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5 Steps to Organizing Your Kitchen or Redesigning a New One

Do you have a really small kitchen? Think it can’t be organized? I’ve seen tiny kitchens impeccably organized and large ones that were not. As the saying goes, “Clutter grows to fill the space at hand”.

Let’s learn how to efficiently and effectively organize a kitchen, and make the best use of your space. And, if you are thinking about a kitchen remodel, and are not sure where to begin, these 5 steps will assist you in your kitchen redesign. These tips are based on an actual interview with a kitchen space planner.

1. What’s your Cooking Style?

Myth or fact: To keep kosher you need 2-3 sets of dishes, pots, pans, silverware, glasses, serving pieces, trivets, you name it!

The truth is: you really do not need to have 2-3 sets of everything to keep a kosher kitchen.

You have to examine what your cooking style is. Do you cook both milk and meat? Which do you rarely cook? Or are you more of a takeout person not needing lots of pots and dishes?

In my own home, we rarely cook dairy. I had a whole 16-piece set of dairy dishes in one cabinet and an entire set of dairy pots in another cabinet. It finally dawned on me that since I only use the cereal bowls and one dairy pot for oatmeal every morning, I should move them downstairs.

That freed up two cabinets. I use one as an art station for my kids, and the other for sippy cups and bottles, water bottles, and travel mugs.

You can do the same. Analyze your cooking style and decide what you use most frequently. Move out what you do not use and keep that which you do use most accessible.

2. Come up with more accessible storage solutions

Could you store items differently in your kitchen, freeing up the prime real estate- namely the kitchen cabinets and drawers?

Every kitchen has cabinets and drawers. And these cabinets and drawers are the first things to become full! They are the prime real estate in the kitchen.

I’d like to teach you 4 options for storing things so you don’t always have to go straight for the cabinets and drawers: Hang it up, store it in a drawer, put it on the shelf, or on the floor.

Although these rules seem like no-brainers, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have used them.

When I come home with new placemats, for instance, I think first- where will I put these? I want to put them in the most appropriate “container” so I review the 4 options in my head.

Sometimes, I am able to create a storage option that isn’t normally something I would have thought of, but because I am mentally reviewing my options, something creative pops up!

For example: Wine. Instead of putting all of your wine in your pantry, perhaps you can mount a wall shelf in your dining room with a wine rack on top of the shelf.

Or, fruits. Instead of stuffing them all into your refrigerator, perhaps you can get a series of hanging baskets and install a hook above your kitchen sink, hanging the fruits rather then shelving them.

In this picture, I’ve removed my fancy silverware out of a hard to access cabinet and put the pieces in a caddy. It is practical and pretty.

Or use a crock on the counter top-I know of a kitchen space planner named Ellene Newman who had a potter make a dish for her with a hole at the bottom so she could throw wet silverware and serving utensils in there without worrying about water damage!

Go through your kitchen and come up with a new storage idea for at least 1 item. You’ll get very good at it and will be able to free up a lot of space.

3. What would you like to get out of your kitchen? Kitchen redesign and construction possibilities.

Now that you have been paying more attention to your cooking style, we can move onto the next step which is: What do you want more of in your kitchen?

-More Seating space
-More Counter space
-More Storage space
-More Ambiance, open with good lighting
-More room for other activities, like homework, laundry, entertaining, hobbies?
-More convenience-a baking area? A Prep area? A better traffic pattern between your sink, refrigerator, and stove?
-Ergonomics-can you stand and work for a while without your back hurting?
-Room for other “cooks” in the kitchen?

You can see from here how we step naturally from your cooking style and move on to: adding what you want more of in your kitchen-If you’d like to create more seating space, perhaps you would be better off with only one sink instead of a double sink. Or a small sink for prep and washing vegetables rather than a large sink.
– Or, for separating milk and meat, constructing an entirely separate area for milk prep with another sink and workspace might be too tight and you would be giving up on the very thing you wanted to add, more seating space. Perhaps you could stick with a rolling cart and whip out a dairy cutting board when you need to.
-To improve the “convenience” factor of your kitchen, look to see if your workflow is in a triangle. Can you walk easily from your stove, refrigerator, and sink? Are they of all the same height?
-Can you store items relating to each point in the triangle, right there? For example: your oils and spices right near the stove.
– Is there room to actually work at each of these 3 points? For example, when you need to put lots of things away into the refrigerator and have no room but the floor to put the items.

See if you can create storage and work space by each of the points in the triangle: the stove, refrigerator, and oven.

The bottom line is: create your kitchen wish list. (You can build this from your utterances of “I wish I had more room to ____________!”)

Here is another example given to me by kitchen space planner Ellene Newman.

Say you are looking to add more ambiance in the kitchen. You love the windows over the kitchen sink, but you also want more storage space. You may have to compromise on the ambiance since the window is within the ideal location for storage- between shoulder and knee height, and you would want to maximize this area with storage. Alternatively, you could compromise on the cabinets and keep the window, adding more storage in another area.

Thinking about what you are looking to get more of out of your kitchen, what is working for you now (say you just love that window), and what your constraints are (budget) leads us to the next step, which is how you are going to actually arrange your kitchen.

4. Where does it make the most sense to put things?

We’ve talked about how you cook, what your kosher style is, and what you like about your kitchen and want more of from it, with allowances for your own personal constraints.

Now we are going to focus on where it makes most sense to put the layout of your kitchen.

A couple of points I want to make before we get into the layout.

· it is easier to keep kosher if you have 2 separated sinks. If you are the type that likes to throw everything into the dishwasher, you may not need 2 sinks, only 1, and this would free up space for you to have other things you might want (like another dishwasher or 3 separate sinks)

· Items stored out in the open are definitely more accessible than everything stored out of sight. Even though you don’t want others to see your clutter, know that keeping the things you use most frequently, out and accessible, is much more practical and can save you time and energy. It is definitely possible to do this in an attractive way.

· the trend now is in “open planning”. You may have seen a kitchen that is open to the living room and dining room with not as much as a door separating the two. It may look beautiful and when thinking about your own life, know that there may be some times you want privacy or some sense of having your own space. It might not feel right if you cannot “get away” and withdraw when you need to. (based on my conversation with Ellene Newman, kitchen space planner)

So where should everything go?

I cannot see your kitchen, so it would be difficult for me to give each of you your own layout. However, you can use a formula to come up with your own space design.

Here’s the formula: Your ideal kitchen = Your cooking style + What you want more of

Or in plain English: the end result of your newly designed kitchen is based on your cooking style and what you want more of.

So, if want more countertop space AND you rarely cook dairy, make ALL of your countertops meat with a little rolling butcher block cart for dairy and you’ll get the kitchen you want.

Or, if you want more seating AND you want more counter space, perhaps you can put in a small separate “prep” sink, for washing vegetables and such, or just a single sink instead of a double, leaving more room for a table.

5. “But I still don’t have enough room to store things!”

I’ve seen newly remodeled kitchens with so much cabinet and pantry space and yet the homeowner claims he/she still does not have enough room to store things.

I think there really has to be a balance between work and storage space. The kitchen is really a workspace. So much focus in design now is on the cabinetry and I think it is a little overdone.

I know that because I keep hearing people say that they still do not have enough room to store things.

Either, items that are not being used are taking up room in the cabinets or pantry items are in the cabinets.

Is it possible for you to create a separate “pantry” area for foodstuff? Cans, oils, bottles, jars. You can go as small as a bookcase or as large as a room to create your pantry.

Lately I’ve been seeing “spillover” from the kitchen into the eating area, either a dining room or kitchen eating area. People are putting in cabinetry or 4-5 bookcases next to each other that take up a large section of the wall in the dining room or eat-in kitchen. I think this is a great way to manage the spillover from the kitchen. This is especially great for Holiday items. Storing them where you will be serving them will minimize trips back to the kitchen and is more practical than taking up whole cabinets, since you are using these items less frequently.

So, the bottom line is: Put less emphasis on the cabinets in your kitchen. They are not the ONLY option you have to rely on for storage. You don’t make Thanksgiving every night so you don’t need endless amounts of storage that ends up not being used efficiently.

In fact, the best area, according to ergonomics for storage, is between your shoulders and your knees. Cabinets are above your shoulders and often below your knees. Think more about that area as potential for storage. Your backsplash for instance. You can put all of your knives on a magnetic strip, serving pieces in a crock, pots and pans hanging on pot racks, dishes and plates on wall plate racks.

I once saw a kitchen featured in House Beautiful that actually had no cabinets to speak of on the upper wall. There were windows for ventilation and unblocked wall space. Everything was stored in a separate pantry area or in lower drawers. The kitchen looked so spacious and clean.

If you cannot do without your cabinets or do not even want to think about not having them, at least think of maintenance. If you have a lot of kids or do not like to clean, then pick easy to maintain surfaces rather than having ornate carvings in cabinet doors.

Maximize your shoulder to knee storage and put less emphasis on your cabinets. They are not your only option.

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