Kitchen Organization

Peter Fournier and Catherine Fournier

A great deal of work gets done in the kitchen. In fact, some days, and at some times in the family's life, it's quite easy to spend the entire day in the kitchen! If the kitchen is well organized in such a way that it is easy to keep clean and organized, it will be a pleasant day, and the family will be well served. Our vocation and our stewardship requires that we understand how we work in our kitchen, and find the best, most efficient way to organize our work. Then, we will get our necessary work done, without exhausting ourselves and will have time and energy to answer the other 'duties of the moment', fulfill the other responsibilities of our life.

Does just thinking about organizing your kitchen make you tired? Don't worry, it's not difficult and you can even do it one stage at a time. No file cards, no 'systems' (unless you want them.)

Kitchen Layout:

A kitchen is more than a collection of cabinets and counters - it's greater than the sum of its parts. A gourmet cook has different requirements than a busy mother with toddlers, who has different needs than a grandmother who bakes for a hobby. There is no perfect kitchen, only a kitchen that is perfect for you. There are, however, some general guidelines.

Work Centres

Think about what jobs you do in the kitchen. Typically these jobs include: washing dishes, cooking at the stove, serving food, washing and chopping fruits and vegetables, and mixing ingredients.

Think about the appliances you have in your kitchen. These may include: refrigerator, kitchen sink, dishwasher, microwave, range, cooktop, and wall ovens.

These two lists - jobs, and appliances - can be combined into 'centres.' The tools needed for a job should be stored where the job is done. Typically a kitchen may have: a sink centre, a food preparation centre, a cooking centre, a serving centre and mixing centre. Some centres will overlap because they use the same appliance, others may overlap out of necessity because of lack of space. For example, the washing centre and the food preparation centre both use the sink. The cooking centre and the serving centre may also overlap because of a lack of counter space.

Home economists and efficiency experts recommend certain dimensions for each work centre. If your kitchen can't accomodate these recommendations, don't worry. Work centres aren't all used at once. What is important is that all the tools needed for a job are stored in the same place. This eliminates steps, time, and confusion.

A typical modern kitchen is a U-shape, like the one shown below. It is the most efficient and easiest to organise and use, in addition, its layout eliminates traffic patterns through the kitchen. Kitchen Layout
Refrigerator Centre

The refrigerator centre doesn't use cabinets, but there should be 2 1/2 to 3 feet of counter space between the refrigerator and the sink. Over the refrigerator is a good place for infrequently used items or items that you want to restrict access to, like boot polish and plant food.

Mixing Centre

The mixing or baking centre is best placed between the fridge and the sink (ie: the butter and the water.) It needs about 3 to 5 feet of counter space, lower and upper cabinets for storage of dry ingredients, spices, baking pans, small appliances, mixing bowls and possibly cook books. Electrical outlets are needed for this centre too.

Sink Centre

The sink center is where (unfortunately) most kitchen time is spent. The sink is usually centred under a window, with the dishwasher to the left. Upper cabinets close to the sink and dishwasher is a possible location for dishes and glasses. On the other side of the sink is a good place to store food that needs washing and pots that need filling with water before use, like the kettle and small saucepans. Vegetable preparation from food preparation is done at the sink, so garbage cans, and fresh bags, dry garbage, compost containers, and recycling boxes all need storage at this centre. In addition, since the placement of the mixing centre may conflict with washing or drying dishes, the sink centre needs a place to store drying racks, clothes and soap when not in use.

Food Preparation Centre

The mixing centre is mainly used for baking and dessert making. The food preparation centre is mainly used for preparing main course foods for cooking. This centre is close to the sink to wash vegetables, to fill pots with water. This centre at one time only had a range and stove top, but now may include a microwave oven and other specialised cooking appliances. Counter and storage space are needed for these appliances, as well as for the usual pots and pans, seasonings, and utensils. Cookbooks can be stored here as well.

Cooking Centre

This is where the action takes place. For safety and efficiency, 3 1/2 to 5 feet of countertop should be available beside the stove top, covered with a heat resistant material. Utensils used for cooking can be stored near here. Things used in preparing hot beverages; like teapots, coffee pots, tea bags, coffee filters can be stored here.

Serving Centre

This centre is another possible place for the storage of dishes, glasses, mugs, and eating utensils. About 2 feet of counter space is usually enough. Cabinets in this area can store platters, condiments, trays, and possibly lines, placemat and napkins.

A Place For Everything and Everything in its Place.
  1. First, determine how you use your kitchen. Do you do a lot of baking? Do you have a dishwasher? Does your family eat a lot of fresh vegetables? Do you have a lot of little helpers? All of these factors will determine how you arrange the 'centres' in your kitchen and how much space you allot to each one.
  2. Make a list, mental or written, of what your centres are and what you have that belongs in each one. Be specific if you need to be, this will help when you are re-filling your cabinets.
  3. When you've determined where your 'centres' are going to be, and which cabinets will be used for each one, empty out one set of cabinets. (This is the fun part.)
  4. Wash out the cabinets, put down new shelf paper if you use such a thing.(Me, I put out new ant traps. UGH.)
  5. Start reloading your cabinets. Put appliances and utensils you use seasonally or infrequently towards the back. If you haven't used the appliance in two years, seriously consider finding it a new home.
  6. Put most frequently used appliances towards the front of your cabinets, frequently used utensils in jars on your counters (if you don't mind the look of them)
  7. Consider getting a magnetic knife rack to safely store your knives and scissors.
  8. Think about who will be using a thing. If your children can pour their own juice, why not put the plastic glasses in a drawer where they can reach them? If your children help set the table, put the cultery where it is accessible to them.
  9. If your pot cupboard is bulging, can you hang pots from the ceiling or on the wall? Towel racks and metal 'S' hools from the hardware store work well.
  10. Leave room for new items, and additional ingredients.
  11. If you have a lot of helpers, consider labelling the inside of your cabinet doors, with a list of what belongs in it.
  12. Continue doing this until your whole kitchen is re-organised.
  13. Now that your kitchen is organised the way you want it, remember to periodically re-assess its arrangement. Your needs and uses will change gradually, and sometime you don't notice that your kitchen no longer matches your lifestyle.
There. Have I forgotten anything? Next week's Stewardship will cover storage in the kitchen in more detail.

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