Years ago when I was a young food scientist working in the product development department of Kellogg the company introduced a ‘clean desk’ policy.
I hated it.
Before the new policy I was happy to be the most messy person in the department. And no one else seemed to mind. Life was good except I could never find what I was looking for.
But after the new policy my boss started to ‘remind’ me constantly to change my ways. It’s never a good idea to have your boss on your case, so I chose the lesser of two evils and started putting away my things at the end of every day.
You probably know where this is heading.
Yep. I ended up loving having a clean desk. It made coming to work much more pleasant. It helped me think clearer. And I could find things quickly when I needed them.
It took a while but over time this policy spread into other areas of my life. Including of course my kitchen!
So here they are…
6 ‘Golden Rules’ of an Organized Kitchen (or desk, or bedroom etc)
If I was only going to give you one rule this would be it. I can’t stress enough how having less equipment in your cupboards and less ingredients in your fridge and pantry makes is so much easier to feel organized.
So how do you simplify?
This is a huge topic on its own but the first place to start is just being mindful of what you bring into the kitchen.
Ask yourself ‘do I really need this or is there something I already have that will work?‘
The next step is to clear out and review what you have. Any out-of-date ingredients or equipment you haven’t used in months should go.
If you’re struggling with letting things go do what I do and create a ‘things to donate to charity box’. Keep this in your garage (or shed).
Having this step makes it easier to part because you can easily change your mind if you find you are actually missing that hot dog warmer or whatever.
2. Keep like things together.
Once you’ve reduced the amount of stuff in the kitchen things get easier!
I find the best way to feel organized is to keep similar items together. For example I have one cupboard for my plates, another for mugs, another for pots, another for cleaning supplies.. Etc.
3. Keep things where you use them most.
Easy access makes it more likely you’ll use your equipment. It also just makes being in the kitchen a smoother experience so you’ll want to be spending more time there!
For example, I keep salt and pepper on our dining table so they’re always there when we eat. And there’s an extra pepper grinder and salt mill on our kitchen bench for when we’re eating there (mostly breakfast and lunch). And I have salt in the pantry for seasoning when I’m cooking.
I also keep a bottle of my go-to salad dressing on the table so I just need to put the salad in a bowl to get a side salad ready in a hurry.
Other examples are keeping a jar with utensils for stirring etc next to the stove so they’re easy to grab when I’m cooking. And I have my knives on a rack on the wall in the middle of the kitchen so they’re within arms reach.
4. Clean as you go.
One of the worst feelings is walking into a dirty kitchen and having to spend precious time cleaning before you can even start cooking.
I’m afraid that apart from getting a cleaning robot, the only way to avoid this is to have a personal rule to clean on an ongoing basis.
If you find yourself with a minute to spare when you’re actually cooking, ask yourself ‘what can I clean now?’ It can take a while to build this habit but you’ll never regret it.
I’ve also recently adopted the policy of cleaning up after every meal.
It makes a huge difference because you avoid dirty dishes drying out with food stuck to them (soo much harder to clean later).
The other benefit is that keeping on top of the cleaning through out the day means you never get to the point where the mess is overwhelming.
It also just feels good. Like you’re being a proper grown up!
5. Do it now.
This is essentially another way to think of the ‘clean as you go’ principle. It’s a trick I picked up from Gretchen Reuben on her brilliant book ‘The Happiness Project’.
Whenever you see something that could be put away or cleaned, say to yourself ‘do it now’ and follow through. This really worked for me so much that I now just automatically pick things up and put them away.
6. Build habits.
I’ve saved this for last because after golden rule no. 1, simplify, habits are the next biggest game changer.
By building habits you can essentially put being organized in the kitchen on autopilot. So it becomes automatic – something you don’t have to think about.
This is huge because you get the benefits of feeling in control and ‘on top of it’ without having to think or try too hard.
Some of the habits that make my life so much easier (and more organized) includes shopping on a regular basis, keeping a running shopping list on my phone, doing things ‘now’ as I mentioned above, putting my groceries away as soon as I get home, really looking in the fridge every day so I know what needs eating up, and doing some ingredient prep on the weekend or whenever I can (usually when I’m already going to be in the kitchen).
There you have it!
My 6 golden rules which really help me be organized in the kitchen (and other areas of life).
Stay tuned for our next lesson where we’ll go deeper into the Art of Ingredient Prep – one of my key personal habits!
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