Over the last week I’ve kicked my cleaning and organizing into high gear, trying to get through the whole house, before I leave for BlogHer next week. This weekend I attacked the kitchen, defrosting the freezer and reorganizing every cabinet. I thought through where I wanted to place things, so I could use my kitchen as efficiently as possible. Here’s what I came up with.

First, welcome to my kitchen! Here’s a shot of almost the whole room, so you can get your bearings.

To the right, cut off in the picture, is my refrigerator. The white door goes to the pantry. To the left of the sink is the dishwasher, with a cabinet above it. And to the left of that, not in the picture, are three more cabinets (stacked from floor to ceiling).

I began with organizing the pantry. I keep most of my food in there, opting to use the kitchen cabinets mostly for dishes, pots, pans, and baking equipment. I tend to buy a lot of food in bulk, but storing things like beans and grains in plastic bags gets messy, making it hard to find things I need when I need them. Not to mention the potential problem that would be if, heaven forbid, a mouse ever broke into our house. Living in the country, I have to think about these things. So far it hasn’t happened, but I’d rather be safe, than sorry.

Back to the topic of organizing…I put all of my bulk foods into some old canning jars I had on hand. Then I labeled them with a label maker. And this is what I came up with.

These are the bottom three shelves of my pantry. I tried to keep foods in rough categories, so I can find things in a hurry. The top shelf in the photo holds my tomato products and a few processed foods. The middle shelf is baking products, and the bottom shelf holds rice, beans, and pasta.

The top shelf of my pantry holds big jars of grains. I put them on the top, because I can’t reach all the way to the back of the top shelf to grab small cans. This way I never need to grab a ladder, because I can reach the front of the shelf to pull down the big jars.

Back in the kitchen, I tried to group things together logically, according to how I use them.

For instance, in one of the upper cabinets near the refrigerator, I put my drink mixes, as well as my drink containers. When I want to mix up some lemonade, everything is right there, including the ice in the freezer.

Similarly, my pots and pans are stored in the cabinet next to the stove, my dishes and glasses are near the sink and dishwasher, and things I don’t use frequently, like my china and my canning supplies are tucked up high or way back inside my cupboards.

Another thing I tried to do is give myself lots of space in the cabinets.

My pots and pans cabinet looks rather bare, but I like it that way. I don’t have to dig around to find the lid I need. Some might say it’s a waste of space, but if it helps me stay organized, I’m going to waste the space!

Finally, my kitchen had two big problems that I needed to solve. First, my cookbooks used to live in the cabinets above the microwave, but there wasn’t enough room up there. I could never find the book I was looking for, because they were wedged in so tightly, with some books stored behind other books.

Second, I needed a better system for recycling. We recycle a lot, since we get free recycling pickup. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great place to store the recyclable items, until I could bring them outside to the recycling container. They’d stack up on the counter, driving me crazy, until it was time to go out.

I solved the problem by buying a bookshelf and a couple of kitchen trash cans.

These are placed along the wall to the left of the island in the kitchen. The door goes to the laundry room, but unfortunately there isn’t enough room in there for the recycling containers.

The bookshelf holds my cookbooks and the household notebook I’m working on. There’s actually another bookshelf right next to it for school books, since we do a lot of our school work in the kitchen. The two trash cans are labeled, one for comingled recycling and one for drink bottles that can go back to the store.

Hopefully now that I have a convenient place for everything, I can keep up the organization throughout the school year! What do you think? Am I off to a good start?