Wednesday, August 22

Small Kitchen Spaces--Make It Work For You!

Again, on Friday, after working on the linen closet and making delicious goodies, I still had to work on the kitchen.  In my flurry of reorganizing and downsizing the kitchen, I seemed to acquire more space.  Amazing how that works!  I have accumulated so many kitchen things in the past eight years, and even though some of it sold in rummage sales of the past, I still have items that I can't bear to part with, either because they have sentimental value to me, or because I'm convinced that they will be used when we find our larger "forever" home.  So up in the cabinet they go, buried and inaccessible, until now.  Knowing that we will eventually be moving, I decided to pack up these items now, and save us the trouble when the time comes.  Plan ahead!  There are things that I used daily, and that is where I started with this project.  I attacked my spice cabinet, the cabinet over the stove.  I've never liked having the spices in that cabinet--I'm too short to see what all is up there.  My solution?  An idea from my mom, who keeps her spices right next to the stove.  I cleaned out three drawers in the bottom cabinets:
The towels that were in this drawer are now on the counter

One was full of extra decorative hand towels that I can get away with not having for a while, so those went to the packaway pile.  That gave me a whole extra drawer.  Now, I moved our "utility drawer" (most people call it a junk drawer, but we actually use the stuff in this drawer) over to the empty drawer by the doorway, making room for my aluminum foil, plastic baggies, wax paper and so on to be moved over one drawer, but still in close proximity to where I need it.  That still leaves me with an empty drawer.  Oh, so exciting...
I used drawer liner for the bottom of the drawer, but ran out of the tan color

I took all of my small spice jars down from above the stove.  I set them all out, and put like items together, and combined bottles that were half full or refilled the jars in my spice rack on the counter, and that eliminated a few bottles.  I began placing them in the drawer, keeping baking spices on one side and cooking spices on the other, and right next to the stove, which is so much more convenient and easy for me to see!  Now I know what I have, and I'll have a much easier time keeping an accurate inventory of what I need.  I love it now!  Thanks for a great idea, mom.  I kept the larger spice containers above the stove, but those are easy to see and easy enough to reach that it's not a problem.  I also cleaned out some things above the stove that I wasn't using, putting them in the packaway pile, which gave me some (*gasp*) empty space in the cabinet!  What now will I do with that?  I'm sure something will find its way up there.
Next, I moved on to the pantry.  Our pantry is really just a wardrobe that we bought at Lowe's and put together in the kitchen, but it works great for storing our food and other items.  Mostly, it just needed reorganizing, but there were some things that were either thrown away (expired, stale, what have you) or put in the packaway pile.  Below is a before and almost after picture:
But after rearranging everything to make it more accessible, I still wasn't done.  I had a few more ideas for two of the shelves in there, but was running out of time and energy and still had to work on dinner.  I put things on hold for the rest of the day.  For dinner, we had marinated pork chops, fresh green beans from the market, and this amazing twist on mashed potatoes that I found on The Pioneer Woman: Crash Hot Potatoes.  These are great, and a new favorite of hubby's.  You boil potatoes with the skins on, place them on an oiled baking sheet, smash them down with a potato masher (or if you don't have a masher, use something flat, like the bottom of a glass), coat them with olive oil, add kosher salt, pepper, herbs of your choice, and bake them at 450 for 25 minutes, or until they start to brown.  Then we added some shredded cheddar on top and baked them for five more minutes.  Oh, what a wonderful little potato!  A new favorite for both of us. Thank you, Ree Drummond, for your delicious recipes!  Be sure to check out her website and look for her show on the Food Network.

By this time I was pretty pooped.  I decided to put my reorganization on hold until Sunday afternoon, when I had some more free time.

Sunday afternoon, I attacked the kitchen.

It never knew what was coming.

I had a pile of packaway things, and still added more by going through another few cabinets and pulling more items out:
If you have given me any of the items you see in the packaway pile, please don't be offended.  I am keeping them, but I just don't have room right now for all of this in a functional kitchen.  Don't worry, it will be used again!

I also decided to go through my stash of cookbooks.  I love having them, but there are some that are used infrequently at most, and had to go away for a while.  I began packing my totes that I brought in from the garage, and in no time the first one was full.  I filled the second one about halfway with the remaining items. I had found my counter again, so I started on that.  These are before pics:

These are after pics:
I moved the coffee pot, which had lived on the counter for four years, to the shelf in the pantry with all of the coffee supplies.  It seemed like a good idea.  Then I moved my stand mixer, which had also lived on the counter for four years, to the shelf in the pantry with the cookbooks.  It seemed like a good idea.  Now I have lots of like items together, and I like that.  Then it was time to stop and get dinner started, thanks to my bread machine--we were having homemade pizza, so I had the bread machine mix up the dough as I continued to work.  So convenient!
This still looks cluttered, but it's not, and it's much more functional than it was
I then moved around some of the items on the counters, and put away my strainer in the space under the sink that I made a few days ago, and now it has a home when not in use (the space under our sink is tight because of the way they plumbed the sink.  It's really a pain to get under there, but I somehow made it work).  It looks so much better, and it is so much more user-friendly.  I have space on the counter to roll out doughs and crusts, and it doesn't look nearly as cluttered as it did.  Plus, when we go to install our counter tops, there will be much less to move beforehand!  It was truly a win-win, er, win-win-win situation.  It took some time, but was definitely worth it!
I know that every home is unique.  What works for us might not work for you.  But I'm hoping that this will at least inspire you to find ways to better use the small space that you might have!

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