Answer: Studio apartment kitchen storage

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Q. I’m furnishing a studio apartment to be used as a vacation rental.  I need a way of utilizing the space over a mini-refrigerator for storage of kitchen supplies, small appliances, etc., without having to install shelves.  What can you recommend for a space no wider than 26 inches and no deeper than 20 inches?

A.  You’re in luck–there’s a rack designed specifically for the needs you’ve described.  The Mini Fridge and Microwave Rack is 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep, sized to fit over most types of mini-fridges.  It has two adjustable shelves that are ideal for storing kitchen supplies and appliances such as a microwave.  

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Kitchen Utensil Organizers

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kitchen utensil organizers
Every kitchen has certain essential utensils that are used so frequently, you hate to put them away.

The ones with long handles–spatulas, strainers, wooden spoons, slotted spoons, tongs, whisks–often end up jumbled together in countertop crocks. A better option is to hang them up. (That’s probably why so many long-handled utensils have an aperture at the end.)

Hanging up kitchen utensils makes it easier to see what you need and also easier to access each tool while you’re cooking.  But how should you hang them?  You could just hammer some nails or hooks into your kitchen walls–or, if you prefer a classier look, opt for one of these handy hanging kitchen utensil organizers:

  • The ultra-sleek Umbra Under Cabinet Utensil Holder is designed to be installed along the underside of your kitchen cabinet or directly to a kitchen wall.  It features flexible rubber grippers under the utensil rail that securely suspend up to four long-handled utensils. The grippers instantly “grab” and hold kitchen tools of almost any size, releasing each one easily whenever you need to use a specific utensil.
  • Wall-mount pot racks can be used for holding a variety of long-handled utensils.  For small kitchens, the space-maximizing Large Corner Bookshelf Pot Rack is especially useful–it includes 12 angled hooks that hang down from a metal grid shelf capable of holding cookbooks or cooking supplies.
  • The 32-Inch Kitchen Utensil Holder is simply a wall-mounted heavy-duty steel bar with 12 sliding hooks.  There are six straight pot hooks plus six angled pot hooks that let you angle your utensils to save space. For smaller walls, the Utensil Holder for Kitchen is very similar but only 22 inches wide and includes eight sliding hooks.

More types of kitchen utensil organizers can be found here.  And for more ideas on organizing cooking implements, read my post on cookware storage solutions.

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Kitchen sink organization ideas

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kitchen sink organizers

Do you have “everything but the kitchen sink” around your kitchen sink? I’m talking about dish wands, bottle brushes, sponges, scrubbers, dish soap, hand soap and lotion…all those necessities that unfortunately tend to make the sink area look cluttered.

Whatever is in regular use at the kitchen sink deserves its own home.  But it can be challenging to find a storage solution that fits in such a limited space. Luckily there are several well-designed caddies that make it easy to keep your sink looking tidy. Here are three outstanding and affordable kitchen sink organization helpers:

  • Alongside the sink–the Kitchen Sink Organizer ($7.99) has an exceptionally thoughtful space-saving design.  The main storage compartment provides ample space for holding a dishwand, a dish soap dispenser and a scrubbie, with a ventilated base and removable drip tray underneath; a pullout sponge-holder hangs over the sink to allow mess-free drainage.  Plus there are two hooks (one on each side of the main compartment) for holding your rings safely, minimizing the risk of losing your jewelry down the drain. A nonslip base keeps the organizer safely in place.
  • Over the sink–the Bamboo Over the Sink Shelf ($17.99) lets you utilize the vertical space above the faucet area, keeping all your dish washing supplies handy yet out of the way.
  • Inside the sink–the Clear Blumz Divided Sink Organizer ($8.99) is a type of organizer known as a “sink saddle”; it’s designed to straddle the center of a divided kitchen sink, with two self-draining clear plastic holders for sponges and scrubbies.  If you don’t have a double sink, the Adjustable Dish Brush and Sponge Holder ($5.99) features an adjustable strap that fits neatly around most kitchen sink faucets; hanging from the strap are two self-draining compartments sized to hold a dish wand and scrubber or sponge.

For more kitchen sink organization ideas, see my post on kitchen sink organizers.

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Answer: Vertical storage

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Q. My husband had a stroke that affected his swallow mechanism, so it takes him a long time to eat and therefore a meal can take two hours. Because he is at the table so long, a lot of items he needs stay on the table for a long time.  I have tried baskets and trays, but the result is the same – a spread out mess on the table.  The table is next to a wall, so I know there must be some way to use that wall for vertical storage, but I don’t have time to shop.  Your suggestions will be much appreciated.

A. To create vertical storage on your dining table, I recommend a stand-alone, three-level tiered shelf organizer, designed to sit on a flat surface so you don’t need to attach it to the wall.  Also known as stair-step risers, they’re available in a variety of sizes and styles.

You might also consider using a three-tiered rolling cart next to or under the table that can be easily rolled away after mealtime.

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Conquering kitchen clutter

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Trying to keep an over-stuffed kitchen organized is a losing battle.  No matter how many clever containers you use, the real problem is TOO MUCH STUFF.

But organizing becomes easier when you habitually let go of excess clutter instead of just cramming it into overcrowded cabinets and cupboards. Here are five steps you can take to conquer kitchen clutter:

  1.  Ask yourself which items really deserve to live in your kitchen cupboards and pantry cabinets, and which ones you’re ready to jettison (discard or donate).
  2.  Weed out common clutter-causers like multiple mugs (often caused by a fondness for “free gifts”), dozens of bags, countless condiment packets from fast-food eateries, and enough cleaning products to stock a store.
  3.  Let go of things you don’t use that have been taking up space for so long you can’t even remember acquiring them.
  4.  Set limits by deciding what quantity of each item it’s reasonable to have on hand–for example, do you really need over 80 grocery bags, or six types of glass cleaner?
  5.  Make a conscious effort to stay within those limits. It also helps to adopt environmentally friendly alternatives that reduce clutter, such as reusable bags (canvas, vinyl or mesh) and nontoxic multipurpose cleaners.  
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Spice Organizers

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If “Old Spice” makes you think of what’s in your spice rack, maybe your spice collection is due for an overhaul.

Although spices and herbs don’t spoil, they do lose their taste over time.  According to spice experts, the shelf life of properly stored spices and herbs is approximately 4 years for whole spices, 2-3 years for ground spices and 1-3 years for leafy herbs, depending on the herb. To test if it’s time to toss, simply taste or smell the contents of your spice containers. A lack of scent and/or a bland flavor means the contents have turned into clutter–time to discard.

Decluttering your spice collection can help you reevaluate the way you store your spices. There are three main types of spice organizers: hanging (mountable on a wall or inside a cabinet door), drawer inserts, and free-standing (for counter-tops or inside cabinets). Here are the best examples of each:

To explore more spice organizers, click here.

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Long-term Organizing Tips

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Long-term Organizing TipsGetting organized is only half the battle.  The other half involves learning how to stay organized.  Here are four organizing tips designed to both help you get organized and maintain order:

  • Fuel motivation with visible results.  Motivate yourself to get rid of clutter by creating noticeable results quickly. Begin by decluttering the easiest and most visible cluttered area or segment. Seeing a positive change is energizing and can make you want to keep going.
  • Set up a convenient work space.  Choose an area that’s comfortable for working on ongoing projects and paperwork maintenance. If your File Box - Airtight Imagespace is very limited, you can create a portable home office setup with a lap desk and a lidded file box. They can be used in conjunction with the kitchen or dining room table, which in many homes are the most popular places to do paperwork.
  • Practice making decisions. Exercise your decision-making muscles as often as possible instead of putting off making a decision “til later.” For example, whenever you pick up a piece of paper, decide how you’re going to deal with it while it’s in your hand instead of putting it in a pile.
  • Take time to make time.  Daily, make it a part of your routine to schedule brief blocks of time for processing household paperwork (such as bill-paying, correspondence and filing) and putting things in order.  At least weekly, sit down with your calendar or time management system and your “to do” lists and allocate time for the home projects you want to accomplish over the next week.

*Photo courtesy of Organized Living.

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Hanging fruit baskets aren’t just for fruit

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Hanging fruit baskets are a good example of a storage solution that’s been pigeon-holed as kitchen-specific. The three-tiered, wire-mesh basket system is an old-fashioned but perennially useful product designed originally for storage of fruits and vegetables.Three-Tier Hanging Fruit Basket - Bronze Image

But hanging fruit baskets also work well for storing toiletries, hair accessories and washcloths or small towels (rolled or folded) in the bathroom.  Since they don’t take up any desk space or wall space, they can also help keep things in order in your home office and in kids’ rooms.

As with hanging pot racks, however, it’s wise not to hang in haste – choosing the right spot is crucial.   Be sure to pick a location where the baskets will be accessible yet not obtrusive.

 

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Pot racks aren’t just for pots

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Wall-mount pot racks can be put to good use in closets (especially walk-ins), utilizing wall space for storing accessories such as scarves, belts and purses. You can even hang clothing on hangers from the hooks, or hang night clothes or exercise gear directly on the hooks. Some wall-mount pot racks also include a shelf for storage of non-hangable items.

The bathroom is another area where insufficient storage space can be supplemented with a wall-mount pot rack for hanging towels, robes, hair dryers, curing irons and anything else hangable that otherwise ends up on the floor or next to the sink.

In some homes, it also may be possible to use ceiling-mounted hanging pot racks for various storage purposes. However, when installing a ceiling-mounted pot rack, it’s important to choose a place where what hangs from it will be accessible yet not obstructive. It should be hung low enough so you can put things on the hooks easily, but not so low as to be in your way when all the hooks are occupied. If that’s not possible, you’re probably better off using a wall-mounted pot rack instead.

Both hanging and wall mount pot racks now come in an ever-widening variety of styles and materials.

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Tips for minimizing paper clutter

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Here’s a trick to minimizing paper clutter.  Certain office products can make life less cluttered when used in unlikely places such as the kitchen.

For example, setting up a “mini-file” (a small file holder that holds about a dozen hanging files) on a kitchen counterHanging File Storage Box Image makes it easier to deal with papers that tend to pile up there, such as coupons, recipes, shopping lists, takeout menus, receipts and appliance instructions.

To save counter space, a mini-file can also be set up in a magnetic file holder on the side of your fridge.  

Likewise, stocking a small basket  or magnetic bin with frequently used office supplies (scissors, pen, pencil, highlighter, note pad, Post-its) and putting it near a mini-file makes it easier to clip coupons, mark catalogs and make quick reminder notes.

This can help in minimizing paper clutter by limiting those piles of newspapers, magazines and catalogs that get saved because they contain items to be harvested “later.”

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