tips and tricks
Three steps to a clean slate kitchen: A lifestyle expert tells you how to whipyours into shape
It’s often said that the kitchen is the “heart of the home,” but the swarm of daily activity that happens there can sometimes add up to a space that’s more hectic than heartwarming.
With a few simple guidelines to help make the most of your space (whatever its size) you can get the kitchen under control and ready for anything. Dedicate a Saturday morning to purging what you don’t need — and stocking up on a few products that will help you get organized — and make even the refrigerator a thing of beauty.
1. Makeover the fridge
Even the most organized among us are occasionally guilty of letting items linger in the back of the fridge for just a little too long. Now’s the time to clean out anything that’s past its prime and fill the space with the essentials needed to whip up fresh, healthy meals in a flash. Start by removing everything from the fridge so you can survey what goes, what stays and how it should be organized.
Toss expired products and leftovers, then wipe shelves and drawers clean with a nontoxic multipurpose spray and paper towels. Group like-sized items together and rearrange the height of shelves accordingly. It’s worth investing in a few of the following tools and containers to help maintain order and keep the fridge looking it’s best:
- Glass juice bottles. Decant fruit juices from their bulky cardboard boxes into clear glass vessels like these (or these) that save space and look great transported to the table for breakfast.
- Produce savers. Loads of new products have hit the market that promise to keep fruits and veggies fresh longer. Vessels that are sized to perfectly fit their contents (garlic, tomatoes, herbs, etc.) have tiny airholes that keep produce at its optimum moisture levels, preventing fast spoilage.
- Lazy Susan. Instead of leaving products crammed at the back of the fridge to be forgotten, place condiments on a small Lazy Susan placed on a shelf that lets you quickly spin and survey the options.
- Labels. When I was in culinary school, one of the first things we were taught is to always label the contents of leftovers, and most importantly, the date they were packaged. Now I pick up cute labels at the office supply and label everything that gets packaged up in the fridge or freezer, so I’m never left wondering, “Now, how long has that pizza been in there...?”
2. Bring order to the pantry
Like the fridge, it’s easy to let the pantry become a black hole of forgotten condiments and stale crackers. January is the perfect time to clean out what’s unnecessary and take stock of what you’ll need to keep on hand. In order to clearly see the ingredients in my pantry, I store bulk items (rice, grains, pasta, cereal and nuts) in matching jars lined up on the shelves. Not only is this uniformity aesthetically pleasing, it also keeps foods airtight so that they stay fresh longer.
For packaged goods (chips, popcorn and other snack foods), I use mesh wire baskets to corral like items together while staying visible. I always keep the following pantry items on hand, so I’m prepared to throw together a last-minute dinner or host an impromptu cocktail party:
- Chicken stock for soups, sauces and infusing cooked grains with flavor.
- Nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts) for toasting up in a salad or setting out for a simple snack.
- Water crackers to accompany a couple of great cheeses for an easy appetizer.
- Pastas in assorted shapes and sizes.
- Baking essentials like flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder.
- Kosher salt for cooking and sea salt for finishing the end of a dish.
- Oils including extra-virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil and truffle oil.
- Popcorn is a perfect snack for impromptu guests; make it fancy by adding a sprinkle of dried herbs or spices!
- Vinegars like white wine, red wine, balsamic and sherry are a must for mixing up simple vinaigrettes.
3. Organize kitchen drawers
Start by re-evaluating the way you’re using the drawers in your kitchen. For instance, are you storing coffee beans, filters and spoons next to the coffeepot? Placing tools in drawers near the areas where they’re used can be a major time-saver. Group like items together, and use adjustable drawer dividers that can adapt to perfectly fit the drawer and its contents.
Like the fridge and pantry, kitchen drawers should be cleaned out regularly; wipe down the insides with multipurpose cleaner and purge items that haven’t been used in the last six months. And don’t forget to dedicate drawers to essential household items like hardware, first aid, office supplies and linen napkins!
Camille Styles is the founder and editor of lifestyle blog camillestyles.com, where she shares the creative entertaining ideas that inspire her parties and her life. Camille is also a regular lifestyle contributor to HGTV.com and the host of HGTV’s new mobile party planning app. Her modern aesthetic and eye for detail come together to create parties that are simply chic and all about fun.