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How to keep your kitchen tidy

The kitchen bench is groaning with appliances that don’t fit under the counter. The top drawer’s crammed with batteries, scissors, spare keys, receipts and string, and will no longer close. Plastic containers never have the right lids, and cooking utensils you know you own are impossible to locate. Sound familiar?

Everyone’s kitchen could do with a design overhaul to make it work more smoothly. The good news is you don’t need a complete renovation (although that would be nice) to get the design-ball rolling. There are tweaks that can be made to your kitchen that will make the space work harder, so you don’t have to. Deep breath.

1. Appliances
There is room in your cupboards for all those pesky appliances; you just need to organise your cupboard space better to fit them. Track your cooking habits over a week and take note of what you use. You’ll notice that there are three or four pots and pans that you use all the time. These should be stacked inside one another and kept in a high-traffic cupboard. The corresponding lids can be stored vertically next to the pots; simply drive two wooden pegs into the cupboard base to keep them in place. Store the pans you use less frequently elsewhere, away from the high-traffic cupboard space. The freed-up under-counter space is now available for your food processor, your blender, your coffee grinder – all those things that were sitting out on your bench top waiting for a better home.

2. Junk
You’ve got one drawer brimming with junk. Admit it. We all do. Rather than trying to get rid of the stuff, embrace it and organise it. You can purchase a rather elegant wooden drawer organiser from Ikea; it has multiple compartments to fit all those odds and ends that end up in the “spare drawer”. Or you can line the drawer with lidless plastic containers of various sizes and then pack all of your stuff separately and neatly into them.

3. Cooking utensils
For the chaos of the utensils drawer, apply the same organising concept you used for your cupboards, and think about what you actually use. If you don’t already have them, buy a knife block and a pretty container to hold high-use utensils – tongs, serving spoons, spatulas – and sit them near the stove on your newly cleared bench top, so that they’re close to hand when you’re cooking. Or attach your utensils to a magnetic strip on the wall closest to where you do most of your prepping. Your utensils drawer will now be emptier, but not completely. Dump everything out and lay down rubber matting (you can find it in hardware stores), then return everything to the drawer in an orderly way. The rubber matting will prevent everything from rolling around.

4. Trays and platters
All that skinny stuff that always seems to be at the bottom of a stack should be stored vertically. To fit out your kitchen for this type of storage, simply install timber dividers in an under-counter cupboard. Make sure you space the timber wide enough so that three platters can fit in each division.

5. Plastic containers
Plastic containers are the odd socks of the kitchen world – you can never find a lid to match a base. Storing them with their lids on is the surest way to guarantee you won’t be drawer-diving for lids. But the more space-friendly way is to stack the containers inside one another and then stack the lids together vertically inside a separate large container.

6. Food storage
If you’re storing food in containers in a drawer, put labels on the lids so you can easily identify what’s in them. And, to simplify prepping time, group like items together in your pantry. Think about the task at hand – making biscuits, for example. Keep all the pantry ingredients for them in the one spot – you could even store them all in an old cake tin. That way, when the urge to make chocolate-chip cookies takes you, all the ingredients are there at your fingertips. And don’t forget to take advantage of the space available on the back of cupboard doors – it’s the perfect place to erect shallow shelves to hold spices, preserves or any number of things.

7. Cleaning products
Most people store their cleaning products under the sink. Rather than taking up this valuable space, consider attaching a rack to the back of the cupboard door to hold dishwashing detergent, sponges and brushes, plus a plastic caddy to hold larger items such as floor cleaner and oven cleaner. The caddy protects the cabinet from leaks and can easily be pulled out for you to scrounge through.

ILLUSTRATION ANTONIA PESENTI

This article was published in the October 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

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