How to Transform an Overwhelming Kitchen to an Organised One.
I want my kitchen to be minimal. I need it to be easy. These were the words of my client when she was describing how she wanted her kitchen to be. I could see the overwhelm in my client's eyes as she described her struggles with getting the home organised. My client who we will call Anna lives with memory, attention and processing challenges. And when faced with too much information and distraction can become overwhelmed and frustrated. Which didn't take me long to witness as Anna would literally jump with fright every time, she would open an overflowing kitchen drawer or cupboard. With the Tupperware drawer causing the most distress.
At the heart of it, Anna wanted a kitchen that would make morning routines easier and also support her in preparing healthy meals for her and her family. Proper nutrition is vital to Anna as it will help her to overcome some of the physical health challenges she faces. So, I could understand how important it was for Anna to have simplicity in her kitchen. I knew that the sooner we got the kitchen sorted the sooner Anna could move forward and focus on her health.
What I observed when Anna was showing me her kitchen was several appliances and other bits and pieces living in different areas on the benchtop with no real place to call home. Various food items hanging out in different parts of the kitchen. Overflowing drawers and cupboards with some refusing to close due to overcrowding. It was a kitchen that overtime got a little out of hand which can happen to the best of us. Anna just needed a helping hand to get things back in order, and that is what we did.
Anna's idea of an easy and minimal kitchen meant being able to quickly and effortlessly access what she needs when she needs it without having to frantically search for things and feeling overwhelmed. So, over a few sessions, I would work with Anna to reassess the use and functionality of three core areas of the kitchen: the bench, the pantry and the cupboards and drawers.
The Kitchen Bench
When Anna was showing me her kitchen, she expressed how important drinking juice and tea was to her health and wellbeing which was evident with several juicing appliances spread across the bench and different types of teas on display. The areas of the bench that Anna would use to prepare meals was cluttered, with decorative items, a blender, and a tray to store random items. Anna would need a better meal prep workspace one that would give Anna the room and space to prepare meals without her feeling submerged with clutter. To achieve this Anna's bench space would be divided into three core stations:
a juice station
a tea station
a meal preparation station
The juice station
To make the process easier for Anna to prepare her juices we created a juice station which would house all of Anna’s juicers and blenders in one location of the kitchen. Everything related to juicing would have a new home at the juice station. Frequently, used and heavier juicing equipment would permanently live on the bench, and other juicing equipment would be moved to the cupboards below the station. Items such as glassware and jugs were stored in cabinets above. Anna would no longer need to frantically move things around to prepare her daily juices.
The tea station
The tea station, like the juice station, would house all things relating to tea (and coffee). The bench housed the kettle, a stand containing mugs and canisters for tea, coffee and sugar. All of Anna's teas were now stored in the cupboards above the tea station along with other tea making equipment. Anna can now go to her tea station and have everything she needs to make her cups of tea. The meal preparation station
Through the creation of the juice and tea stations and also decluttering some of the items stored on the bench has freed up bench space for a meal preparation station. Things such as bowls, plates and cooking utensils are now stored within easy reach of the meal preparation station. Anna now has the room and the freedom to make meals without the feeling of being on a crowded train during peak hour.
Creating designated locations for the core things Anna does in the kitchen will make it easier for her to do the things she needs to do, as everything she needs to complete each task is in the one place this will support Anna with her processing challenges. Also, the stations will also help to eliminate the frustration Anna was experiencing as she no longer needs to move things around when completing tasks making performing jobs easier. Finally, Anna will have a clear understanding of where items are based on the particular station within the kitchen, supporting her with her memory challenges. For example, seeing the kettle on the bench will act as a visual reminder that tea leaves are stored in the cupboard above the kettle.
With the bench now under control, we start to tackle the pantry.
Opening the doors to Anna's pantry, I could see similar products spread out across the various shelves with each piece looking lost and needing to find their way home. We needed to bring order back to the pantry.
We agreed that all food items would live in the pantry (or fridge) except for some supplements/health foods which would be located in a cupboard near the juice station as they were used solely for juicing.
Once we said goodbye to food items that were expired, we began to organise the pantry. Using a combination of stands and containers food items were either stored by meal type (e.g. breakfast, snacks etc.) or food type (e.g. bread, canned food etc.). We also labelled containers according to what was stored in them. Labelling will make it easier for Anna to locate what she needs and will also support her to know where to put things once she is done with them which will be essential in assisting Anna to maintain an organised pantry.
Centralising the food this way will make it easier for Anna to find what she needs to prepare a meal. It will also make the process of writing her weekly shopping list easier as she will have clear visibility of what she needs and doesn't need.
The Drawers and Cupboards.
Some but not all of Anna's drawers and cupboards were overcrowded. To stop Anna feeling overcome and frustrated every time she opens a drawer or cabinet, we would need to firstly declutter some items. This would also support Anna in her goal of having a minimal kitchen.
At times, Anna can get overwhelmed when faced with too many decisions, to help manage the choice of what to keep and what to discard we established some decluttering rules.
Rule 1 any items that were chipped, broken or not working would instantly be is discarded.
Rule 2 any duplicate items would be dealt with by the process of elimination whereby items that were in better conditions stayed, and the other would go. These rules would reduce the number of decisions Anna needed to make and will also help to speed up the decluttering process.
Anna was able to shed a good volume of items out of the kitchen including some of her Tupperware. Once we had completed the decluttering, we then commenced organising.
When it came to organising the cupboards and drawers, we stored items in the location they would be used. For example, pots, pans and baking dishes would be stored in drawers adjacent to the oven and stove. This would make it easier for Anna to get what she needed when she needed it and get a clear view of where everything is.
Now for the Tupperware drawer. We were able to get most of the Tupperware stored in one location directly under the meal prep station. We also stored the Tupperware on its side rather than bottom up as this makes it easier to store.
Given that Anna has some challenges with her memory I wanted to ensure she remembers where things are, so we placed labels on drawers and cabinets. Anna can choose to remove these once she feels comfortable in knowing where things are.
With the drawers and cupboards now done our kitchen organising journey has come to an end. But Anna would also need some strategies to help her maintain her organised kitchen.
To maintain her organised kitchen, I have asked Anna to be a cop. Yes, Anna will need to be a cop and will need to make sure that everything goes back into its place at the end of the day. Again having labels placed on cupboards and drawers will support Anna with the maintenance process.
And to keep the Tupperware at bay, I have asked Anna to apply the one in one out rule. This will mean that if Anna buys another food storage container, she will need to discard an existing one.
Making these adjustments to Anna's kitchen, we were able to streamline it and make it more functional. Doing this has helped to eliminate the overwhelm Anna was experiencing in her kitchen. Anna and her family love their new organised kitchen and she has done a magnificent job of keeping it in order. But more importantly Anna has been able to use her kitchen to focus on her, and her family’s health and nutrition and has now started to have healthy meals prepared in her home. I’m grateful that I have been able to support Anna to organise her space and to enable her to focus on her goals.
Clients name has been changed for privacy reasons. Photos are of the client's kitchen and have been used with the client's permission.