Kitchen Makeover Tips

These are two articles I wrote for the Shenandoah Journal and the North Fork Journal about my kitchen makeover.

Clear your clutter

Shenandoah Journal, The (Dayton, VA) - Tuesday, January 5, 2010 
Editor's Note: If one of your New Year's resolutions to organize your kitchen, you'll enjoy the following article. Staff writer Regina Cyzick Harlow, whose last column was about tackling laundry difficulties, contributes this two-part series about organizing her kitchen.

By Regina Cyzick Harlow

I have a sign hanging from one of my kitchen cabinets that reads "CAT-ASTROPHY ZONE."

I bought it because I love cats and planned to hang it somewhere near our pet's favorite hangout, but nowhere in my home is that sign more correct than in my kitchen.

Every time I reach for a food storage container from the cabinets above the stove, I duck my head and close my eyes for fear of an avalanche.

And when I close my lower cabinet of pots and pans, I admit I shove the pan in the door and close it as fast as I can to avoid something else falling back out.

Then there's my spice cabinet with seasonings, spices, decorator's sprinkles and colored sugars tucked so far into the corner shelves they haven't seen the light of day for a year or more.

When my husband realized that I had to literally crawl into our blind corner cabinet with a flashlight to find a particular pan, he made me a beautiful pot rack that hangs from the ceiling.

This provided more cabinet space, but as in most areas of my life, when I create space by removing one thing, I fill it with something else. Soon my cupboard, emptied of pots and pans, was filled with more odd-sized containers with mismatching lids.

Many of my homeless kitchen items clutter the far end of our dining table. I recently removed the clutter for dinner guests.

"I don't think I've ever seen this end of your table. It looks nice," said my friend, Sean, as he took a seat for dinner.

A cluttered kitchen and messy cabinets are one of my pet peeves and yet I can never seem to get mine organized. With so many sizes of containers and lids and pots and pans, I don't know how anyone manages to keep their kitchen space neatly organized.

I called on the help of several of my friends to help me make my kitchen work for me. By following the advice of Marcie, a Tupperware consultant, and Lila, an interior design professional, I am reorganizing my cabinets to make my kitchen much more functional.

Tips to Make the Most of Space

  De-clutter cabinets by removing the food and spices you haven't used in the past six months and the containers, pots and pans you haven't used for the past 12 months.

  Use square stackable containers of different sizes for staples such as oatmeal, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.

  Install pull-out shelves, available at most home improvement stores, in existing cabinets.

  Buy a lazy susan for hard-to-reach corner cabinets.

 Use organizers, such as tackle box inserts, silverware holders or storage containers, for junk drawers.

 If you have blind corners, store holiday/seasonal decorations, cookie cutters and bake ware in baskets or plastic containers there since you only use them once a year.

 Create stations to eliminate steps. For example, put the dishes you use the most in cabinets closest to the dishwasher (if you have one), so you don't have to walk across the kitchen to put clean plates away. Store flours, sugars and spices in cabinets next to where you use your mixer.

The Extreme Kitchen Makeover Continues

Shenandoah Journal, The (Dayton, VA) - Tuesday, January 12, 2010 
Editor's Note: If one of your New Year's resolutions is to organize your kitchen, you'll enjoy the following article. Staff writer Regina Cyzick Harlow, whose last column was about tackling laundry difficulties, contributes the second of this two-part series about organizing her kitchen.

By Regina Cyzick Harlow

After committing to reorganize my kitchen, I called my friends, Lila, an interior design professional, and Marcie, a Tupperware representative, to help me create a plan of action. Although they have both been in my house many times, they always kindly refrained from making unsolicited observations about my chaotic kitchen.

But this time, I was pleading for their advice.

Before embarking on major moving and construction projects, the first order of business was to de-clutter.

Taking Marcie's advice, I removed food and spices I hadn't used in the past six months and the containers, pots and pans I hadn't used for the past 12 months.

Into the trash went the adorable ghost and goblin sprinkles I had planned to decorate my Halloween cookies with three years ago, cans of grapefruit I was planning to use for the diet I never started, and a bag of brown rice that I have never been able to even pretend I like.

Sorting through my mugs was especially tough. I found an emotional attachment to nearly every one of them. Even the chipped ones were screaming at me not to be trashed.

But de-clutter I did.

Then we got down to the major projects.

A multitude of wine glasses occupied three entire shelves of prime kitchen real estate.

My husband built a small shelf above one of the kitchen doors for these glasses.

The three shelves were converted into large cubby holes to store frequently used items.

I bought inexpensive baskets, uniform in size, shape and color, for the cubbies. Two baskets hold onions, garlic, rice and noodles. Medications are stored in the top basket, hidden from guests' view and safely out away from the busy hands of our curious 1-year-old.

Another piece of prime kitchen real estate is the shallow cabinet next to the refrigerator and the stove, which held plates and drinkware.

I wanted this space for canned soups, cereals and treats.

So we built some skinny shelves to display the pretty dishes and consolidated all drinkware in a different cabinet.

The rest of the plates went into the cupboard closest to the dishwasher and the dining room table. Unloading the dishwasher and setting the table have never been so easy.

Remember the avalanche of food storage containers from the cabinet above the stove?

We moved those containers to a lower cabinet and store the lids in baskets. I no longer have to worry about bowls and lids falling on my head or into our dinner on the stovetop.

Flours, sugars and other staples are above the stove in air-tight containers.

My spices are next to the stove. Now when I'm baking or cooking, I usually have everything I need within arm's reach.

And for that old blind corner that used to swallow me while I searched its depths for a pan, my husband came to the rescue. He made a divider and added another door to create two separate cabinets.

Reorganizing my kitchen has opened up an entire cabinet for the homeless items that formerly cluttered one end of our dining table.

I'm not used to all the changes: I still reach for a plate and instead find canned soup or visit the spice cabinet for a dose of pain reliever.

But I am incredibly pleased with the changes.

However, there was still more to do. Remember the mugs I couldn't bear to part with? Well, I didn't. Instead of making the painful decision of what to keep and what to throw away, I purchased stainless steel shelves so that my mugs could be safely stacked. The over-sized ones are tucked in a corner, ready for that perfect cup of hot tea.

Lila, Marcie, my husband and I have made my kitchen a more efficient and enjoyable space. Only thing is I want to spend all my time and I have an entire house that needs reorganized.

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