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Un-Clutter Your Kitchen Before the Holidays

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

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.

9. Purge Your Pantry.

It's time to go through your pantry and throw out those cereal boxes with a quarter-cup of cereal in the bottom. Look through those cans and packages of stuff you thought you would use last year, but didn't. You can donate these unopened items to the holiday canned food drives in your town. Don't forget to look in the back of the shelves and cabinets, because this is where bags of hardened, dried coconut and stale crackers and cookies reside. When going through my pantry, I keep six words in mind: When in doubt, throw it out.

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