by Cary Farrell
July 22, 2019
I just finished eating one of my favorite dishes. My table is no longer filled with noisy children at meal time. I have had to adjust to cooking for one instead of 7 or 8 which sometimes just means that I have lots of leftovers to put in the freezer! I enjoy cooking at home, preparing a meal that I love and that I know how it was prepared and with what ingredients. But I also find cooking enjoyable because my kitchen functions smoothly with all of my tools in prime real estate at my fingertips and plenty of empty counter space to work with. I hope last month’s article inspired you to look at your kitchen as the heart of the home and that you have begun to do your functional treasure hunt and set up centers so that you too can enjoy your kitchen.
This month we are going to talk about how to set up each center and what to do with the items that are left that are not functional treasures like Granny’s pie pans.
Before you set up your kitchen you need to ask who uses each center so that you create a center that functions for everyone. If dad does most of the cooking then he needs to be the one setting up the cooking center. If the middle child does most of the baking in the house then that child needs to be a part of creating that center. Hopefully you are creating independence and a team spirit in the home so the daily dishware needs to be organized so that younger kids can help set the table and unload the dishwasher. Thinking through these points will help you to create the best functional centers for your family.
One kink in the system can actually be your kitchen itself. Sometimes builders don’t leave you counter space or cabinets in convenient locations to make setting up centers logical. You might have to get creative in your kitchen to create the centers that will work for your family. Adding baskets in lower cabinets or adding a rolling cart are sometimes necessary to create those functional centers that you need.
Let’s take a closer look at the more common kitchen centers to help you on your way.
Stand at your stove and ask yourself, “What do I / we use on a daily or weekly basis to cook with?” Pull those items out and place them on the stove. Don’t forget to pull out the cooking utensils and oven mitts that get used often as well. These items will get prime real estate in your kitchen.
Then ask, “ What do I/we use on a monthly basis. Pull those items out and place them on the counter next to the stove.
Remove everything else out of those prime real estate cabinets and place those items on the table to be dealt with later.
Put the items that are on your stove in those cabinets and drawers that are the easiest to reach around your cooking area (prime real estate). Then the items you use monthly can be placed a littler further out or on an extra shelf in the pantry, etc. Don’t shove the cabinets full or it will be frustrating to get everything in and out. If possible store lids with bottoms so you don’t have to dig them out when you need them. I turn the lids upside down in pots and then it makes a flat surface to allow you to stack them. Try to be ruthless in this area because if you have multiple sets of cookware, an old set or new set or one from each spouse or one set from the parents who upgraded and gave you their old set… you can end up with more cookware than you really need. Be realistic about which pots and pans really get used on a daily or weekly basis and don’t let guilt talk you into keeping the rest. ( Place those extras on the table for now and we will get to them in a minute.)
Consider a countertop container for utensils that get used most often or the top drawer next to your stove depending on your cabinetry.
Oven mitts need to be handy as well and if your kitchen is short on drawers consider hanging command hooks inside pot cabinets to hang the mitts.
If you have lots of glassware that you cook in, place those items in a cabinet together but if they don’t get weekly use don’t give them a prime cabinet. They can get pushed back further out.
It is important to create a cooking condiment area near the stove for those spices and oils that you use the most often. You don’t have to keep all the spices you own in prime real estate, just the ones used most often. The pantry can be a better place for spices that are for special meals or rarely used. Baking spices will get space in the baking center.
Once you have your cooking center set up cooking will be so much more enjoyable! Don’t be afraid to keep tweaking the center until it flows smoothly for you.
Pull out the dishes used most often. These items need to be in the cabinets or drawers closest to the dishwasher or table depending on your kitchen set up. If you have a place setting for 12 but you only use 6 on a regular basis, then only store the amount you need in your prime real estate. The rest can be stored in a farther cabinet for company. Don't overwhelm yourself with everything you own at your fingertips. Be careful not to fill your dish cabinet with several sets of dishes. Choose one that is versatile for everyday and store the other sets out of prime real estate.
If you're organizing for kids, place everyday dishes in cabinets and drawers that they can reach. They can unload the dishwasher, set the table, and make there own snack if you set the kitchen up with them in mind.
I try to put glasses near the fridge or the sink if you do a sink water filter. I also recommend putting daily supplements in the glasses cabinet to remind you take them. Again, be careful not to stuff your cabinets with a ton of glasses. Pick everyone’s favorites and put the rest on the table for later.
If your family are coffee or tea drinkers, I suggest creating a hot beverage center for the daily needs. I usually use a cabinet close to the coffee machine and store the daily supply there. Coffee mugs can get sticky in some houses because they become souvenirs instead of coffee mugs! Don’t store your collection in the coffee center. Only keep your favorites here. Put the rest on the table.
If you or someone in your family enjoys baking, be sure to set up a baking center. Gather all the baking tools that get used most often and place them in a cabinet and or drawer with counter space to work with. Don't store holiday bakeware here. Store them with holiday decorations.
Storage containers/ Zip locks/ wraps
Corral all of the storage containers and match them up with their bottoms. Get rid of the ones that no longer have matches. Choose a cabinet or drawer that can hold the storage containers in the easiest way possible. Storage containers can be the most frustrating tool in the kitchen. I personally prefer a drawer to help corral these items. Unless you have a large family, I recommend storing large containers in out of the way cabinets.
Choose a drawer or basket to hold the wraps and baggies. If your family makes lunches daily consider putting these items in an area that the family can access easily to make their lunches. Deep drawers are great for pre prepped lunch snacks,bread,peanut butter or other often used condiments to make lunch prep fast and easy.
When you have these major centers established and organized, you will see what prime real estate you have left that you can set up other centers. Remember this is your kitchen so make it function for you and your family.
Counters should be left clear and uncluttered. If items on the counter don't get used several times a week then they should not get... you guessed it... prime real estate on the counter. Store infrequently used appliances in a cabinet or on a shelf in the pantry or in the laundry room.
Take a hard look at what you have piled on the kitchen table. Pull out the items that you use and that still need a home in the kitchen. Find an area for them in the kitchen grouping them by categories.
Let go of Items you don't use or have replaced with something new or better. Donate gently used items to your local charity and then recycle or throw out the trash.
If you are a collector, choose your favorite pieces to use or display and then pack up the rest or let them go. Most homes are not built for collections in the kitchen. Don't give prime real estate to a collection of coffee mugs you have collected from around the world. Display the ones you love then pack the rest away to rotate in. Remember your kitchen is a place to function and should not be used as storage.
So what about Granny’s pie pans or Great Grandma’s china? The sentimentality of these items can cause you to freeze and shove them back into prime real estate. Resist the urge and let’s get creative and honest. Could Granny’s pie pan become a frame or a useful tray or… Could you purchase a plate holder and display a piece of Great Grandma’s china instead of keeping the set you don’t plan to use. How can you honor the memory and the item without letting them become a burden? Often times we keep these items without even thinking about whether Granny or Great Grandma even liked these items themselves. They are after all items that are meant to bless. If they are not blessing you then they have become a burden and the greatest way to honor them is to release them to someone who can enjoy them. If however you really do feel attached to these items then allow them to bless you and use them. Don’t worry if they break or get chipped. Use them!
Taking the time to identify the items you use most often in your kitchen and placing those items in prime real estate will help you to create that welcoming heart of the home that everyone will enjoy being in.
Check out Meal Planning in 5 Easy Steps for tips in actually using you newly functional kitchen. I can smell dinner cooking now!