Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Kitchen Organization Series – We Need to Declutter First!

Kitchen Organization Series

The first step to organizing your kitchen is to declutter. Decluttering consists of going through your possessions and getting rid of anything that is no longer useful or wanted. It makes sense to declutter before organizing; otherwise, you will waste your time trying to fit things into your kitchen you really don’t need at the expense of things you actually want to use more often.

Don't you find that the less items you own, the better you take care of those few items? This is because you take pride in them. I remember as a child, I would have only 2 pairs of shoes at a time (one pair of regular everyday tennis shoes and one pair of formal shoes for church and school assemblies). I took such extremely good care of this one pair of white tennis shoes, that my friends thought I always had new sneakers! In the same concept, I now have a few pans of each type that I love using and I hand wash them so they stay as good as new.

In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie Kondo says to take EVERYTHING out to get the full shock of seeing all your stuff out at once. You will realize that you have too much stuff and you shouldn’t feel bad getting rid of it. If just the THOUGHT of ALL your kitchen stuff out frustrates and overwhelms you, here is my suggestion: Take everything out of the drawers and cabinets IN CATEGORIES!

Kitchen item categories, in any order:
-          Food: refrigerator and freezer
-          Food: pantry staples, kids’ snacks
-          Food: spices
-          Food prep (foil, plastic wrap, freezer bags, sandwich bags)
-          Cookware: pots and pans, lids, baking sheets
-          Cookbooks
-          Plates, bowls
-          Glasses, mugs
-          Thermoses, water bottles
-          Eating utensils
-          Cooking utensils
-          Food storage, Tupperware
-          Kitchen towels
-          Small appliances
-          Baking supplies
-          Serveware
-          Holiday items (plates, trays, mugs)
-          Kitchen gadgets
-          Other stuff: vitamins, medical, junk drawer

Do cookware one day, plates another day, small appliances, gadgets, utensils, etc. (see my list of kitchen item categories above). As you come across a gadget in the drawer with your utensils, put it aside where the majority of your gadgets are. If you are working on a category with some of the items in storage (ex: baking, holiday serveware) go get them so you have everything in the house for that category together.

To effectively declutter, go through the items and keep a number of boxes and garbage bags on hand for trash, donations and storage; plus, a pen and a notepad for notes. You will want to store or display anything that has sentimental value to you. Evaluate your items as follows:

1. Throw out items that are damaged, broken or expired.  
Trash all the food that is expired or was opened months ago (expired cans of soup, open mustard). See if you need to buy anything that you use or eat regularly and add to your shopping list. For things like nutmeg and capers that you may not use as frequently, add these items to a “pantry low list." I keep a list of pantry items that I ran out of or am running low on and refer to it when I prepare my shopping list. Buy these items gradually as they go on sale.  

Throw out those cracked wooden spoons, scratched up non-stick baking sheets, broken kitchen gadgets and BPA plastic containers. These things accumulate because we keep them “just in case.” Seriously - Do yourself a favor and get rid of them! Think of all the precious space in your kitchen that this garbage is taking! Kitchen storage space should be thought of as a premium location that you keep quality items in; not crap. I am now able to use the stuff I like without all the junk getting in the way. 

If you only have one baking pan left after this, make a note in your notepad to be on the lookout for baking pan sales at home stores. This is also your opportunity to upgrade and splurge for a nicer item. I got rid of my scratched up pans and found a set of higher quality pans on sale that are much easier to clean! 

Notepad: food shopping list, pantry low items, upgrades/replacements wishlist

2. Donate, sell or give away duplicates.
When you see all your baking stuff out on the counter at once, you will start asking yourself: “Why do I have 5 sets of measuring spoons?” You don’t need all of them! Keep 1 or 2 and donate the others. Once you have a good pile of items to donate, sell or give away, set it up immediately!  Take advantage of your momentum and schedule the pickup, plan the garage sale or write up the Facebook/Craigslist ad or call your friend RIGHT NOW! Give yourself a deadline of 3 weeks to get rid of it before putting it out with the garbage; otherwise, it will end up sitting in your garage or basement. 

You should also list the items you are going to donate so you have them ready for tax time. It doesn't take long - I write down each item and quantity (ex: 5 mugs, 3 baking sheets, 1 mixing bowl) on a sheet of paper after I have them all in a box or bag ready to donate. Sometimes I search the values that night and other times I have left it for tax time. But it's pretty quick to calculate the values of the donated items using the pricing guide on Goodwill’s website. Just save this sheet of paper with any receipt you get from the charity. 

Notepad: list of items to sell, list of donation items to deduct

3. Return items and assess your buying habits.
Put aside anything purchased recently that you didn’t open yet or recently opened but were not pleased with. At the end of all this, you can look at the item and see if you still need or want it. The item might be a good replacement for something you got rid of. But if you want to return it go right ahead; it can be liberating. Just make a note to stop buying this type of kitchen item.

To save money, I keep a list of kitchen items I need and refer to it monthly. So, if I go to a home store or shop online, I am on the lookout for these items going on sale. I try to keep to that list and avoid buying random items I *think* I need. Doing this has helped me find items on sale that are better quality because I am looking for them over time. 

Notepad: list of items to return, list of items to stop buying, upgrades/replacements wishlist

4. Keep items that are in good condition and useful.
You will now be left with items that you use every day and some occasion and sentimental items. The action of going through this whole declutter process and taking notes will help you keep items in your kitchen that you actually use and want to take care of.

At this point, you should also make a list of items you want to use more often and any additions that will help you use them. This can be a listing of your cookbooks to go through for recipes, fun appetizer plates you forgot about, appliance attachments and gadgets you can incorporate into your everyday life, or cookie cutters to add to your collection.

Notepad: list of kitchen items to use, upgrades/replacements wishlist

After all this is done, you can organize and create a ‘home” for your items. Keeping them grouped together by category in drawers or cabinets will make it much easier for you to use and keep track of these items. We will talk about organizing your kitchen in the next post of this series. 

How did you do going through this kitchen declutter process?

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