Organize Your Kitchen With Guest Glynnis Whitwer

We are into week two of our online study of A Life That Says Welcome. This week we will tackle some practical tasks for getting our homes company-ready and strategies for cooking. (Chapters 4-7)

Today, my ministry partner, clever friend and fellow-author of an organizing book Glynnis Whitwer is here to help us get our acts together in the kitchen.

Remember, you can comment on all posts until the end of the study. Winners announced the day after Easter. So, be sure to catch up on the posts from over the weekend. They were fabulous. I am learning a ton from our guests and from you all too!

Now, for today’s guest:

Glynnis Whitwer is on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries as the Senior Editor of the P31 Woman magazine. She is one of the writers of Encouragement for Today, the Proverbs 31 e-mail devotions, with over 500,000 daily readers.  Her newest book, I Used to be So Organized, was released last fall.  Glynnis, her husband Tod, and their five children live in Glendale, Arizona.  Visit for more information.

I’ve discovered many of life’s blessings happen in my kitchen.  This room unites the values I hold dear:  home, family and sharing life with others.  This is why keeping it organized and clutter-free is a top priority for me.  It’s not so I can boast of my alphabetized spices or labeled storage containers.  An organized kitchen helps keep me focused on what’s important, instead of mentally drained by a mess.

Here’s the problem with a disorganized kitchen as I see it.  When there’s no clear counter space, I’m discouraged from starting anything.  Instead of making an affordable and healthy dinner, I am tempted to pick something up. I can’t even imagine reaching out to anyone when I can’t even take care of my own family.

All my lovely ideas for hospitality evaporate as clutter drains me of creative energy.  Years ago I realized a well-managed life, one where I minister to my family and others, started in my kitchen.

So, in order to bring in more beauty, peace and order into my life and into the lives of those I love, I have declared a war on kitchen clutter.  If that appeals to you, here are some suggestions for how to de-cluttering the kitchen.

1)  Sort through and remove all clutter from on top of your counters.

Put away, recycle, toss and file those items you know what to do with.  If you don’t know where to start, pick a spot and work your way clockwise.  If you need to make decisions on other items, put those in a large box for later decision-making.  Wash and put away dishes. Clean your counters and sink. Now stand back and survey your accomplishment with joy!  (clap, clap, clap … that’s from me).

2)  Move many of your everyday kitchen appliances out of sight (toaster, bread maker, waffle iron, etc).

Clear counters will refresh you, and give you a clean palate for creativity.  You might need to work on step 3 at the same time so you have room to store these items.

3)  Eliminate extra, unwanted, broken, chipped and incomplete items.

Start with one cabinet or shelf and completely remove every item.  If you don’t use it, set it aside to give away, sell or toss.  Be honest and ruthless. I know this will be hard, because many of us are well intentioned.  I really intended to make fondue for my family … someday. But I had to be honest with myself.

Clean the shelves with warm soapy water and return the items you want to keep, including those items that were previously stored on your counter.

4)  Store seldom-used appliances elsewhere.

Can you store larger items outside your kitchen?  If you are holding out hope that you will start to use your waffle iron, then consider a shelf in an outside storage cabinet, extra bedroom or linen closet.   I have a shelf in my garage for larger items I don’t often use.

Another option is to purchase extra kitchen storage, like a free-standing cottage-style pantry or rolling island.  Consider buying something with doors to reduce visual clutter.

Great ideas, Glynnis!

Now, to be entered to win a copy of Glynnis’ book I Used to Be So Organized, tell us either your greatest kitchen organization dilemma or one tip you have when it comes to the kitchen.

REMEMBER: We are also interacting over at Karen Ehman’s Book Studies on Facebook. Click here to “like” the page & join us.

And, for this coming Friday’s idea swap and share, be thinking of your best decorating idea, tip, centerpiece or DIY project.

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  1. My greatest kitchen dilemma is that our bar seems to be the dumping ground for all my husband’s paper work. I can’t tell you how many folders and drawers I’ve allotted for him, nothing seems to help. The papers always pile up!

  2. One idea that was passed onto me by a neighbor friend, is putting all our pantry perishables in clear plastic organizers……crackers, cereal, individual wrapped snacks, seasonings, popcorn, etc – makes it look clean & it keeps me from over buying, b/c I know what I have the space for & what I’m out of very easily, so I can replenish! :)

  3. Interesting to see how many of us have this dilemma. Yes, mine is piling the mail, kids homework and school papers, pensils and school supplies on the counter. I try to unload it weekly, but it’s discouraging to see the stack that gathers up just the next day. Any creative solutions from anyone on how to prevent this paper tsunami would be greatly appreciated.

  4. My biggest issue is also clutter like so many of you have mentioned. I do use baskets on my counter so that at least an “organized” clutter. :)

  5. I also have Karen Ehman’s “Brain in a Binder”, an idea from a Hearts at Home conference. I love it! This keeps all of my papers organized, off of my counters, and all in one place. I use your Daily To Do list as well which keeps my day on task and organized.

  6. Two areas: kitchen island (really a peninsula…lol) clutter and my food storage cupboard. The food storage cupboard is tall and the shelves are of varying sizes. That makes some shelves so much smaller and able to hold very little. I need organization for the two areas. I am cleaning my house out this year. I went through a divorce and am now cleaning out and decorating with my tastes and colors. I want a minimalist home so that it’s easy to care for.

  7. I believe I have finally conquered the over flow of paper in my kitchen! We also had a counter that literally stayed full of “stuff”. My goal for 2012 is to get organized, so I’ve slowly been doing that. A few weeks ago, this counter was my project. I picked up everything on that counter and probably threw away 3/4 of what was on it. I have come to the point, that if I haven’t picked it up in 6 months…I’m not going to. My goal is to keep it cleared and so far I’ve done pretty good! My strategy has been instead of defaulting to “putting it on the counter” to go ahead and put it where it belongs! Also, going through the mail as soon as I bring it in helps a lot! Half the stuff we get is junk anyway. The biggest challenge I thought I would have was school work. I have 3 boys and they are constantly bringing papers home. I go through the papers and keep important papers or papers I would like to keep for memories, otherwise, it gets trashed! Also, I’ve found it’s been easier to display some art projects on the fridge for a while and then when they bring another one home, either trash it or if I want to keep it, place it in the keep drawer. I also have a husband who has not come to the same place as me and tries to continue to put things on the counter. I just kindly ask him if there is another place to put the item or if he needs to keep it…he’s learning!

  8. I’ve been reading through the comments and I’m using some of those ideas.
    I recently just bought a basket for my kitchen counter when I first come home for my purse and bag. I put some pens and paper in there, too for when I need to sign things or write myself notes. That way it is off the counter and away from the food. I’m going to declutter my countertops. I like the idea of baskets of towels-we use them all the time. I’ll have to get some prettier pot holders if I hang those up though. I’m going to have to go through my utensil drawers for what we really need. We went to IKEA and accumulated more utensils but I didn’t take any out. I always have issues with my lids-pots, pans, Tupperware, glassware. I can’t seem to find what works for me. My husband usually cooks but he wanted me to organize the kitchen when we moved in so I gladly did. He just made a new pantry for us, too. It’s pretty sweet! For the dishes, I wash all the pots and pans but we have a dishwasher for dishes. I put a Dirty/Clean sign on it laminated with a magnet and my foreign exchange student uses that well since that is her chore. That way the dishes aren’t all over the counter and it reminds her if she needs to do her job. Thanks for the great ideas!

  9. When we remodeled our kitchen, we had pull out drawers put in all of our bottom cabinets. Now nothing gets lost. You pull out the drawer and you can see everything.

  10. My dilemma is keeping all those plastic containers organized. I have tried every which way and nothing seems to completely work for me. I do keep as little as possible on the counters because it just feels better.

  11. My biggest problem is paper. It seems to pile up on my desk (which is in the kitchen) and the island. I’ve also got a pantry that is driving me nuts! There’s a TON of space in it, but the problem is that it’s so deep that things get lost in the back. As a result, I keep everything toward the front, leaving the back of the shelves completely empty. I would love to get drawers installed, but they’re so expensive! I’m still looking for a cost-effective solution.

  12. I have trouble cleaning out the utensil drawer. There are so many gadgets that I might use someday. What works best for me is to take everything out of the drawer and place on the counter or in a basket or other container. Leave it there for a week or so and every thing you use place back in the drawer when you clean it after using. At the end of the specified time, the items you have not used can be donated or discarded. It is much easier to get rid of items when we realize how little we have used the item, if ever.

  13. I have separate “filing containers”for each of my kids’ school stuff-I try to look through it weekly to see what needs attention.

  14. The island in my kitchen is huge – I was so excited when we first moved into this house but it is a large, flat, horizontal surface that just calls out to have stuff piled on it. Everyone sets their stuff on it when they walk in the house and no matter how hard I try it never seems to stay organized. Four kids at four different schools = enough paper to fill up a file cabinent on a weekly basis.

  15. JUNK DRAWER!!! Actually, I should say junk drawerS!! Should I just not have one or should it be organized chaos??

  16. I have a very small kitchen. A lot of my storage is in my laundry room and I have extra shelves in the garage. I can only keep appliances that are multi-purposed. I don’t have room for the quesadilla makers of this world. I tend to cook more old fashioned because I have the same types of pans and appliances as my mother and grandmother used. I’m okay with that.

  17. My island in the kitchen seems to always be cluttered with mail, and catches everything when we walk in our home. I never seem to have enough space to keep things organized!

  18. I have a very small kitchen with limited cabinet space. A couple months ago, I went through every cupboard ruthlessly and threw away or donated the things I haven’t used in years. I had so many different serving utensils, some never used. It feels great to have an organized kitchen! However with that said, paper/mail/receipts all find their way to part of my small kitchen counter, so I really need to focus on keeping that “paper” free!

  19. My biggest success recently is a sandwich station – I used a small two shelf unit (that’s supposed to be for shoes in a closet) and keep all of our sandwich stuff that isn’t refrigerated there. So, now I can crank out our daily PB and honey sandwiches without having to get anything out or put anything away. It’s working great and hubby even uses it :).

  20. I always left everything all appliances and other items on my kitchen counter until one day my husband said
    , “honey you are not cleaning this properly”. He cleaned the counters completely everything was removed from the counter tops. it was beautiful and this confirms it does work and we cook great meals all the time .

  21. After reading Glynnis’ book several months ago, I attacked my kitchen. The biggest disaster was the plastic containers and matching lids. My frustrated husband would pull everything out and just shove it back in the cupboards. So, I cleaned off the tops of the counters and placed my decorative canister set on them( Pfaltzgraf). I placed the same sized lids into the different canisters. For the larger lids, I used my largest plastic container and aligned them in it. I organized all the containers themselves in neat piles. For the past several months, everything has stayed organized. I also bought a wire plate holder to hold my different sized cutting boards. My husband is a ‘happy camper’ with this arrangement.

  22. My biggest obstacle is myself. I am so fatigued to comlete too many tasks. Even breaking them down seems to be too tiresome. I also have a small counter that collects everything! Love everyone’s ideas!

  23. It sounds like PAPER is a common foe! I have not conquered that monster completely, but these are a few strategies that have really helped (I am married and have 3 daughters, 13, 9 and 6).

    1) I go through the school papers as soon as they come in the door. Most school work gets reviewed and tossed in the recycle bin. I take pictures of most artwork and then, yes, recycle. I save a few papers and creations over the course of the year that I put in a keepsake box – one for each child (stored away in the basement, attic, office…). For papers that I may need to refer to again (i.e., notes about field trips, upcoming concerts, important assignments etc.) I file them into the girls’ designated folders (see #2)
    2) I started using brightly colored folders – the kinds with two pockets in them. I have one for each of my daughters for their school papers (different color assigned to each girl). If they have an extra-curricular activity (ballet, soccer, theater…) I have another folder for important papers related to that activity. Again, color-coordinated for each child (Emma has blue folders, etc.) When the activity is done for the year, I recycle the papers and save the folder for later use.
    3) Right now, I keep these folders in a cabinet in the desk area of my kitchen. I haven’t always had this luxury. In the past, I have kept them in one of my kitchen cabinets or on a section of bookshelf in the office/family room.
    4) This system worked so well for me, that I started using these folders for other papers too. Again, I get rid of as much as possible right away, and only save what I really need. Then, I have my folders for … menu planning and grocery shopping, tax documents, church committees, medical/dental/insurance papers, bills to pay, etc.
    5) I try to stock up on these folders in August, when the back-to-school sales are in full swing. I can usually get them for 10 cents each, rather than 50 cents or more.

    The folders have really helped me manage the paper in our house. Maybe this will be a helpful tool for someone else.

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