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Never enough storage: solutions for kitchen clutter

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | November 21, 2013

The kitchen: It's been called the heart and soul of today's home, the room around which family life revolves and guests congregate when you have social gatherings.

It's also a room that can get messy in the blink of an eye. When it's serving as the homework room and family communications hub, you might forget that its original purpose is meal preparation and consumption.

Kitchen storage solutions: simply organized

Kat Reichmuth, a professional organizer and founder of The Simplified Life, a home organization service based in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Burlingame, Calif., has been asked to reorganize "everything from studio apartments to Hillsborough mansions with full staffs," but when asked what is the first solution she thinks of for a disorderly kitchen she says, "Get rid of old food first. Your shelves will instantly look more organized."

Kat's philosophy is straightforward: "The basic principle of organizing, that everything has to have a home or it is clutter, applies to every home. I've told the CEO in the five-bedroom home the same thing as I've told the single lady in the mobile home," she says.

A big fan of baskets and bins, Kat suggests using them on shelves that are deep and difficult to reach. You can more easily pull them out and see what you've got instead of piling things up until you have too much of something.

Spice bottles are a prime example, but for these little clutter-creators Kat suggests using the top drawer near the stove to store them flat with labels facing up. If there are too many for the drawer, she advises it is probably time to toss out the ones you don't use.

As for keeping a handle on gadget and cookware creep, she recommends multipurpose utensils such as a knife that functions as "five lesser ones, plus the cheese slicer, pizza cutter, egg slicer and apple corer. Or one great glass Pyrex dish that can be used to store food in the fridge, bake bread, and cook casseroles."

Kat admits that she is not an interior designer but she will refer clients to certified designers and to contractors "to augment your decluttering plan," as she puts it.

Kitchens redesigned to de-clutter

Pamela Farnsworth Smith of Avallon Design is an award-winning interior designer with 36 years of experience. Pamela describes herself as a "concept designer who sees the whole picture and details at once." From among the many aspects of her complete design services, Pamela can provide "…creative vision… practical problem solving [and] furniture/space planning…"

Solutions to storage problems come with the territory, and she has many examples of remodels that incorporate elegant and efficient use of space in moderately priced to higher-end homes. Pamela points out that designers frequently transfer larger, more luxurious design plans to a smaller scale. A good storage solution can work in any size home and with any design style.

For additional built-in kitchen storage she recommends using the flat wall space opposite the seating area in a kitchen nook. "If you're short on space," she says, "do 12 inch-deep shelves with glass doors, or open above and solid below. Placemats, napkin rings, dessert plates, cups, saucers, tablecloths, and cookbooks will all fit nicely," she adds.

When a remodel is not in the budget but you desperately want extra space for things like cookbooks, she suggests adding a ready-made, freestanding shelf unit with a depth of no more than 12 inches to one end of a kitchen island or peninsula. You can integrate it into the design of your breakfast nook furniture or match it to the colors of your kitchen accessories so you don't have to worry about matching the cabinet stain. A tall, wrought-iron étagère in an unused corner of the kitchen can serve the same purpose.

Perhaps Pamela's favorite storage solution and one she uses in her own kitchen is a lower corner cabinet with a lazy-susan built in. She stores pots and pans on the lower shelf of the lazy susan, stacking them one inside another, and she puts the lids on the top round shelf.

If you don't already have pull-out shelves built into your lower kitchen cabinets, you can buy DIY roll-outs from any Big Box home improvement store and install them in your lower kitchen cabinets in a couple of hours. Like Kat's bins and baskets, any solution that helps you see and reach what's hidden in your cabinets is one of the best cures for kitchen clutter -- as long as you monitor what's in there and whether it's getting used or not.

Because if you don't know you have a cache of expired edibles from the last century lost somewhere in your kitchen, you've missed the point of solving your storage problems.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.