We've all heard the saying "the kitchen is the heart of the home." That's fine and all, but it doesn't always feel that way, especially when you've got a kitchen that's no bigger than a closet or one that's so cluttered you don't let friends come over for dinner anymore. We feel your pain!
Kitchens don't have to be deep, dark dungeons with bottomless drawers. With some organization you can achieve a kitchen that's a pleasure to cook -- and eat -- in. Most of the time it's just about utilizing space you didn't think you could use, or changing the storage locations of certain items.
Our tips below will help you get on your way to creating a kitchen you can be proud of -- without breaking the bank to renovate.
Utilize The Ceiling
Look up. If you've got some space on your ceiling and you don't have any light fixtures in the way, consider mounting a hanging pot rack (with professional assistance of course). Having your most used pots and pans handy is a great way to maximize your time -- not only the space. No more crouching down, reaching in dark cabinet corners to find your saute pan. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/emmandevin/5183466906/" target="_hplink">miss-britt, Flickr</a>.
Keep Knives Handy
Storing knives in the drawer, especially if their tossed in with other utensils, isn't the best way to keep them unless you've got a dedicated drawer. But most of us won't have that luxury. Consider using a knife block -- or better yet -- a magnetic strip for keeping your knives at the ready. You save space by doing so and you get to show off your knives -- people will think you're a chef. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/saeba/4802094988/" target="_hplink">saebaryo, Flickr</a>.
Utilize The Walls
If you've got empty walls between your cabinets or in an unused area of your kitchen, don't just leave them barren. Use the space and mount sturdy shelves in place. Use the shelves to store cups, glasses and dishes you use every day -- as well as for display. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/24454962@N00/2731623988/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">atravellingmom, Flickr</a>.
Utilize Empty Spaces
Take advantage of the space above your fridge and cabinets. This is where you should keep items you use the least such as holiday platters, the turkey pan, oversize items, baking pans, etc. Whatever you do, don't put a wine rack above the fridge -- the wine will go bad from the heat coming up from the back. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/donabelandewen/3516885777/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">ewen and donabel, Flickr</a>.
Get Rid Of Unused Appliances
You may have loved that breadmaker when you first got it, but chances are you don't use it as much as you used to. Get it off your countertop! In most cases you only need everyday appliances, like a toaster and coffeemaker, on your countertop. Anything beyond that is either just for show (like your racecar-red mixer) or taking up valuable space. Take into account how often you use your mixer, blender, food processor, waffle maker, etc. -- it might be better stored somewhere else. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joanbarger/4452584104/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">joan of manchester, Flickr</a>.
Keep Salt And Pepper Handy
When you're deep in the middle of a recipe, the last thing you want to do is to be looking for the salt canister. And the worst thing you could do is tip the canister just a little too much into the pot, ending up with oversalted food. Keep salt and pepper handy near the stove. Whether it's Kosher salt or French sea salt or a selection of different kinds, store them in little bowls from which you can easily pinch. Also keep the pepper close by, preferably in a grinder. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/3206618354/" target="_hplink">quinn.anya, Flickr</a>.
Decant Oil Into A Bottle
When you get your large canister or container of oil home from the store, decant it into old wine bottles and top them with bartender-style spouts. Place them near the stove so it's always at hand when you're cooking. Keep the leftover can of oil in a cool place. The spout ensures you will never accidentally pour too much oil into the pot. And by keeping the leftover oil in a cool place, it ensures it stays fresh for when you need to refill. Don't worry about the decanted oil going bad from being near the heat of the stove -- you'll use it up sooner than that would happen. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/markomni/2795596656/" target="_hplink">markomni, Flickr</a>.
Keep Utensils In A Crock
Having your most used utensils in a crock on the countertop is both a great way to organize your space and keep the tools handy when you need them. Wooden spoons, spatulas, tongs, etc. are much easier to find when stored in a crock, pitcher or jar. Avoid keeping cooking utensils in a drawer, where they either can get stuck on other utensils or may be hard to find when you're in a rush to flip that steak. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/playfullibrarian/4076116351/" target="_hplink">PlayfulLibrarian, Flickr</a>.
Use A Large Cutting Board
Having a large cutting board is like having extra counter space, especially if you can put it on your stove-top and use it to prep when you're not yet ready to cook. Or, you can buy a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Progressive-International-Over-Cutting-Board/dp/B00364Q9DE/" target="_hplink">cutting board that fits over your sink</a> and maximize the space that way. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffedoe/3299156645/" target="_hplink">jeffedoe, Flickr</a>.
Use A Garbage Bowl
Rachael Ray may have popularized the garbage bowl, but the notion of using one has been around longer than her <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0055AT6XW/" target="_hplink">dedicated garbage bowls</a>. Use any large bowl for all your garbage while you're prepping for a recipe. It will save you time and maximize your space -- you won't have odds and ends laying all around the counter because you're tired of making multiple trips to the trash can (or compost bin). Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/duelin_markers/5066125810/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">duelin markers, Flickr</a>.
Keep Cabinets Organized In Zones
Set up everything in zones. Keep glasses and cups in a cabinet near the fridge for when you want a drink. Keep pots and pans near the stove for cooking. Keep dishes above or near the sink and dishwasher. Set up a drawer just for your baking needs (whisks, measuring spoons, icing spatulas, cookie cutters, etc.). You'll find that you'll waste a lot less time looking for things when everything is in zones closest to where the items are used or accessed the most. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rubbermaid/2929132023/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Rubbermaid Products, Flickr</a>.
Work Within The Triangle
A <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitchen_Work_Triangle" target="_hplink">kitchen work triangle</a> is where the stove, sink and fridge are in an appropriate order, making for easy movement when preparing food. If you don't have the perfect work triangle, try to make one by pulling in a cart that you can use as additional prep space. It can vastly improve your workflow and it also provides extra storage. If you have a galley-style kitchen (obviously not a triangle), make sure your prep space is between the sink and stove so you're not running around so much, scattering chopped vegetables all over the floor. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gurms/7603423296/" target="_hplink">gurms, Flickr</a>.
Keeping Up Appearances -- The Golden Rule
Don't let non-kitchen items make their way back onto your countertops. This means: Deal with mail as soon as you can -- don't let it pile up. Clip your coupons and get rid of those extra newspapers. Keep a drawer for all the little junk -- like batteries, paperclips, pens, scissors, etc. If you mast have a small office in your kitchen, designate a space that can easily be cleared when it comes time for cooking. Keep office items on a large tray that can be moved in one step. Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorda/1617472/" target="_hplink">lorda, Flickr</a>.
Main photo from rvacapinta, Flickr.
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