Anatomy of a Room: Kitchen Organization

Oh kitchen organization. What is it about the kitchen, and in my case, the pantry, that seems to create chaos? My kitchen has been driving me crazy for a while and yesterday I decided I’d had enough. I had a day off, my mother was in town and there was a pending block sale for extra motivation. My goal – to clear out the stuff we don’t use and make the zones more functional. We actually have a fair amount of storage in the kitchen, but it wasn’t being utilized efficiently. And I really, really wanted to get the microwave off of the counter. I hate crap on counters. Hate it with a fiery passion. So, not sure how exciting this post is, but I, being the dork I am, am always interested in how people cope with everyday organization and I’m taking a chance that some of you are too. Time will tell if this project truly creates more simplicity and function in the space, but I’m hopeful.

Here’s the before microwave close-up. See all that mess on top of it? Yeah, that’s what was driving me nuts. Our silly walls aren’t straight enough for shelves so there’s no real way to organize the tea kettle, coffee pot, etc. Creating an ugly mess in front of my lovely wallpaper. And here’s the rest of the mess I wanted to address.

Pantry, junk drawer and the drawers in the cabinet under the microwave.

I know, the pantry looks kind of organized in the photo. It wasn’t. There was a lot of empty space in the pull-out drawers and boxes and bags of baking items and prepared foods had a tendency to slip through the vents. On the other side, things were stacked behind each other so that I had to pull out the giant stock pot to get to mixing bowls and everything was higgledy-piggledy.

Our cabinets are from IKEA. Every time we go there I look through the kitchens and marvel at the organized drawers full of staples. Ours were full of dishes – a plates drawer, a kids/plastics drawer, cups and glasses and then the junk drawer(s) and the random appliances. I had all food in the “pantry”. A few weeks ago it occurred to me that even though I’d always kept the glasses and appliances near the counter, they weren’t actually needed there. Most of those glasses we use only when we have company, everyone in the family seems to prefer the melamine cups I keep with the kids plates. So why was I devoting so much space to them? And do I really need a yoghurt maker? I’ve used it approximately 6 times. My kids don’t like the yoghurt it makes and it’s not really that much cheaper.

So I switched the function of the cabinets. Everything came out, a bit at a time. I meant to take a photo of the mess, but in the middle of this the kids demanded lunch. Not great timing on my part.

And then, slowly, everything went back in. Well, not everything. The yoghurt maker, a bunch of expired food and several redundant containers went in the bin or the sale pile. Here’s what was left.

Food moved into the drawers, staples in one and baking items in another. Yes, yes, I had fun with the label maker. Told you I was a dork.

The pantry still has some food. The cans are the only thing that didn’t move, they are on the bottom pull out. Packaged foods are much more accessible higher up. Things that are highly used, but were always blocking each other, like the blender and mixing bowls, are now on pull out shelves. And all those glasses we never use are still close enough to grab quickly for guests, but not taking up space in the prime prep area.

And look what else that made room for. That’s right, the microwave is now in the pantry and off my counter. Hooray. I still have to drill a couple of holes for the cord, but that’s an easy project (I just ask Finn to do it). We don’t really use the microwave too much so having it in the pantry doesn’t create a major inconvenience. And check out my counter space.

I’ve got a bit of staging to do (that’s my mom’s tea in the box. Yes, she travels with her own tea, despite my own large stash), I think I’ll add some art work behind for height, but its soooo much better. And while none of us can currently find anything at all without a five-minute hunt, I think once our brains catch up this will be very functional.

So, was this interesting? Got any suggestions for future simplifications? And if you’re local and in need of a yoghurt maker, I can hook you up.

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6 Responses to Anatomy of a Room: Kitchen Organization

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  • Jennifer says:

    I cannot abide cluttered counters either! And that is the one thing about this house I would change– we have an L-shaped kitchen with very minimal base cabinetry and counter/ prep space. I was able to build a walk-in pantry however, by closing up two awful space-wasting openings in the corner of the kitchen and making one larger one further down the side wall. I was lucky enough to have an outlet already on the wall that was enclosed, so my microwave lives in my pantry now too, as well as my toaster! The only appliance left out on my counter permanently is my coffee maker, and it lives in the small space between the fridge and the sink, not taking up valuable real-estate in my main prep area. I think it is great to make the occasional reassessment of storage situations and adjust according to how you really use the items and the space!

  • Joanne says:

    Like the kitchen changes. Gives me ideas since I have an awesome amount of dishes and we are only using a lot plates for dinner parties. So how did you work with IKEA staff? Or did you just plan and purchase?

    Thanks- keep up the blog!

    • Kathryn says:

      Joanne, we pretty much just designed this ourselves and always thought of it as temporary. Ikea has gotten a lot more sophisticated with their staff and design in the 10 years since we put this in though. We’re actually planning some significant updates this year, more on those soon.

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