Please help me get this kitchen back in check
March 4, 2009 8:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for ideas for a kitchen organization solution.

Hi, AskMeFi!

I've been living in this apartment for almost a year. The one thing that has always bugged me was my lack of organization for the kitchen area.

I feel I'm crippled because I don't have a lot of space to work with: One outlet (two plugs) in the entire room; a counter that is hogged by the coffee pot and microwave; cupboards that are too high to use effectively; and a drawer that is much too small to be of any use.

I'm asking your help. What can I do to get this kitchen in order?

For those that think pictures would be more helpful: Picasa Album
posted by DonSlice to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have room for a small table, island, or baker's rack to put your microwave and coffeepot on? If you go with a small table, you could use it for food prep and for eating. I'd definitely want to move away the things that are blocking the window!

You seem to have a lot of wall space, so I'd take advantage of that. You could use shelves for cookbooks, glasses, or mixing bowls. This pot lid rack could be used for pot lids, or perhaps even for mail, magazines, or napkins. There are all kinds of cutlery caddies that you can hang on the wall as well; I like this one. There are also wall caddies for things like plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and paper towels.

Taking up wall space can help free up your cabinets and drawers, but moving spices to magnetic tins will also help. You can stick them to your fridge. (You can find cheaper versions of these tins elsewhere; I'm just linking everything to the Ikea site b/c it's easy to find examples.)

This article from Smitten Kitchen could be helpful, as it offers many tips for maximizing kitchen space.
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:40 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could probably put a shelf over your stove, where those pot holders are, if you feel you need it. Or, you could put a small cart next to the stove to hold a crock of kitchen utensils, pots, pans, etc.

Things don't look half bad and I wouldn't start buying more storage containers, or tupperware. You should always use plates, bowls, and cups you already have to store leftovers. Add a few shelves, group like items together, and eliminate everything you don't use. If you don't need all of those coffee mugs, get rid of some. Pull those paper towels out of the plastic wrap and stack them on their sides. Group all of the food together. Keep the top of the fridge free of clutter, or buy a wicker basket to store things on top of your fridge. Wicker will have to be dusted so don't do this if you have enough room in your cabinets, which it looks like you do. Your drawer doesn't look half bad. Think about what could be stored outside the kitchen if you don't a particular item that often.
posted by Fairchild at 8:41 AM on March 4, 2009

First things first - let's reclaim the counter space.

Put the toaster away after use. Put the coffeemaker into storage and switch to a french press or stove-top percolator. Get a small table/shelf for the microwave to reclaim some of the 'under' space. (This will block the window a bit - you'll lose a smidge of natural light.) Put up a 3M hook and hang the dishrack after use. Put it to the right of the sink.

Run an 'outlet strip' across the wall behind the dishrack/microwave. This will prevent you from having to plug everything in that tiny corner.

Put up some cheery, colorful things. That minty green is overwhelming. :)
posted by unixrat at 8:44 AM on March 4, 2009

Right. So an island for the microwave and coffeepot might not be useful, since you have only one outlet. Hmm. You have an electric stove; shouldn't there be a somewhat accessible outlet it's plugged into?

Also, put your least-used kitchen items on the top shelves. This will free up the lower shelves, and might allow you to put away things like the basket of snacks, and therefore make the kitchen look less cluttered. There are also diving racks you can use, so that you can stack plates on one tier and cereal bowls on the next, for example.

Lastly, this room has none of _your_ personality. Aside from the green cabinets (which I kind of love, actually!), it's dreary white. Put up some art!
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:46 AM on March 4, 2009

This wall-mounted drop-leaf table could be added, so that you'd have extra work space when preparing meals. It lays flat on the wall when not in use. Heck, put in a row of 'em!
posted by orme at 8:52 AM on March 4, 2009

I don't know how high that top shelf is or if you can just reach the front of it, but if you can you should put containers like your basket full of lightweight bags, etc, up there. Take them down to rummage for what you need. Group things by usage category - baking, breakfast, western spices, eastern spices, dried seaweed, etc. Have some sort of work surface next to the stove where you can dig through each of these baskets/containers as needed. I would think a high table there is ideal, and then the counter appliances can stay where they are.
posted by Listener at 9:11 AM on March 4, 2009

I love projects like this. Here's what I'd do if this were my kitchen.

1. Reflect on the awesomeness of the color choices. Smile.

2. Consider removing the upper cabinet doors (see following item). Reflect on awesomeness of painted interiors of cabinets.

3. Install the following doodads from IKEA:

GRUNDTAL wall shelf (various lengths available) above the window on the right in Photo 1 and high up on the wall on the left. I'd use those to store infrequently-used items (I am a shorty and a lazy ass; I'm not climbing a stepladder every time I need a plate).

I'd make the left-hand wall into Pots and Pans Central. Anything I couldn't hang from the newly-installed GRUNDTAL shelf, I'd hang on a couple of rails installed below it. These rails can also be installed on the undersides of cabinets and used to hang coffee mugs, measuring cups, even a dish drainer

This thingy can store a roll of paper towels and two rolls of tinfoil/waxed paper/saran wrap/whatever. Be ye warned, this thing has little teeth on the edges of the roll-holders. This is useful for tearing off pieces of foil, but dangerous to the inattentive (i.e. me). Keep out of reach of children and careless adults.

IKEA has loads of other hook-and-rail accessories.

4. Weed out the non-essentials. Anything that isn't food, drink or something used to prepare, store or eat same doesn't belong in the kitchen. The combination silverware/junk drawer will indeed become a vortex of clutter.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 9:14 AM on March 4, 2009

First off, I'd buy a power strip to put in that corner. Run it behind the microwave so that you can plug some of that stuff in without trying to fit it all into the little corner. Also, ditch the coffeepot--you can pick up a cold brew system for about $25, and it's something that you can do once a week and then stick back into a cupboard. (A tallish cupboard, since you don't need it all that often.)

Have you considered putting up a pegboard with hooks? It looks like you have the wallspace, and it could hold pots and pans, spatulas, measuring cups, and other things that have holes in the handles. The pegboard could also be painted or decorated to inject a little more of your personality into the room.

How are you currently utilizing the below-counter storage? I found that sometimes putting a plastic bin or something in the cupboard makes them more usable, because I can just pull out the bin like I would a drawer--there's much less hunting around for the oatmeal that you're sure that you bought, if only you could figure out what it was behind.

You don't have a lot of room to work with, but you could easily fit one or two sets of those plastic organizing drawers (like these, though you can find them cheaper at WalMart and many craft stores, in my experience) next to your stove. They don't do well with dishware, but it'll hold mugs and cups no problem, and you could get your plastic baggies in them, your tupperware, your cutlery if you wanted to. They're also often large enough to hold snacks, which would mean that you could ditch the snack basket, which is currently making your kitchen look really cluttered.

In a kitchen this size, I'd argue that you want to get as much as possible off of the counters. Partly because if there's stuff on the counters you have no counterspace, but also because stuff on the counters makes the room look even smaller.

Finally, this might sound odd, but have you considered putting up some sort of decoration? Even a decorative mirror or framed poster or something like that might add some visual interest to the room--as it is, your kitchen is rather stark, and I suspect that contributes to it's feeling of smallness. The green cabinets are a great start, assuming that you like green, but it feels like it desperately needs some accent colors to me.
posted by MeghanC at 9:22 AM on March 4, 2009

I love the green cabinets. I would say that room needs some orange or red.

Anyway, I can't see your refrigerator, but the best thing we did in our tiny kitchen was to build a little bookcase that was the depth of our canisters that went up against the side of the fridge. (We screwed the side of the shelf to the wall and made it narrower than the side of the fridge depth so that the fridge door could still open. One shelf was tall enough for the canisters, one was soup can sized, one was oatmeal and granola bar box sized, etc.)

Also, I always have a silverware caddy that stands up instead of putting it in the only drawer.
posted by artychoke at 9:30 AM on March 4, 2009

Never mind, I can see that the right side of the fridge is up against the wall. A very shallow shelf could maybe go on the left wall, or to the left of the stove.
posted by artychoke at 9:33 AM on March 4, 2009

When I had very little kitchen space, I had a cutting board that could rest over the sink -- the short way would probably be best in your kitchen. It frees counter space, allows you to flick scraps into the sink, and is useful even if you're not cutting anything.

I also had a small cart like this one. I kept my most-used pots and pans in the cart so cabinet shelving could be used for other things. The microwave was on top.

Inside some of the cabinets, I used racks/shelves like these and these to create more levels.
posted by wryly at 10:48 AM on March 4, 2009

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