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In many households today, the kitchen serves not only as a place to prepare meals but also as an informal gathering area. They’re often a spot to indulge in a quick, on-your-feet snack as well as a space for the kids to do homework while Mom and Dad put together dinner. Plus, with the trend toward open-design floor plans, kitchens aren’t always separate rooms, but rather, they’re an integrated part of a home’s primary living area. Because of this, it’s more important than ever to keep your kitchen well maintained to make meal preparation easier and create a pleasant area for family members and household guests to enjoy.
Here are five simple tips for keeping your kitchen neatly organized and sparkling clean.
1. FOR EFFECTIVE CLEANING, GO NATURAL
Let’s face it. Cleaning products can be expensive, and many formulas simply don’t live up to their unrealistic performance promises. What you might not know is that some of the most effective cleaning products available today can be found right in your own pantry. Environmentally friendly, inexpensive and safe, particularly for households with small children and pets, these chemical-free alternatives to commercial cleaning supplies are surprisingly effective. For exceptional cleaning power try:
- White vinegar. Not only is white vinegar inexpensive, but it’s one of the most versatile cleaning agents out there. With its ability to cut through dirt and grease, white vinegar is effective for cleaning cutting boards, microwave and fridge interiors, tile floors and even stained plastic storage containers. Vinegar and water should be mixed in a 50-50 ratio and can be applied with a spray bottle. The solution is also an effective disinfectant, and it wipes away easily with a damp cloth, leaving kitchen surfaces clean and sanitary. Undiluted, vinegar also does a great job of removing mineral buildup from faucets. Wrap a vinegar-filled bag around your faucet head, and let it soak overnight.
- Baking soda. Baking soda is not just for the fridge anymore. When you mix 1/4 of a cup of baking soda with a little bit of hydrogen peroxide, you create a multipurpose paste that’s effective for cleaning appliances, removing residue from baking pans and keeping utensils free from water stains. Used by itself, baking soda sprinkled onto a damp scrubbing sponge makes a great sink cleaner, and of course, you can still tuck a box in your fridge or freezer to reduce odors.
- Lemon Juice. Don’t throw away those squeezed lemons. Instead, use them to eliminate stains and bacteria from cutting boards and other germ-filled surfaces. You can also mix lemon juice with salt to create a mild abrasive that’s ideal for scrubbing butcher blocks and stained pans. As an added benefit, lemons effectively eliminate odors, particularly in the kitchen where cooking smells, such as fish, can linger long after a meal is over. A sponge soaked in lemon juice can also be placed in your fridge to reduce unpleasant odors.
For more ideas and tips on cleaning with natural products, check out our article on the best natural cleaning products laying around your house.
2. CREATE STORAGE IN PLAIN SIGHT
A lack of kitchen cabinet space is a common problem for homeowners and renters alike. One often overlooked solution is to turn your oft-used kitchen items into unique wall decor. Whether it’s sleek stainless steel utensils or Grandma’s weathered, hand-me-down cutting board, hanging kitchenware where it’s easily accessible creates decor that’s functional and adds a touch of your personal style or family history to your kitchen. Make sure to hang items so that they’re easily retrievable when you need to actually use them for food preparation.
If pantry space is an issue, you can also create decor out of common food items. Transfer beans, pasta, rice, cereal and other dry goods into pretty glass jars and set them on your countertop for a rustic look that provides easy access to pantry staples. Make sure to choose jars with lids that seal tightly to keep your food fresh for use.
3. KNOW WHAT’S IN YOUR FREEZER?
It’s all too easy to forget what’s in your freezer, particularly when you wrap foods in layers of wax paper and plastic. A magnetic whiteboard hung on the side of your refrigerator makes a great organizational tool, providing an easy way to keep track of frozen food items. By listing freezer contents and updating your board whenever you put something in or take something out, you’ll always know what’s on hand for meals. Plus, with a big enough whiteboard, you can include a running shopping list, and plan out weekly menus.
If you don’t like the idea of a whiteboard hanging in full view, mount it on the inside of a cabinet or pantry door, or for a more old-fashioned look, hang a framed chalkboard and use multicolored chalk to color code your lists by food category. Another option is chalkboard paint, which can be applied directly to your kitchen walls in any shape you choose.
4. DON’T TOSS. REUSE.
From raw meat to sticky fingers, kitchens are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. While disposable disinfectant wipes are convenient for cleanup, they can be environmentally unfriendly and take a toll on your wallet. Save money and keep your kitchen clean and sanitary with reusable disinfectant wipes that you can make in a few simple steps.
Create reusable wipes out of just about any fabric you have around the house: spare washcloths, old towels or even discarded clothing. Cut clean fabric into wipe-sized pieces, and toss them in a large, lidded glass jar. To create the disinfecting solution, add 1/4-cup rubbing alcohol and 2 tablespoons of Dawn dish soap for every cup of water, and pour the mixture over the rags until they’re saturated. Once you’re done, close the lid tightly to reduce evaporation. When you need to disinfect countertops or other kitchen surfaces, you’ll always have a wipe handy. As an added benefit, these wipes can be tossed in the wash after use and returned, once clean, to the jar, making them an environmentally responsible cleaning and sanitizing solution.
5. BRING THE OFFICE HOME
When you’re shopping for kitchen organization solutions, why not hit your local office-supply store? Here, it pays to be creative. Office stores sell a wealth of organizational supplies that can solve many of your kitchen dilemmas, often at a lower price than products designed specifically for kitchens. You can save even more money by raiding your own office for possibilities.
- Try turning a wire file sorter on its side to neatly organize bakeware and frying pans. Not only will you avoid those wobbly stacks of kitchenware that inevitably topple out of your cabinets, but the sorter lets you easily find the item you’re looking for and just as easily put it away. It also works well for organizing unruly pot lids.
- If you want to maximize freezer space, look no further than your bag of binder clips. Position each clip over the wire of the top freezer shelf and use it to hang a bag of frozen veggies, french fries or other frozen foods to free up a significant amount of shelf space. To store the last few popsicles from a nearly empty bag, tuck a pencil cup on your freezer door. It saves space while allowing late-night snackers a quick view of what’s available.
- Standing file organizers mounted on the inside of a cabinet or pantry door are a great way to store grocery bags, boxes of aluminum foil or cleaning supplies. You can easily mount plastic organizers with adhesive strips, freeing up valuable drawer space for cooking utensils and other kitchen supplies.
- If, like most people, you’re using a laptop and no longer need your monitor stand, repurpose it as an extra shelf in your freezer or pantry, or fit it into a cabinet to organize dinner plates or mugs.
- Hang corkboards inside cabinets and pantry doors to organize small utensils and measuring cups or to pin up recipes, shopping lists or weekly menus. It’s a great way to maximize space that isn’t ordinarily used at all.
When it comes to cleaning and organizing your kitchen, don’t hesitate to think outside the box for a solution to your unique needs. The answers may very well be hiding in plain sight. Once your kitchen and home are organized to your liking, it’ll be even easier to get it clean faster.