ORGANIZED AND ENERGIZED! PART 4 – THE KITCHEN AND THE DINING AREA
By Dianne de Las Casas
The hearth has always been the heart of the home. People gather where food lives. This room probably gets the most traffic each day, especially if you have children. The kitchen is also a room that needs constant maintenance or it gets out of hand.
• ACT on your kitchen. Assess what you need and what you don’t (get rid of anything you have multiples of – who needs two juicers?). Clear the surface clutter. Take control by grouping and containerizing. Remember the “Like with Like” rule. Put the knives near your prep area. Pots and pans should be near the stove. Utensils, dishes, and glassware should be in the same area for ease in setting the table at dinnertime. This is my breakfast bar. Coffee, fruit, bread and the toaster live in this area. It makes mornings more efficient.
• Store the largest, least used items in the back of the deepest cabinets (bread machine, rotisserie, ice cream maker, bulky mixers, etc.). Large serving platters, chocolate fountains, drink fountains, chafing dishes and items that you only use for occasional parties can find a home elsewhere (attic, basement, garage).
• Make the most of cabinet space by using shelf spacers and dividers.
• Tidy up the junk drawer by purchasing a pre-labeled and containerized junk drawer organizer. I got mine at Wal-Mart and LOVE it.
• In the pantry, use risers for canned goods. If your pantry is small, like mine, maximize the use of the space with a back-of-the-door organizer.
• Spices should be stored in a dry, cool place away from the moisture of the sink and the heat of the stove. If you are re-doing your kitchen, consider a pull-out spice rack. This one is a 3 inch filler (with spices alphabetized courtesy of my 7 year old) and make a dead space a useful space. There are also spice drawer inserts to make use of a large kitchen drawer. If you have a lot of cabinet space, store your spices in a basket so that when you are cooking, you can pull out the whole basket instead of pulling out all the spices to find the one in the back. Also, label the top of the spice bottles so you can easily access your spices.
• Bring life into the kitchen with plants. Even if you have a black thumb, a jade tree, bamboo, and cactus are virtually care-free and add greenery and oxygen. If you really can’t keep plants alive, jazz up the space with a realistic silk plant. I have a combination of both in my kitchen. Real plants on the window sill, where there is light. A silk plant in the corner where it is darker.
• Clean as you cook. Have the children pitch in to make meals.
• Wash, dry, and put away the dishes before you go to bed. Or load the dishes in the dishwasher before you go to bed and put them away in the morning before you go to work.
The Dining Area
If you only use your dining room for family gatherings once or twice a year, think about converting it into something you would use more often such as an office, an exercise room, a meditation room or a library. My husband and I converted our formal dining room into an office/guest room. Of course, our breakfast area is huge and accommodates a table that seats eight.
• Purchase an appropriate-sized table. If you do a lot of entertaining, consider getting a dining room table in which leaves can be removed to make it more compact.
This is a formal dining room I organized and designed for the M Family. They entertain quite a bit so a formal dining room is appropriate for their home. The walls which were once white are now painted a burgundy below the chair rail and a deep gold above the chair rail. Mrs. M collects angels and her china cabinet was overrun with them. You couldn’t see any of her china! We edited the angel collection, keeping the most valuable and most sentimental pieces. The rest were donated or stored for rotation. I created a beautiful floral arrangement for the middle of the dining room table. The rug underneath is a valuable oriental rug that was moved from the living room. It has the burgundy hues of the wall. The dining room is now an exquisite jewel yet still warm and inviting.
Next, you will see the M’s dining room table transformed into a centerpiece for a wine and cheese party. I took the color cues for the party’s theme from the rich color palette of the dining room. The dining room, as well as the rest of the house, was a showstopper. They went from not wanting to have anyone over because they were overrun with clutter to having lavish parties on a regular basis.
• If the kids must do their homework on the dining room table, require that they clean it up immediately, putting everything away when they are finished.
• Put a beautiful arrangement and candles in the middle of the dining table – this will inspire you to keep the surface clutter-free.
• Eat at your dining table every day. Bring the family together for meal times. Not only will you need to clear space for this important ritual; it is valuable, quality time for everyone in the household. Set the table with beautiful linens and place mats. Use good dishware. Meal time is sacred family time. Take the time to talk and listen to each other.
There is a Shaker saying that a friend of mine taught me, “If it can be put down, it can be put up.” Put up the clutter; don’t put up with the clutter! This is your year to get organized and energized. Here’s to beautiful spaces. Here’s to beautiful you!