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Solving Our Own Kitchen and Cooking Clutter (Plus Real-Life Solutions)

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photo by sara liggoria-tramp | from: 8 steps to building a smart, organized pantry & mudroom

One week ago Caitlin wrote a post about litter boxes. Why?? Well since she’s now spending every waking moment at home, her beloved cat’s “restroom” was visually driving her nuts. She hated it and asked for help and got it! This made me wonder what else is driving everyone nuts since making the shift to being inside 90% of the day?

So I took a poll (the EHD team and friends) and for the most part, the kitchen was the biggest pain point. More specifically… storage clutter solutions. It makes sense. We are all trying to (and should) avoid as many trips to the grocery store as possible but at the same time cooking more than ever. So planning ahead a little is really the best thing for you and your neighbors. I know for at least myself who was used to 2-3 grocery store trips a week, I am now I’m trying to limit to twice a month. But this planning ahead means there is simply more food in your house at once than normal. (Please know that we are 100% against food and supply hoarding. It’s selfish and unnecessary to take more than you actually need especially when so many don’t have the means to do so.) But since some visual organization can bring a little peace of mind, let’s talk about our personal kitchen problems and get a peek into our very real, current kitchens.

Emily’s Problem: Keeping Counter Produce Separate

From Emily: “I don’t know what fruit and veggies should go on the counter next to each other but I do know that I need more space to put them all these days. I feel like it’s overflowing and I would love something vertical – either hanging or on the wall – to keep onions and potatoes. Warm minimalism is what I’m going for so that I can keep fruit with fruit and get these onions away so my fruit doesn’t spoil faster!”

The Solution: Hanging Basket

Here I picked out some great options that could work for Emily and look great in her kitchen. Does anyone have a favorite?

1. Three Tier Hanging Basket | 2. Barrett 2-Tier Fruit Basket | 3. Wall Hanging Basket | 4. Hanging Porcelain Fruit Basket | 5. Seagrass Hanging Fruit Basket | 6. Ria Tiered Hanging Basket | 7. Wicker Hanging Baskets | 8. Hanging Wire 3-Tier Fruit Basket | 9. Artesia Honey 3-Tier Fruit Basket

Jess’ Problem: Not Enough Extra Storage

From Me: “As I said earlier I am used to multiple trips a week to the grocery store. Why? Well, I don’t love to cook (jokes on me now) and I didn’t want food to spoil that I “intended” to cook but didn’t despite my good intentions. Also, I have almost no enclosed storage space which doesn’t lend to bigger shopping trips. But up until now, it wasn’t a big deal due to my “cooking style.” I promise that cabinet isn’t filled with loads of food. It’s mainly the weird cooking supplies (salts, oils, mulling spices, chia seeds, etc.) that I’ve been sort of collecting. So anything extra I buy is now on the floor next to my “office”…including my snacks that I CAN’T STOP EATING. I need a solution or else I will eat nearly all my food in a record-breaking time frame. Also, it’s super ugly and looks disorganized which I hate the most. I think some pretty baskets are my best bet. However, this means my once delicately styled open shelving unit you see up there will have to finally be used functionally. My form over function heart is not excited but my jeans will be. Here are some of the more “modern” baskets I’m considering.

The Solution: Modern Baskets

I know not all of these are 100% budget-friendly but I want to make sure that whatever I buy I love. Who knows… maybe I will fall for function after all:)

1. Lastu Birch Basket with Lid | 2. Aimee Arrow Basket | 3. Cube Basket with Leather Pull | 4. Coopers Storage Basket | 5. Blocks Basket | 6. Branaes

Sara’s Problem: Too Many Spices Without a Home

From Sara: “I cook a LOT, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at my kitchen. Take my “spice shelf” for example. Anytime I want a spice jar I have to kneel down and jostle around all the different jars, usually knocking over a few, trying to find the one I want. It’s not convenient, space-saving, or pretty. It’s literally the worst. But I don’t want all my spices sitting out on an organizer using up counter space, or on one of those little spice shelves in a cabinet, where they still fall over. Here is a soliton I am considering…”

The Solution: Slide Out Spice Rack

Sara’s problem is visibility and function when it comes to needing her spices. Since she wants to keep them in that location, a slide out rack will help solve a lot of her problems. She won’t have to kneel down because she can easily slide out the section she needs and no spices are falling over in one of these (unless Sara unleashes her super-strength).

1. Slide Out Double Spice Rack | 2. Tier 4 Drawer Spice Rack | 3. SpiceStack Adjustable Spice Organizer

Caitlin’s Problem: A Lack Of Cabinet Organization

From Caitlin: “HELLO, welcome to my very real and VERY MESSY pantry cabinet. (In case you couldn’t tell, I am definitely not one of the people hoarding groceries. Sorry mom, I may have over-exaggerated the amount of non-perishables in my home!)

Unlike some of my lovely coworkers, I actually have a TON of cabinet space in my kitchen, but no idea how to utilize it. Right now I’m just throwing things on shelves pretty arbitrarily, and not to sound too much like an infomercial, but there has to be a better way. Honestly, I think I’d feel more comfortable actually buying groceries if someone just told me HOW to store them. Like, I know this is kitchen 101 and I may have missed the lesson, but guys…how do you organize your shelves, period? Are there rules somewhere that I’m missing? I know how to set a table. I do NOT know which item should go on which shelf. (Do my most frequently used things go on the top or the bottom? Am I overthinking? Probably.) Anyway, I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to have someone give me explicit instructions on how to actually maximize all the space that I’m lucky enough to have.”

The Solution: Lazy Susans, Cabinet Shelves, Canisters

While Catlin doesn’t have any big overcrowding issues (send some over to me girl!), she does want general organization (and feel like a grown adult) when she opens her cabinet. So after discussing with Emily, we think that a lazy Susan (or two) for her sauces and oils will look great and have them be easily accessible, food storage containers will not only look nice but will keep your food fresh longer, a can dispenser screams “Org Queen” and bins are great for keeping packaged snacks in order. Sometime a little bit of help will make you feel SO much better. Then in terms of general placement. I say keep heavy/breakable things like bottles on the bottom self then organize based on most frequently used. If anyone has a different opinion let us know in the comments:) Also Caitlin, we want pics when it’s done!

1. Divided Lazy Susan | 2. Cabinet Shelf | 3. Storage Bin | 4. Cabinet Can Organizer | 5. Plastic Food Storage Container Collection | 6. Storage Basket

So those are our issues and I hope they were helpful! But I also know that if you need some seriously storage help, a piece of kitchen “storage furniture” is really what you are searching for. So here are some great and most budget-friendly options.

Hot Tip

Unless you have a ton of floor/wall space, think vertically to maximize your kitchen storage.

1. Standing Indoor Wooden Cabinet | 2. Fit-Anywhere Slim Storage Cart | 3. Wide Storage Cabinet with Mesh Doors | 4. HAVSTA | 5. FÖRHÖJA | 6. Windham Tall Cabinet with Drawer | 7. Kitchen Storage Station | 8. Kitchen Storage Cabinet Sideboard | 9. Double Wide Storage Cabinet | 10. Aubrey Narrow Bookcase | 11. Wood & Steel Slim Storage Cabinet | 12. NISSAFORS

That is it for this Monday afternoon. Are you also having some kitchen storage issues? Do you agree with our personal solutions? Is there anything else in your house that recently started to drive you nuts and you want our help solving? Hit those comments and we will be there to help:)

Love you, meant it.

Opening Photo: Photo by Sara Liggoria-Tramp | From: 8 Steps To Building A Smart, Organized Pantry & Mudroom

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Molly

I have a super tight kitchen and I’m a chef, so I definitely can sympathize and use most of these suggestions to achieve some kind of order. I also have a couple of suggestions and comments that you may find helpful: For Emily, yes, definitely you are correct that you need to separate your room-temp produce. I would highly recommend placing those bell peppers in the fridge. All of your alliums (onions, shallots, garlic) should live together, and be placed far apart from potatoes of any kind as the gasses from the alliums will make your spuds sprout faster. Keep citrus all together, and ideally put that ginger in the fridge as well, it will last you much longer before shriveling and getting soft. Bananas absolutely need to be on their own, away from everything as they produce a ton of ethylene gas and should be segregated. I have a very cool black banana hanger from Food 52 that I highly recommend and really fits with your Mountain House theme. Last, I didn’t see any tomatoes, but if you have any they should only ever be refrigerated if they’re cut. The fridge changes their texture to mealy. Also if you… Read more »

Thank you for all the insider info! 🙂

Mara

Most helpful comment ever!!

Patricia

We need you to do a whole blog post! About every kind of kitchen storage issue. Emily, future guest post?

Molly

Honestly blushing. Wow, thank you for the vote of confidence, and I’m happy so many found the suggestions useful!

Erin Perkins

Yes I have an obscene amount of spices too, and they’re all decanted int o the same size spice jars and alphabetized. and makes it so much easier to find everything!! and you end up using the spices way more often too!

Meg

I second the recommendation for a contributor article from you solving all the kitchen needs!!! I just reorganized my cabinets, but I’m still really stumped by some of my appliances. This was incredibly helpful.

Leigh H

hire this woman for a post! So helpful.

Molly

I’m so flattered! Thank you everyone! Plenty more tips where that came from. Professional chefs find ALL the ways to use every single thing as wasting food and space is sacrilege.

I was literally coming here to say this too! Another helpful tip, storing potatoes with apples can help them from early sprouting (but exposure to light can make them spoil, so store in a cool, dry, place.) I also like to remind people (I’m a community educator about food waste,) to be creative with shelf life on veggies and fruits. Limp carrots and celery can be brought back to life with an hour bath in cold water, stale bread can become breadcrumbs, you can even use old milk to make sour milk pancakes!

oh wow! I’d love to learn more about this.

Margaret

Emily, get the potatoes out of the light–the green they will develop is toxic (you can just trim it off, don’t need to throw the whole spud out).
Sara, I don’t remember if you have a cat, but if you do, think twice about Molly’s otherwise excellent magnetic-tin suggestion. I had my spices in those tins, and they were great, but my cat kept knocking them off, and a few burst open. Turmeric everywhere is not something I would wish on anyone, ever. I finally put my spices into 4 oz canning jars, which can be stacked if you need to.

Molly

Ah yes, the mischievous cats! I actually have two, and fortunately the spices are at a height that isn’t interesting to them, (or maybe they just don’t care? Cats man) but I find with the containers I purchased the lid is very tight. Sounds like you found the perfect solution for you and your naughty kitty! Oy turmeric stains!!!

Meg

Ooooo – I don’t store my spices in canning jars, but I do store things I sprinkle/add to my smoothies like chia seeds and hemp hearts and LOVE the Jarware spice lids!

Catherine

Fantastic information! I triple-second the guest post suggestion!

Variation on spice storage: I don’t like decanting, so we got the Ikea Variera insert for spice jars and put them in a drawer near the cooktop. LOVE it. I like it way better than the slanted spice jar storage you usually see (now no bottles are hitting the drawer surround as we open and close) and I can see everything we have all at once (well, not really, because we have a large variety of spices tucked into this drawer and two other cabinets). I alphabetized to make it easy to find what we’re looking for.

There’s six million ways to store spices, and it all depends on how much space you have, how many spices you have, etc etc.

Roberta Davis

I use lazy susan trays for all of my spices, and in a separate cupboard, another one for oils and one for vinegars. Definitely recommend using lazy susan trays- they don’t need to be fancy- they are very minimal. I love them so much! I also have a tall IKEA pantry cabinet that holds a lot, but I find it becomes more disorganized over time and I have to rearrange it a couple of times a year. But I realized a couple of years ago that there are “full refrigerator” people and “empty refrigerator” people. I am the latter. I would go to the store 6 days a week and our refrigerator almost always looks empty; freezer, too. It’s driving me nuts that the freezer is chock-full at the moment. I want to use it all up! I also have a stash of food in the guest room- non-perishables of broth, flour, canned foods, rice, etc. It just won’t all fit in the pantry. I also quarantine the non-perishable food there for a while after I bring it home from the store. There is no graceful way to stash way too much food! I do have a 2-tier metal wire… Read more »

Annie

Yep! Lazy Susan for spices is ideal, I have a two tier one that is a great space saver.

DTiz

Same! I generally keep the herbs on the top layer and spices on the bottom layer to minimize searching.

Leigh

Spices.
Consider a basket that works as a drawer and putting labels on the lids of the spices.

Nicola

yes! get those little 1″ round labels at the office supply store and label the lids. Then when you ‘re looking at the tops of all of them — easy peasy.

Dena

I also have lack of storage space so my solution for spices is also a lazy susan. But my favorite storage solution was buying a few bread boxes- 1 for breads, 1 for snacks and 1 dedicated to chocolate!! I bought white ones that have clean lines so they kind of blend in.

Kat

Wrap whole ginger in foil and keep it in the freezer rather than at room temp or the fridge. When you need it, just unwrap, use a knife to cut (scrape?) away the skin and then use a microplane to grate the ginger. Rewrap any unused portion in fresh aluminum foil and throw back in the freezer. My stepfather-in-law taught me this and it was a complete game changer. That jumble of spices is saaaad!!! Definitely need something tiered and I recommend alphabetical organization because then you get used to where they are placed and after a while don’t need to even look at the labels. But I am clearly a type A person in this area of kitchen organization! I love the in-cabinet lazy Susan idea for oils and stuff! That’s an area of my kitchen organization that I’m constantly turning a blind eye to because it’s so bad and I had no good ideas to address it. Glad to have a solution now, thanks EHD! One thing I did recently was move wrapping paper storage to an area that’s harder to access because it seems I won’t need to access it for any social occasions anytime soon :(.… Read more »

Sahaja

Yes to the ginger in the freezer tip!

Rusty

Aaah, good idea for fresh ginger!
I’ve tried the fridge and it doesn’t last.
I’ve been keeping it in a little airy basket in our tiny 100 year old built in pantry and it’s lasting much longer.
But this freezer idea is worth a go!
I don’t have a microplane, but I can use my ceramic ginger grater!
Thanx.

Alison

100% to just organizing all of your spices alphabetically. It makes them a no brainer to find AND put back (plus any house guests/roommates/partners can easily follow this logic). I do separate my baking spices from my cooking spices. Think cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cocoa, etc on one smaller lazy susan and my other two tiered susan has all of the cooking spices – oregano, thyme, cumin, etc. Something my mom did when I was growing up that just is so logical to me that I never thought to ever store them mixed together. Just another tip for any cooks who also love to bake!

isabelle

I scrape the skin off my ginger with a spoon as soon as I get home from the store, then I grate half and leave the other half whole (or in chunks). I freeze all of it in a bag or a glass jar. For the grated ginger I use a teaspoon to get uniform scoops and freeze it on a little piece of wax paper before putting in the bag/jar.

Lily

I highly recommend The Home Edit, both on Instagram and their book. It shows you step by step how to organize different sections of your house!

sounds like I could definitely benefit 🙂 hah. Thanks for the rec!

Cynthia

On another topic…one of the EHD alums used to round up great Etsy finds. I was thinking this would be super helpful right now b/c those that can may be able to support an artist or small business with a purchase.

We recently did a round up of a ton of our favorite items from small businesses, including Etsy sellers!! https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/best-items-to-buy-from-small-businesses

Maybe a kitchen edition next time? 🙂

Patricia

I have a very tiny kitchen since we live in a senior residence. We only make breakfast and lunch (dinner at the restaurant… in pre -quarantine times). I don’t have room for any food storage in the kitchen so I use a small Ikea armoire (no longer available) for all my non perishable food storage. I have some very skinny long drawers useless for anything but long wooden spoons. But retrofitted with a spice drawer insert from Target and voila! Perfect space for all my jars.

Jenna

I LOVE organizing my kitchen but have very limited space as well. Having non-perishables (beans, pastas, rice) in glass jars works great. I can easily see what I have and what I am are running low on. I have not come up with a good solution for storing cans though so if anyone has suggestions! Why don’t they make the cans stack together! For spice storage, I put all my spices in labelled jars and then put them in a clear lazy susan. The extras stay in their bag in a Tupperware container until I need to refill the jar. I have the lazy susan in a higher cabinet and can either spin it to find what i need or take it out and use in on my counter.

I did just buy the can organizer that Jess recommended for me (https://rstyle.me/+gqgXfTeTuTcNTHF_m-bC3g) because it was only 12 bucks. I should do a follow up post on it once I get all my cans in there 🙂

Alison

You can “pyramid” the cans if that’s helpful? I have mine stored deep (so everything in a row toward the back so only one can faces the front of a single item). For those that I run out of room to go straight back on, I stack the cans on top of the row so they’re staggered – I hope I’m explaining this right! It’s if you had three cans, two make the base, and one goes on top in between. It works for any number of items you have and I just pick the top can off first to use! So simple and allows you to put many things next to one another so you can see them, but go deep for people who have shelves that things usually get lost in the back!

Alexandra Rose

Such a good post idea! Thanks 🙂

Beth

Regarding pantry organization… I think with any organization the most important thing is to corral like items together. I like to use transparent bins so you can pull the whole bin out like a drawer. So all your pasta goes in one, all your rice , farrow, quinio, etc in another. I line up like canned items from the back of the shelf to the front so from the front you just see a can of corn, then tomatoes, then black beans, then white beans, etc with multiples if each tucked behind them. I also bake a lot so I have one bin for specialty sugars and another for general baking items I like to keep on hand like chocolate chips, almond paste, coconut, vanilla beans, etc.

I keep a bin of approved snacks down low for the kids.

I also have all my spices corralled in alphabetical order in a pull out spice rack.

Label the front of each bin and you’re good to go, (pasta, hot cerials, etc). I know exactly where everything is and I can see what I need at a glance when making a shopping list.

Suzanne

I agree clear bins are a life saver for organizing cabinets. I use them as drawers, as well.

Gabrielle

Hi, yes, I would LOVE your help, and I got so excited when I saw your pullout shelf pantry. I can’t find any info on the dream pullout pantry
Great if you can go into detail…..how far about the pullouts equal or different distances?, how high a drawer to hold them in lower so you can see or higher so cleaner more secure look, extension shelves to the side of the drawers or underneath, the pros and cons of a thought out dream pullout pantry would be great reference, thanks!

Mandy

We have hanging baskets for our produce. My husband likes to make his own vegetable juice (crazy), and the hanging baskets are a GAME CHANGER. However, I wouldn’t recommend wire baskets. Or at least wire bottoms. Are the fruits/veggies ripen, they get bruises in the wire shape. Especially bananas. We’ve taken to placing paper towels at the bottom of the baskets, which lacks the visual appeal for sure. Love your other suggestions!

Margaret

A tea towel in the bottom of the basket might solve your problem, and look nicer than paper.

Sahaja

Sara, I cook a ton, too and the pull out spice rack is so surprisingly handy! I have one, and it’s also separate different genres of seasoning. Like I have the everyday, the sweet (cinnamon, cardemom, cloves), and the rare (speciality ones I use less often). Also in my previous place, I had them laid flat in a shallow drawer. At Indian grocery stores or online, you could find a round spice tin we use with tiny indiv cups inside for spices used most often. We buy in bulk and decant into the daily spice box. It’s also beautiful to look at when you open.

Eileen

Do you have a story like this for bathrooms? If not, could you please do one? This was so so helpful!

I’ll bring it up in our meeting today! 🙂

Jessica

Ooh, such great ideas in the comments section!

I’m a fan of sorting items into Marie Kondo’s subcategories, makes it really easy to figure out where a thing should go.

Martha Rife

I’m super fortunate to have recently redone my kitchen and made the happiest find….that is a wide drawer for all my canned goods. I didn’t plan it that way, but somehow stumbled upon the idea and it’s wonderful! I purchased drawer dividers and all the cans line up beautifully. No shuffling of things to find what’s in the back. Something to consider for those thinking of new cabinets once we can get back to that sort of indulgence. Am thinking of a similar set-up in my bathroom update instead of a medicine cabinet. Be well everybody!

Susannah

—Spice storage in magnetic jars on the front or side of the fridge is a good solution, either simple round metal jars or these: https://gneissspice.com/
—In our old kitchen, behind a door that was usually open with a blank wall behind it, my husband built very simple narrow shelves, basically floor to ceiling, the depth of just one large can. It held a lot and everything was sorted into logical categories so easy access, and it looked nice in that functional, organized way.

Rusty

The only thing about storing onions and/or potatoes in hanging baskets is … LIGHT! They will shoot if they get light. Both nerd to be kept COOL, DARK and DRY. Maybe Emily has a cupboard in her kitchen for a potato and onion hanging basket?!? I don’t. Our kitchen is small. We were planning to plan (clunky wording, but you get the idea), an Ikea kitchen for late this year, but … Coronavirus! We keep potatoes in a basket under our open shelved kitchen island, with another basket upside down, on top. This way, they’re cool, dark and dry. If you buy a plastic pouch of spuds (Aussie for potatoes), they will sprout sooner, so remove them from the bag, even if it has holes in it. Onions are kept in a basket on a shelf under what used to be the fireplace in this old house (under the mantle where the big old wood stove was). Cool, dark, dry. Emily, don’t keep your bananas near other produce or the other produce will ripen and age very quickly. ? (peppers should just go in the veggie drawer of the fridge) Keep bananas at least several feet away … Is this… Read more »

Lashley

We use an IKEA RISATORP utility cart without the casters as a produce basket. It’s big, but came in handy when we had a CSA membership. It’s also white and metal, so easier to clean than a woven basket.

I love these posts that give ideas for leveling-up in a practical way without spending lots of money!

Mosie

I have small, adjustable, free standing shelving units (by York, in oiled bronze) in several of my kitchen cabinets. Literally make my cabinets twice as efficient; and they look nice too. No installation required, and they simply slide apart (and back together again) to adapt to a different space. Available on Amazon and also, I believe, The Container Store and BBB. I highly recommend!

April

stilltasty.com is a great resource for food storage and lifespan (fresh, frozen, canned, boxed, etc…), a simple interface, you can search for specific items, and the library is vast.

Kay

Piling on the pull out spice rack suggestions. These aren’t cheap, or all that pretty, but behind closed cabinet doors they have been life changing: https://www.verticalspice.com/
The larger ones also work great for oils, sauces, and cans.

Heidi Keller

We just remodeled our kitchen and the Mountain House organization post was our guide to the cupboards, pantry and drawers. Thank you so much for continuing to provide use with great, relevant content. You guys rock!

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