For our family so much of the magic of the season occurs in the kitchen. Holiday dinners, spiced cider, Christmas cookies and candy are all created in this one room. So in early November I tear it apart.
I start at the top and dust the upper cabinets and go all the way to the bottom by wiping the baseboards. A deep clean. Because you know how wonderful it feels when everything just sparkles? Then it will only require weekly touchups throughout the busy holiday season.
Some of the cleaning is easy. I turn on the self cleaning oven, I run the dishwasher empty with a cup of vinegar added to remove hard water buildup…but there is one monster that requires a bit more elbow grease.
For the record, in houses with small children, I am not a fan of stainless steel refrigerators.
Because most of the time they looks like this:
But if the refrigerator is new and came with the house you bought, you work with what you have. As many of you know I am a fan of natural cleaning products. Tree hugger, yadda yadda… I wipe my stainless steel appliances down with lemon oil.
There is a slight film, yes. But if you have an in the door water/ice machine and hard water it is inevitable the water will splash onto the stainless steel. By using the lemon oil, instead of having hard water spots on your stainless steel, the water just beads off of the surface.
Now for the inside of the refrigerator.
My arch nemesis is the squeeze bottle.
Because after a certain point they become so low on content that you have to flip them over and well…lids are not always closed correctly by little hands. Or big hands for that matter.
I was constantly having to take the door off and wipe out the sticky goo. Then fridge coasters exploded in blogland.
Fantastic! This is the best idea I have seen in a long time. Only it was going to be over $50 for me to makeover my fridge. :(
So I picked up 8 inexpensive plastic placemats. You can find the mats at WalMart, Kmart, the dollar store ~ this neutral basket weave pattern was at Target. My kitchen shears cut through the mat quite easily.
My bins and drawers had all sorts of twists and turns.
So I just took them out and traced around the bottom to create a pattern.
Now when a mess is made I just simply lift out my DIY refrigerator coaster for a quick wash.
TIP: Take your individual serving food out of the bulk packaging. It makes it easier to stack and little hands are more apt to pick a healthy snack of applesauce or yogurt. Can you see the small portions of cheese in the Tupperware? By removing the packaging you can also pack lunches more quickly.
I also use turntables and other organizers to make the most of the space.
Yes, I have four types of mustard: English, Asian, French and German. I use each and every one to create sauces, dressings and marinades. While cleaning the fridge I noticed that the German mustard was almost empty so I added it onto my ever growing “must buy” list. I’d hate to find that I had run out 20 minutes before a holiday dinner party.
I also had a wire shelf in my freezer that had a gap of space in the back.
It was large enough that small boxes or bags of frozen produce would sometimes fall down and then the bin below wouldn’t close. ARGH!!!!
So it too received a customized placemat.
I am happy to report I haven’t had a problem since! :)
Ok, so all of the big appliances are clean. Don’t forget the small ones. Wipe down the blenders, coffee makers and toasters, etc. By doing this I remembered that my hand mixer is on the fritz and added one on to the “must buy” list.
It is amazing the crud that can build up so quickly. Even though I cleaned our toaster out before we moved 4 months ago this was the bounty that was in the bottom tray. Ewwww! A feast for bugs waiting to happen.
Now lets address the cupboards. My kitchen is tiny. I cook one meal (sometimes three) every single day. The key to a well organized kitchen is making it work for you instead of you working for your kitchen.
For some reason the builder decided he would place what is supposed to be the pantry right next to the dishwasher.
Mr. Builder this is a bad idea because:
A. It interferes with the work triangle. Dishes should be placed in the cupboards next to the dishwasher so you aren’t walking yourself to death to put them away across the room.
B. The hot water temperatures caused by a dishwasher are not good for canned goods and plastic wrapped food. They could spoil, go stale faster or develop a plastic or metallic taste.
As an interior designer I see bad kitchen layouts ALL THE TIME. So what do you do if you can’t afford to rip things out and start over? Work with what you have.
Make your kitchen work for you! Think outside the cabinet box.
My “pantry” stores my dishes. In the upper cabinets I have my red antique transfer ware. I use portable wire shelving to make the most of the small space.
In the lower cabinets I have our every day dishes, serving pieces, silverware and some baking pots that are only used occasionally.
Bonus: By placing the everyday dishes at child height my kids can set the table and unload the dishwasher.
Glasses and cups are right above the dishwasher. This makes unloading clean dishes a much quicker and easy task.
On the other side of the sink in the upper cabinet is our special crystal, Tupperware and measuring cups. Pots and pans are stored below. Right next to the stove where they are used.
When we moved I lost three full sets of cabinets and the cabinets in this kitchen are also not as deep. I did a lot of purging and you know what? I have yet to miss the excess that I got rid off. The cabinets are packed for sure but organized in such a manner I can find things easily.
Right next to the stove in the upper left hand cabinet are my cookbooks and baking supplies.
I found I was almost out of vanilla so that made the “must buy” list too.
To the right of the stove are my vinegars, cooking oils and spices.
I took the time to refill/top off all of my salt and pepper shakers. Better now that when I am rushing in mid December to get dinner on the table.
So where did the pantry end up? Right next to the refrigerator. All of my food storage is together. It makes sense to me.
The upper cabinet goes deep out of reach. To help offset the outta site/outta mind problem that can occur I use stacking shelves. Again everything is unpacked and ready to go.
In the base cabinets I reused some existing plastic bins that hold more things for lunches and my baking supplies. (It’s time to stock up on sugar and flour! :)
The skinny base cabinet can hold three boxes of cereal and three more can be stacked on top.
Now my kitchen is ready for holiday magic all season long. By making note of what I am running low on (including light bulbs, batteries and aluminum foil) and stocking up now (to include fun foods) I won’t have the last minute panic that so often occurs, which means less stress during the holidays.
Time investment for cleaning and shopping: 8 hours. Peace of mind: priceless.