Planning and Revamping – The Less Than Perfect Kitchen

 

Now that I’ve shared with you what I did in my own home to make my less-than-perfect kitchen function better for me, I hope I’ve inspired you to think of ways to make your own kitchen more efficient for you. There are some things that you can do to make the planning unique to your own situation, but it will require some work. Remember the admonition in Proverbs that the excellent wife is to work with her hands willingly, some translations say with delight!  In any event, remember, this planning work, though slow and cumbersome, will result in a smoother running, more efficient kitchen.

First, and absolutely vital, stand in your kitchen and thank God for His provision.  You have not only a roof over your head, but a kitchen to boot!  I don’t need to remind you that there are women feeding their families with neither a kitchen nor even a home.  We truly do have much to be thankful for!  Remember to thank Him for the things you like about your kitchen, as well as the things that you absolutely do NOT like.  It is all His provision for you.  Next, pray for the Lord to help you in the coming days to think clearly about your kitchen and pray specifically for wisdom. Wisdom will be necessary to make good decisions about your kitchen and to make those decisions with little or no expense.

This would be a good time to talk to your husband, too.  Be sure that it is not going to displease him if you make some changes in the kitchen.  Be honest with him about the things that make your kitchen difficult for you. No whining, no complaining – just the facts.  For example, “The way our kitchen is currently arranged, it is difficult for me to do my baking because my supplies are stored all over the kitchen.”  Then let him know that you would like to spend about a week keeping notes as you work in your kitchen and that you will be able to formulate a plan at the end of that time.  If you’re not sure, you might check with your husband to see if there is any money in the budget for a few organizational-type items to help.  If not, you really can make your kitchen more efficient with no expense.  Please realize, if your husband has any objection to your changing your kitchen, stop now.  You can, of course, continue to pray about it, but drop the planning now.

If your husband agrees and if there is some discretionary income that might be used for this project, be sure tolet your husband know that you will get back to him with some figures about what you’d like to do.  In my kitchen, having the pull out drawers in the lower cabinets was important to me because of my bad back.  I also wanted to purchase a few plastic drawer organization boxes. I  spent about an hour one afternoon in a home store checking on the prices for the things I wanted.  I was then able to let Copper know what everything would cost in advance, and have his approval before going forward.  The stainless pull out drawers were a bit expensive, but the small plastic organizers were not.

Give yourself at least a week to plan.  You might need more time than this, but I would allow for at least a week.  You’ll need a notebook (a binder size wire bound notebook works great), a pencil and a tape measure. Sketch out a diagram of your kitchen including where the major appliances and sink are, and all of the cabinets and drawers.  Make it neat, but there is no need to draw it to “scale” unless you are so inclined.  I was not so inclined. Number each cabinet and drawer on your diagram.

Then, using the numbers for the cabinets and drawers, list on a separate page all of the things that are currentlykept there.  List everything!!  Now, you don’t need to specifically count all of your spoons, forks, etc., but you must be more specific than saying “junk drawer” or “large utensil drawer”.  Your list would say something like: Cabinet #1, every day dishes, serving bowls, extra mugs.  Drawer #1, everyday flatware,  Drawer #2, large cooking spoons, whisks, knives.

Now, stand back and think about what you want that would make your kitchen work better for you!  List these things and prioritize them.  Now there may be several things that you *want* in your kitchen, but be realistic. We are not remodeling our kitchens; we are simply looking for ways to make them more efficient with little or no cost.  When I did this, my first order of business was finding a place where I could have a baking center.  You may have only one major priority, or you may have a couple.  My priorities were (in this order) – having a baking center, having all of my pots and pans within easy access of the stove, having an efficient food prep area near the sink, fridge and stove, and having a beverage center. I wanted a lot!

 

Carefully pay attention to how and where you do things now, and as you are doing them think about what it would take to make this job more efficient.  Is there a better place for me to do this job?  Is everything I need for this job close at hand?  Do NOT begin moving things around yet!!  Don’t be surprised if you find that what you want to do is just not possible.  There was NO way that I could have a baking center in my kitchen and still have a separate place for meal preparation.  However, I was able to combine these two areas into one compact, working space.  I also discovered that I could not have an area close to my sink for a beverage center.  It just wasn’t going to happen!  Recognizing the impossibility freed me up to look for the next best solution.  Whatever you do, don’t make up your mind about anything yet.  Make notes about what might work, but do not set your heart on anything.

As the week progresses, and as you take more notes (mentally or written), you will think of some ideas that you’d like to try and you will come up with some questions. Write the ideas AND the questions down!  I used an “*” in the left margin of my note pages for ideas that I had and a “?” in the left margin to note questions.  For example, I might have had something like this on my notes pages:

* Combining the baking center with a food prep area might work!
? I don’t see a place to store the rolling pins

As you work through the week, you’ll add to the list of ideas and questions, but you will also begin to answer some of your questions.  One idea might replace another . Just keep on keeping notes, crossing off the things that no longer apply.

In your kitchen, you may only need to make some minor changes to make things work better for you.  If that’s the case, REJOICE!!  I needed to move virtually everything in my kitchen, but it was still worth all of the effort and I’m still REJOICING!!

At the end of the week, fix yourself a nice cup of tea and find a place where you can work for awhile.  An hour would give you a good start, but use whatever bits of time that your family and household allow.  In any event, I think that it’s best to allow yourself several different sessions for this.

Looking at your priorities, the things that you really would like to change, and your list of ideas, begin to implement your plan on paper.  What will you need to move from a particular area to make things work?  When I did this, I realized that I would need to combine my baking center with my meal preparation area.  I began to make a list of all of the things that I would like to have in that area – my mixer, my most commonly used spices, baking ingredients (flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, vanilla, oil, etc.), mixing bowls, bowl scrapers, measuring cups, measuring spoons, small whisks, rolling pins, etc.  Include everything that you will need to execute the idea that is your highest priority.  You may need to pare down this list later, but for now think about everything you would like to have to make your first priority item work.

Next, where in your kitchen can you carry out this first priority item?  Be creative.  Think outside the box. Remember, it is your kitchen and it doesn’t matter if everyone else does things differently.  In my kitchen now, my pots and pans are under my sink and my drinking glasses are several steps away from my sink.  That’s okay, because this actually fulfilled several of my priorities.  You might find, as I did, that a second priority falls right into place once you start thinking outside of the box.  That’s how my baking center and food prep areas came to be in the same location. And you know what? It works extremely well for me!

An important step, if you are going to be moving large items, be sure to measure your cabinet and/or drawer space before deciding.  My grain mill, for example, is fairly tall.  I needed to be sure that there was adequate height for it on the top shelf of my baking center.  If you have adjustable shelves in your kitchen, this step might be easier, but it is still necessary.

Once a likely spot in the kitchen is discovered, go over your list of what is already housed in that area and then your list of what you’d like to have in that area.  In the case of my baking center, everything that was in the cabinet had to find a new home.  Every last thing!  Again, that’s okay, it will just mean a bit more work when the day comes to move stuff around.

Go back to your kitchen diagram, the one that you numbered your cabinets and drawers on . Now, start a new page with these same numbers, but fill the cabinets (on paper) with the things that you’d like to move to make your first priority a reality.  You’ll write down what would need to go into the cabinet(s) and drawer(s) to make your first priority work.  For me, this meant listing all of those items that I would need to do all of my baking and food prep., and actually assigning them space in a numbered cabinet or drawer.  Remember, this is just on paper!

 

If you have a second, or even third priority, for your kitchen, go back now and do these last steps over again for those.  My second priority was getting my pots and pans closer to the stove.  Since my baking center and food preparation area already filled one cabinet and two drawers, I was able to see that that left just a very few possibilities to house the pots and pans near the stove. Thus the idea to keep them under the sink was born! Again, be creative.  We are made in the image of the Creator and are all thus endowed with some degree of creativity.  Remember this is YOUR kitchen and you can arrange things in a way that will work for you!

Once your priorities have all been taken care of, you’ll need to look at what’s left.  Making a new list of all of the items that have been displaced in your planning, as well as those things that still have not been given a new home, would be helpful.  Study this list carefully.  What really should be housed elsewhere?  Do these things really need to be in the kitchen?  Do you even need/use/want these things?  In my kitchen, I needed to find a new home for a set of stoneware.  I did not want to give it away, but I did want it out of my kitchen cabinets.  I found a spot for it in the bottom of the hutch in the dining room, which freed up two shelves in my kitchen.  I also decided that I did not need 2,456 mugs in my kitchen cabinets.  Three, or four, are really quite enough for our every day use. The rest were weeded out (chipped mugs were tossed, why did I still have them???) and the rest were put into the bottom of the hutch with the stoneware.  One more cabinet shelf emptied!

Now, you’ll need to think some more about how you work in your kitchen, and what would work best for you.  Begin to pencil things into the numbered cabinets and drawers in your notebook.  Begin with those things that are most frequently used, and put them in the most easily accessible, and as yet unfilled, cabinets or drawers. Again, remember to try to keep like things together, so much as possible, and only if you commonly use them at the same time.  We had cookie sprinkles and food coloring in one cabinet, but the cake decorating kit was in another.  They are now all in the same cabinet.  Remember, too, if your children are assigned chores in the kitchen that things need to be easily reached by them, too.  My daughter’s toddlers empty her dishwasher and put all of their everyday dishes away in a bottom cabinet.  My eight year old empties our dishwasher.  He can reach the lowest shelf of my upper cabinets, but no higher.

If you use a pencil, it’s very easy to erase when it becomes apparent that things won’t work the way you first thought they might.  Keep working at it. T his step may take several days, or even a few weeks.  Don’t be discouraged!! You want it to be right before you move anything!

Another thing that might come up – you might find that you may need to have a few duplicate items.  For example, if you have developed a baking center, you would want measuring cups and spoons nearby.  However, if your baking center is located very far from the area where you prepare your family’s meals, you might find that you need a second set of measuring cups and spoons there.  Jot these things down!!  If the budget is especially tight, not being able to have duplicates in a situation like this might cause you to re-work your plan.  Give yourself plenty of time.

When I worked on my kitchen, I moved some things around on paper multiple times.  It took me a few tries before I found the best place for my kitchen towels.  Our medicines, vitamins and first aid supplies bounced from cabinet to cabinet, in my notes, several times.  I can’t say it enough, take your time.  If you hit a roadblock, take a break and think and pray over it awhile.  Ask others in your home that share kitchen duties if they have a solution.

Bit by bit, everything in your kitchen will finally be assigned a permanent spot on your plan.  I found it helpful to re-write this finalized plan neatly on a couple of fresh pieces of paper.  Go back to your original list of everything that is in your kitchen and be sure that it has all found a home in the finalized plan.  Check over the finalized plan carefully.  Live with it, on paper, for awhile.  Is this really and truly going to make your kitchen more efficient? Pray about it, asking specifically for wisdom again.

Once you are sure that this is what you are going to do, it is time to put your plans into action.

First, allow yourself plenty of time.  My kitchen was torn up for two or three days, but my husband also needed time to install the pull out drawers that he bought me.  If we had not done that, I think we would have been able to do it all in a day or a day and a half.  Be sure to check with your husband and see if there are any days that are particularly better than others to do this.  If you have only small children, I would suggest either planning on having your kitchen in disarray for a few days, or, perhaps, asking a friend to give you a hand.  Many hands make light work!!  Plan on crock pot suppers the days you’ll be working.

I cannot tell you where to begin.  You’ll have to decide on that for yourself. I simply started at one end of one side of my kitchen and worked my way around.  Empty everything out of the first cabinet, drawer, whatever. Using whatever cleaning products you like, clean out the drawers, shelves, etc.  Be sure they are nice and dry before you put anything back in.  If you like shelf paper, this would be a good time to put in new.  Please, please, please, for your own sanity, only empty one drawer or cabinet at a time!  It is helpful if you have an out-of-the way place to put things when you take them out.  My parlor is just off of my kitchen, so I took things in there.  I also used my kitchen table.

Once the first cabinet or drawer is empty and clean, check your final plan. What belongs in this area?  Retrieve all of the necessary items and neatly put them away in their new home.  You might need to clean them up first. Move on to the second cabinet or drawer – empty it, clean it, and then put away the items that now belong there. As times passes, you may begin to have quite a collection of “homeless” items.  Don’t despair.  You will, eventually, come to the cabinet where they belong.  On the other hand, you will also begin to run across a drawer or cabinet that is empty because all of its contents have already been moved to their new location.

This is dirty, back-breaking hard work.  Remember to be thankful that you are finally making your kitchen over to work better for you. Think ahead to how much nicer things will be when you are done.

Once you are completely done, you might find it helpful to fill out 3×5 cards and tape these on the doors of your cabinets or fronts of your drawers for awhile.  You might know where everything is, but your family won’t. Honestly, *I* needed to have the cards posted for a couple of weeks until I had everything’s new location memorized!  Old habits will have you returning to an item’s old location for awhile.

Now, as in the beginning, you should turn your heart toward God and give thanks and praise to Him for allowing you the wisdom and time to revamp your kitchen. Thank Him again for His provision. T hank your husband, also, for allowing you the time and/or resources to make your “new” kitchen a reality.  Enjoy your new digs!!  Everything is not only arranged just as you wanted it, but all of your drawers and cabinets, and their contents, are all sparkling clean!  Now, cook up a good meal for your husband, or bake him his favorite dessert. After all, you are now working in an efficient, well-thought-out kitchen designed especially for you!!

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