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When you have a busy family, work long hours or hate housework, it’s hard to keep the kitchen clean and organized. The first step is to give the room an objective assessment. What do you use every day, what can be stored in a cabinet or drawer, and what can you donate, sell or toss? Organizing and cleaning is a challenge, but once the habits are established, you can look forward to preparing meals, helping the kids with homework at the kitchen table or entertaining a group of friends on movie night.

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Declutter Your Counters

When your counters are chock-full of jars, appliances, and utensils, you may have to spend time juggling things to find prep space, especially if your counters lack substantial space, to begin with. Clean and neatly organized areas make starting a meal or baking more appealing. When the counters are clear, it’s much easier to take a few minutes to wipe them down. Keep the appliances you use every day on the counter such as the toaster, blender or coffeemaker. Make room in drawers for utensils or hang them on the wall.

Dirty dishes and bottles piled on a stainless steel sink.
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Storage Zones

Create areas of ‘like-with-like’ items such as containers, baking supplies, pots and pans and cooking utensils like spatulas, tongs, and whisks. Make some storage under the sink for cleaning products by placing them on shelves that stack or place them in baskets or plastic storage boxes. Hang all your measuring cups and spoons on hangers inside a cabinet door. You can tame those extra paper and plastic bags by placing hanging folders on removable hooks inside a pantry or lower cabinet door for easy access.

containers shelves hangers jatrax / Getty Images
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Maximize Storage Space

Evaluate what space you have to work with by pulling everything out of your cabinets. Stack the containers by size and provide easy accessibility to lids by placing them in a shoebox-type container. Keep frequently used items on a bottom cabinet shelf for greater convenience. If the cabinet shelves are stationary, nest bowls, casseroles dishes and platters together.

nest bowls alternate stemware gerenme / Getty Images
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Clean Out the Pantry

Check every item for expiration dates. Donate unwanted canned goods to a local food pantry. Place dry foods like cereals, pasta, and rice in upright, stackable airtight containers. Organize spices on a lazy Susan, in labeled stackable jars or use an over-the-door organizer to augment storage. Group the pantry foods by category.

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Tidy Up the Refrigerator

Set aside time every few weeks to clean your refrigerator from top to bottom. This technique keeps the fridge smelling fresh and your food safe. Check milk for an expiration date as well as juices. If you notice that vegetables like lettuce are going bad faster than you expect, adjust your refrigerator’s temperature and humidity levels. To camouflage dirt, drink up spills and reduce odors, line the shelves with disposable perforated pieces that are easy to customize to fit your fridge.

refrigerator humidity temperature expiration Csondy / Getty Images
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Separate Tableware and Working Utensils

Attempting to find silverware in a drawer cluttered with can openers and spatulas is frustrating and time-consuming. Compartmentalize your forks, knives, spoons and serving pieces in a drawer organizer, so they are visible and accessible. Move other utensils such as whisks or spatulas to a separate drawer near the stove.

silverware utensils compartment organizer OlgaVolodina / Getty Images
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Establish a Cleaning Routine

Small, simple steps make a huge difference towards regular kitchen maintenance, habits that reduce the time you spend cleaning. Following a meal or snack, wash the dishes by hand or load them into the dishwasher. When the cycle is complete, unload and put away the dishes. Clean debris from the sink and run the disposal. Wipe down all the counter surfaces immediately after food preparation.

routine immediate save time deepblue4you / Getty Images
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Make a Seasonal Storage Plan

Find a place outside your kitchen to store items you only use seasonally. For example, find a home-away-from-home for that Santa cookie jar and cute elf dish towels, fancy serving platters, candy molds, and cookie press. Canning supplies and other holiday specialty items are also eligible for alternative storage space – perhaps a shed, the garage or a nearby storage unit.

Christmas Decorations packed away
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Cookbooks and Recipes

No cook worth their salt without treasured cookbooks and tried-and-true recipes. When reorganizing, purge your recipes for those you are never going to use, as well as those you never want to do again. Three-ring binders are a great way to organize recipes and easy to store on shelves. Purchase 3-ring clear protector sheets and insert your recipe. The protective cover keeps them clean when in use. If you currently use index cards, you can still use a binder. Simply attach the cards to a sheet of paper and insert in plastic cover. Use category dividers to separate recipes by type for easy retrieval.

cookbooks recipe cards storage mammamaart / Getty Images
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Time-Saving Kitchen Hacks

It’s harder to clean spills up when they are dried and need to be soaked or scraped, so clean them up right away. If you are waiting for water to boil, take that opportunity to clean fingerprints from the fridge handle or cabinet fronts. When preparing meals, keep a compost bin handy for items such as celery tops, potato peels, and eggshells, none of which are compatible with the garbage disposal.

compost bowl trash can disposal ThamKC / Getty Images

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