Book Excerpt: Marilyn Bohn – Go organize! Conquer clutter in three simple steps (Part 2)

Chapter 5 The Kitchen (Part 2)

This is the second part of our excerpt of Marilyn Bohn’s book, Go organize! Conquer clutter in three simple steps. You can read part one here. Today Marilyn discusses Dishes/bowls, Over the Stove, Over the Refrigerator, The Utensil Drawer(s), Pots and Pans, Under the Sink, Bulky Appliances and Baking supplies and other food. Stay tuned for part 3 to post on Wednesday – along with a giveaway of an autographed copy of the book!

Chapter 5 The Kitchen Part 3

Dishes/bowls: Take everything out and wipe out the cupboard. Throw away any plates and bowls that are chipped or broken and get rid of the ones that rate seven and below on the wattage scale.
Stack the dinner plates in one pile, the salad plates in another and the bowls in another. This is where the additional shelves are nice because it eliminates the pain and bother of removing one size plate to get to another.

Keep dishes in the cupboards that are most assessable to reach and most convenient to use and to wash and put back in the cupboard. Move the others dishes you don’t use daily to secondary spaces. This could be to a higher cupboard. Serving pieces can also go on higher shelves if they aren’t used on a daily basis.
Take out any and all bowls that have lids. (This should include serving bowls with lid and plastic containers you use for leftovers.) Match lids to the bowls. If there are bowls without lids or lids without bowls, put these orphans in a plastic bag. Label the bag “missing bowls/lids”. Keep the bag for one week (the orphans might be in a bedroom or some other place in the house). If matches haven’t been found in a week recycle the bowls and lids.

If you store your leftovers in plastic containers that had other products in them, such as margarine, cottage cheese, or yogurt, here are some guidelines. Don’t use them. Recycle the plastic some other way than by storing food in them because:

1. You can’t see in them so often the food spoils before it is used.

2. They don’t stack as well as containers uniform in size thus taking up more space in the refrigerator.

3. Some plastic leach toxins into the food when heated in the microwave. These containers warp or melt,
possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food. Older plastics tend to leach increasing amounts of toxins as they age.

4. These “freebie” types of containers have babies, multiplying and dividing faster than rabbits. If you must use them make a rule that you will not keep more than five (depending on the size of your family), absolutely no more than ten of them in your cupboards. The other ones go to the recycle bin after using the product in them. They can also be used to store non-food items.

If you must use them in your kitchen as I said limit the amount you will keep and store them in their own plastic container. They will be contained and can’t have more babies as there isn’t room. Make another rule that you will not let anymore than the amount that fits in that container stay in your cupboards.
On the bottom of plastic containers is a number. When you need to use plastic, these are the safer choices
to use with food: 1, 2, 4 and 5. Avoid numbers 3 and 7.

Honestly, do these yellow, white, (ugly) containers light you up on a scale of eight or above? That is always your criteria when deciding if something is to be kept in your home. I know these containers are free, but it isn’t about the cost, it is about how you feel. You want your entire home to be a place that lights you up and gives you happiness and joy. A much safer and more attractive choices for leftover containers are glass, pottery, crockery, and stainless steel.

Tip: Plan two weeks to 30 days of menus at one time. From these menus you can make your shopping list and you will have a nice variety of dinners planned so they don’t get boring. It will save you time and the frustration of wondering “what is for dinner tonight”. It takes the dread out of preparing dinner. There are a lot of pre-planned menus you can use for inspiration available on the Internet.

Over the Stove: Take everything out and wipe it out. This way you can see what you have. This is such a tricky cupboard because if you’re not tall (which I am not) it is hard to get in and out of this cupboard easily. Do not store things here that would be a magnet for children to get into. If they think there are treats there, they will do their best to reach them and could be burned or sustain other injuries. Store things you might not use very often, such as seasonal dishes, plastic and paper products, wine glasses, pie tins, round cake pans, or vases. You decide what you want to keep in this semi-storage area.

Over the refrigerator: Take everything out and wash the shelves. Possible uses for this cupboard; wine storage, cookie sheets, muffin tins, cookie cutters, cake decorating supplies, and other items you don’t use often because it is an awkward cupboard to reach. I recommend keeping a small, sturdy step stool handy to reach things in this cupboard and other cupboards that are too high to get into easily.

Utensil drawer(s): Use a utensil holder for your flatware. The holders with a compartment in the back have room for the corn picks, vegetable peeler, measuring spoons or ice cream scoops. If the holder slides around use sticky back Velcro or a non-slip mat under it to hold it in place.
Large utensils can be kept in a nice container, like a crock, on the counter. If you keep them in a drawer, use drawer dividers to separate the spoons from the spatulas, the hand grater and cheese slicer and other types of utensils. Dividers will keep everything from sliding around and getting lost and jumbled.

If you don’t have enough drawers or your space is limited, a utensil rack can be hung on the wall that has hooks attached to it. Using a pegboard is also an option. It can be mounted on the wall and hooks installed to free up cupboard space for cups, soup bowls and cooking utensils. Pegboard can easily be painted to match your kitchen décor or the kitchen walls. The one thing I caution about using a pegboard is if you hang too many things on it, the kitchen will look cluttered. So if you use a pegboard, limit the amount of items you hang on it.

Keep sharp knives in a plastic sleeves for safety and to avoid nicking the blade or place them in a wooden butcher block made for knives.

If you have space, a drawer could hold baking utensils such as the measuring spoons and cups. You also can place these utensils in a plastic container that easily slides in and out of the cupboard. This is effective for someone in a wheelchair or who have limited range of motion.

OK, you have now gone through all of the upper cupboards and drawers in your kitchen. You have taken everything out of every cupboard, cleaned the shelves and rearranged some things to make them more functional for you. You have used containers to contain spices, baking supplies and lids. Doesn’t it just make you want to open your cupboards and see how nice they look? What a great feeling!

Tip: To create more cupboard space, you can easily install additional shelves by buying either stainless steel or wire shelves (covered in white plastic). These are available at discount stores, kitchen stores and variety stores. Depending on your needs and cupboard size and shape there are many types of shelves to increase cupboard space. There are corner shelves, expanding shelves, wide shelves and narrow shelves. Step shelves are in a “step” style which works well to accommodate spices, or canned goods. These will double your cupboard space and make the items placed in the back easier to find.

Pots and pans: Pots and pans are more convenient to use when stored on roll-out shelves or deep slide out drawers. You can install these shelves yourself or have a professional install them for you. Big box hardware stores carry them. They are nice because they can slide out so the pans can be seen easier and if you are in a wheelchair it makes it easy to reach the pans by sliding out the shelf. You can use the full space in the cupboard because items in the back of the cupboard are easy to reach when you pull out the shelf.

Donate pans you don’t use, have warped bottoms or have been burnt beyond repair. Don’t keep any pan you can’t or don’t use. Remember, look at them and assign them a number. They have to be an eight or above to keep. Nest pans together by size. Keep the ones you use most often towards the front of the shelf. Lids are often a problem; here are a few options of what to do to contain them: turn them upside down on the pans, stack them in a wire, plastic or rattan basket, or stack on a metal lid rack that hangs on a door or sits inside a cupboard. Some stoves have a drawer under them; this is a good place for lids.

If you live in a small apartment or house and your kitchen is the size of a postage stamp you can make room for dishes, cups and glasses by installing different types of shelves on your walls. One shelf should have slots to hold plates. You could store large serving bowls on top of the shelf.

The other shelf should have a flat top and sturdy hooks beneath it. You can place drinking glasses on top and hang mugs on the hooks underneath. You also can install appliances like microwaves; can openers, radios and televisions beneath cupboards to free up counter space.

Under the sink: Move hazardous items to “higher ground,” away from children or child-proof the cupboard by using child proof locks. Do not put any paper products or other items here that may get ruined from moisture. To increase the space of this cupboard, place a shelf on one side. There are special under-the-sink shelf systems that fit round the pipes and add more storage space. A slide out under sink organizer can also add space and accessibility.

Place items together in the front that you regularly use, dish soap, scouring pads, garbage bags and rubber gloves. Items used less frequently keep in a container, such as a caddy or basket. Items like silver polish, extra soap, floor cleaner, or window cleaner.

If you opt for the shelf on one side you can put your trash can on the other side. A slide-out garbage can holder is another option. If you have space in the kitchen use a trash can with a lid that opens by stepping on a pedal or has a pop-up lid. Use one that is easy to get into so it will be used and avoid the frustration of having to touch the lid every time to open it.

Bulky appliances: Only keep those you use at least every six months. If you have some you think you should use and you know you would like them if you did use them, but you never do; please donate them so someone else can enjoy it. You will never miss them. You will enjoy the freedom of space and the freedom from feeling guilty that you don’t use it but think you should. If you are having a hard time deciding if you should keep them, give them a number on the wattage scale to help you decide. Only keep those that are an eight or above.

Find a place other than on your counter for your bulky appliances that you do use at least twice a month. If you use a large appliance everyday then it makes more sense to keep it on your counter. Things like a bread mixer, toaster oven, juicer, or large mixer can be moved to the pantry, a shelf in the garage, or in a lower cupboard if there is room. An armoire in a nearby room may also make a great storage place. A baker’s rack can work as well.

Muffin tins and cookie sheets can be stored above the refrigerator or in a cupboard with slots made for this purpose. Some stoves have a drawer at the bottom under the oven and they could be stored here.

Tip: To get cookie sheets and muffin tins to stand up in a cupboard; buy two expandable curtain rods. Measure your cupboard from the top to the bottom to determine the correct height. (Write these measurements down and take them with you to the store). Place one rod in the front of the cupboard about three inches from the front edge and the other rod eight to twelve inches directly behind the first rod in a straight line. When you store your cookie sheets, cutting boards, trays or muffin tins they will stand up between the wall and these rods.

Baking supplies and other food: Take everything out and wipe out the shelves. Before putting the items back in the cupboard check expiration dates on all items and throw away the expired ones. Wash off the outside of any containers that have gotten a grungy. If you have baking supplies like nuts, chocolate chips or other items that come in bags, put them in containers as they will stack better and take up less space. To prevent nuts from turning rancid (because of their natural oils), store in an airtight container, or in the freezer where they will last up to a year. If stored in the fridge, they will last half as long as in the freezer because they may be exposed to moisture.

If you have been using the same turntable for your spices or condiments and it is stained or a color you don’t like anymore, now is the time to get a new one. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes when you open your cupboard to see a new one.

Tip: Organizing spices alphabetically makes locating them fast and easy. Smell all of your spices before you put them back in the cupboard. If you can’t smell them or they aren’t as strong as they used to be, they’ve lost flavor and you should replace them.

Depending on the size and location of your pantry you will work hand and hand organizing your canned food, boxes of prepared food, and other food items that are in your cupboards along with your pantry. In the pantry you can keep more food items and if it is a walk in pantry bulky appliances can be kept. You will keep your most often used foods in your cupboards and use your pantry to store more of the same items, and food that comes in larger sizes.

Author Marilyn Bohn

Be sure to come back to Buttoned Up on Wednesday for the final installment of Marilyn Bohn’s book . Wednesday we are giving away an autographed copy of Marilyn’s book! If you would like to purchase the book directly, please go here. Marilyn is an organizing professional and a member of NAPO. She has a popular web show “Lights On Organizing” you can watch at and she is the author of Go organize! Conquer clutter in three simple steps.