March 8, 2012

Tips to Keep Your Kitchen Clutter-free

When was the last time you cleaned out your junk drawer? And don’t pretend you don’t have a junk drawer. Sun assistant Homes editor Lori Fralic used to have one. A really bad one, until she tackled it and can now actually find a pen when she needs one. Our section designer, Mary Beth Roberts, reorganized her cupboards and no longer needs a flashlight to find her matching Tupperware lids.  Here are their tips, and others from Sun At Home team members, for waging that personal anti-clutter kitchen campaign.

Mary Frances Hill, Homes writer
Some wise person once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. On that count, I was insane for many years. Until about two months ago. That’s when I realized that reaching to the back of my cabinet for that Ziploc bag full of dried black beans— which sat behind the bag of flour, which in turn sat behind the box of orzo — well, that wasn’t so smart. I was a domestic dumbass.

Inevitably, spillage ensued. I’m quick to swear when frustrated, and even more so when I’ve dumped a carpet of chick peas on my floor. My kitchen storage solution? Mason jars and lazy susans, which are simple turntable platforms that let me pick my neatly jar-stored ingredient with a quick flip of the wrist — a turn of the carousel, if you will. It’s an idea that’s hundreds of years old, I’m sure. But in my world full of deadlines, texts, tweets, updates and constant interruptions, organizing something so banal and domestic offered me a weird sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Chantal Eustace, Homes writer
Confession: I’m a kitchen disorganizer by nature.
IKEA’s also a huge help, though, since they sell all sorts of organizers and drawer dividers. A great low-cost investment? We revamped our under-sink recycling area to include good-sized, matching bins for paper, bottles, and so on. Our composter fits in nicely too. This makes life much easier and helps us minimize waste with little fuss.

Lori Fralic, assistant Homes editor
My must-have kitchen ingredient — the junk drawer. It’s the nasty little hiding spot that most of us would rather not think about, but, if organized, is as useful as a pair of kitchen shears. Here’s how to transform the kitchen catch-all into an organized spot for all those things you need but don’t know where to put. For starters, buy a clear tray with slotted compartments, and use it like a cutlery tray to stash different-sized items where they fit best. Pens can rest easy in the skinny strip on the left, for instance. The tray is the perfect spot for all the bits and bites that accumulate over time and is easy to clean. Use snack-size Ziploc bags to stash nuts and bolts and that stray shirt button you found under the table. Small clear containers with lids will also do the trick. Once you’ve gained control, you’ll find things faster and with less frustration. But don’t stop there — tackle one drawer a day in your kitchen, from that mess of tea towels to the tangle of utensils, and before you know it you’ll have somewhere to put all those beautiful linens you just brought back from Italy.

Claudia Kwan, Homes writer
I’m really visually oriented, so I need to see things to remember where they are — or that they exist. Luckily, I have a lot of open storage in my kitchen, which helps me track various bits and pieces before they can go missing. Pots and their lids go right up on the shelves as soon as they’re washed, while other plates and bowls are stacked in their respective spots. I rotate their use so that nothing gets too dusty. If I didn’t have open shelves I would have glassed in cupboards with individual lighting, just to make sure I could see everything.

Mary Beth Roberts, Homes designer
Many hands make light work, this is true. But in the past, the smaller hands in my home have been known to wreak havoc on our kitchen cupboards during dishwasher unloads. I knew things were bad when I found myself corkscrewed into the lower cupboards using a flashlight to locate Tupperware lids that had been tossed like Frisbees into the deepest corner of the cabinet amid those small appliances no one ever uses. The solution? We divided each section by theme, and now there is a space for clear glass, colourful/patterned china, white china, metal, plastics and ceramics. On occasion I arrive home to find a plastic drinking glass hastily stashed in with the glassware, but in general our kitchen-chaos challenge is tidily resolved. And as those smaller hands are now attached to fast-growing bodies that never stray far from the kitchen, a little organization saves mom from a lot of unnecessary headaches.

Christina Symons, Homes writer
Chrome restaurant racks. As an interim measure when we renovated our kitchen, we hung and stored all our daily tools and essentials on a five-tier chrome utility shelving unit (commonly used in restaurant kitchens). It was so handy to have things organized this way, after the reno was finished we kept the shelving unit in place to house pots and pans, mixing bowls etc. It looks crisp and modern and is really efficient.

Vintage storage jars. My mom and I collect vintage canning jars and use them to store small quantities of specialty flours, beans, rice and other dried goods in our pantries. Bernardin canning company makes inexpensive, white storage lids for wide-mouth and regular canning jars which gives them a tidy, uniform look.

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