Organizing My Kitchen: Getting Rid of Clutter!

Just because I’ve posted about the concepts of living in a ‘tiny house‘ and ‘visualizing your life‘ doesn’t mean I’m not doing the work! This plan is all about the work of organizing my house so we can live on board a sailboat. I’ve started in the kitchen and I’d like to share with you the ‘before’ photos of my cabinets. Mothers and grandmothers everywhere are shuddering bleakly as I open the dark recesses of my kitchen cabinets to the curious public. But, hey, whatever it takes to keep me focused and on-task. I ask only that you be kind in your comments. I’ve been living this way for years and have only now understood how I’ve created my own stress. It’s a significant blow to the ego and I need time to recover.

getting rid of clutter

It looks like I need help organizing my house!

Looking at the first photo, on the left, you will see a cabinet that is being used as a bookcase, a medicine cabinet, and I don’t know what else is on the top shelf.  Down below there is a basket of miscellaneous stuff that doesn’t have another home, some jars of home made jam and salsa, and way in the back, my box of cookie cutters, which I use approximately every decade.

Now lets turn around to get a load of the glassware cabinet, which is supposed to ‘add’ to the decor of the kitchen. Martha Steward I am not. (Although I could be if I had her staff.) On the top shelf are champagne glasses we use on Christmas day only. They are too tall for the shelf so you can see only their red bottoms.  Then there is the lovely teapot given to me by my daughter several Christmases ago and our good glassware.  On the bottom is more of our glassware, some cups (hanging) that I never use but like anyhow, and our tea boxes. There is also a tea canister with the word ‘Paris’ on it. Very chic, to be sure.

Organizing the kitchen

Organizing the kitchen will make me happy!

The cabinets below the glassware were equally ill-used. Heavy corning ware was stored with the waffle iron, crock pot, hand blender, and rice cooker, among other miscellaneous kitchen-related ‘stuff”. The snap-ware was jumbled in a basket. Suffice to say that whoever did the dishes on any given day used this cabinet as a catch-all for things that had no other place.

Clearly the only solution was to dump everything on the floor and start over.

I was ruthless when clearing these cabinets out. I completely emptied them, tossing things in the garbage or Goodwill box as I went. Peter Walsh was right. The garbage can IS my friend.  Out-of-date medicine? Gone! Broken binder with recipes printed out on computer paper with the little perforations on each side? Trashed! (For those of you too young to remember, computer paper used to come in one long sheet, with perforations on each side and at top and bottom. This kind of paper came along right after mimeograph sheets, which also no longer exist.) Stacks of dishes I found on the top shelf? Half in the staging area in the garage, half stored neatly in an appropriate cabinet. I tell you, I was without ruth!

Astute readers caught the illogical use of this cabinet for medicines. What you didn’t know is that the medicine chest in the main bathroom stood literally empty. I know, I know. Don’t hassle me with your logic, okay? I’m baring my soul here.

I got side tracked for a couple of hours while I searched for materials and then constructed another shelf for the medicine cabinet, but in the end, all the medication and first aid stuff fit very nicely, with room to spare. Between the two sets of cabinets I got rid of two large boxes of stuff and filled a huge trashbag. Misson accomplished!

The next question was how to restock the cabinets in a more organized way. This is where The Book comes in.  Because of internet information overload, I’ve chosen to stick with Peter Walsh’s book It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.  There are many books out there, but I’m happy with this one and don’t want to clutter up my mind with extraneous information. So, in the chapter on kitchen organizing, Peter talks about the ‘magic triangle’ concept. I was familiar with the concept, but not in terms of organizing, only in terms of working. So when he said that the things you use most often need to be inside the triangle and the things you use least need to be way outside of it, that helped enormously with decision-making here.

The first set of cabinets is just outside my work triangle, so things I use but not very often can live there. I also needed a place to store all the canned goods I’ve been making this year, and it’s been a handy place for the cookbooks I do use.  At the bottom will go kitchen gadgets that I use rarely but still enough to keep them, like the waffle iron and the heavy casserole dishes.  We’re not living on a boat yet. You can see the results in this ‘after’ photo. I am determined to keep those voids empty! In the end there was plenty of room for the little red toolbox, which we keep handy with basic tools for quick jobs. Potatoes and onions and the like will be stored in the basket.

Clutter free and logical, too!

The second set of cabinets said goodbye to the crystal glassware, which was moved to another space. I had to put the cute teapot in the Goodwill box, with a slight sigh of pain, because we have an electric tea kettle we use all the time, several times per day. The teapot is pretty, but I can’t take it on the boat, and I never use it anymore. Gone, too, is the ‘Paris’ canister. Clearing this cabinet out gave me room to store the large pasta bowl that has lived above the refrigerator for 10 years. I use it infrequently now that we’re gluten-free, but it also serves as a good salad bowl. And I like the way it looks.

organizing kitchen cabinets

The organized cabinet.

This cabinet is not being put to its best use yet, but at least it’s cleared of clutter. I may put a door on one side and store my baking supplies here because this area offers much more counter top workspace than the area I generally use. This would also create more food storage space in the kitchen, a constant irritation. I’m going to save that for phase 2 of the kitchen reorganization.

The lower cabinets are now holding only the things we use frequently and need easy access to. Of course being easily accessible also means they will be easy to put away, a constant challenge in my family. The snap-ware is all organized and on one shelf, although Mike made a valid point that we likely could get rid of some of it. That could happen.

This organized cabinet is with arm's reach of the work triangle.

Mission accomplished in this cabinet.

Mission accomplised! With room for the Vitamix.

So we’re off and running with this whole ‘staying organized at home thing’! The hardest part so far is going to be finishing with one room before I go on to the other. Can you say “Attention Deficit Disorder”? I have a new mantra: “Must finish what I start. Must finish what I start. Must finish what I start”.  I might be losing that battle because I started on the closet in the family room already, and the kitchen organizing is still underway. I’ll do the walk of shame later, I promise.


12 thoughts on “Organizing My Kitchen: Getting Rid of Clutter!

  1. There is something wrong with you. first this, and now Thanksgiving too? BTW….I could use a nice heavy dutch oven. With a lid.

  2. I need to do some clutter removal too. My “craft room” is packed wall to wall with random stuff. I can’t even find the crafting table.

    • I hear you! I had a pile of photographs sitting on my craft table for about 9 months. I finally gave up and just put them away. At least they are out of sight. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I’m currently trying to wrestle my craft stuff under control too. 🙂 I’m about halfway, but stalled because I’m afraid of what I’ll find in the actual craft closet. I want to get everything organized into one area or at least organized by craft..despite having a so-called craft closet there are different things in numerous areas. I think it leads to duplicates.
    Seeing this is very encouraging, looks just great!

    One thought I had-expect some things to migrate a bit. They look wonderful, but I’ve run into times where I thought a spot made sense and then realized it somehow didn’t and that something else needed that spot instead. (oh, and I love snapware!) I also am so much happier with my kitchen since I organized it (as much as I could) for easy access based on what gets used all the time. seems so much easier to do things that way! It’s due for a tune-up, though.

  4. I think it must always be a work in progress to get things where they need to be. You are so right about things needing to ‘migrate’ sometimes. But I think that’s just because many times the way we live in the house changes with the times. For instance, when I was more into doing crafts all the time, I needed a place to have my stuff close by. Now that I don’t spend much time on that kind of thing, I don’t need for them to be close at hand. I would love to have a closet dedicated to craft stuff. But we don’t have enough closets for that. You should go for it!

  5. Uhm….well, I have, it’s just gotten messed up and it expanded beyond its boundaries… My house is half the size of yours, but two people are living in a 4-bedroom house (with micro closets). As DH works from home, he needs an office, but I’ve got my own room as well. It’s everything-craft room, seed-starting space, etc. I’d like to make it work so I could have a cozy chair in there for reading but it’s a little tight. The downsize to 4-bedrooms in 1600sq ft is that ALL the rooms are small and end up crowded very quickly.

    I”m looking forward to seeing more of your progress! You’re already inspiring me to think about other changes I can make. I went through my misc occasionally used kitchen gadget box and finished sorting it out (well, for now!) I think you’re right about uses changing over time.

    I checked out that org blog and discovered I’m already doing one of her ideas, having a permanent “outgoing” box. The main one is in the garage, but I decided I’d much rather have something that pleased me to look at in my bedroom, so I’ve got a large fabric lined basket sitting in a corner where stuff can get dumped easily.
    One thing I struggle with is what to do with some of the stuff I’ve made. It’s not good enough to sell or gift, not damaged enough to toss in the trash, and I feel weird about donating something I made to goodwill. What does that leave?

    • I have the permanent ‘outgoing’ box, too. I’ve had one for a long time, but like you, I want them to be handy so I have one in most of the rooms. Mine are not particularly pretty, though. I fear if I made them pretty they might just become a permanent fixture of the decor and suddenly they would be under the radar, so to speak.
      I have given away things I’ve made, even to Goodwill. The way I look at it, maybe someone will feel like they’ve found something hand made and cool, like they’ve found a bargain. HA! Whatever it takes to get stuff out of the house and on its way to the next place.
      My next issue is the amount of furniture I have. May have to write a post about that.

  6. Good job! I was almost peeing my pants as I read your story, though. Next time, before I read one of your blogs, I’ll make sure my bladder is empty.

  7. DON’T GET RID OF THE SNAPWARE!!!! That’s the one thing you’ll use for sure on a boat. Things can’t always be stored right-side up and Snapware is about the only thing you can count on that won’t leak if it’s laying on its side. We bought a set at the Seattle Boat Show in ’08 or ’09 and another (much cheaper) set at Costco. Love the stuff.


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