Every summer my parents take my family on a trip during which time my kids get to watch annoying kids’ shows on TV and we all get to eat junk food way more than we usually do. We swim all day and play tennis and badminton in the evening before settling in to our ice cream and cookies.

We prepare all of our own meals for the week because the condo isn’t near any great restaurants. The kitchen is stocked with basic kitchen tools and only enough plates, bowls, and glassware for 6 people.

The first year we stayed in the vacation condo we didn’t bring enough substantial food. So, we added food items to our list. The next year we remembered to add trash bags to the list. And so on. It took us a few years to adjust the packing list to our comfort level and to remember that the condo isn’t furnished with a single good knife or cloth napkins that actually absorb liquid.

What amazes me is how with such a limited amount of gadgetry we still manage to cook the same basic meals we have at home. This little microcosm of a kitchen is a great way to think about getting your own kitchen organized.

All of our home kitchens are overstuffed Click To Tweet — with food, party dishes, take-out condiments and even with bulk paper goods.

After organizing dozens of kitchens, the get organized already team has discovered 4 big saboteurs of kitchen organization. If you can streamline your collections of these four clutter culprits, your kitchen will feel 60% more organized before you even step into the Container Store!

Plastic storage containers

Tupperware-drawer-beforeShow me a Tupperware drawer that isn’t a trainwreck! They’re hard to find. The more you have, the more you will say bad words. So, just let them go. All of them.

Recycle your plastic, mismatched, headache of a storage container collection and buy a nice set of glass containers for storing leftovers. Square containers stack best in the fridge. You’ll be surprised how little you miss all of that plastic mess.

There are 2 exceptions:

  • If anyone in your house packs their lunch in containers, the glass is pretty heavy. Use plastic.
  • If you are bringing someone food as a gift. Don’t expect them to return your $8 glass container. Use plastic.

For these two reasons, how many containers do you really need at one time? Watch this video about my own storage container cabinet for tips on storing what you keep.

Store containers with their lids or buy only 2-3 sizes (all alike) and store them stacked beside their lids (also stacked).

Mugs

People. Can I be brutally honest? I’ve never been in a kitchen NEVER that didn’t have too many coffee mugs living in the best cabinet in the kitchen — the one right by the sink. And I know you love your coffee. Still, that cabinet is prime real estate! Do not fill it with 20 coffee mugs.

Keep a set of mugs (6 max) in which you would be happy to serve coffee to guests. Some of you will keep the “Don’t talk to me until this mug is empty” funny mugs. Some of you will keep the matching china set and use it everyday yourself. Whichever you chose, consider donating the rest unless you like to entertain.

For you entertainers, treat the extra mugs as party supplies and store them on a high shelf or in another room altogether for the rare (but fun) occasion when you host more than 6 people drinking hot beverages together.

Cookbooks

kitchen-organization-cookbooksYou know what I’m going to say… If you haven’t used the cookbook in 2 years, please donate it.

Books take up a lot of room in the kitchen and you can find a recipe for anything on the Internet. Most people only use a few recipes from any given cookbook. If that’s the case for you, consider creating your own recipe notebook or binder. That way you’ll be able to keep the recipes for your favorite go-to meals on hand without taking up precious space in your kitchen.

Many of you are not going to be able to do this. Cookbooks, like shoes, are one thing I don’t fight with my clients about. If you want to ignore my practical, expert advice and keep 54 of them because they are pretty, go ahead. We all have our weaknesses.

Shopping bags

Plastic shopping bags are discouraged in Los Angeles and Pasadena. From a clutter-busting standpoint this is wonderful news. 92% of you have too many plastic bags under your sink right now, crammed in there like a stash of dirty clothes in the closet when your mom came to visit your first apartment.

These bags seem to multiply! How do they do it?

Use a container (an empty tissue box or plastic bag holder) to store your bags and when it is full recycle the extra. Don’t cram 10 more in there just because you can. Believe me, trust the universe and more will come to you when you need them.

Reusable shopping bags are another issue now that everyone (in California) is required to have them. Some of you get annoyed when you forget your bags and have to buy more. After all, sometimes you need to stop by the store unexpectedly.

Did you know people have been carrying reusable bags to the store in Europe for decades? Each reusable bag can eliminate hundreds (if not thousands) of plastic bags.

We are spoiled and slow about some things here in America. But we can get into this habit.

Here’s how: Store your reusable bags in your trunk. Period. The end.**

Fancy paper shopping bags with logos and store names on them can also be found in many kitchen cabinets (or with gift wrap supplies). It’s OK to keep a (very) few of these disposable, yet sturdy bags.

Cut down on your collection by keeping 2-3 pretty, lightweight, nylon bags in your purse all the time. No, you will not get a fancy Nordstrom’s bag on your shopping trip. But, you don’t need to show that label off to feel good. After all, you have an organized kitchen to give you confidence and inner peace. Take that, other mall shoppers!

Let me know how trimming down these 4 groups of items makes a difference in your kitchen. You just might feel like you’re in a vacation condo with my parents, eating Cheetos by the pool.

 

**Two cars? Two stashes of bags.

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