How to Achieve an Organised and Efficient Kitchen

By Justine Law, Professional Organiser

‘Justine Law from Domestica, in Victoria, is the first member of the Institute Of Professional Organisers (IOPO) International.

Justine is a cook, home-lover and founder of Domestica, a decluttering and organising service that focuses on ensuring your pantries, fridges and freezers are stocked with healthy home-cooked food!’

For assistance making your time in the kitchen more productive and enjoyable, you can find Justine at www.domestica.com.au or if you’re looking for an Organising Professional in your area, go to www.iopo.com.au/find

The kitchen is without doubt, one of the busiest and most hard-working spaces in our homes. So it makes sense to have it working for us in the most functional way possible to become, not only an efficient space, but also a pleasurable one to spend time in too.

Step 1. Assess

The first step is to assess what you need from your kitchen and be honest about what does and doesn’t work within it. These days, on top of the more obvious storage plus preparing and serving of food, kitchens are also a place to do homework, store information and share news.

Set 2. Declutter

Once you have an idea of what your needs are – setting up your kitchen for maximum efficiency is much easier. It’s time to give yourself permission to let go of that appliance/platter/gadget that does not bring value to your life yet you might be holding onto out of guilt, anxiety or simple lack of time to deal with it. While you are reassessing your kitchen, it might also be helpful to make a list of what could be missing from it (do you have the best-quality basics you can afford?) Sometimes just having the right kind and enough storage containers can make or break putting food away.

Step 3. Plan your kitchen workflow

Many of us initially set up our kitchens, to simply make it functional at a basic level. We then get busy with life and don’t get around to reassessing the space to make it work more efficiently, even though we are frustrated at never being able to quite reach to that back section of the cupboard/fridge/pantry or find the vegetable peeler.

Store things where you use them. Kitchen real estate is precious, so you want each space working smarter and harder.

I like to ‘zone’ kitchens into three main categories:

  1. Preparing
  2. Serving
  3. Storing.

This essentially means keeping mugs and the kettle near where you make hot drinks, store cooking utensils, mixing bowls, graters and pans near the oven and saucepans. Keep crockery, cutlery and frequently used serving bowls/utensils together (preferably near the dishwasher/sink area for ease of use when putting away). Little things like this can make a huge difference in the day to day running of your kitchen.

Justine’s Top Tips

The Fridge and Pantry

  • Store ‘like with like’ – think about how grocery stores stock their items. Basic categories might be sauces and condiments, breakfast goods, baking supplies, tinned goods, snacks, grains/legumes, herbs & spices.

  • If you are stretched for space, square and rectangle containers take up less space than round (although glass round containers does look very pretty!)

  • Use dividers or small baskets to contain like items eg; condiments in the fridge, utensils within a drawer.

  • Deep cupboards and shelves can be made more user-friendly by using ‘shelf steppers’ so you can see what you have by elevating items at the back so that you can see more… Plastic tubs, as makeshift drawers are particularly helpful for unruly plastics!

  • Store items in airtight containers to avoid food going stale, therefore reducing food waste. Buy only as much as you need and avoid recipes with a long list of ingredients you might not use again.

    Unused pantry items = guilt and clutter

  • Utilise the space on the inside of the pantry doors with racks suited to your needs.

  • Use less accessible shelves for items bought in bulk such as back up dry goods, drinks, paper towels etc.

Countertops/benches

  • Keep only the most frequently used items out as clutter-free benches are one of the keys to an efficient kitchen. See if you can find alternative homes for needed, but lesser-used appliances and gadgets. This might be into alternative cupboards and drawers or out of the kitchen altogether! (My Mum has a tiny kitchen so stores big baking dishes, serving dishes and stockpots in the garage which is not far from the kitchen)

Create more space

  • Utilise wall space: mount a stainless-steel bar with S hooks to hang utensils, strainers etc, mount a knife rack or even a pegboard which can then be used to hang utensils, spice racks and even pots and pans

  • A mobile butchers block or kitchen trolley can be used for extra bench space as well as storage underneath

  • ‘Shelf stackers’ give you double shelf space for your buck! Perfect for things like tinned goods or even mugs and glasses. Under-shelf baskets which slide onto the underside of your shelf are also helpful when extra space is needed

  • If you have it, utilise the space between the tops of your cupboards for lesser-used items. Keep a small step stool handy so you can access them easily and safely when needed

  • Consider adding open shelving if possible – this is by far the easiest way to clear benches!

Other tips for an efficient kitchen

  • Clean as you go! It is amazing how much easier it is to prepare food when you are not wrangling a pile of dirty dishes! My favourite tip is to start work in the kitchen with a sink of hot soapy water – then while you are waiting for things to cook you can quickly wash items or load them into the dishwasher

  • Store items by type and frequency. E.g. specialty utensils might be in a lesser-used drawer with a tiered tray, the top being the most used and the lesser used on the bottom

Getting your kitchen in order can make the difference between it being a chore to spend time in and a pleasure – if you need some hand-on help and motivation go to www.iopo.com.au to find a professional organiser in your area 

Who is the IOPO?

IOPO is the Institute of Professional Organisers.

IOPO is focused on providing the Organising industry a standard of excellence.

The IOPO Accreditation recognises and sets the standard for industry excellence based on a combination of acquired knowledge and application of skills and professional behaviours. Working hand-in-hand with thier Professional Development programs, the IOPO Accreditation system aims to provide clear pathways for members to strive for excellence in the industry.

Through Accreditation, the IOPO endeavours to provide the public with guidance and confidence in knowing that the organiser that they have hired is an experienced and knowledgeable professional.

Sarah Cottman, CEO of IOPO International