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Kitchen reorganization doesn’t have to hurt

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Your kitchen’s supposed to be the heart of your home, but for many households, it’s fallen afoul of the inverse magic variously known as clutter or even chaos. To tame your kitchen, break down its needs into individual tasks so you can accomplish your reorganization goals without feeling overwhelmed.

Like goes with like; efficiency goes with everything

Is your paprika stashed in one cabinet, your Himalayan salt in another, and your remaining spices someplace else? Are your mixing bowls all stacked together so you have to haul all of them off the shelf to get to the one you use the most? Do you keep your saucers on top of your dinner plates, making table setting a two-step affair?

Over time, almost every kitchen falls prey to the Creeping Disorganization bug, thanks to which “I Put It There Once” becomes the reason something stays on the wrong shelf or in the wrong drawer, and simple tasks gain unnecessary complexity without the right storage accessories. Racks, over-the-door hanging bars, magnetic knife storage: All these products answer the fundamental question you’ve been avoiding: “How can I clear away counter space, keep things together without making them difficult to access, and put the tools I need right where I use them?”

Date of reckoning

Those extra cans of beans and boxed side dishes you bought when they were on sale and you thought stocking up was a great idea? It’s easy to outsmart yourself on how much you really want garbanzo beans or quick-bake au gratin potatoes. Although it’s true that many packaged foods remain more than edible past the date stamped on them, they deserve a happier outcome before they reach the point of no return.

To reclaim some storage space and get rid of the guilt over not wanting to eat something just because you bought it, empty your shelves and cabinets, go through everything, and find another home for the items you know you’ll never use but keep on hand anyway. Arrange a touchless swap with friends. Trade lists of what’s lingering, and bag up what others want so you can drop off a goodie bag or leave it on your stoop for them to pick up.

Dare to look under the sink

Has your under-sink cabinet become a refuge for half-empty bottles of glass cleaner and dishwasher detergent that you tried and didn’t like, along with stuff that’s so far in the back, it might as well be on Mars? You know you need to excavate that time capsule, but it’s probably on your list of Things to Do Instead of a Root Canal.

Relax: These things never take as long as you’re afraid they will. If you’re afraid that leaky bottles lurk in the depths, first put a plastic garbage bag on the floor to act as a drop cloth—and then pull out everything except the plumbing. If it takes you more than 10 seconds to decide whether you need something, the answer’s probably no. Hit the recycle bin with applicable items that you’re not going to keep, and rejoice in the fact that now, everything will fit.

Especially if you haven’t tackled this under-sink chore lately, you’ll want to clean out the space before you put things back. Vacuuming, followed by a multi-purpose cleaner, does a good job of tidying up. Next, take a moment to organize your items, with everyday necessities in front, less-used products behind them, and so on. Plastic storage trays make great organizers. Remember that harsh chemicals and flammable items don’t belong in such an easily accessible area that’s a magnet for kids, and anything that absorbs liquids could get ruined if your sink should spring a leak.

Longer-term solutions from geometry

If you’re considering a kitchen redesign, remember the design experts’ principle of the work triangle. An efficient kitchen keeps its three main work areas—fridge, sink, range—arranged to form a triangle, with each side between 4-9 feet long, for a total of 12-26 feet. Put these areas too close together, and you limit your workspace; arrange them too far apart, and food prep becomes a marathon run back and forth.

Before you think about the fun stuff—cabinets, colors, and flooring—consider partial adjustments instead of a complete redo. If your layout already works efficiently but you need more flexibility in where you can store what, take a cue from mid-century storage and think about Pegboard. It’s no longer suitable only for the garage, and its festive colors make its legendary usefulness all the more enticing. Whatever you decide to do, label bins and boxes so everything’s easy to find.

Whether you’re considering a major redo or simply want an efficient place to cook, the “Ignore It and It Will Go Away” plan doesn’t work. Most people find that the task requires less effort than they fear, especially if they address it in stages—and the relief that accompanies the results speaks for itself, as your kitchen becomes an efficient extension of your love of food.

How are things looking in your kitchen? Show us—and be sure to tag your photos #HancockHealthChallenge!

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