Kitchens are hubs of activity in many people’s homes, and they can accumulate too much “stuff” over just the course of a single day, if you do not have a consistent kitchen cleaning and organizing system, and the smaller the kitchen, the faster everything gets messy.

Here’s how to get started organizing a small kitchen.

Reduce kitchen clutter

[via flickr]

Kitchen appliances are the type of gifts people tend to get from well-meaning relatives who want to give you something useful or practical. The rest of the kitchen clutter many people acquire either in pursuit of an exotic dish that requires them to go out and buy another tool (lemon zester? electric mixer? deep fryer?), or others who make a resolution to eat healthy meals at home more often, and feel like they need a kitchen appliance collection that’s up to the challenge.

The thing is, most people don’t cook enough to justify dozens of single-use items, though these special items may perform their lone duties marginally better than their more mundane equivalents. Unless you’re are cooking full meals at home daily, there’s almost certainly a significant amount of kitchen clutter you can eliminate.

Six steps to a streamlined kitchen

Here’s the list we go through when we’re purging our kitchens.

  1. Purge excess pots and pans. Most people really don’t need more than a couple pans and maybe three pots, but they often tend to reproduce in the back corners of dusty cabinets, and you’re left with more containers than three stoves could accommodate. Get rid of them.
  2. Clean out the refrigerator. Yes, you might find some pretty gross stuff back there, but then again, you might also be able free up some forgotten containers and not have to keep buying more every time you go grocery shopping. Use a baking soda and water or vinegar and water solution instead of normal cleaning supplies to wash out the inside without getting anything toxic near food. If you want to go all-out in cleaning out your refrigerator, read this step-by-step guide to stripping, washing, and refitting your fridge.
  3. Check expiration dates. Or, if you want to preserve your food for a little longer, check out this food expiration guide. Pretty much every food goes bad eventually, despite what you might think. We have found people’s spice racks to be particularly packed with little half-used canisters of spices that expired in the previous decade.
  4. Keep counters clean. Tall counters are perfect for setting junk down on the second you step through the door, but forcing yourself to keep the open surfaces in your kitchen bare except for the occasional decorative item is good from both a feng shui perspective and to reduce unappealing visual clutter around the kitchen area.
  5. Organize your cabinets. Kitchen cabinets tend to have too few shelves for too much height, but you can give yourself more horizontal space by using shelf sub-dividers like this one on Amazon. Suddenly, all your plates do fit in one cabinet. Amazing, right?
  6. Get rid of the misfits. Our own dinnerware is mostly matching, but there are still lingering themed cups or utensils that we accidentally walked out of a restaurant with that wreak havoc (visually, at least), on any hopes of having a neatly ordered kitchen. Unless you have a large family, more than a couple dozen each of flatware and dishes is overkill, and purging your cabinets of items that don’t belong will make you much happier with your kitchen in the long run.