Book Excerpt: Marilyn Bohn – Go organize! Conquer clutter in three simple steps (Part 1)

This is the first of three parts of our excerpt of Marilyn Bohn’s book, Go organize! Conquer clutter in three simple steps.

Chapter 5 Kitchen

“The best way to get rid of kitchen odor is to eat out.”—Phyllis Diller

Do you like walking into your kitchen and preparing meals or snacks for yourself and your family? Is it the place your family gathers after a busy day to unwind and chat about the day’s events? Do you find when friends come over to visit, you sit around the kitchen table? The kitchen has been called “the heart of the home.” Our hearts are where our feelings of love come from, and the kitchen is often the nerve center for activities in the home.

Does your kitchen have a welcoming feeling or is it so cramped and crowded, that it has become a place you dread spending time in? If that’s the case, let’s turn your “lights on” by making it a room you look forward
ing to being in with family and friends.


The Searchlight is the tool we use to take a good look at the kitchen to see what we like and what we don’t like. What are the problems that keep this room from working for you and making it a place you like to be? As you use your searchlight look thoughtfully at what is working and what isn’t working for you. Write a list of things you want to change in your notebook. Take a picture of the full kitchen, and inside of each cupboard and drawer.

1. What do you like about this room?

2. What don’t you like about this room? Here are some questions to help you identify your needs:
(a) Are the counters free from clutter? (i.e. papers, books, dishes, etc.)
(b) Does this room look inviting? Do you feel comfortable here?
(c) Are my cupboards crowded and in disarray?
(d) Is there space in my drawers for the utensils or is everything jumbled together?
(e) Is there a designated place for everything?
(f) Are the “junk” drawers junky, or are things easy to find; is it more of a lost and find drawer?
(g) Is the refrigerator and freezer organized so you can find specific items and use them before they spoil?
(h)Is the floor free of debris and the garbage emptied?
(i) Are you keeping only things you use or are you keeping extra things “just in case” you need them someday? Are there things you never use and don’t like yet you keep them?
(j)Are the dishes in a convenient location, relative to the dishwasher, for loading and unloading?
(k) Are container lids “contained” or are they exploding out of the cupboard or drawer?
(l) Do infrequently used appliances take up valuable counter space?
(m) Are the canned goods and other food products near the cooking area?
(n) Are pans stored in a convenient place for cooking?

3. Now that you have taken a good look at the space in this room (both inside and out), rate your wattage for this room. If you rated the wattage in this room as an eight or above, the room lights you up, you feel happy, peaceful and calm when you’re in the room. If you rated it as a seven or below, you feel tense, out of sorts, uncomfortable and agitated when you’re in the room. (Wattage is explained in chapter 1. Page 15 has a wattage scale).


Paula used her searchlight and began looking really carefully through the inside and on the outside of her kitchen cupboards and on the counter tops. At first, she loved what she saw; the counters were cleared off, well, except for the juicer, the bread maker, the ice cream maker and a large crock pot.– all of which she rarely used. She knew they took up a lot of valuable space, but she had learned to live with them and didn’t know what else to do with the appliances. She began looking through the kitchen cupboards and noticed that each cupboard she opened was piled with bowls, some held cracked dishes, there were too many mugs, pans were topsy turvey and the lids were stacked unevenly, often falling out. The plastic and glass containers had lids that she found scattered in different cupboards. She realized she didn’t know if all the bowls even had matching lids, or if there were more lids than bowls. In the refrigerator things were hard to find and there was a lot of spoiled food that had been shoved toward the back. Many items like the milk, jam, and ketchup, were never put away in the same place. After using her searchlight she decided her kitchen was only four and a half on the wattage scale.


You have written down what isn’t working for you and you have identified the specific problem areas such as: cluttered counters; lack of space in the cupboards; a messy junk drawer that isn’t useable; lids are all over and you can’t find the right one when you want it; and spoiled food in the refrigerator. Now we are ready to set goals and develop a plan to reach your goals. Here are some examples of goals you can set for the kitchen that will increase the wattage in the room:
1. Keep the counters free of unnecessary appliances and paper clutter.

2. Make more room in the cupboards for the items you use most often.

3. Organize the pantry by labeling the shelves and assigning designated areas for everything.

4. Organize the junk drawer to make it a resource drawer by adding containers or dividers.

5. Get rid of duplicate utensils. Only keep what you use. Add drawer dividers.

6. Remove appliances used infrequently to semi-storage areas.

7. Designate a convenient place for trash.

8. Organize the refrigerator to have like items together.

9. Keep dishes you use every day in the most convenient place.

10. Use containers to hold lids for any bowls that have lids.

11. Get rid of all broken utensils and chipped, broken or cracked dishes.

12. Organize and check spice expiration.

13. Organize under the sink.

14. Buy expandable shelves to increase space in cupboards. These can be purchased at local stores, such
as home stores, discount stores and perhaps your local hardware store.

Write down the target date when you want to have these goals completed. Break these down into sections; cupboards, counters, refrigerator, doing one at a time over the course of a couple of days, or working two hours (or more) a day until the kitchen is just how you want it to be.
Great job! That was quite a project thoroughly looking through your kitchen and setting your goals for change! You are on your way to making your kitchen look and feel like a 10 Watt room!

Green Light

Now we are going to use your goals and take action. (Can you just feel the excitement mounting)? You will have a great time transforming and improving your counters and cupboards appearance and functionality. A word of caution, things will look worse before they look better. We are always being told, be neat, be clean, de-clutter, don’t make a mess. This is one time when you can make a big mess and it is OK. Take heart this is the lights on system to a better, more organized kitchen.

Use the green light by wearing comfortable clothes and rounding up your four containers—labeled one for trash, one for donate, one for “belongs somewhere else”, and one for recycle. Since you’re in the kitchen your drink and snacks are handy. You are ready to turn up the wattage in this room!

Schedule a time when there will be the fewest interruptions for you to begin. Set your timer, and if your family is home let them know you are working right here for a minimum of 30 minutes to one hour and to let you alone! Let them know you won’t be answering the phone; you can call the person back later. After you have worked for your set time, keep going if you can, and reset your timer. You will feel energized with every cupboard you clear out and see organized. When you take a break, set your timer for 5 minutes to remind you to come back.

This is such a great room to work in from the inside out. Open up your cupboards and start inside the cupboards first and then move on to the outside spaces. It doesn’t matter which cupboard you chose first but here are my suggestions on where to start:

1. Upper cupboards

(a) Glasses
(b) Dishes/bowls
(c) Over the stove
(d) Over the refrigerator
(e) Baking supplies/ cupboard with food

2. Utensil drawer(s)

3. Lower cupboards

(a) Pots and pans
(b) Under the sink
(c)Bulky appliances/ muffin tins, cookie sheets

4. Pantry

5. Junk drawer

6. Counter tops

Be absolutely honest with yourself as you look at each item. In order to keep it, you have to like it enough that it lights you up at an eight or above on the wattage scale.

Upper cupboards
Glasses/Cups cupboard: Take everything out. Wipe out the cupboard. Put the glasses in the cupboard next to or near the sink if that is where you usually use them. If you get your water from the fridge along with other beverages, put your glasses in the cupboard where they are most convenient to be used and to be loaded and unloaded from the dishwasher. If you don’t have a cupboard for glasses only, put them on the shelf above the dishes. Be sure you are only keeping the ones you like and that aren’t chipped or broken. You are at risk of injury by using chipped or cracked glasses (even if it was your favorite one from your aunt). Throw away those old plastic ugly mugs and glasses you don’t like and don’t like to use but you do use them because they are in the cupboard. (These include the souvenir and promotional cups you get from businesses and restaurants.) They aren’t going to break so they aren’t going to go away, they can outlast you so go ahead, be brave and toss them. (No one else will want them either).
Only keep the amount of glasses in this premium space that your family uses on a daily basis. Other glasses can go to other shelves considered secondary space. (See page XX to review premium and secondary space).

Tip: Do you have the “never-any-clean-glasses-in–the-house” syndrome? Buy different colored glasses for each family member, or put a different colored elastic band around each glass assigning a different color for each user. Ask family members to reuse their glass as often as possible throughout the day. The different colored glasses should help them do this.

Be sure to come back to Buttoned Up on Tuesday for the next 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.

Author Marilyn Bohn

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.