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Lea Schneider is the author of
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expert organizing ideas in Woman’s Day, Natural Health, College News, and
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Organizers and the Association of Food Journalists.
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Organizing Kitchens, Pantries, Menus and Meals.
It’s a nightmare! My friend’s cabinets are so jammed with things
that I don’t even know where to begin and how to get her organized.
I've never seen so much junk. I feel I can make a world of
difference if we can toss 50 percent of her things - then there will
be room to work. I am clueless for ideas on where to start in for
her kitchen. I told her I’d help, and I don’t want to "quit" before
I even begin. Any suggestions as to where to begin?
Signed: Losing Sleep over Clutter
Losing Sleep over Clutter:
You aren’t the only one overwhelmed by the clutter. I bet your
friend is overwhelmed too. When the cabinets are full, the
countertop is likely to be full and so is the kitchen table. If you
open one overflowing cabinet and then another, you just don’t know
where to start or where to even set stuff down if you do take it out
of the cabinet.
Before starting in, talk with your friend about what she wants to
do with the excess items. Have a plan so that those items leave the
house and she isn’t tempted to put them back in the kitchen later.
You definitely want to choose a first project that makes a visible
difference. Seeing success will lead to success. If she can't see
anything was done after you leave, she might not be motivated to
continue the process. Try to also do something visible- like the
kitchen table or a portion of the counter so that there is something
out in the open that is clean and tidy for her to see.
Another good first job is the pantry because it is hard to argue
with keeping expired food. It isn't like you are talking her out of
To organize a cluttered kitchen, begin by opening every cabinet to
get an idea of what is there.
Clear off countertops and island so you have a work surface. It’s
easier said than done because there may be things on the counters
that need to be put away- and you can't put them away because there
is no where to put them. Gather some empty boxes when you get ready
to work on this kitchen. You can use them to hold donations at the
end of this project. In the meantime, they can hold all the things
from the kitchen counters so you have room to organize.
Make hot soapy water in the sink. If it is full of dishes, they
need to be washed or loaded in the dishwasher. You'll surely find
some dusty or dirty things in the cabinet or just want to wash the
insides of the shelves so have the water ready.
Wipe off the counter tops.
Then pull out everything that is in one category.
For example- open every cabinet and pull out anything related to
baking. Once you can see what all is there, then you can make baking
decisions. When you hold up only one pie pan and ask “Do you want
this?” it is pretty hard to answer. But when someone can see all
their baking things and see they have five pie pans, it is easier to
let the extras go.
Continue with themes: Pull out all of the small appliances then all
the cookware- pots, pans, roasters, casseroles and so forth. Then
pull out all of the tools- colanders, measuring cups, spatulas, wine
openers. Finally, work on dishes, glasses and serving pieces.
Each time, look for doubles or triples. Have her choose her
favorite. Be specific rather than general. Instead of saying "Can
you get rid of some of these?" Say "Choose two soup pots to donate."
Use some of your extra boxes to hold your theme, like baking, once
you have finished sorting it. Once you’ve emptied a few cabinets,
you can wipe one out and put all the bake ware away together.
If cabinets are so cluttered and full, begin by taking
everything out. Sort it by use and store like items
Make sure to label things. When a kitchen is rearranged, it can be
frustrating to empty the dishwasher as suddenly not everything is
where it used to be. Adding labels to the lips of shelves can really
help, especially if more than one family member uses the kitchen.