Thursday, January 13, 2011

Simple & Beautiful Kitchen and Pantry Organization

Form or function? Must one really choose? I love both and I don't see why one can't have both. Personally, I find the simple things can often be beautiful and perform just as well as their less aesthetic counterparts. Take the kitchen and pantry for example...

The Fly Lady talks a lot about keeping a clean and sparkling sink. I like it to be pretty, too. Find a lovely soap dispenser that makes you want to get in there and do dishes. This one from Anthropology was acquired on a clearance table this summer. Unfortunately the dish soap was worthless, but refilled with my favorite brand, it's perfect! An extra basket I had around the house holds tea towels ready for work. Yes, there is the drawer, but I saved that limited space for dish rags and sponges. Let the towels stack up and look inviting!

Just below the sink is an decorative false front that hides the sink inside the cabinet. A matching knob was attached to make it look like the rest of the cabinet fronts. But now...

for just $8 and some change, I swapped out the knob for this long modern handled pull from the hardware store. Now I have a place to hang a used towel. Before, they just got thrown on the counters.

You're going to know I love Anthropology after this post! I don't spend lots of money there, but I love their kitchen items and so I try to find one or two items each trip to the really big city (LA). Last spring I found this hook and it sat in my widow sill for the last 6 months because I didn't know what to do with it. Finally it occurred to me that it would be perfect for my rings and bracelets when doing dishes. With three girls, someone always needs this in the kitchen.

I do not like clutter and lots of ugly mismatched cups and dishes. One way to keep from accumulating that kind of thing is to open up the cabinets. Yes, just take the doors right off and store them in the attic. Line the back with some bead board or wallpaper and you're ready to start adding things back in. 

I love the Pantry Essentials from Williams-Sonoma, but wouldn't it be fun to just collect various white dishes from the thrift store? Just stick with one color theme and your set! And let's talk glasses just a minute. Put the mismatched items in the garage sale and go to TJ Maxx and pick up plenty of the same glasses at discounted prices. If you have toddlers and need to keep some plastic sippy cups, get a cute basket and keep them corralled in the cabinet below where they can reach them, too.

I have two sets of cabinets without doors. The second set holds cooking pots and mixing bowls that I use every day. Do you realize how simple and easy this makes it? The top shelf of both cabinets holds just a couple of decorative items (I hate to dust), but most of it is stuff that we use every single day. Pretty, practical, and NO clutter. Nice.

Do you have a canister for cooking utensils? Why not have three (or five for that matter)? One of Martha Stewart's kitchens has tons! Have you ever seen them lined up on the back counter? This frees up a lot of drawer space, but looks great when you group like items. Everything is at hand, quick and easy to grab, but easy to put away, too (which is half the battle)!

Gather up all those oils and vinegars as well as salt and pepper shakers in a basket by the stove. This one was perfect as far as size, but it was a little deep and the bottom was not even (due to the weaving). I had my husband cut a board that fits neatly in the bottom and doesn't rock. It elevated the items about an inch  and a half while providing a flat surface. Problem solved.

I found this lovely utensil caddy and decided it was perfect for every day. However, the utensils kept poking through and getting stuck. I didn't want to ditch the idea, but it had to be solved. My 8 year old unloads the dishwasher and things were going everywhere!

Finally I figured out a small canning jar would fit inside and keep the items from escaping. And since there was only 3 small compartments and one large, adding three jars to large size gave me room for different size spoons and forks. 

Moving to the pantry, I wanted it to be pretty, too. When we moved in to our "dream home", we didn't have money for cabinets in the pantry, so it was just a large bare room. Some metal shelving has served me well for 8 years, but it isn't too charming. But I have a plan...

Each trip to the big city, I try to pick up one or two baskets or a jar with a lid. I was careful to pick a basket and jars that I had seen often as a standard at a couple of my favorite stores so I knew they'd have them for a long time, because it was going to take a while to acquire all that I wanted on my budget. But time and patience has paid off and those metal shelves are looking pretty good. Someday I'll get to build shelving that will fit my baskets perfectly, but until then...

they corral things like extra oils and vinegars I use to make salad dressings...

cups and lids that use to easily get knocked over... 

recycled clam shells for fruits...

egg cartons for my chicken's eggs...

and paper goods. You get the idea. But here's one thing you need to remember if you go to buy baskets for your pantry. Be sure to get baskets with straight sides, not slanted or tapered, because they will nest closer together and not waste space. Most baskets are tapered and they will touch at the widest point leaving a lot of unused space. Avoid these if at all possible.

Anchor Hocking makes several great jars in various sizes, but my favorite is their Heritage Hill line. You just can't go wrong with a classic. It's perfect for smaller amounts of seeds for sprouting. 

My attachments for my food saver...

plastic items that I need on occasions...

and lids for my canning jars. Anything that has lots of parts and I don't want dusty. In fact, I use the in the laundry room and bathrooms as well. I like how they move around and can be reused and regrouped depending on what I need at the time.

Kitchen and Pantry Organizing Tips

January is such a great time for purging and organizing. By spring, we'll all be out in the garden again, but for now, think simple, practical, and pretty. Plastic functions well, but it just doesn't warm the soul. Keep these questions in mind when planning your simple kitchen or pantry makeover:

• Is it just pretty or is it practical, too?
• If it's practical, is it really lovely to look at? 
• Is it warm and inviting?
• Does this arrangement work for the way I really live and work in my own kitchen?
• Am I keeping an item because I think I have to (guilt)?
• Am I afraid to give something away because I might need it once every five years?
• Is there something else I already have that can do the job that this item is doing (so you can eliminate one of them?) For example: do you really need a grapefruit knife? Won't a regular knife work just as well and quick?
• What really needs to be hidden in a drawer or cabinet and what can be on view?
• What do I use nearly every meal or at least every day? Can it be on view and easy to reach?
• What needs to be corralled and contained?
• What needs to be within easy reach?
• Can things be grouped by function (like baking, grilling, etc.)?
• Will this make things easier to put away when cleaning up?
• Will this simplify my life?

Be careful that you don't move everything out of your cabinets onto the counter top. Choose just a few things so that you leave plenty of work space for food prep or you'll constantly be frustrated. Eliminate the pretties that don't have a function other than looking good or at least limit them to just one or two. Remember, whatever you "display" has to be dusted. Don't make a lot of extra work for yourself. 

I hope this little kitchen tour and tips helps those who feel challenged when it comes to organizing and decorating. As part of Simple Thursdays, perhaps you'll find even more great ideas for de-cluttering your life and simplifying the things that are a must! It feels so good to be free of too much stuff and it allows you to work more efficiently and productively!

What's your favorite beautiful and simple kitchen organization tip in your own home?


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