Saturday, July 18, 2015

Adventures in Kitchen Organizing: Zoning

How much time in our lives do we spend in the kitchen?  According to one study, you spend 3-4 years in your kitchen depending on your age and (sadly) gender.  For a few of us, we are only in long enough to grab our leftovers from the microwave but for some people, the kitchen is their oasis.  The place that they invent, create and conjure.  Their kitchen can be their creative outlet and the very place that they feel the most at home.  For someone like Sophia who is continuously working on jewels for her blog NY Foodgasm, the kitchen is the most important room in her house.  Which means it absolutely, 100%, needs to function properly.

In the last post, Sophia and I worked on removing everything from her cabinets and negotiated what she was going to keep and what would be donated to a deserving home.  These few steps took a good three hours but were vital to the overall process.  That was the manual, time consuming and mentally taxing part.  Now we just needed to put everything back in the right spot.  But how and where?

Our next step was to make sure that the kitchen had proper flow.  You don't want to walk back and forth across the kitchen each time you need an ingredient for dinner or each time you need to put away a dish.  In the book, Organizing from the Inside Out the author Julie Morgenstern talks about zoning your kitchen.  You create zones to make the process of using your kitchen as efficient and easy as possible.  The basic concept is that you take a focal point of your kitchen such as your stove, food prep area (the longest stretch of counter space in your kitchen) or sink/dish washer and organize the cabinets around these areas based on what you use in these zones.  For example, all flours, sugars, knives, etc would be near your food prep zone.

Still confused?  Let's check out some more examples with before and after photos:


Zone of the Kitchen: Daily Dishes/Food Serving
Why it Didn't Work: This was a very large cabinet that, because of the depth of the space, items were easily lost and forgotten if they weren't right up front.
Rationale for Placement: Since the cabinet is across the room from the stove and not directly next to the sink and dish washer, we used it for Sophia's formal dishes.  They were perfect for this cabinet because she only needs the dishes for special occasions and since the dishes are in uniform sets, she knows exactly what is in the cabinet.  Additionally, the heavy plates were previous placed on a high shelf and they were making the shelf bow under their weight.  They needed more support.

Zone of the Kitchen: Daily Dishes
Why it Didn't Work: This cabinet is right above the dishwasher so it is prime real estate for daily dishes (versus formal dishes that were previously discussed).  This is one of the larger cabinets in the kitchen that wasn't being properly utilized when it was filled with an abundance of coffee mugs and tea.  Sophia and her husband are barely drinking coffee this days.
Rationale for Placement: The closer you place your dishes next to your sink or dishwasher, the easier it is to put away your clean dishes.  We placed all of Sophia everyday dishes in this cabinet for quick and easy access.

Zone of the Kitchen: Daily Cooking
Why it Didn't Work: The contents in this cabinet were properly zoned next to the stove but there was just too much stuff in one cabinet for Sophia to be able to easily access everything.
Rationale for Placement: Your Daily Cooking zone in your kitchen should be the area around your oven and stovetop.  It was much easier to organize this cabinet after we had gotten rid of items Sophia didn't need anymore and grouped cooking items together by shape. Never try to organize without purging first. It's a waste of time and space.


Zone of the Kitchen: Food Storage
Why it Didn't Work: You are much less likely to use something if it is stacked under or behind something else.  Plus, these towers of pint glasses were a structural disaster waiting to happen.   Which I inadvertently proved when I knocked over a glass while removing them from the cabinet. There were simply too many items in one cabinet.
Rationale for Placement: The food storage containers were placed in this cabinet because of its location between the stove and the refrigerator.  Cleaning up and packing up extra food after cooking would be a breeze with the food storage containers an arms length away.

Zone of the Kitchen: Food Preparation/Daily Dishes
Why it Didn't Work: This had become Sophia's cooking utensil crap drawer.  She didn't know what had made its way into the drawer and told me that she once cut her hand on a misplaced knife while rooting around in the drawer.
Rationale for Placement: Before starting the de-cluttering  process, Sophia had three drawers dedicated to cooking utensils.  Once everything was out in the open, we discovered a lot of duplicates (how does one acquire four peelers?) and utensils in need of an upgrade (sorry old oil brush, off you go!).  When we freed up this empty drawer we were able to move Sophia's food wraps, that were previously living under the kitchen sink with the cleaning products.  This drawer wasn't as close to the Food Prep area as we would have liked but space that is more visible and easier to access is always a major improvement!

Zone of the Kitchen: Daily Dishes
Why it Didn't Work: Two words, horizontal folding.  Before, there were too many dish towels in one drawer and you couldn't see what was in the drawer beyond the first couple towels.  Which means Sophia was using the same three towels over and over again.
Rationale for Placement: By having the towels stacked horizontally, Sophia wasn't able to see or use everything in the drawer.  We got rid of some of the towels and folded them vertical.  We had so much space left over that we stored a few of her mason jars in the drawer to keep the towels upright.

It was a adventurous day with a surprising amount of manual labor, and we still had some minor improvements to make, but by the end of the day that kitchen looked fantastic!  And my favorite part? Sophia was so happy!  I've checked in with her a few times to see how she is doing in the newly organized kitchen and she's said it's great.  Some of her favorite parts are having her dishes above the dishwasher, all the cooking items at her finger tips and not having unnecessary items on the counters, like a random cereal box.  Her one complaint? Getting used to where things have moved.  Hopefully the changes will become a natural part of her routine and having this new and improved kitchen will help Sophia's culinary creations become more about the creation and less about remembering where to find the whisk under all those peelers.

What are your kitchen frustrations?  Do you have an amazing trick to keep your kitchen optimally organizing?  I want to hear every beautiful detail.

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