Weekly Quick Tips – Ask the Organizer

Weekly Quick Tips

Ask the Organizer

Question: My kitchen cabinets and workspace are anything but ready for cooking. How can I customize the space for productivity without the expense of a kitchen reno?

Answer: Your challenge is not uncommon. By including the right storage solutions inside your cabinets, finding what you need for mealtime prep will be a breeze. Your first step, of course, is clearing your cabinets of expired food, old spices, duplicates of bakeware and serving dishes, and anything that is no longer age-appropriate. And then, your basic organizing principles apply; keep like-with-like, store things where you use them, and be sure to remember the simple but powerful premise: items that are used the most should be the easiest to reach. Think of organized spaces as having storage locations that are hot, warm and cold and store tools and supplies according to how often they are used.

  • Hot zones like the fronts of drawers, shelves at eye level and storage space on a counter are home to the most used items. They are areas that your hand can reach with little or no effort such as the utensil caddy next to the stove. This is where you store your favourite whisks, spoons and ladles for easy access.
  • Warm zones are a bit harder to reach, like the space at the back of the drawer or the shelf near the top of the cabinet. You’ll need to stretch and bend or open doors wider to reach a warm zone. Send items you need infrequently, such as a once a week or once a month, to the warm zones. Peelers, large pots and baking dishes can all happily live here. You’ll know where they are when you need them, but they won’t impede your work the rest of the time.
  • Cold Zones are those storage spaces that must have been designed by a chiropractor to encourage business. They’re dark, they’re obscure, and they’re hard to reach without a step stool or assuming a posture on your hands and knees. The back recesses of a bottom shelf, the cupboard over the refrigerator that can only be reached with a ladder are cold zones. Here’s where you keep the seasonal baking pans, the serving platters for big parties and your Jell-O-moulds.

And then, it’s as simple as a trip to your favourite DYI, Organizing or Mass Retailer! Here are some of our favourite functional ideas:

  • Add pull-out shelves to turn every inch of a deep cabinet into accessible and useful storage. Baking dishes formerly in the back recesses of these cabinets are now easy to locate.
  • Create upright storage for cookie sheets and cutting boards. To retrofit any existing cabinetry, install inexpensive dividers to help items stand on end.
  • Use tiered plate racks to maximize stacking space inside cabinets.
  • Set aside one drawer for junk. Yes, that’s right, you can and should have a junk drawer. There are always doodads in every home that nobody knows where to store. Just don’t keep things in there that have a home somewhere else and that you have not used in more than a year.
  • Quickly customize any pantry with tiered shelf organizers. Can risers are like bleachers for your canned goods!
  • Slip a tiered rack into a drawer or turntable into a cupboard to keep spices neatly contained. Arrange the jars in alphabetical order. Alphabetizing spices helps you find what you want in the grocery store; it will do the same at home. Plus, you’re less likely to buy a duplicate if your inventory is organized. It does NOT mean you have OCD…..
  • Get the most out of corner cabinets by installing turntables. Some are designed without a centre pole to maximize storage capabilities.
  • Save space by storing bulky food items in coordinating containers. To retain cooking instructions, attach a clear adhesive pocket, commonly used to hold business cards to the outside of the container. Plastic containers are great for items that you use frequently that come in plastic bags, such as rice, beans, pasta and cereal. They eliminate the possibility of the contents spilling, and it’s easy to gauge when you’re running low.

Check out our photo gallery for more inspiring before and afters!

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