When I think of the most organized space in the world I always go right to the preschool classroom. I know it may not be the most obvious choice but think about it for a minute. It is a room that has to support a dozen or more unrelated daily activities, be set up in a way that is easy to maintain by young children, and have the ability to keep a small herd of 4-year-olds entertained every single day.
I remember some of the activities of my own preschool. We had an area for building with blocks, another area for arts and crafts, and still another area for dress up. Activities rarely spilled over into another area.
When it was nap time we would all quickly clean up and walk over to our little cubbies to get our monogrammed bath towels. We would then head over to our designated nap time area, lay down our towels, and have quiet time for the next 30 minutes.
We could take a cue from these organized classrooms and apply some of it’s magic to our own homes. By setting up and laying out zones in each of our rooms.
Kitchen zones organization are the secret weapon of the highly organized. They are the key to knowing where to put things in your kitchen.
If I lost you, let’s back up for just a minute.
What exactly are zones?
Zones are an area in a room where a specific task is meant to be completed. By having zones, you will be better able to determine what items belong in a room. So, if balancing your checkbook does not happen in the family room then bills should never be found in that room.
Like the art zone in the preschool, zones help to set boundaries which will, in turn, allow you to quickly see what items can stay and what items need to leave.
Let’s turn this up a notch and apply it to a room that resembles a preschool.
The one room in our home where a handful of tasks are completed on a daily basis.
Because the kitchen is command central for the family, the hub of the home.
With so many things happening in this one room, it’s no wonder it tends to be the most disorganized and chaotic.
Setting up zones in your kitchen is nothing new. It is how my own preschool was organized over 45 years ago so I would definitely call it an old school rule. Sometimes the best ideas, especially when it comes to decluttering and organizing, are the old school ideas. And setting up zones is one of those golden oldies.
While we are here, let’s grab another old school rule. A place for everything and everything in its place.
When your things do not have specific homes you tend to toss them where you use them. And that right there, the tossing of our things, is what causes all the clutter.
But just designating a home for your things is not the solution either. You also need to take it one step further and actually put those things into their specific homes when you are finished using them. And the trick to making sure you actually put your things away is to organize your kitchen so it is easy to use.
The first rule to organizing any area is to make it simple so you use it. So simple in fact, that you want to use it every single time.
Sure those boxes with the lids would look great in your kitchen cabinet, but why give yourself 2 extra steps to put your things away? One step is usually the limit when learning a brand new system and in the kitchen that is the key to keeping it clean, neat, and clutter-free.
Like the cubbies in my preschool functionality is the key to sticking with a new organizing habit.
Kitchen zones organization
Step #1 Make a List
The first thing you need to do is make a list of all the tasks you normally complete in your kitchen.
There really are no rules here. In fact, what you do in your kitchen will not be the same as what I do in mine.
Sure we both cook there, eat there, even bake there but that may be where our similarities end. You might also pay bills in your kitchen where I like to make soap in mine.
For that reason, there is no one size fits all list here.
Before choosing kitchen zones, I find it’s best to walk the room. Actually, get up and take a little stroll around your kitchen thinking of all the things you typically do in that room. Make a list of those things, a brain dump of sorts, listing each and every task you do in your kitchen.
Step #2 Combine and Finalize
When you complete your list, you might just be shocked at how many things you have on it.
And you and I both know there is only so much room in our kitchens, so a little combining is now in order.
If, for example, you like to pay your bills in your kitchen and your kids do homework there as well, you can combine those two similar activities into one zone.
Go through your list and look for tasks you can combine into one encompassing zone. Continue combining until your list is a bit more realistic.
Step #3 Make a Visual Map
If you are anything like me (and I am assuming you are since you are reading this right now) then you are a visual person. And the best tool for the visual person, I am happy to say, is post-it notes.
Grab a pad right now of your favorite color and let’s get to work.
Make a post-it for each item on your ZONES sheet and place them on the cabinet or drawer where you would like to do that specific task. Notice I did not say where you DO do a task.
We are rethinking things here. Pretend that you are seeing your kitchen for the very first time.
Where would you cook? This will be your cooking zone.
Where would you bake? This will be your baking zone.
Go down your list choosing the best spot for each zone on your list. Just a heads up here, you may need to move things around a bit to make it all flow more smoothly
Keep doing this until you have things where you want them.
D/M Pro Tip: Don’t worry if this part takes a lot of time. Knowing where to place your zones so they complement the setup of your kitchen is the key here and finding the right fit can take a bit of trial and error. For that reason, you will want to take your time laying things out. Also, remember to use the room you are given.
There are no rules when it comes to setting up your zones. A drawer might be just fine for one zone, while another requires a drawer, lower cabinet, and two upper cabinets.
Step #4 Dos-I-Do
Yep, we are going to do a bit of square dancing here.
You will want to move things around so that the items needed in each specific zones are front and center. If you have a baking zone, for example, then you will want your mixer, measuring cups, mixing bowls, and baking pans all housed close together.
Remember, the purpose of your zones is to make the room both efficient and orderly.
For that reason, you will want to set up your zones so they make sense to how you work.
If you do a lot of crockpot cooking then do not house your crock pot on a hard to reach shelf. Instead, keep it front and center so you make it simple and efficient to work in each zone you set up.
Please know that this step is going to make things look much worse before they look better. Just be prepared for the chaos and remember it’s all apart of the process and the key to getting the kitchen you have always dreamed of.
Step #5 Purge as you Go
The beauty of using zones is the stress of decluttering is taken out of the picture.
The zone determines the rule of what items can stay and what items must go.
If you have a canning zone, then you will know that flower vases do not belong in that zone and either must go (donate) or be housed in a different zone or a different room altogether.
Another plus of using zones is when you put all of the items in one location you will actually SEE how many tools you have. So, you might not realize that you own 5 funnels until you gather them up for your canning zone.
Now that you are aware of the amount you have, you can easily remove all but 2, a large one and a small one and free up much-needed space in your canning zone.
Step #6 Clean and Prep
Before you begin putting things into their new zones, do a little wipe down first. Once you empty a drawer or cabinet, wipe it down and make any repairs or adjustments needed.
You do not want to drag this task out, so do things right as you go along. This will ensure you get it all done and can check this task off of your list for good.
Going back to finish up later is a clutter bug mentality and the reason why we have so many unfinished projects. Take the time to do it right the first time just like our mothers taught us.
Step #7 Compartmentalize
Before you begin to put things away, make sure you have a setup in place that will make it easy for anyone in your family to find what they need when they need it.
Drawer dividers work perfectly to keep things sorted and organized. A basket is another way to keep a large drawer from becoming a cluttered mess.
You can even get creative and make your own dividers and bins.
The point is to make a system that is so simple to use that even your youngest children will have no problem finding an item or putting it back where it belongs.
D/M Pro Tip: Do you have a lazy susan that you need compartmentalizing? Try using tape to section off pie-shaped areas to more easily designate a spot for your things.
Step #8 Keep your Post-it Notes in Place
For the first few weeks, I would suggest keeping your post-it notes up.
This visual reminder will be very helpful when putting clean dishes away or tidying up. As you begin to learn your kitchen zones and what items belong there, you can take the notes down.
Step #9 Do Monthly Health Checks
Once a month do a once over of all your zones making sure you still have things set up the way you planned. If a zone is just not working, do another Do-Si-Do and try another way.
Sometimes kitchen zones take a bit of tweaking until you find the system that works best for you. If it’s not efficient then you will want to move things around until it is. You might just find that adding a drawer or sliding down one cabinet is all you need to to make a zone flow more easily and efficiently.
Of all the kitchen cabinet organization systems, zones are by far the most effective and are a great way to really streamline not only your kitchen but every room in your home.
By designating specific tasks in each room you will, in turn, make it easier to identify the clutter. At the same time, you will also find it much easier to designate homes for all your things.
Now that you know what is going where with kitchen zones organization, let’s dive into the best tools to keep each area set up in an efficient way. Your next stop is to read: ORGANIZING TOOLS THAT WILL HELP YOU LOVE YOUR KITCHEN AGAIN