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Organizing Your Kitchen

Real Simple magazine has just released a book called "The Organized Home," which breaks down each room in the house and offers suggestions on cleaning up and clearing out your junk.

On Tuesday's The Early Show, editor Kris Connell offers us ideas for getting the kitchen in order. Here are her suggestions for organizing cabinets and drawers, the fridge, the pantry and more.

The key to organizing your kitchen is to make the tools and dishes you use as accessible as possible, says Connell. That means placing the items you use close to where you use them, and easy to pull out and put away. For instance, pots and pans go near the stove, and dishes near the dishwasher. It goes without saying that Real Simple encourages everyone to go through their kitchens and get rid of equipment they don't use or need anymore. Paring down the amount of stuff in your kitchen will make everything much easier to locate.

If re-organizing the entire kitchen seems like an overwhelming, time-consuming task, just tackling one area can make you feel better and more pulled together.

CABINETS
Tackling those cavernous lower-level cabinets where most people keep their pots and pans is a good place to start. Chances are you don't take full advantage of this space. Adding shelving can double the amount of storage space you have. Even with this additional space, you will probably still need to stack some of your pots one inside the other. To avoid having the accompanying loose lids clattering around your cabinet, Real Simple suggests attaching a lid rack to the inside of your cabinet door. If you have deep cabinets, consider putting bins on gliders into your cabinets. In general, you want to place heavier items within easy reach. Those that are rarely used but have some heft to them should go toward the back of a midlevel shelf.

REFRIGERATOR
"It's always daunting to take on an appliance that dwarfs you," advises "The Organized Home." Perhaps you never thought about actually organizing your fridge, but doing so will actually insure that your food stays fresher longer. Here are some specific guidelines:

  • Even if your refrigerator has compartments on the door for eggs and butter, don't store these items here. The door temperature fluctuates more than any other spot, thus it's not a good place for these highly perishable items. An interesting side note - your eggs will stay fresh longer in their original packaging.
  • Because the fridge door sees a lot of temperature changes, store condiments and other items that don't spoil quickly here.
  • The lowest shelf is actually the coldest, so dairy products and other perishable items should go toward the back of the bottom shelf.
  • Produce truly does stay fresher in the designated crisper drawer because the drawer has a slightly higher humidity level compared to the rest of the fridge.
  • Taking items from their original packaging and storing them in glass and Tupperware containers not only keeps food a little more fresh, it also makes things easier to see so you won't forget about them and let them go bad.

    PANTRY
    Real Simple carries this trend of removing food from its original packaging over to the pantry. Nothing looks messier than a pantry full of half-empty bags of dried beans, rice or flour. Facing an army of plastic storage containers is much more appealing. If you decide to go this route, splurge on the best containers you can find. Lesser-quality containers are susceptible to stains and can warp after multiple trips through the dishwasher. Look for impact-resistant polycarbonate (really hard plastic) containers with sturdy lids. These are particularly well suited to freezing and will stand up to the heat and force of the dishwasher.

    Never use flimsy containers from the grocery store or deli for long-term food storage - they are not airtight enough and are typically made of substandard materials.

    Try to keep heavier pantry items on midlevel shelves for minimal hefting. Crackers, cereals, pasta and other light items can sit on higher shelves. If you are lucky enough to have a large pantry, you might also consider keeping your linens in the pantry. They look nice neatly laid out in a wicker basket. Plus, they will be less likely to wrinkle, while also freeing up valuable space in your kitchen or dining room drawers.

    ODDS 'N ENDS
    Tool drawer: Tired of your cheese grater, potato peeler or measuring spoons getting caught up in your tangle of wooden spoons and spatulas? You can now buy small metal or plastic-coated grids to hang on the wall or inside a cabinet door. Then, you can hang all of those pesky tools on the grid. Sometimes you see people hanging pots and pans on bigger versions of these.
    Recipes: Many people who like to cook have a messy pile of recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers. If you have a pile like this in your kitchen, it's time to devise a personal recipe book to keep the papers in order. First, if you have a recipe that's over a year old that you're yet to make, toss it. Chances are you'll never make it. Then, paste the recipes onto larger pieces of paper or slip the recipe itself into a plastic sleeve. Arrange these sleeves in a three-ring binder and file the binder with the rest of your cookbooks.
    Spices: If you spend a lot of time in your kitchen, you've probably managed to accumulate a collection of unusual spices that you don't often use. Having a million jars of spices cluttering your spice rack makes it darn hard to find that basil or oregano. If you're willing to invest a few bucks, you can buy individual flat, round containers that hold spices. These then fit into a large flat box that slips neatly into a drawer or cabinet.