by Joanna Camas
Spring cleaning gets all the PR, but anytime the seasons change it's a good excuse to take stock of things on the home front. We get lazy over the summer and schedules are out of whack, which often lets clutter gain a foothold. Now's a good time to make a clean sweep and start fresh.
But where to start? It can seem daunting. Let's face it: Most of us don't have a showroom-clean kitchen like the one pictured here. "First, clear out the clutter," advises professional organizer Lisa Zaslow of Gotham Organizers. "Then it's easier to find what you need. Recognize what will make your life easier and less stressful."
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People who cook a lot should take stock of their space and figure out what they use most often so they can keep it accessible. "Think about a professional kitchen," Zaslow says. "There are no drawers or cabinets, you need to grab everything fast."
Wall-mounted racks for pots and pans
Hooks on walls
Magnetic hooks on fridge
Utensil crock in a convenient spot for grabbing spoons and spatulas quickly
Zaslow is also a huge fan of pull-out shelving to access the back of cabinets, and adding vertical racks to the back of cabinet doors for spices. Under-shelf drawers are also a handy space-saver that lets you see what you have without rooting around. Add vertical racks inside cabinets to keep cutting boards and baking sheets together, she suggests.
Don't worry if you have a small kitchen, Zaslow says. "The more space you have, the more space you fill up. Just use your space more strategically."
Customize your space to match your kitchen activities, she stresses. "It's not about the amount of space, it's how you use it." If you bake often, keep your mixer and cake tins handy. If you only bake at Christmas, put the cookie cutters, sprinkles, and tins in a plastic storage tub in a harder-to-reach cabinet.
Use your most accessible storage space wisely. "If you have your blender or juicer in the bottom of the cabinet but use it every day, find counter space for it," Zaslow says. Only barbecue in the summer? Well, fall is the perfect time to thoroughly clean your grilling equipment and get it stored away till next year. "Put it in the basement," she urges.
Zaslow's approach is geared towards the individual; she's not one for a cookie cutter solution. "Think about what's frustrating and stops you doing what you love," she urges. If you keep having to lift out bowls to reach your plates, put helper shelves to separate the stacks. Cabinet shelves are usually adjustable -- so adjust them! Add under-shelf baskets for smaller items such as trivets and placemats.
She admits that there are so many organizing products on the market that it can be overwhelming. "Measure first, and assess what you need," she advises.
"Look at your space a little objectively," she adds, perhaps inviting a friend over to point out problem spots that you've become blind to over time. It may not be a fun project, but Zaslow guarantees those little fixes can make your time in the kitchen much more rewarding every day.
Now, how can you keep your newly organized kitchen in order if you share it with someone else, someone who may not be as invested in the new system as you are?
First, says Zaslow, "Show them where everything goes. Label the edges of shelves or inside drawers. And make sure you explain why it's important to you."
She recognizes that one person is usually neater than their partner, so suggests dividing and conquering: Perhaps they'll take care of the laundry or garden if you handle the kitchen.