Book Excerpt: Marilyn Bohn – Go organize! Conquer clutter in three simple steps (Part 3)

Chapter 5 The Kitchen (Part 3)

This is the third and final excerpt of Marilyn Bohn’s book, Go organize! Conquer clutter in three simple steps. You can read part one here, and part two here. Today Marilyn discusses the Pantry, Junk Drawer, Counter Tops, Refrigerator and Freezer.

Pantry: Take everything out shelf by shelf and put likes together on the table or counter. Wash the shelves and as you put items back check for expiration dates on all canned goods and packages or anything else that have expiration dates. Contain items like pasta, mixes, seasonings pouches and chips in baskets or plastic containers. Have a place for everything. For example, if you keep the same treats there like chips, place a basket on the shelf and label the shelf “chips” (or treats) and keep the basket in that place. When you are out of chips there is still a space for them when you have more. This works for other items as well.

Tip: If you buy items in bulk, such as oatmeal, pasta, or crackers. Separate the packages into smaller sizes and only keep a month’s supply in the pantry or cupboard. The rest can be stored elsewhere in containers with tight fitting lids to keep out humidity and bugs if these are a problem where you live. They could be stored in an armoire or on a closet shelf. If heat and humidity isn’t a concern they could be stored on a shelf in the garage.

Keep all like items together like: pasta (contain in a container), boxed items such as cake mixes and pancake mixes, crackers, cereals all go together. Canned goods place together by type in rows on another shelf. Vegetables will be together in one area, soup in another and canned fruit in another. Put the newer cans or boxes in back and rotate from the front.

Keep the things you use most often in the easiest to reach and to see places—in the premium space. Large items like olive oil, vinegar, bottled sauces place on a Lazy Susan turntable, they will be easier to reach and for you to see what you have. These may be extra items so you can store these in secondary spaces, easy to get to but not someplace you need use on a weekly basis.

Place all paper products together, things like wax paper, foil, plastic bags of all sizes can be placed in containers which keeps them all together and makes them easier to put back. For some reason it is easier to get things out than to put them back, so you want to make it as convenient as possible. If you have room in a kitchen drawer or cupboard these items can be placed there and the extras kept in the pantry.

Tip: Label the shelves in the pantry so everyone will know where the designated place is for each item. They can put things on the shelves after a trip to the store because they know where they belong. It saves time and space and the pantry stays organized.

Spices could be stored here on your new Lazy Susan turntable or on a wall-mounted rack on the inside of the pantry door. Canisters of flour, sugar and other dry goods can also be kept in the pantry. What you keep in your pantry depends on the size of your kitchen. If you kitchen is small and your pantry is just a small closet and is a part of your cupboards, then what you put here will be what you frequently use. If you have a walk-in pantry, this will be the place you will store more paper products, food items and extra things that you take from there to use in the kitchen.

Tip: When you are checking the expiration dates on your cans of food and boxed items, or you if are just looking to see what you have, and you find an item you have had for a long time but it hasn’t expired, make a menu to use that specific food that week. If you don’t plan on using it, donate it to your local food bank.

Junk drawer: When you’re through with this drawer you’ll be calling it a resource drawer. Take everything out and wipe it clean. Junk drawers, lost and hopefully found drawers, a.k.a. resource drawers are actually a premium space in the kitchen because everyone uses it all the time.

The trick to keeping this drawer organized is to add containers for all the things that belong here. Oblong containers for screw drivers, pliers, scissors and other small tools. Small containers for stick pins, tacks, screws, keys, rubber bands, and tape. Ice cube trays make a good container for small things. This drawer is only home to things you use on a regular basis and you want right at your finger tips. Everything else is placed in the “belongs somewhere else basket” to be taken to their home after you finish here for the day.
Extra electrical cords or telephone cords can be secured with a rubber band or folded inside empty toilet paper rolls and placed in the hanging shoe organizer in the entryway closet or placed in a drawer that is not in the kitchen. Cut the toe off a sock and fold cords up in the sock for storage.

Tip: Put all tape used in the home in one drawer (masking tape, duct tape, clear tape for wrapping gifts, and packing tape) then when you need any kind of tape you know right where to find it. It is also good to have tape you use most often in the resource drawer.

Counter tops: Counter tops are premium spaces in many kitchens. Remove all the appliances you keep on the counters that you use only use once every six months. Refer to the section on bulky appliances for ideas on where to store them.

If your appliances are large and take up a lot of space, consider, looking for smaller, streamlined appliances to keep on your counter tops, they take up less space and have many combined functions (i.e. many rice cookers are also steamers, so you don’t need two separate appliances—or a toaster oven that is also a toaster—called a toastation). Many appliances (such as the microwave, toaster oven, T.V., radio, can opener or paper towel holder) can be mounted under the overhead cupboards. If you have room, purchase a mini kitchen island on wheels, this will give you more counter space and storage space underneath as well.
If your mail gets tossed on the kitchen counter, put an attractive basket in the corner for it to land in. Or attach a mail holder on the wall. More will be discussed about mail in the chapter on the office.

Refrigerator and Freezer: Remove everything from the refrigerator. Wash it out with baking soda to give it a fresh smell (2 T of soda to about 1 pint of water). The important thing about organizing the refrigerator is to keep like items together: condiments go well on the door, milk and juices on the top shelf, yogurt, cottage cheese, and eggs on another shelf. Fruits and vegetables are to be washed, dried and put into the crisper bins. Refrigerators have meat drawers and crisper bins for fruits and vegetables. Use these spaces for their intended uses. It keeps like items together and your refrigerator organized. Don’t crowd the food in the refrigerator or freezer so tight that air can’t circulate.

Store food in the refrigerator from 34 to 40 degrees F (1 to 3 C). Food spoils rapidly above 40 F (3 C). The temperature in frostless and self-defrosting refrigerators is fairly uniform throughout the refrigerator; this includes the storage area on the door. If your refrigerator must be defrosted manually, the coldest area outside the freezing unit is the chill tray just below it. The area at the bottom is the warmest. The door area is usually several degrees higher than the rest of the refrigerator.

The temperature in the freezer should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius). Check temperatures periodically. Appliance thermometers are the best way of knowing these temperatures and are generally inexpensive.

Once a week take a look through your fridge and throw away any leftovers and toss any vegetables and fruits that are no longer edible. To make fixing lunches easier keep everything needed to pack a lunch in a container in the fridge. Bread, meats, cheese, lettuce in small bags; even the bottles of mayo, mustard and so forth can be in one place which saves time looking for lunch fixings. In a cupboard or in the pantry place everything else that is needed to makes lunches in a basket; crackers, treats, bread and plastic sacks can all be contained. In the rush of the morning there are only two containers to grab.

The easiest way to organizer the refrigerator freezer is with containers. (It’s always about containers isn’t it)? Put the meat in a container, the vegetables in another container and fruits in another container. Boxes of T.V. dinners or other things that come in boxes can stack nicely by themselves, or place in a container.
Tip: Store an opened box of baking soda in your refrigerator and freezer to help eliminate odors. Replace at least every three months, it may need replacing sooner if it loses its effectiveness and there are odors in the refrigerator. Date the box with a permanent pen to remind you when to replace it. Most refrigerator stains can be easily removed by cleaning with baking soda, and it leaves your refrigerator smelling fresh.

There is a peace you get when your kitchen is organized. Take a look at it now and compare it to the before photo. Wow! What a big difference, I am proud of you and I know what a big difference this will make to you in your life.

You have successfully done these things in your kitchen which will help it to stay organized:

* Organized the inside of your cupboards! When you open your cupboards you feel joy, you might find yourself just opening your cupboard doors to look inside because it now has a bright feeling instead of being dark.

* You have reclaimed your counters, no more cooking surrounded by clutter. With a basket for mail this has solved the problem of mail all over the counter. Don’t you feel great? You have accomplished a lot.

*Appliances have been put away and you are only keeping what you use. You got rid of the ones you never used—goodbye guilt.

*It is easy to cook, set the table and wash up because everything is easily accessible from cupboards to the table to the dishwasher and back into the cupboards again.

*The trash is contained, which makes a big difference in the look and feel in the room.

* You now have resource drawers instead of junk drawers.

*The refrigerator and freezer are clean and there is a place for everything you store there. You may not eat out as much because you know what you will fix for dinner and you’ll save money.

What a cheery place this is for you and your family to get together and have family time. Your kitchen will be a happy gathering place for everyone. Encourage family members to put things away where they belong after using them, this will be easy because the shelves are labeled.

Now your kitchen is efficient and it feels like the heart of the home and a well run nerve center. This is where everyone in the family comes first thing in the morning and the last place at night. Kids are taught how to cook, they share their day’s adventures over meals or while dinner is being prepared. Craft projects and homework are done at the kitchen table. Conversation between the adults while dinner is being prepared or around the dinner table happens in this room.

Ahh, what a friendly, happy place your kitchen is now.

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. Today we are giving away an autographed copy of Marilyn’s book! Go here to enter. If you would like to purchase the book directly, please go here.