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Un-Clutter Your Kitchen Before the Holidays

10 ways to improve your cooking space – and your state of mind.

4. Create Your Triangle.

Not all of us have that ideal working "triangle" in our kitchen, formed by the refrigerator, stove/oven and sink/dishwasher on each end. But that doesn't mean you can't make your kitchen space more sensible. Stop and ask yourself: Where is the safest, most convenient place for the toaster oven or toaster, the coffee maker, and the microwave? When you moved into your kitchen, you may not have had a chance to strategically think about which kitchen items should go where. Now is a great time to consider the best place for:

  • Glassware and cups (they should go near the refrigerator or near the sink/dishwasher)
  • Kitchen utensils (near the stove)
  • Pots and pans (near the stove/oven)
  • Spices and herbs (in a cool, dark cabinet near where you use them most)
  • Coffee mugs (near the stove or coffee maker)
  • Measuring cups and spoons (near the mixer, or the counter area where you tend to do the most cooking)

5. Add Some Sensible Bells and Whistles.

For about $10 apiece, you can add a few sensible drawer and cabinet organizers to your kitchen. Vertical dividers help organize cookie sheets and cake pans; a lazy Susan keeps your spices quickly visible; and well-placed shelves can double your storage. Plastic drawer dividers can organize utensils like thermometers, timers, zesting tools, scrapers, cake decorating tools, etc. Flatware holders can keep your eating utensils clean and organized. And for a few dollars, you can organize key cleaning supplies in an under-the-sink caddy.

6. Liberate the Junk Drawer.

If you're thinking of designating a drawer where you dump things that don't belong anywhere else, resist the urge! Once you start a junk drawer, it takes on a life of its own. Space in a kitchen is so valuable that you shouldn't use any of it up with, well, junk. If you have to have someplace to dump out-of-place items, put them in a paper bag that you keep somewhere out of sight. If, after a year, you haven't gone searching for any of the items, it's a good sign that everything in the bag can be tossed.

7. Be a Paperwork Purist.

Once you begin piling up papers, there's no turning back. You WILL lose papers in the piles, and you WILL spend precious minutes trying to find a particular paper you need. The first rule is to keep paper in the kitchen to a minimum. The paper that does pass muster should be sorted into categories (takeout menus, coupons, recipes ripped out of magazines or newspapers) and stored in some sort of organized system. I use small decorative baskets that sit on the shelf above my kitchen desk.

8. What a Difference a Shelf Makes.

Just by installing one shelf in your garage, pantry, or mudroom, you can free up valuable space in your kitchen. Such a shelf is the perfect place to keep appliances and large cookware you don't use often. Does a large roasting pan or deep-fat fryer ring any bells? Perhaps it's the espresso machine you asked for three Christmases ago, or the bread machine you bought to make cinnamon rolls once or twice a year. Banish these rainy-day appliances to the new shelf - be merciless.

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