Summer is a time to unwind and de-stress. But with that relaxation can come a little disorganization. Especially in the kitchen—the hub of the house—where everyone gathers to eat, talk, cook, and work. So how can we make it a little less hectic? We talked to professional organizers who gave us some great tips to get you back on track for a clean, stress-free kitchen this back to school season. Follow these tips, and you're sure to feel like you can handle anything—even back-to-back soccer games followed by dinner for five.
1. Clean out your fridge regularly
Do a deep fridge and freezer clean-out before the year gets underway to check for expired items. Food tucked away in the back of the pantry or food with a longer shelf-life can be forgotten about for months, or even years (eek!). Faith Roberson, founder of Organize with Faith, tells her clients to get in the habit of cleaning out their fridges every time before going grocery shopping. That may seem tedious, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Her three reasons: 1) Checking before shopping may inspire new recipes by seeing what you already have; 2) You can save money by not buying duplicates; 3) You're keeping your food and your fridge clean, safe, and bacteria free. Sounds good to us!
2. Group together similar foods & like items
Lisa Zaslow, MakeSpace's Organizational Partner, recommends that people put similar foods together in the fridge and pantry so everything is easy to find, and you don't have excess of a particular food. This way you can see what you have and avoid buying repeats. Use the same method for kitchen tools. Put all your measuring cups in one drawer, and make sure you don't have more than you need. You can group by theme, too, putting all your baking needs or birthday accessories into their own plastic bins in drawers and cabinets so they're accessible and don't get lost.
3. Use a weekly or monthly meal planner
Professional organizer Barbara Reich believes that investing in time-saving systems is key. She says that creating a weekly or monthly meal planner, based on what works best for you, will be a huge time and stress-reliever. If you invest 30 minutes in writing it all down, that'll be one less big thing for you to think about during the week.
4. Declutter your countertops
When we asked professional organizer Jeffrey Phillip what the number one messiest area of the kitchen is, he immediately said countertops. A cluttered countertop not only makes the whole kitchen look disorganized, but it makes it not as functional when you don't have sufficient room for cooking. Phillip urges people to put as much as possible into drawer and cabinets, and only to leave out appliances and utensils that you use often (like your coffee machine, a fruit bowl, and salt & pepper). Put your mail and miscellaneous papers in one drawer, try to keep the kids' stuff in its own area, and do a two-minute sweep of the counter each day.
5. Designate a single drawer for containers & lids
Amelia Meena, founder of Appleshine, has found that people often have a lot of mismatched reusable containers and lids, because the pairs get separated when they're stored. Reusable containers are needed daily for dinner meal prep and packed lunches, so when people can't find the matching set, they buy more—spending money, and taking up more space in their kitchen. Amelia suggests that everyone designates one drawer in which to throw all of your reusable containers. It doesn't need to be perfectly stacked, but that way you know that there will be a lid for every container. ($20, Amazon)
6. Have a special spot for kids' stuff
When school gets going, the kitchen often becomes the place where kids drop all of their stuff. Homework is left on the kitchen table, lunch boxes are strewn across countertops and shoes are in the perfect location for tripping. To avoid all that, professional organizer Ann Sullivan suggests designating a spot for the kids to put their stuff. If you have cubbies, that's a great place, but if not, a big basket (like this seagrass basket for $32) or a cabinet will work. This way, there's no excuse for them to be leaving their things in the kitchen.