Monday, August 4, 2014

Rearranging a kitchen

My kitchen has been organized in a method that combines small parts of Careful Forethought together with large dollops of Historical Accident.

We moved into this home 17 years ago, merging dishes, pots, pans, and utensils from two different households.  The cabinets are fairly odd sizes, and some of our pieces seemed to fit only in one location, so that's where they went.   On the other hand, the kitchen is small and narrow (more like an alleyway with cabinets, really), so at least everything is close to everything else.

Over the years, some of our kitchen things left home for good.  We got rid of my husband's plates and bowls, for example, and almost all of my large Corning Ware glass pots broke.   (In a nice confluence, though, the large glass lid of my spaghetti pot fit perfectly onto the base of my husband's large metal pot, huzzah!)  We also added new equipment -- a large cast iron frying pan, a few (hundreds of) canning jars, a pressure cooker, etc.  

Each time we added something new, whatever it happened to be, it went into a space recently emptied by something that had gone away.  So the pressure cooker took the place of a defunct sauce pot.  The large frying pan, however, went on the flat empty space at top of the refrigerator.  Logic, yes -- but it's the inertial logic that keeps us all typing away at QWERTY keyboards, not the logic of high efficiency.

This past month, I figured enough was enough.  I spent about three weeks thinking, and I spent one weekend moving things, and I've now reorganized the kitchen so it actually makes sense.  

Well, at least it makes sense to me.   The difficult part wasn't so much figuring out where I wanted things, as figuring out how to make sure the many people in my family would follow my logic.   So my reorganization has two big strategic components (both come from my favorite organizing book:  Julie Morgenstern's "Organizing from the Inside Out"):
  1. Keep things in zones by how we use them, not by what those things look like.
  2. Label everything.
The labels, in this case, are temporary, just to help my family figure out the scheme I've employed.  I used black marker to say what's in the cabinet, and red marker (with arrows) to say where things have moved.  
When I wrote about where things move to, I try to invoke the name of the "zone"
(as in "First Aid Cabinet"), not location (as in "corner of telephone room').
But keeping things near where we use them, *that* is the whole purpose of this reorganization.  So, all the plates, cups, mugs, and silverware now in the dining room, which is where we eat.  (The silverware is not near the dishwasher anymore, and the mugs are not sandwiched between the granola and the pressure cooker).
Dining room: school supplies on the left, tableware on the right.
The pots and pans are all in the cabinet across from the stove.  (The spaghetti pot with its glass lid is there now, and so are all the frying pans).

The cereal is now in the same cabinet with the rest of the food (the top shelf is dinner, below that ar snacks, then lunch, down to the bottom shelf which is now breakfast).
Canning jars, pots and pans in the left cabinet;
food in the right cabinet, organized from dinner to breakfast.
Note the small, taped-on labels on each shelf.

We have only about 4 feet of usable counter space in the kitchen.  This counter zone is for
  • small appliances (especially the coffee maker and related supplies),
  • food preparation (including all our baking supplies, food processor, and blender),
  • and food storage supplies (pyrex containers, markers, and freezer tape).  
So now the cabinets above and below this counter have all those things nearby, including stirring spatulas and waffle irons.  In fact, this is one of the few areas where the design had already used more "Careful Forethought" than "Historical Accident" -- so mostly what I did in this area was to make a bit more space by moving away things that don't belong.

So basically, everything is now more or less right near where we use it.  I think this is going to be easier on us all in the long run.  And playing "house" with my actual house was a lot of fun to do!

I'm heading out of town for two weeks soon.  We're about to test how well this reorganization works. If I'm lucky, when I come home I'll find everything in its proper (new) place.  I'll get to see whether this set-up makes sense to my family, too!


  1. Love your labels! Such a great training and retraining tool.

  2. ooh, I like how shallow the compartments are, perfect for housing 1 item/
    1 layer, we tend to have unwieldy, tall stacks of stuff,

    nice work putting things in places that make sense