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       Volume I - October 13, 2006

Cooking The Clutter Free Way - Part II
Quick and Easy Tips by Alice Osborne

A wee kitchen with very little drawer or shelf space. Not a bad job of preserving valuable counter space.

Last week we discussed how to get the clutter out of your kitchen; to create “centered” and user-friendly spaces that work for you, rather than against you. Let’s move on with this idea, by zeroing in on specific ways to deal with utensils and things that cut.

First a preamble to creating an efficient, easy-to-clean, pleasant-to-look-at kitchen: Get as much as possible off the counter tops. This technique simplifies your cleaning routine because there are fewer items to wipe clean when doing your after-cooking/baking cleanup. We even set our toaster in a shoe box lid (to catch crumbs) and put it in the cupboard. Who has time to spend scrubbing unnecessary dried-on food splatters?

Clearing countertops also visually calms a visually busy area. The broken wall planes, variety of surface colors and textures, and number of appliances and tools can create a picture of confusion that can affect productivity and attitude. Put as much as you can in drawers and cupboards and see if you don’t find the room easier to be and work in—see if you and family don’t find it much more inviting.

It’s not productive to plop all your utensils in one “utensil drawer,” or cram them into a “utensil container” on top of the counter. Precious time is always wasted as you paw through the drawer or container looking for what you need. Not to mention the cut finger tips and broken nails! Set a goal to get them off the counter, if that’s where they are now. Then, to save time and increase efficiency, separate your “keeper” utensils into three categories: GENERAL, COOKING, & BAKING.

General utensils are anything you don’t cook or bake with, such as the ice cream scoop, nutcracker, bottle opener, corn-on-the-cob skewers, and so on. If there’s an empty drawer, then in they go, in a drawer organizer if you have one. If there isn’t an empty drawer available, then have them share space with your other categorized utensils—just make sure they sit in drawer organizers in defined spaces. The best idea is to put cooking utensils in the cooking center and baking utensils in the baking center.

Cooking utensils would be the pancake turners, large stirring spoons (slotted and otherwise), wooden spoons, tongs, wire whisks, spaghetti server, basting brushes, meat thermometer, ladles, and so on.

Baking utensils include rubber spatulas, measuring spoons, measuring cups, hand mixer beaters, pastry cutter, rolling pin, pastry cloth, and so on.

Finally, what about knives and other cutting tools, such as the hand can opener, cheese slicer, cheese grater, and the pizza wheel? Designate a drawer, preferably near your cutting board, as a cutting center. In drawer organizers, place your knives (in cardboard sleeves for safety and blade preservation), according to size. Anything else that cuts can sit alongside the knives. If there are small children in the house, you may want to put a “kinder lock” on this drawer. If you don’t have any drawer space, hang knives on the wall, out of the reach of small children (the higher the better). Don’t put them in a knife block; that will just take up valuable counter space.

Here's a great tip contributed by one of our members:

"Many of my knives came with paper or plastic protective sleeves but they always get lost shortly after I purchase them. My mother gave me a great tip. Flatten out the cardboard tubes from the center of your paper towel and bathroom tissue rolls and use them! They don't always fit perfect but they work well in protecting the blade and keeping me from cutting myself when pawing through the drawer. I have several paring knives and I can fit 3 of them into a single toilet paper core so it also acts as a micro organizer! In addition I have discovered other disposable products I have on hand (such as lint rollers) that have even differet size cardboard cores."

Cookin’ the clutter-free way really does mean less muss and fuss. Try these tips, and let us know how they work for you. We welcome any suggestions and ideas you have as well—don’t hesitate to share. Meanwhile, happy cook’n and bon appetite!

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