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17 March 2011

Organising your kitchen spaces

One thing that really stood out when I gave up my business to stay in my home was how badly organised my kitchen was, so I set about making it a more efficient and pleasant working area.  I thought if I was going to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, baking, cooking, preserving food and providing hospitality, I wanted that space to be comfortable and easy to work in.  Soon after, I moved my saucepans out of the deep drawers under the stove and put them in a cupboard near the cutlery drawer.  The space they had occupied was packed with plates, bowls and serving dishes that were easy to reach for when the meals were cooked.  It made my work easier, immediately.


In the top row of cupboards we had glasses, jugs, tea and coffee cups, so under it, on the kitchen bench,  I made a tea and coffee making station. Under the cup cupboard, on a tea tray, I placed loose tea, organic tea bags, instant coffee, sugar and honey, and a little pottery jug to hold tea balls, a tea strainer and tea spoons.  Next to the tray the electric kettle sits.  And it's right next to the sink.  We don't have milk in our tea so we can make tea at that little station without moving an inch.  It's all within arms reach.


When I started preserving food and making cordial and ginger beer, I needed to recycle bottles and jars.  I cleaned out another cupboard and put my recycled supplies and preserving jars in there.  A year later I added another cupboard because my collection grew.




If you're working in a kitchen that doesn't feel right, I encourage you to change it.  Move things around to suit the way you work.  Many of us don't work in a modern way, and most modern kitchens don't have spaces for preserving pans, bottle and jar collections, very large bowls, pots for cheese making or collections of homemade dishcloths, draining cloths and food covers; we have to make spaces that accommodate our equipment and utensils. 


Think about how you work and the tasks you carry out every day, then make changes that would make your work easier.  If you do a lot of baking, see if you can find a way to gather your commonly used baking supplies and bowls in one spot, close to your pantry and where you do your baking.  If you want to make compost, make it easier to do by having a covered receptacle that you can fill during the day, is covered to keep flies out and smells in, and that you can take to the compost bin or worm farm once a day.  Find a little basket to collect the eggs and vegetables from the garden each day.  All these small changes will support the work you do.


Keep a little basket full of dishcloths so you can grab one when you need it in a hurry, store your plastic and aluminium rolls and baking paper close to where you use them.  I have them in a drawer under my main work bench.  I've also moved the Coolgardie safe, which holds our bread, next to the toaster.  It's much easier.

You might have to make adjustments to your kitchen as your children grow.  You'll need to keep things away from them when they're toddlers, but make them more accessible as they grow older and you expect them to set the table, empty the dishwasher, dry the dishes or help you serve the evening meal.

I think most of us wish we had the opportunity to design our kitchens to reflect the way we work in them.  Many of us need a large pantry to accommodate the ingredients for our from scratch cooking and bread making, but what we commonly have is not enough cupboard space.  You can't change the cupboards but you can certainly move the contents of them. I encourage you to think about your work and how you do it, then move ingredients and equipment to where you'll most commonly use them, create work stations, gather similar things together and generally organise your spaces to suit yourself.  Hopefully the time you put into that will pay off by creating a kitchen you enjoy working in and supports the work you do every day.

36 comments:

  1. I'm waiting to do just that, pull everything out and reorganise it all. I can't do that until Joe has added some shelves in the cupboards, some have no shleves at all! I'd love to rip the whole lot out and start again, we will one day, but it will have to wait until we have some spare cash. Oh and we have the same breadmaker and food processor! :D

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  2. We have quite a small kitchen so having it organised helps lots! I am also looking at putting in some sort of storage in the garage(it's attached to the house)for stuff we don't use often or just for our own supplies, like when buying in bulk etc. And just recently we bought a Hutch dresser from a friend(it was cheap and in relatively good condition)it is currently getting a fresh coat of paint and then we will find somewhere to squeeze it in!

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  3. Perfect post for me today. Since my husband has had all this time off work (thankfully paid) because of the earthquake (his office building has been condemned), we've been using the time to declutter the entire house! And today is the kitchen and pantry day. I am fortunate enought to have a large kitchen with lots of cupboards and drawers, but even then they still get filled up with a lot of junk and become impractical. So today is the day, and I'm grateful for your post and tips - perfect timing!

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  4. It's so true that modern kitchens are not designed with
    traditional/labour intensive housekeeping in mind! I have experimented with different ways of arranging things, and I'm still working on it. So far I have established a baking station, a coffee-tea station, and a place to store my jars and canning goods. I find it's important to keep all my spices in view so I can keep track of what I have, so I keep them on the window sill- even though I've been told that light fades their colour and taste. We go through spices fast enough that this is not a problem.
    Another thing I've realized: I despise corner cupboards, even if they have those turn-stiles. It's just so hard to reach into them, and also to clean them out. I try to put things in there that I rarely use. If we ever remodel, it will be a galley kitchen for me.
    One of the best things about reorganizing my kitchen is that every time I realize how many things I have that I don't really use or need. I keep purging! Soon I'll have only a knife, fork, spoon and plate for each person! (Or maybe we could share...)

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  5. This is so true! Good advice :)

    We have done some renovation in the kitchen in the past 6 years exactly for the same thing! When we buy the house everything was perfect or OK... But the kitchen needed to be change.

    We have done this, small change at the time... With the kids around... I was having one kid at the beginning and now I have 4... Change are not all done, but this is so better than 6 years ago :)

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  6. Hmm... I think you have inspired me to do a bit of reorganizing. We have a tiny, tiny kitchen without much storage space, but I really *could* rearrange things to put the stuff I use most in more accessible places.

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  7. How did you know that my kitchen has been calling out to me to come rescue it from the sad organizational state it is in? :)

    I adore your little tea station. I could really use one of those!

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  8. Great post Rhonda with excellent advice. I have a few pet hate areas in my kitchen, as my underneath cupboards are so deep. One thing that has helped me with them is, I have set up a cardboard box for lids in one, another box for gadgets and attachments for the whizzer and moulix in another.....I need to do it to the baking/oven cupboard too...It's so hard getting down on the floor to see what has been pushed up the back.
    Got me thinking about it all again, thanks!

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  9. I love your patchwork table cloth in your Blog header!
    Thanks for a lovely Blog.

    Sandie xx

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  10. Re-0rganize! That would take more energy than I can muster at this time with spring on the way and the Garden to get ready ..That will have to take place way later :o( if at all ...:o(

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  11. Funny that we need this kind of "permission" to make "our" kitchens OURS, but it is often so...

    I've gathered several ideas from reading this post to put to use here!

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  12. You are so right! Organization is veyr important! I need to do more organizing too.

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  13. Really good post, Rhonda.

    It is important that we make our space and our tools work for us!

    I long ago made a "baking center" in the cupboard under my mixer. That is where all the baking supplies are kept and a draw within reach has the measuring cups and spoons etc...it has been so handy whether making a cake, cookies or bread.

    I love these kinds of posts - they are encouraging to home keepers! Thanks!

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  14. I had to google "Coolgardie safe"! Got a real kick out of this peek into your kitchen, RJ. Thanks for this food for thought. Though I think everything in my kitchen is fairly handy now, always room for improvement!

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  15. Thank you for this post, I've been wanting to do something to the house but wasn't quite sure what. Now I know! I really don't enjoy preparing meals in our country kitchen. The fridge and pantry are on the opposite side of the room from the prep area with a rather largish table in the middle (if anyone is sitting down while I'm preparing they have to move and when we have company...chaos). I have made a tea drawer near where we have our kettle which provides space on the bench for when I need to bake. I don't bake as often as I'd like because it's hard. I guess I'll be clearing out the cupboard next to the drawers and use one for the baking stuff! Thank you Rhonda (oh and hubby got some potting mix yesterday, the sweet potatoes will be going into a large tub today - easier to harvest as we have rock hard clay soil!)

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  16. This post reminded me of when I first saw your dishwasher conversion. I thought it was brilliant then and I am still trying to get my husband to do the same for me. He's willing, just has a different list of priorities. My dishwasher died the day before Thanksgiving 2009. I've never been sorry, just eager to put the space to use!

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  17. We also have a small kitchen and organizing it is a challenge. Do you have ideas for how to organize and store cookbooks? We have and use quite a few and it's hard to know where to keep them.

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  18. How funny! I've just spent the past 2 days reorganizing my kitchen to work better for me! I'm pregnant with our 5th child and just couldn't bear the thought of bending down into the kitchen cupboard where all the plates were housed. I cleaned out our buffet and hutch, lined the back of the shelves with some pretty fabric and flocked scrapbooking papers and moved all our plates, bowls and everyday settings to it! Now it's all accessible (without bending for me) and it's all still reachable for the kids when they set the table. I'm so happy with it! The best thing is that I can now use the old cupboard space to keep the foods that we buy in bulk!
    Thanks for the encouragement you give me Rhonda!
    Lusi x

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  19. This is an excellent post, which already has got me thinking about some things I could arrange better. I appreciate all the wisdom you share with us. Thank you!

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  20. I'm at the point of seriously considering either replacing my broken dishwasher or just turning the area into storage space for my cast iron pans that reside inside my oven when not in use.

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  21. Good advice at just the right time! I am planning on cleaning out my big kitchen next week. One thing I will change is to make a shelf just for empty jars and things like you have done.
    I love your basket idea for the cloths and think I will adopt something similar. (Just need to knit a few more cloths first!)

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  22. I love my country kitchen but the tall deep pantry in the corner was so frustrating and totally impractical for storing jars of dried foods, tins, spices etc. You had to pull out jars to reach the ones at the back. I reorganized and created a baking drawer - I use small baskets and plastic trays to hold baking supplies such as vanilla essence, spices, etc. So no more hunting in the back of the pantry for a sachet of gelatine! I dream of a dresser but as my dining /family room has full length glass doors there are no walls to place one on. Never mind, the views of our bushland I have from my kitchen is what we bought our home for. When we extended the house my husband gave me two options for the old bathroom next to the kitchen. An office/library or walk in pantry. As we homeschool and I hate desks in living areas with all their office clutter on show I opted for the office. It has a sliding door that can be closed at a moment's notice but it is also the perfect central location for the family computer so you can see my dilemma! Its shelves along one wall would be perfect for my glass jars but I have lots of books. A recent book de-clutter has resulted in free shelves so it's a room in transition. All my dry goods in big glass jars sit on the top but reachable shelves in single file. I can sit at my desk and make up a shopping list and turn around and a glance see which dry and tinned goods are running low. For now it has to be both an office and a sort of pantry - when the children are no longer in need of all these books it will become a butler's pantry. The former food pantry became a crockery cupboard and I found its deep shelves the perfect spot for all my long platters.
    This was a very helpful and relevant post Rhonda - thank you!

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  23. We are about to move...to our very own farm! I'll be putting a lot of thought into how I arrange our kitchen, with preserving and bread making at the top of my priorities. Some great advice here, Rhonda xx

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  24. Thankyou Rhonda......this is so well timed. I have just moved into a new house and the kitchen has not been working well at all. we've been running from one side of the kitchen to the other just to make a cup of tea!! I have just changed the tea and coffee making things around and now have everything near the jug on a beautiful wooden tray that I had in the cupboard. I just have to crochet a nice tray cloth and it will be perfect!!

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  25. I have only just discovered you, and am really enjoying your blog - thank you. I have been on a big mission this week to sort out my kitchen space as I would like to store more bulk foods and have a better flow for all the projects I am envisioning in this space. I like your tea making station! Vicky

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  26. I reorganized my kitchen last year to make things more efficient for me (the main cook). There was a lot of frustration at first because I had a several family member who were in and out of the the kitchen but couldn't find things...I finally put sticky notes up everywhere. Silverware, pots and pans, coffee cups, etc. After several weeks everyone got accustomed to the new placement and I was able to take the notes down. All was fine until my oldest boy returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. Poor guy, he had a terrible time finding anything in the kitchen!

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  27. Great suggestions! I try to just keep things that I use. No room for much else anyway. Looking forward to Spring cleaning time. I like to get rid of stuff that has gotten dusty.

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  28. I really love the idea of a basket of dishcloths/towels. And your tea/coffee area too.

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  29. Thanks for this, it's come at a great time for me. We have just bought a new house and are in the process of planning lots of renovations - including a lovely, large brand new kitchen. I really want to do it *right*, so if anyone has any advice?! I don't yet bake much or cook much from scratch, but I was just starting to when we moved in with my in-laws. I really want that to continue in the new place!

    One of my biggest problems is what to do with big appliances that take up bench space but should be accessible, like the bread maker.

    In our old flat, I created a 'tea-and-toast' station: teabags and cupboard-stored spreads above, cups below and bread, toaster and jug in the middle on the bench. It worked brilliantly and used an other-wise fairly useless narrow bench.

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  30. This post reminds me of when we moved here. We had lots of friends helping including three ladies in their 40-50's who I asked to sort the kitchen. They asked me where I wanted stuff and I said, "Just put things where you think; wherever they go, something will need reorganising later." They gave me a really good start and while we did swap a few things, it worked beautifully.

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  31. I was so lucky to be raised and trained by a woman who understood how essential a properly organized kitchen is to a homemaker.

    Thankfully, my sisters learned the same thing. When I was just 2 weeks from my due date with #3 son, we moved. And labor started early. While I was having my baby, my 2 sisters set up my new kitchen. What a blessing! And, they were so wise and considered how I cook and live that we never had to rearrange a single thing in the 10 years we lived there.

    I am so glad that you are sharing so much of yourself, Rhonda. Many young women these days want to be joyful homemakers but need encouragement and training. You are giving them a place where they can learn the practicalities as well as see the peace, contentment, joy and fulfillment of being a keeper of the home.
    God bless.

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  32. I'm all about decluttering and organizing. I'm working on it for sure, in fact, I've rearranged once in an effort to make my kitchen more user friendly:

    http://youngernews.blogspot.com/2010/12/flow-in-kitchen.html

    I've got to make room for baby stuff and for the toddler dishes we have been given. Something else to work on!

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  33. I've been slowly working on different sections of my kitchen during Feb and March, and it's starting to look, feel and function much better! There are still a few areas that I fear must remain a little cluttered (drinks/vitamins/cups for the day etc. and the dreaded corner cupboards that someone else mentioned) But I've been able to get rid of some items we haven't been using and buy some better utensils/appliances and make them fit! Thanks for sharing these details from your kitchen to inspire me further! (And we're trying ginger beer for the first time too)

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  34. Thank you for your timely post Rhonda. I started today by eliminating a long cluttered table and some boxes as well as the breadmaker which I never use anymore. I still have the pantries and cupboards to go, but the space already feels great.

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  35. in england the weather has shifted to gorgeous & warm, and i'm into serious reorganising & spring clean. we moved in at the darkest time of year and it's just felt too cold, the days too short, to really get to anything. it feels wonderful to pot up plants and start the garden, and put things in order! i'm planning to spend the next 10 days going mad with cleaning house til it is in fine shape. i really adore having this arranged so they work - constant shifting according to need, i find! x!

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