I think Spring cleaning is a worldwide phenomenon. In the last month I've received several calls about people wanting to get organized or to help with packing because they're moving out of their old homes or are moving into a new one. There is something to be said for this fortuitous season and I believe it's about cleaning up the death that Winter has left behind. I’ve noticed not only are people wanting to get organized in their homes but in their relationships as well. Everyone I've spoken with in the last few weeks has gone through a break up or emotional transition of some sort and none of them seem to be remorseful! They actually seem to be excited to move into the new season with a strong sense of optimism and desire to be organized and that's why I love Spring! Fresh starts, new beginnings and new inspirations to live life.
For myself, I have to end my relationship with all of the dust bunnies and unused items laying around the house that have accumulated over the last several months. This is truly a feeling of being cleansed from the inside out. Sometimes this is difficult when you are stuck in a rut of not knowing what to do. What I do to purge a subject in my life, i.e. clothing, kitchen items, garage, icky emotions, etc., and I say “subject”, because we often have items of the same subject stored in different places in the house, is I pull everything out for that particular subject and sort by category.
The kitchen is my most favorite to organize regularly because items get lost and food expires and when new food comes in there always seems to be less and less room. I take everything out of cupboards and drawers purging old food and wipe off what's staying. I use the dining room table and put like items together. Once you've done this, your kitchen will look worse than when you started, but it is necessary so that you may take an inventory of your items and then put them in the proper place. This project will probably take you all day or over the course of a weekend so I tend to only do it twice a year. Or if you're pressed for time, do it in sections, i.e. pantry and food cupboards then in the next session tackle the food storage, match lids to containers. I do, however, recommend that if you can’t do the entire kitchen in one session, then I would wait until you can.
Firstly, If you're having trouble getting started, try to do a visualization of how you'd like for your kitchen to look and if you don't know then try to imagine how you want your kitchen to feel. I like to look on Pinterest or Apartment Therapy websites to give me inspiration and then I just get started. Turn on your favorite music, illicit some help from a friend, pour a glass of wine or do whatever you need to to accomplish your goal. If you find yourself hemming and hawing about making decisions, you'll never get started. So just start!
Front-facing things on the shelves or buying lazy susans really helps to display what you have. You can purchase organizing containers to help store things more efficiently, and if you're on a budget, I recommend going to the thrift store or to discount stores like TJ Maxx. I don't typically recommend buying anything prior to your purge unless it's something small like drawer organizers or shelf risers. If you do purchase thing prior to tidying, you may end up buying things you don't need and then returning them may prove to be challenging. As you go through your items you'll get a sense of what you really use and what you don't. Taste buds change and for my family, the infamous baking items like sprinkles and frosting get stored and end up in the very back of the cabinet never to be seen again until the following year and by then they've expired. So for now, we make our own frosting if we even use it at all, and the sprinkles get thrown out after holiday baking.
My kitchen is rather small and cooking for my family is easy because I tend to only buy what we use for that particular week. I have spices but not too many and I have a few canned goods but other than that I don't store packaged items simply because I don't have the room. This doesn't work for all families but for example, we have a few bags of granola, and for breakfast my family usually eats fruit, sausage and toast or cereal. On weekends I'll make pancakes or french toast which all require minimally packaged ingredients. This is also a good time to evaluate your eating habits, and if you want to lose weight or have more energy, limiting processed or packaged food is a great place to start.
Ok. You've done it. You've separated the what-you're-keeping and the what-you're-pitching. When you notice there are several bags of expired food that are headed for the trash, don't panic! This is a good exercise in really seeing what is important to keep and how to be more efficient with grocery shopping lists and meal planning. You’ll also save money by doing this because you won’t be throwing away unused food. Bonus!
Now everything is organized, wiped off and ready to be put back. I like to put messy items, such as coconut oil and honey, in little dishes to sit on in my shelves so they don't get sticky or oily. I also like to keep baking items in baskets or trays so that when we do bake, I can pull it down, find the items I need, and then easily put it back when we are finished. Above my stove are the items I use for dinners such as pasta, oatmeal and canned beans. Above the toaster is the coconut oil, honey and things we don't use very often. The dishes go to the right and left of the sink to make it easy to put them back (I don't have a dishwasher, but if you have one, your dishes should be right above or as close as possible to the dishwasher.)
I deep clean the fridge twice a year as well. If you are a busy household you might need to do it more often, but I try to wipe out the fruit and veggie drawer as they empty, and I wipe shelves clean with a vinegar and water solution just before my trip to the grocery store. Little ones love to help clean so their job can be pulling everything out of the fridge door, wiping them off, and putting them back. If you have no extra hands to help, then wipe as you go, for this will make it more manageable. The oven needs a little cookie sheet on the bottom shelf to catch crumbs, vinegar and baking soda are wonderful for cleaning the spots caked with grease.
On a side note, you must schedule room for tidying your home on a regular basis. If you let it pile up, you will feel overwhelmed. I once had a colleague tell me that even in high school her Sunday evening ritual was to put everything back in order so that she could feel at ease about starting the new week.
Now, if you've taken the time to survey, purge and clean your entire kitchen, you should feel a sense of accomplishment. If you still have the infamous kitchen junk drawer or the under-the-sink cleaning items in disarray, you might still feel a twinge of disorder inside of yourself, but once it is completed, freedom should be the dominant emotion and who doesn't want to feel more of that?
Happy Tidying Everyone!