(I wrote this in June, 2011, but it contains advice that is just as valid today.)
Wanna know what annoys the living daylights out of me? Having someone say “Where are my keys?” or something similar. I don’t get it. Your keys should be where your keys should be. I guess my mother hammered a little hard on “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Or perhaps I spent a few too many wasted hours searching for misplaced items of my own in my youth. Whatever the reason, the lesson took root. I’m a visual thinker and I tend to be able to call up a mental image and a muscle memory that tells me “Third shelf down on the right hand side, behind the jar of capers.”
As you can imagine, I adore kitchen tools and gadgets. I like to use them, experiment with them, figure out which ones are worth making a part of my permanent collection. With that reputation, friends and family tend to think of me when they visit a kitchen store, much like you think of Aunt Phoebe and her unicorn collection when you stumble upon one-horned creatures for sale.
I recently found myself awash in kitchen chaos from what might be described as “too much of a good thing,” so laden down with tool options that it was impossible to quickly retrieve whatever I might need at a given moment. So I did what I would urge you to do. I put on my drill sergeant hat, blew my whistle and re-established order in the kitchen. March!
Step 1: I emptied my two main gadget drawers and had everything laid out on the center island. And the east counter. And the west counter. Yikes! Where did all this stuff come from?
Step 2: We grouped everything into like piles. All the scoops together. All the meat mallets. All the garnishing tools, etc.
Step 3: I scratched my head over a few items, thinking, “What the heck is this, what’s it for, and how do you use it?” I am pleased to say that I eventually figured everything out.
Step 4: I identified duplicates. Apparently, my motto for a while was “When in doubt, buy another lemon juicer.” … and whisk. … and spatula. … and scissors. Of course, I had several can openers, but there’s an explanation for that. I like the one that removes the entire lid without cutting. The men who cook in my kitchen (or help) aren’t so keen on that one, but the old-fashioned kind don’t work well, so I have to have more than one of those. It’s complicated. There were a bunch of “me-too’s” that I could kiss goodbye and not lose sleep over.
Step 5: I had a talk with myself about which gadgets I was likely to use in the fuure. My answer was “All of them.” Nonetheless, it was a good conversation, and should you have a different outcome, I urge you to part with those you don’t see yourself using.
Step 6. We hung a shoe holder on the back of the door between the kitchen and library. Since I had continued the process of organizing into piles of similar objects, I was ready to stuff the pockets of the shoeholder. I placed the items I would use the most frequently in the three rows that are easiest to reach. I placed the items I would use only occasionally in the bottom two rows and the top two rows. Microplanes (of different types) together. Strawberry equipment (stem remover and slicer) together. Peelers hugging each other. Basting brushes in their own little clique. You get my drift.
When the door is open, as it normally is, the whole collection is hidden. When I’m ready to use one of the items, however, I merely close the door and behold the wonder — a place for everything, and everything in its place.
In the process, I ran across wonderful helper aids I had forgotten I had. I refreshed my memory about all the options these tools give me. I became the master/mistress, once again, of the kitchen and everything in it.