Kitchen Organization Deconstructed (Sort of…)

I’m fascinated by those shows on television that focus on the concept of “before” and “after.”  It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s about flipping a house, remodeling, landscaping, Gordon Ramsay advising how to turn a restaurant around, and yes, even What Not to Wear — I guess I’m a sucker for the idea of anything being taken from a classic ugly duckling to a beautiful swan.  Cliche, I know, but it’s the closest thing I can come up with right now.

I also love perfectly organized spaces.  It doesn’t matter if it’s my Mac desktop, or my real desktop, my closet or garage,  I can see what it should look like — perfectly — and would love for it all to be just so.

But it all comes to a screeching halt right there, because as much as I can say I crave it, visualize it, and need it, something happens on the way to execution.  Well, at least the execution of the details, because I’m pretty good at making something look very attractive until you look a bit more closely.


I like to blame it on the very real idea that after years and years of being so busy with work, and realizing I’d organize something — anything — to avoid doing that work, I had to train myself not to notice.  I learned how to try and stay more focused, ignore dishes in the sink, or a stack of mail, magazines that needed to be gone through, and basic clutter.  I got more work done, I was more content, and my house became a wreck.

I can’t stand it, yet I’ve learned to tolerate it for my sanity.  Okay, so a tad over dramatic, but I’m trying to make a point here.

Now I no longer have the endless work I had to do.  I am fortunate enough to be on the other side of the “If Only I Didn’t Have To Work, I Could…” lament I indulged myself with, and now know is a load of crap.  A year and a half have gone by, and it’s taken me this long to get around to noticing that I can now obsess until the cows come home about all the picky details my brain wants me to take care of.

I can organize, label, and fuss over details to my heart’s content.

But have I?

Um, nope.  Unfortunately, I discovered the insanely addictive wonderful world of blogging a bit more than a year ago, and now I have a completely different area in which to split hairs and fuss over minutiae.

So what does this have to do with food?

It’s about my kitchen.

I have a  very nice kitchen.  When we moved to this house six years ago, I left an equally nice kitchen we’d had remodeled several years before.  I left an amazing 36″ Dynasty range with an infrared ceramic broiler and burners that put out BTUs that brought true meaning to the saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Then we moved here — to a house that had a kitchen with 25 year old appliances, an uncalibrated oven that a proper sized turkey wouldn’t fit in, and electric cooktop that I couldn’t squeeze all the pans I wanted on it at the same time.  I thought I’d never recover.  I’m exaggerating, of course, but it was quite an adjustment.  We moved in right before I took on a enormous new level of responsibility at work, so many of my kitchen things were just put in cupboards and a few years went by before we decided to remodel this kitchen.  It’s amazing how well we adapt when we have to, isn’t it?  You just learn how far off that oven’s temperature is, and do the math every time you bake while wondering whether baking over a camp fire  would be easier.

Three years have gone by, and I’ve had plenty of time to think about how well this new kitchen works.  I’ve tolerated the places I chose at the time to put baking items, and serving dishes, or small appliances.  I’ve also had time to realize after having gone through kitchen remodels twice now, that as much as I can say I like the way the end product looks, I’m probably never going to love the way it actually works.

When you cook as much as I do, the kitchen is rarely neat.  I want everything close by, and don’t want to have to pull anything out of a cupboard to reach something else — and that’s what I’ve been putting up with for three years. (Insert violins here.)  When I come home from the grocery store, I want my food to actually fit in the cupboard, and not have to sit on the floor near the cupboard, since buying less food isn’t a practical solution.

What is a practical solution is to get off my rump and reorganize my kitchen.

So that’s what I did.  And I’m not 100% finished, but I’ll get there.  I hit a few snags along the way with respect to finding the right containers to hold small amounts of opened product, and deciding what needs to stay in the kitchen because it’s used, and what needs to go in a closet we’re having racks fitted into for that purpose (My husband says we can do this ourselves a la weekend warriors, but trust me, pigs will fly first….)

So here are my before and after shots.  And if you have ANY suggestions that work for you, by all means, let me know.  This is a work in progress.

This is the area above the microwave.  You have NO idea how many times flour or sugar fell out onto my face or the floor.  Really.  Yes, I’m going to HATE having to reacy for that food processor, but it’s much lighter than the Kitchen Aid and you should see where that is…


You wouldn’t think three people would need a pantry bigger than this, but somehow we do.  Clearly that second shelf needed some serious help.  When you KNOW you bought star anise and can’t find it, you buy more.  You know, because you simply can’t be with out it.  Because.


That second shelf looks a bit different, doesn’t it?  It’s actually pleasant to be able to SLIDE the drawers out now.  What a concept.  Maybe that’s what they were designed to do?  Rocket Science, plain and simple.

But wait.  Where did all those messy little bags go?
I found the boxes at Ikea — cheap, but I’m not sure I like them yet.  Definitely an improvement since I now know where all my star anise is.  I better start looking for recipes since I have enough to last for a couple of years.

But there is a domino effect occurring in all this shifting of kitchen things.  I had to move my ceramic baking things into a different cupboard, which forced me to move my oversized plates and platters.

This is sooooooooooooo much better.  It only took me THREE years to figure out that these two twirly cupboards are different sizes and that those large plates fit right in there on the top instead of the bottom of the other.  More Rocket Science.  Who knew?


And the second area that helped give birth to this rather late spring cleaning endeavor?  My pan drawer.  I’m sure there’s some logic to the fact that if you continue to purchase pans, you’ll need more space and that no one but you will be able to figure out how to actually put the pans in there and still be able to close the drawer.  So, two drawers it was, which is what it should have been to begin with.  I knew that.
Criminal, isn’t it?

But look now!  Drawer Number One…
And Drawer Number Two…


Now that I’ve moved almost everything, my husband will have a real excuse to leave things on the counter after he’s unloaded the dishwasher.

It cleans up nicely, doesn’t it?




20 thoughts on “Kitchen Organization Deconstructed (Sort of…)

  1. Haha I’m laughing with you, not at you.
    I actually bought some of those same Ikea ones lately, as well as some different containers from a restaurant supply store for cereal (because we always had 4 big, open boxes on the floor that wouldn’t fit into the pantry.)
    Is this what we do with our summers when our kids are way? Aren’t we supposed to hit the spa or something like that?

  2. Wow, I got exhusted just looking at all that work you did!! You need a huge walk in pantry! I’m the same way I’m always buying spices I already have because I can’t find something. But can I tell you, your kitchen is beautiful
    and it looks like you’re well on your way to organization just like Martha!

  3. My biggest kitchen problem is where to put the pots and pans. I have them in a corner cabinet right now (without turntables) and it’s a pain in the behind. I just can’t think of a better place for them!

  4. Hey Kelly! Two kitchen remodels?? We are in a whole house remodel.. my kitchen is functional but I still have missing cabinets and moldings and wall tiles and … But I am thrilled with lots of space and a huge walk in pantry! Not exactly sure yet how to utilize it in a functional fashion and where to put everything?? The stores I miss getting to for organization are Ikea, The Container Store and The Expo. We are a little far from all of them out here in Temecula.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.. I hope you post more tid-bits of kitchen remodeling and organization knowledge with us! 🙂 And…I like your red knobs on your stove! 🙂

  5. Holy crap. I feel your pain. I hate organizing and I’m terrible at it. The only suggestions I have are gluing velcro strips to the inside cabinet doors (or double stick tape) and taping velcro on the bottom of small metal little canisters. Alton Brown does that for his show so he can just grab whatever he wants off the velcro. Also, lazy susans maybe….
    I have no idea what to do for your pantry. It boggles the mind.
    And you could always hang the empty dishes from the ceiling!
    Or shove them under the bed in the guest bedroom, like I do.

  6. Great post! I have a much tinier kitchen but suffer from the same problems. I reorganized about two months ago, and it’s amazing to be able to locate things when I need them instead of dig through drawers and cabinets!
    I’ve found that a lot of Ikea’s containers are worth it simply for price– if you need a whole lot of containers (which most food bloggers certainly do!) Crate and Barrel, The Container Store, even Bed, Bath and Beyond can really put a dent in your wallet.

  7. I have the same problem with where to stick my food processor and with the bags of spices. In the house we’re building I’m going to have a walk-in pantry and my husband is already teasing me about how messy it’s going to be.
    I love your dining table! Is that a yogurt maker on it?

  8. I love it. I did a post like this too however I left my mess and didn’t reorganize! You are so good! My next kitchen, I’ve already tld hubby will be a cool 1000 square feet…I need it!

  9. Yikes! But I’m so envious of all of that space you have – truly. As to the not knowing where to put things after they come out of the dishwasher: make him load instead of unload. 😉

  10. I’m still laughing at your post – I actually thought for a minute you were writing about me. The whole obsession thing and where to put the kitchenaide and the food processor. I’m in the midst of moving and my friends have forbidden (emphatically) me from so much as visiting a store that sells kitchen things. So now I’ve resorted to doing the kitchen store thing and storing it at my sister’s. Pathetically sick. Do you think you could come over on the 22nd or so and help me reassign everything so there’s a place for everything. Pretty pleeeeaaassse!

  11. Wow, I love your kitchen and the way you organized your cupboards and pantry especially the spices. I was trying to figure out how you arranged the spices, was there some kind of a rack to put them in? I used to be very organized till I had a baby. He’s now two and loves to play with my pots and pans. I guess if you don’t use the stuff you removed from the cupboard anymore maybe you can just donate them or have a yard sale 😉

  12. What cluttered kitchen? Don’t we cooks need EVERYTHING we have whether we know we have it or not! Loved this post. Made me giggle. Thanks for your comments and pics. Now it is the turn of the rest of us to ‘deconstruct’ the mess we call cooking supplies. Thanks for this. And the pics are enlightening.

  13. Gorgeous kitchen! I’m wanting to do a whole organization, but we’ve been in a 2 year remodel and I still don’t have shelves in half of my cabinets. We finally got the doors up, though, so that’s an improvement!!

  14. Pre-book writing, the kitchen was fairly staying organized but that was because of intense self discipline to restack those pots and pans neatly after each use…now…the kitchen has invaded the dining table which is being invaded by the office which is being invaded by the photo stuff. I broke down yesterday and re-organized everything 🙂
    I still have a super crush on your kitchen, mess or not!!

  15. ebay. i might could use a yogurt maker…
    we have a pot rack with nearly all of the skillets and pots hanging over the sink. it freed up a huge amount of cabinet space, and they are really accessible.

  16. Wow, I love being tidy, I’m quite a freak in this aspect. For pasta and cereal-like food, I put them in my lock&lock boxes which I absolutely love! Other than that, I also buy baskets or dividers to allow easy access for my husband. For example, I put all teabags, sugar sachets, clove buds all in 1 basket. In this case, all he needs to do is to bring out that basket, take whatever he needs, put back whatever he no longer needs into the basket and put the basket back into the cabinet. This prevents him from rummaging through the entire cabinet and saves me trouble for cleaning up more mess than I already have to!

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