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Even though we’re spring cleaning, it’s still Book Club day, as usual per each Thursday! Head over the forums and join in discussing chapters 15 and 16 of the amazing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Even if you’re not reading along with us, you’re still welcome to join in the discussion.

Day four is part one of the kitchen. As my four-year-old likes to say, “Duh duh DUH.” Spring cleaning the kitchen can be a doozy, but thankfully, it’s so much easier each year you keep at it. The key here, as in all rooms, is to truly have only what you need and love.

Kitchens are a clutter magnet. From random small appliances to expired spices, kitchens can hide needless accessories and can unfairly justify the “need” for tools and gadgets. Because of this, in my e-book, I suggest tackling the kitchen in two days, no matter what size your space. Take the needed time to get it right.

As I also suggested in the book, I emptied, decluttered, cleaned, and reorganized each area of my kitchen, leaving no stone left unturned. On the first day, I tackled the food. And that’s honestly all I finished – it was a lot of work to do it correctly, but I’m so glad I did it. I now know all the food we have stocked, and I can easily find it.

The Pantry

To be honest, my pantry wasn’t too bad to begin with. We eat mostly from scratch, so our shelves are stocked with staples more than packaged snacks. But it was still disheveled, and the area needed a good examination.

Before:

pantry before

During:

As prescribed in the e-book, I put everything in one working space – in my case, the dining room table. This way, I could easily see everything and reorganize from scratch.

pantry during

After:

I like keeping things I use most at eye level, so this means my staple ingredients are right near the stove and counters (I’ll show you these cabinets tomorrow). But I keep handy things like vanilla, flax seed, balsamic vinegar, and unsweetened baking chocolate on the most accessible shelf.

pantry after 03

Canned and dry goods get the shelf above. After labeling containers and reorganizing the cans, it’s now much easier to find everything.

pantry after 02

The top shelf is home to refills and extras of our staples – things like unopened oatmeal, cereal, and peanut butter.

pantry after 01

To the right of our pantry rests a cabinet that we used for… well, random food.

Before:

cabinet before

This is where we keep imported food from the States, along with occasional snack items. I tossed out things that had been there forever, and organized like with like, labeling each container.

After:

imports after

The shelf above this area is great for baskets, so we didn’t change this – I just finally got around to making labels. I also discarded quite a few spices that were given to us by fellow expats when they returned to the U.S. Some expired in 2006!

baskets after

I kept my spices the way I had them before – just making a few new labels for some of them. We also recently added lazy susans to this area, so it’s now much easier to find the spice I need. This area sits open on shelves, without doors, so it’s especially important to me that this area stays neat.

spices 02

spices 01

Finally, I added an inventory of staples we currently have, especially the items up high – this way, I know what we don’t need, keeping me from buying more tomato paste.  I taped it on the inside of the pantry door.

pantry inventory

I did this same routine with the fridge, freezer, and extra storage freezer, including the inventory sheets (which are all included in the e-book in Appendix B).

Making Clear Kitchen Goals

I started with the food areas because I knew I could purge quite a few items here. I wanted to make as much room as possible for what really counts, and I wanted to be clear about what we currently have, and what we need to buy. This made tackling the rest of the kitchen the next day much easier.

I encourage you to make this food purging process a regular thing for you, possibly once a quarter. I hadn’t done this since last summer, and it was definitely due for an overhaul.

When you’re reorganizing your food, keep these ideas in mind:

1. Label everything.

You may think you can easily recognize salt from sugar, but when you’re in a hurry cooking, you don’t want to make that mistake.

2. Reuse glass jars.

There’s no need to buy expensive storage containers – just reuse jelly and pickle jars.

3. Keep the important things accessible.

If you’d like to gravitate from boxed cooking to more scratch cooking, make it easy. Keep fresh ingredients at arm’s length.

Tomorrow we’ll be working on the rest of the kitchen – behind the cabinets, the drawers, and the surfaces. You can get some advance inspiration today at Organizing Your Way, where Mandi walks you through a process of deciding whether you really need certain appliances, tools, and gadgets.

Get some rest tonight; you’ll need it! But today, I’m looking forward to seeing your before and after kitchen photos.

What do you love about your kitchen? What one thing do you most want to change?

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