Remember that time you wanted to impress someone with your cooking and spent 20 minutes trying to find the necessary kitchen gadget in your cabinets before giving up and improvising? If that scenario sounds familiar, it's time to reorganize your kitchen.
If you're not the most "together" person in the world, don't fret -- we've got five ways to put a kitchen to rights that even a cluttered person can manage. Best of all, they won't put a huge dent in your bank account.
If you're short on kitchen space, you might be dodging falling cereal boxes every time you open your packed cabinets and pantry. Boxes of dry goods can take up a lot of room, especially when each of them only has a few scoops of whatever is left.
How to fix it: Invest in some plastic canisters. You can find them on the cheap, and you won't believe how much a neat row of matching containers can improve the look of things. Best of all, a good plastic jar will keep the nastier insects and other pests from chewing and sneaking into cardboard boxes to get at all your goodies.
Box Within a Box
When you look inside your cabinets, you might see a row of stuff all vying for space on the bottom of the cabinet -- and a vast, empty space above it all.
If organization doesn't come easily to you, it probably never occurred to you that you can actually use that space. You can buy shelving that goes inside cabinets to make the best use of what you have. Think of it as bunk beds for your pots and pans.
Especially if you have tall, narrow cabinets that have never seemed good for anything but cutting boards, this shelving can be a big space saver.
When Lazy Is Good
Lots of small things can clutter up your pantry even more than lots of big things. Tiny jars of tarragon tend to fall to the back, never to be seen again, while little jars of tomato paste like to hide behind cans of soup when you're trying to put together the perfect pasta.
A lazy Susan, or a rotating tray, can keep up with all those little odds and ends for you -- and no matter the size of your cabinets and pantry, you can find one that will fit. Put all the little things that tend to get lost on there, and you can give it a spin the next time you need a dash of cumin -- without having to dig to the very depths of your grocery items.
Before you whip out your credit card, check Goodwill and yard sales for items like these. Discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Ross are also a great place to start combing for kitchen accessories. You can also look for them in the clearance aisles at big stores like Target or Wal-Mart.
I Can See Your Drawers
When you have a bunch of little things you don't know where to put (a button, a book of matches, three bobby pins), you might throw them in a drawer. The psychological comfort of being able to shut them out of sight and not have to deal with them can't be underestimated.
The trouble is when you do eventually have to open that drawer, and the sight of all those homeless objects is depressing. Or, when you need to find a teaspoon and have to rattle through all your mismatched cutlery, only to get frustrated and bang the door shut.
Remember the lesson from kindergarten: a place for everything, and everything in its place. Line your drawers and then get a drawer organizer for forks and knives. Take out stuff like spatulas and slotted spoons and find a cool canister for the counter to store them in. Little boxes are helpful for stuff you don't use often -- stuff to decorate cookies with, for example.
Rackin' Em Up
A pot rack is a fantastic way to organize your pots and pans, but the racks can be a bit pricey. You can still get good use out of kitchen hooks for utensils and towels, though, and a magnetic knife rack might also do the trick.
This task costs absolutely no money -- and while it can be a big one to tackle, it's also really rewarding.
If you have too much clutter, there's probably plenty of stuff you can get rid of. If you're a pack rat, you might find it tough, but we promise it will be liberating when you start junking your old stuff.
The pork chops that have been in your freezer for two years -- guess what? You're never going to eat them. Throw them away. It's not good to be wasteful, but these have passed the point of usefulness. If you feel bad about throwing them in the garbage bin, make a resolution to shop smarter next time and actually use what you have.
Go through the fridge and pantry and get rid of all expired items. Then, take a look at the stuff you have but don't use. How often do you break out the melon baller, anyway? Do you really need three blenders, one of which is broken? Plenty of charity thrift stores are willing to take the stuff that still looks nice and works. And maybe the old mini microwave could find a new happy home in your niece's college dorm room.