that you use tends to fall into one of five categories — cleaning, food storage, cooking, food preparation, and serving. So if you can set up your kitchen and dining room to reflect these activities, both storage and food preparation will become a whole lot easier.

It's just like your kids are taught at Montessori — make it easy to find the tools you need for your work, and to put your supplies away when you're done. The goal is to keep your equipment nearest the appropriate center, making it easier for you to perform your kitchen duties.

  • Your cleaning station consists of the sink, dishwasher, and trashcan. Of course, soap, disinfectants, sponges, and rags should be stored in a cabinet nearby.
  • The stove is central to any cooking activities, so keep utensils, baking sheets, pots, and pans within easy reach. If you can, also move the microwave and toaster into this area.
  • Your food preparation center should be located near a large workspace (countertop or island). You will probably want to store knives, a cutting board, mixing bowls, blender, food processor, measuring cups, and other related implements close by.
  • Food storage, on the other hand, will center on the refrigerator — and should include room for Tupperware containers, canned foods, dry goods, and fresh fruits or vegetables.
  • Your serving center may be split between the kitchen and dining area. It is often easier to store serving dishes, linens, and candles near the table – while flatware, glasses, and plates usually work well closer to the sink (it's easier to put them away after washing).

Transform Your Existing Storage Space

In your cabinets and drawers, try to limit yourself to one category of paraphernalia per area. That may mean putting canned goods on one shelf and boxes on another — or keeping dishes separate from glasses. This just makes it easier for your brain to remember where things belong. Organize your kitchen in a way that makes sense to you, but try to avoid storing food and cookware together in the same cabinet.

Also see what you can do to make your current storage spaces work better for you. Stepped shelving allows you to see items hidden in the back of a deep cabinet — and drawer dividers will keep your utensils under control. Remember that rectangular storage containers take up less space than round ones — and pot lids and flat cookware are more accessible when lined up in a rack. Finally, don't forget the many ways to bring “dead” space back to life — including pull-out racks, lazy susans, cup hooks, stacking bins, hanging storage, and space-saving appliances.

The Triangle Theory

One final concern in your kitchen is movement from one “center” to the next. Some people claim that you should be able to reach every major appliance in your kitchen with just one step.  But that seems highly impractical to me, especially if you have a very large kitchen or a very large number of appliances. However, you can make your life a bit easier as you cook and serve and clean — if you keep motion in mind.

Try viewing your kitchen as a triangle — from the sink to the stove to the refrigerator. Your goal is to keep those paths clear! If you have to dodge garbage cans, recycling bins, or any other obstacles to get back and forth, you are doing too much work. And those of you with an island may need to have your triangle at a very oblique or obtuse angle, but you can still make it work — just pretend that your triangle has curved sides that go around the island. We're flexible here! Wink

© Ramona Creel, all rights reserved. Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at www.RamonaCreel.com. And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.