Thursday, June 25, 2015

Adventures in Kitchen Organizing

There are only so many organizing projects you can do in your own home.  Each individual living space comes with unique challenges, so I've been feeling like I'm missing out on a world of new and exciting chaos by staying local.  Which is why any time my blog would come up with my friends, co-workers or casual accountancies I'd beg for an opportunity to work on projects in their homes pro bono (that is a fancy word for "I don't know what I'm doing so I can't make you pay me").  A few people said they had projects they'd love for me to take a crack at but only one person (so far) actually allowed me into their home.  No offense taken, I don't want you to see my mess either.

It figures that this daring individual would be a fellow blogger and also co-worker at our "day job".  Though calling her a fellow blogger feels a little braggy on my part.  She has a legit blog; I have an online journal that my sister, husband and five friends read.  Sophia runs a popular food and beer blog called NY Foodgasm.  Her blog is delightfully entertaining and does a fantastic job of balancing the line between indulgent and healthy food.  Plus, I love beer and Sophia puts my love to shame.  She respects beer.

Sophia reached out and asked if I'd be interested in helping her get her kitchen in order.  Since she does so much cooking for her blog, she needs the kitchen to have optimal flow.  I wholeheartedly agreed to help and we set a date for me to come over.  I've been immersing myself in organizing and de-cluttering blogs and books lately like I Heart Organizing and Organizing from the Inside Out.  I'm slowly making my way through what feels like endless research and I was pumped to finally put my learning to the test.

I showed up at Sophia's house on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with a notebook, camera and barely contained excitement.  The first day was a consultation.  This was my chance to see her kitchen, take notes, pictures, ask questions and then go home and brainstorm. The interesting thing about Sophia's
house and kitchen is that I wasn't dealing with an unorganized person. She didn't have mountains of crap lying around that simply needed to be put away.  Instead, we were dealing with a trickier problem, an old house.  Her kitchen has some VERY narrow cabinets, random deep pockets of space on her counter, even a cabinet next to her fridge that isn't finished.  No shelves, just a unfinished floor in a dark and slightly ominous space.  Which means it was space she couldn't use.  No good.

It was a great first session.  Sophia was engaged and open to questions and suggestions.  After a couple hours of chatting, we set a date for our regroup and I walked away with ideas bubbling out of my head.  During this first visit I had Sophia tell me what she saw as her areas of frustration, like an over abundance of pint glasses in one cabinet, how to organize all her spices, how to best use the very deep cabinet next to her sink, how to minimize and organize all her various kitchen utensils, etc.

When we met again a few weeks later, I came with a notebook full of pictures and ideas, a shopping list of items I thought Sophia needed for her kitchen and even less contained excitement.  As suggested by one of the organizing books I read recently, we started by pulling EVERYTHING out of the cabinets and putting EVERYTHING on the floor or counters.  We even went around the house and found items like mugs and pint glasses that had found their way into other parts of the house.  The point of this exercise was to truly be able to gauge how much stuff we were dealing with and make sure all 'kitchen' items are in one part of the house.  You may think you only have a few mugs when they are stashed away in your cabinet but wait until they are all sitting out.  All the  sudden you go from a normal person with a normal number of coffee mugs to a coffee mug hoarder.  Here is one of the pictures we took during our "chaos stage".

Once we had everything out in the open, we went through each category of kitchen items and decided what was going to stay and what needed to go.  This was hands down the hardest and most valuable part of the process.  This was Sophia's life, her stuff, her memories and I was telling her to get rid of it.  We took the time to discuss the value and purpose of each item.  Sometimes it was quick and easy but other times, her collection of pint glasses for example, we spent a good amount of time negotiating.  How often do you use this?  Does it hold sentimental value?  Do you have duplicates of the same item that you don't need?  If you can't part with it, can it be stored in the basement for holidays or special occasions? Again, Sophia was a trooper and it got easier.  By the end, she was tossing items in the donation box without a second thought.

By the end of the day, we had worked our way through the entire kitchen and had four boxes of donation items to prove it.  Having all of Sophia's stuff out in the open made it possible to clearly see that she had some how accumulated four peelers and 30 coffee mugs over the years.  It was also much easier for Sophia to trim down on her pint glass collection when she could see each glass that she was keeping and the few she decided to let go.  As described by Marie Kondo in the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (I'm not a general fan of the book but the basic principles are interesting) during the process of removing everything from your cabinets, you are forced to take each item in your hands for a moment and gauge how you truly feel about the item.  Does the item bring you happiness in some way, whether functionally or emotionally?

It may seem excessive to remove everything from your cabinets just to get organized but think about what usually happens when you try to straighten up your house.  You go to a cabinet in your kitchen, start moving things around in the one cabinet, get distracted by one of the other 1,000 things you need to do that day and then you never get beyond that one cabinet.  If everything is out of your cabinets and creating complete chaos in your kitchen, you have no other choice but to clean it up.  The idea is simple but the process can be a little overwhelming.  Don't get discouraged!  If you don't trust that you'll be able to get rid of anything and you are not in a position to hire a professional organizer, find a buddy to be your sounding board.  It can be incredibly helpful to have a impartial perspective on your possessions.

Stay tuned for part two of Sophia's kitchen revamp where we discuss zoning her kitchen with before and after pictures!


  1. I am waiting with baited breath, and absolutely no cabinet space available!

  2. I'll add you to my list of projects Glennis!