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Tricks, tools to tame the crammed kitchen
Make a plan to organize home's mainstay into carefree space
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A steel rolling cart like these Flytta carts from Ikea can work as mobile prep surfaces as well as moving storage.

Associated Press

If you’ve lived with your kitchen for a while, chances are you’ve got drawers full of stuff you rarely use and cupboards you hate. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a well-organized kitchen that makes food preparation a pleasure?

Gainesville organizer Patty Sherrod, owner of Smart Organizing Solutions, suggests beginning in the place that bothers you most.

“Start with something that is really stressing you out,” she said. “I look at the area and decide if it stays where it is, goes altogether or goes somewhere else.”

Once you have taken things out of the chosen area, you can group items together and see exactly what is in all of those cupboards.

Space savers

To pare down your cupboards and save space, some experts suggest checking out restaurant supply houses for high-quality, affordable items. Commercial-kitchen-grade, stainless-steel pans come in a variety of squares and rectangles that can be stacked to save space.

Organizer Angelina Manolakis, of All Things in Order in Gainesville, likes hanging items, such as pot and pan racks above an island. It’s an inexpensive, do-it-yourself option to save valuable shelf space.

“One of my favorite items is a sturdy tension rod and some S-hooks for pots and pans or other hanging things, like larger utensils,” she said.

Liberate even more space by using zipper plastic bags and stacking containers for tea bags, pet treats and dried foods, eliminating bulky packaging.

“For children, keep the snacks on the bottom shelf of the pantry,” Manolakis said. “You can use an inexpensive basket or container for them. Boxes take up a lot of room.”

If budget organizing is a priority, Manolakis suggests repurposing useful containers found elsewhere in the kitchen.

“Take creamer containers, wash them, take the labels off and put a new one on,” she said. “They can be used for easily pouring rice or other small cereals.”

And for those items you use only a couple of times a year?

Craig Norton, director of operations at the Prince George Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, advises getting them out of the kitchen.

“Put the turkey roaster in the basement with the tree ornaments,” he said.

Tools and gadgets

You don’t need a lot of stuff, Norton said.

“Buying a pot and pan for every dish is a mistake,” he said. “One good large Dutch oven, one saute pan, one 4-quart saucepan, one omelet/crepe pan, one cast-iron pan and that’s it.”

He stores lids on the door to free up shelf space.

“Gadgets are the biggest waste of space — egg slicers, green bean cutters, all that stuff. Just use a knife,” Norton said with a laugh.

Sherrod said only keep tools and gadgets loved and used often.

“I’m truly a minimalist,” she said. “If you don’t use it, it shouldn’t be taking up valuable space.”

However, if you’re a proud collector of small tools, consider a rolling mechanic’s tool cart with shallow drawers that can be tucked in a closet when not in use.

Divide and conquer

Kitchens function best when divided into work zones, said Josee Berlin, an interior designer for Ikea USA.

She cites three: storage (fridge/freezer/pantry), washing (sink/dishwasher) and cooking (oven/cooktop/microwave).

“Work zones give your kitchen a practical structure,” Berlin said. “Placing them well is crucial to achieving an ergonomic work triangle, with a natural workflow and everything within reach.”

If you’re planning a new kitchen, place your oven and stove near sinks and worktops so you aren’t walking too far with hot pots and pans, she said. A worktop near pantry cabinets and the fridge makes unpacking groceries easy.

If space is tight, consider a stainless-steel cart with lockable wheels for portable storage and extra prep space.

Cabinets and drawers

Sherrod and Manolakis suggest taking a kitchen tool inventory, getting rid of excess and putting items left into specific places.

“Get rid of things that you don’t use or things that are worn out,” Manolakis said. “You would be surprised at how often people end up with multiples of the same item because they can’t find one in their kitchen.”

Once items have been sorted into similar groups and examined, Sherrod suggests using inexpensive drawer dividers and expandable shelf organizers to create harmony in drawers and cupboards.

“They help you put grouped items in specific areas,” she said. “The shelf organizers help create more space in certain areas of the pantry.”

Times reporter Kelsey Williamson contributed to this report.

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