This is Real Life in My Kitchen

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Here’s a peek into my kitchen and all its problems. I hope you’ve got some good solutions to my kitchen dilemmas.

This is Real Life in My Kitchen - Here's a peek into my kitchen and all its problems. I hope you've got some good solutions to my kitchen dilemmas.

Growing up I thought that the only spotless kitchens were those you saw on television. Ours was a small kitchen with little storage space. Stuff crept out on the counters because there was no other option. While it may have been “clean” in a germ sense, it was cluttered. I didn’t realize until I was in junior high or high school that other people had clutter-free kitchens. I’m not sure that all those families did much cooking in their kitchens, but their kitchens were showrooms, nonetheless.

My kitchen is “lived in”, as was my childhood home’s kitchen. There’s a lot of cooking done in my kitchen. Whether it’s me or one of my family members or many of us at one time, there’s almost always some food prep going on in our kitchen. Also some messes. I’d like to change the latter. I’d like one of those pristine kitchens: a well-used, but also tidy, space.

After cooking in some pretty tiny kitchens in France this fall, I came home with a new appreciation for the ginormous space I have for cooking. But, I also realized that it needs some improvements.

I tend to stay away from kitchen stores and magazines because I want to be content with what I have. Looking at “bigger and better” doesn’t help me do that. Improving how I care for what I do have does.

However, sometimes a girl needs a little help. Since I can’t have you all over for coffee, though that would be quite fun, I thought we could chat about some of my problem areas. Maybe you struggle in the same way? Or maybe you’ll have a great solution.

This is real life in my kitchen.

This is Real Life in My Kitchen - Here's a peek into my kitchen and all its problems. I hope you've got some good solutions to my kitchen dilemmas.

(Excuse the iPhone pictures, but I get up at 4 am each morning. This is the best I could do.)

This is what our kitchen looks like in the morning when I get up. It’s not a disaster, but it’s not the Donna Reed kitchen of my dreams, either. There are clean dishes on the counter, overflow from the dish drainer last night. Cabinets are continually left open. That lower cabinet is where we keep the kids’ drinking glasses. It’s perpetually left open.

Perpetually. Insert angry eyebrows emoticon here.

Note: I forgot when I originally wrote this post that I have two blogs and I’d already shared cabinet contents and organization here and here. Reading those may clear up any confusion.

Here are some of my problem areas.

Maybe you can help?

This is Real Life in My Kitchen - Here's a peek into my kitchen and all its problems. I hope you've got some good solutions to my kitchen dilemmas.

Piles of produce – We get a lot of fresh produce. Some goes in the fridge; some in the pantry. The items that I don’t want to forget about, get left on the counter. I need a better solution.

Kid clutter – Self-explanatory.

Stained grout – This has been one of my most embarrassing parts of my kitchen. This white grout is impossible to keep clean. I can talk about it now because we have a plan to remedy it. Stay with me.

This is Real Life in My Kitchen - Here's a peek into my kitchen and all its problems. I hope you've got some good solutions to my kitchen dilemmas.

Too much stuff – I know some people have nothing on their counters. I’d like to get to that spot, but I’m not there. I moved the utensils out of a drawer because the drawer was just too congested. I cook a lot and actually use all these utensils on a regular basis. Not sure if it’s different storage or decluttering or both that needs to happen.

Flour bag – See the opened flour bag? I have two bins of flour, but no bins for other varieties. I need to buy a few more. Any favorite in your cupboard?

This is Real Life in My Kitchen - Here's a peek into my kitchen and all its problems. I hope you've got some good solutions to my kitchen dilemmas.

New grout! – Last weekend my husband removed the old grout from this section of counter and replaced it with shiny, new white grout. He’s got an internal debate with himself (he’s a general contractor) about which kind of grout he wants to use throughout the kitchen. There are different kinds with different benefits. I’m letting him work that one out on his own. I’m just thrilled to have a countertop with no shame!

Cleaning supplies – broom and vinegar spray. They seem to travel quite a bit. They need a home.

So there we have it: this week’s edition of Real Life in My Kitchen. If you’ve got solutions to my problems, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to share your own kitchen challenges as well.

What would YOU do to make my kitchen a little more ship shape?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Kirstin says

    I would have little bugs in the flour if I left it on the counter like that. I put the flour bag in a Ziploc-type bag and keep it in the refrigerator.

    • Knock on wood. We don’t have that issue. But, I also don’t want that issue. Eek!

      • Sandy says

        A bay leaf or two helps ward off the bugs.
        Also, my grandmother always said things contained look much neater than things just piled on the surface. That is my mantra.

  2. Ellen says

    I use snap lock containers that I got at target for my flour and sugar. I’ve had them for years, and the seal is still really tight. Dropped them off the pantry shelf multiple times, no breakage, not a bit of flour anywhere.

    • I agree with Ellen. I have several snap lock containers that I keep flour in. I keep my whole wheat and white wheat flour in them in the freezer, because I don’t use it as often and it gets rancid if left in the pantry. I keep the AP flour in the pantry. There is a size that exactly fits the 5 lb bag of flour. That is what I have. They are fabulous.

  3. Ellen says

    I went and looked, and they’re lock and lock brand.

  4. Sally says

    I try really hard to clean the kitchen before going to bed so I can awake to a clean kitchen. It’s not always possible, and I rarely enjoy doing it, but it’s so worth it the next morning to start the day with a sense of order and cleanliness. As far as the kid clutter, I’m ruthless – – I tell my son if he doesn’t put his stuff away before bedtime I’m putting it in the Goodwill box. That has worked miracles!

    • “Clean kitchen before bed” is our goal, but doesn’t always happen, particularly when the kids all have kitchen chores.

  5. Kristen says

    My husband is a tile guy and any grout that prizm makes is definitely worth it. It works and lasts sooo much better than other brands. Also I use a command hook under my sink to hang the cleaning spray and my broom and mop hang on others in my laundry room. I too struggle with too much stuff on the counters and it makes me crazy. I am looking forward to reading all the ideas people have.

    • Part of the struggle that I didn’t communicate well in my post is that there are eight of us using the kitchen. If I were the only one cleaning, the spray and broom would probably get put back in their places. But, we have so many cooks in the kitchen! Ha!

  6. melody says

    i have a rule that no clean or dirty dishes stay on the counter. ever. (unless we are cleaning from or getting ready for a meal). put them away–you have plenty of help! and that help needs to be trained to close the drawer. (evil laugh). as for the bag of flour, put in a freezer bag and put in freezer if no room in pantry. why buy another bin?

    just my preliminary thoughts.

    • We are definitely working on it. The kids all have kitchen chores that rotate each month so that everyone gets practice at each job. Some come more easily to some kids than others.

      As for the flour, the deep freeze is currently empty and unplugged. I’m not ready to pay the energy to run it, so the small freezer is pretty tightly packed.

  7. melody says

    one other thing–cleaning supplies don’t belong out unless they are in use! sprays under the sink; broom in storage cabinet/laundry room/garage (wherever you normally would store it). 😉

  8. Jenn says

    For the produce on the counter, I bought a l serving tray to put it all on. It didn’t necessarily save room, but it looks neater. I have probably half as much counter space than you do. You’re lucky! 🙂

    • Good tip! I’ve got a couple that I could use. Thanks!

      • Kelly says

        I was going to suggest the same thing. I recently saw something on Pinterest that had like-items on a tray or in a rectangular basket (think 13×9 pan, but a basket). It contains things & looks like one item, not several.

      • Janel Piersma says

        I’ve got a tiered tray that holds four different salad-size plates. I use that to hold fruit that we needs to ripen and various produce that I want left out. It has a smaller footprint on the countertop.

        • Cameron says

          I also have a tiered server which holds three dinner size plates, and I used it on the counter when we were getting gobs of tomatoes and squash from our garden this summer. It looked attractive and I kept the oldest produce on the top tier as a reminder to use it up first! Right now we have a lot of clementines, and I keep some in a bowl on the counter, and some in another bowl as a centerpiece on our table with additional fall decor- it’s pretty and ensures they get eaten up!

        • Great idea!

  9. Grace says

    I don’t know if this would work with your kitchen setup but I have a hanging fruit basket that I love. I keep my onions, garlic, bananas, apples, etc. in it. Really clears up counter space.

  10. Jillbert says

    Thank you for showing reality! My kitchen is pretty much in the same state as yours. It’s smaller but also gets heavy use. I have the produce issue, too. One thing that helps is a double layer wire basket thing that sits on the counter — holds more than a single bowl or a basket. I also have way too many cooking tools on my counter but I use my kitchen stuff frequently so, well, dunno. I’ll be watching the comments as I need tips, too. I don’t have tile counters but they are white laminate — which means they are constantly stained with grungy caulk around the sink. I keep it clean but it ain’t pretty. Sigh.

  11. Leslie says

    • I made a “no toys in the kitchen” rule a long time ago.
    • I have a nice utensil container on the counter that holds items with large “heads” like ladles, potato masher, spatulas, whisks, pasta forks, etc. In the drawer next to the stove are the wooden spoons, rubber scrapers, measuring cups and spoons, can opener, ice cream scoops, etc that we use a lot.Keeping the “big head” items out of the main drawer helps a lot with being able to fit and find things easily. In another deep drawer further away are the seldom used items that I still want to keep (microplane zester, skewers, lemon juicer, onion chopper, extra measuring cups, apple slicer, etc)
    • Maybe you should just take off that cabinet door that always gets left open, until your kids are older.
    • Get a big rectangular basket (or use a big roasting pan or bowls you already own) to hold the produce. That basket with a handle is too small and you don’t need the handle taking up space and making it look more cluttered. I’ve found great things like this at TJ Maxx.

    Would love to see more pics and hear an update when you get it all figured out. But know that we feel for you…I don’t know anyone with a magazine-shoot-ready kitchen.

    • I’m thinking that since it’s only the younger kids that use those cups, each one is going to pick a cup and I’m going to ditch the rest. We go through too many water cups in a day. Then the cupboard can stay shut.

      • Cameron says

        One more thought: my husband is one of 9, and when he and his sibs were little his mom put color coded and labeled plastic mugs on a peg rack above the sink so each child could get a drink and then hang it right back up. Minimized the million cups in use at once issue. May work for you!

        • Sherrie Roderick says

          Excellent idea! As a mother of seven, we will use this one!!

      • Tiffany R says

        I saw an idea on the internet the other day where a mom put magnetic tape on her kids plastic cups and then they got 1 cup a day. When the cup was empty, they stuck it on the fridge. Might be an idea for your kids!

  12. annie says

    Kids cups..can you take off the cabinent door for a few years and use a pretty basket instead if a plastic bin?

    Utensils…iiwiys, I would have my utensils in a matching set of crocks or pottery. Sunflowers are a personal favorite so I have one crick and some framed sunflower art right next to it on the wall.

    Kids stuff..I would put a basket in the floor next to a cabinet and just pile things in there.

    🙂 in pantry. I don’t have a pantry but i do have 2 spare shelves in a hall closet, but that’s what I would do.

    Cleaning items…like the other comments. I’ll have to search vinegar spray on your blog.

    Lamps..I love a small pretty lamp on my counter. Mine is next to my little Mr. Coffee maker. I think the incandescent light is charming.

    Produce..could you put them in a flat pretty dish and set in the center of your island ( if you have one).

  13. TSandy says

    What would really help most is fixing the storage issues in your pantry so that you don’t have the items sitting on your counter in the first place. Drawer organizers and dish organizers would also help get those items into drawers and cabinets and off the counters. It’s really an organization issue not a clutter issue.

    As for the flour container I do have some practical suggestions. It will depend if you plan to store the items in the pantry and bring them into the kitchen to use each time or find them a permanent home in the kitchen. I love the Buddeez Bag in Sugar Plastic Dispensers. They have a handle for easy carrying plus multiple lid openings so you only have to open the lid to get out flour, sugar etc. I have three of these in my pantry for flour and it’s an item that I would replace immediately if it died. The cool part is a bag of flour (or sugar) drops inside the container. Open it and all the mess is contained inside. You can dip and measure inside and the spills are contained. (Amazon and Walmart both carry this item. Don’t buy a fake/clone brand it’s worth the money to buy the name brand. Mine are five plus years old and still seal like brand new.) I love the Cambro round containers that stack. Cambro makes 1 qt to 22 qt containers and they are industrial plastic so they provide years of use for your money. Amazon also carries this line but you will find it cheaper locally if you have a restaurant supply store. Here’s a link to my favorite Cambro containers. I keep eight different flours that I use less often in these containers. These are stacked on my pantry shelf.

    • Ha! I have the 4-quart containers in my Amazon cart right now! I was trying to figure out if they were BPA-free. I’ve purchased them from Smart and Final before.

  14. Jen says

    Maybe one of those magnetic stripes to put all your knives on? I hate knife blocks. Also it seems like you’ve chosen to reuse a lot of things rather than purchase something that was made for the explicit purpose. Like the galvanized pail for your utensils, Ikea has a stainless one that’s inexpensive, then your utensils would stand up straight & fit better. And the produce basket. You need a much larger fruit bowl.

  15. Cathrynj says

    My kitchen looks just like this! I second the suggestion for trays. I have one for regularly used spices ans oils next to my stove and it really helped the area to be more intentional looking. The spices are not always neatly arranged but it is a corral for them. I can see a tray for the coffee area and perhaps another for all the produce. As for the utensils, I would love to see you get a couple of pretty colorful crocks and celebrate the fact that you use these items all the time- i am thinking of a kitchen of a chef where the container of utensils become decoration in the room. Having a focal point that is useful as well as pretty on my counter has made me more likely to keep it clean (but not always sadly).
    Good luck!

  16. Abby says

    Speaking from a visual standpoint regarding having “too much stuff” on the counters, the fact that everything is mismatched adds to visual overload. If all the untensil holders were the same size and color and then everything else on counter matched in color and material, the visual clutter would be reduced.
    So how to incorporate that look into your real life kitchen with out buying new?
    Do a major purge of all cabinets- everything out! Then be ruthless – if not used, donate/throw out. This will create (hopefully) some more storage space. But before you put everything back, select some pieces that look good together to be storage items. Get creative, two old pitchers could be untensil holders.
    In terms of produce storage, think up. Perhaps your husband could fashion a basket tower from baskets you already own.

  17. Rachel says

    You have some fantastic ideas already given to you above.

    We have a very small kitchen and live in the country where mice are prevalent. I can not leave any food out on my counters (with the exception of fresh fruits/veggies) and all other food must be in plastic tubs. I would first try to eliminate the “clutter” on the counters. Can you clean out some cabinets and make room for more items to go there instead of on the counter?

    I would definitely have a tub or box on the floor by the counter where all “kid stuff” goes into. Then, they can put it where it belongs are lose it.

    I also make an effort to put away all clean dishes before I go to bed. This way, I wake up to a kitchen ready for another mess. I think you could definitely enlist your older kids to help w/ this, if you make it part of the routine. I make my littles clean up their toys before bed, so why not make the big kids clean up the kitchen, too?

    Thanks for sharing real life w/ all of us!

  18. Cate says

    I agree with Sally. Toys left out go either in the Goodwill box or in the trash! Kids’ rooms are for toys – not the kitchen. I don’t understand why plates and cups and things are on the counters. What is in the cupboards if dishes are on the counters? Do you have a dishwasher? I would get stacking units for my pantry that pull out easily to contain the overflow. The same could be purchased for under the sink to hold cleaning supplies. I learned a long time ago through trial and error that we actually cook with the same pots over and over on a daily basis. Those that we do not use that often go onto the pantry floor so as to make room in the kitchen for things we use all the time. I have a total of just under six feet of counter space in my kitchen. I can food and use every little inch of that six feet when need be. I cannot imagine the luxury of having all that counter space you have in your kitchen….AND an island! I would check into the stacking units. They can be used in the cupboards to get dishes off the counters, too. As far as the open drawers/doors…..I would not let any child go to bed until that door is closed. OR, if they are already in bed, get them up to close it. It would only take a time or two and there would be no open drawers/doors again.

    • We are kind of in transition on the dishes, trying to figure out how we like “open storage”. It makes it easier for the littles to put dishes away and much easier to serve buffet style. I have quite a lot of mixing bowls, baking dishes, and small appliances that I use quite a bit in recipe development, so that’s what’s in the cupboards. I forgot that I didn’t post my kitchen contents on this site. It’s all over here:

  19. Demi says

    I have many of the same problems as you. We have a fairly large kitchen like yours but it is also my office and where we eat (hubby prefers the bar to a table, so we have no dining room). Also I have twins who are one, and they pull everything out of the cabinets constantly. Hubby won’t put on child locks because he doesn’t want to ruin the expensive wood cabinets. My first line of defense is to declutter. I am enjoying reading others’ solutions.

  20. Amanda says

    I love the OXO Good Grips Pop containers for sugar and flour. They sell them at TJ Maxx as well as Amazon.

    Could you use one of the magnetic strips for the knives to go against the back of the wall and free up some space on your countertop? At least get it down to one block instead of two?

    I have the same issues with the produce, though. Having to keep it out so I don’t forget about it! 🙁

    • Do you have a magnetic strip for knives? I’m reading reviews and not finding one that doesn’t potentially damage the knife.

      • Amanda says

        Sorry, no. I have like 4 knives total that sit in the drawer with all the other utensils. Not a big cook over here. I’ve just seen them in magazines and always thought they looked cool. Sorry I’m not more help!

  21. Cindy says

    I agree, lots of good suggestions. Mine may echo some but would inlcude:

    Get rid of at least one knife block. I have the magnetic strip thing and love it but use it more to keep knives or other small utensils handy while cooking rather than long term storage. One block, rest in a drawer when not in use.

    Get a larger produce keeper but I would go with something splurgy that you truly love because it will help offset the annoyance of the everpresent factor.

    Yes, take off the door of the perpetually open cabinet OR put a strong self closing thing if you really don’t want it off.

    Flour stored in the freezer will kill the bugs in flour which are super annoying….I’m in the southern US so maybe it’s a regional issue? Not sure but I have read you only need to freeze for a couple of weeks then it’s fine on the cabinet so that is what I do and no problems since. I use clear glass (gallon) containers for flour and sugar but some just stays in bags, out of sight though.

    My husband confiscates all things from the kids he finds out of place like in the kitchen. This is very effective.

    We got rid of the dish drainer recently. I hated to do that…we have no dishwasher (unless you count the children) and stuff sits in the sink, which turns out to be less annoying for us personally. Don’t be afraid to change things up and see if it works better…I still have the drainer downstairs, just in case I want to bring it back! 🙂

  22. Emily says

    I know you’re a renter, but are you able to paint your kitchen? It wouldn’t *directly* help with the clutter problem. But I think all the white makes the clutter more pronounced. Obviously you would still want to take steps to reduce the clutter (there are some super helpful suggestions here!) but I’ve always found that a little color on the walls can go a long way to help a room feel more put together.

    I would also second what someone else said about the mismatched containers, etc. adding to the cluttered feel. I’m sure you don’t want to drop a ton of money on matching everything. But sometimes having things that coordinate with each other and are being used for their intended purpose can help.

  23. Here are my 2 cents:
    -have a box/basket on the floor, out of the way where kids are to put their toys. Zero tolerance for toys in kitchen (safety issue)
    -why 2 knife blocks? Can you down size to one? better yet, have a wall mounted knife magnetic strip installed under the cabinet, near a prep station
    -get the dishes washed, dried and put away before going to bed. My day starts wiith a cleaned up, ready to go kitchen at 5 a.m.
    -cull thru your cabinets and downsize what you have stored there-donate what you don’t use. Only use it for the holidays? store it elsewhere, it’s taking up valuable realty space. Then, get the stacking cups/saucers off of the counter.
    -I also suggest creating a bfst command center: toaster oven, what looks like an expresso machine and is that an electric water kettle? (do you need that?) together. Cups, bfst dishes should be stored above, and coffee/tea/cocoa making supplies not far away.
    -extra produce such as the Winter squash should be in the pantry. Worried you’ll forget it? make a weekly if not monthly meal plan and add “cook acorn squash” to the menu as a reminder
    -take a hard look at the contents of those 2 utensil crocks-do you use all of those DAILY? if not, store them.
    -cleaning products need to be stored away before you shut off the light and go to bed
    -place the bananas and other fruit on the kitchen table
    -odd flours (not bread or AP for example) are most likely not used daily-get them in a plastic ziplock and freeze for long term storage


  24. karen b says

    just a thought… your kids to do different chores in the kitchen so they know how to do all is great idea….just carry it over in all areas…….”training” them to close cabinets, NO toys in kitchen, a place for everything & everything in its place, ………… we have clutter sometimes also & not as many children but we started training in a much smaller kitchen & at a very young age (as soon as they could walk) (house very small when children were younger so we had to) & most of the time clutter has been elimanted when we moved to a larger home w/ larger kitchen…… good luck now that they are older 🙂 I think it looks good considering their are 8 people in it 🙂 just wanted to share what worked for us

  25. Liz C says

    Some things that have worked for me, and that I see in your pics:

    Trim down the overall load. There are two knife blocks… consider going to just one, with all your best knives. There are plates stored on the counter… find an under-counter home for them by clearing out excess of other items. We trimmed down our plates, bowls, cups, and glasses to twelve—so we can go two meals without doing dishes, or have one big meal with guests, but everything stores on two shelves in one smallish cabinet, and doesn’t overflow anywhere. Skim down on the cooking utensils… one spatula, two spoons, etc. Or, limit it to ONE utensil pot (I love your crockery one!) Setting reasonable bounds.

    Visual continuity is a big, big deal to me, so we did take a plunge years ago and replace all our mis-matched dishes with that one-dozen set from a restaurant supply store. They have lasted forever, and I can replace bits as I need to, without a big expense. But it also means that I’m find with open storage (for instance, we could take the doors off our cabinets, and I wouldn’t freak out), because everything stacks well and looks the same. Like I said, it’s a big deal to me. 😀

    For flour storage, we have large food-grade buckets with “Gamma Seal” lids on them. For smaller quantities, I re-use large glass pickle jars (Nalley makes a half-gallon size that we can go through in a little under two weeks!) as pantry storage jars for a lot of dry items. That lets me keep them on open shelving without feeling cluttered, as the size/shapes are all the same, just the contents vary. Right now I have them filled with cocoa mix, grits, groats, powdered sugar, noodles, brown sugar, raisins, etc… I really love storage with “found” reused jars. 🙂

    Produce: you might need to add better mesh-bowl/basket storage for the array of gorgeous options. We do like a nice big bowl for “free access” fruits; on your island, it’s still accessible, but makes for décor as well as functional access, and then it doesn’t clog the back space on the countertops.

    Is the toaster oven in constant use? If not, dump it entirely. (My husband wants one. I maintain that with the quantities we need for six people, it’s a waste of counter space—we use the oven oven.)

    I love the little stacking mug/saucer rack, but it looks like (from the mug of tea right in front of it) they don’t get regular use… so that’s a candidate for either getting rid of all the other mugs so people use the racked mug set, or getting rid of the racked mug set and using the others exclusively.

    A lot of kitchen function is habit. People have to get in the habit of not putting things in spots “temporarily.” Put them all the way away. Shut the cabinets and drawers entirely, etc. As the Mom, I get to be in charge of the Standard Of Work… and hold my little minions (ages 18 to 7, but they start helping with kitchen stuff about age 2) to that standard. If it’s not done all the way, it’s not done. They get to come back and finish. Every single time.

    One of my favorite habits is “Putting the Kitchen to Bed”–ALL dishes get put away, all clutter taken out, all cabinets shut, etc, in 10 minutes right before I go to bed—or before the kids go to bed. 🙂 I get up to tidy. It starts off the day well.

    Sometimes, too, taking EVERYTHING out of the cabinets and pantry can be a huge help. Group all the like-items together, and then re-think the entire space for what really works for your family!

  26. Debbie says

    A Pinterest tip that I use that may free up some drawer space for you (which could help put more things away) put little hooks on the inside of one cabinet door. Then hang all meauring cups and spoons. Easy to access and put away, don’t get lost in drawers and it looks cute. 🙂

  27. Debbie says
  28. Holly says

    Several years ago I bit the bullet and spent money on the large Tupperware bins for me flour and sugar. I now use xx – large Mason jars (1 L?), for regular sugar, but I still use the bins for variits flours and powered and brown sugar. I like that they are large enough to scoop from without making a mess. I also need to pull everything out of my cabinets and pantry and purge and re-organize. I have too much stuff on my counters. I also have a kitchen that just doesn’t flow, even though it is really big. Maybe I will get some good ideas here!

  29. Faith says

    What about a knife magnet? I have one on the wall under my cabinets and it frees up a ton of counter space.

    • What kind is yours? I’m reading reviews and it sounds like they vary and can damage your knives.

  30. Wish I could share photos. I keep my cornmeal, flour, beans, lentils, rice, oats, flax seed….stuff like that in large clear juice jugs with colorful lids. I have 25 of them, with tight fitting lids, lined up on an open shelf, used as canisters. I keep the lids of them on backwards, but that is just me. On the counter I have various containers, some are bamboo segments that we cut from our bamboo, one holds silicon spatulas with the big end sticking colorfully out, one holds commercial sized cooking spoons, mashers with big end up,… stainless big stuff, one holds knives, another holds kitchen scissors, peeler, stuff that cuts or sharpens and is not very tall.

    I cook…all meals everyday and make all baked goods including bread for the family. Baking is done in a rocket oven that we built. We are a farm family…something is always being cooked. We have no dishwasher, nor refrigerator, live way off-grid, with limited power which we make, in Costa Rica. I do have a commercial stainless kitchen and my husband helps wash.

    I need to have fast access to my tools, which is why I keep them available, organized and in sight. It is why I dry and put I can find my stuff even in the dark My container system works for me, the best system I have found so far, and very affordable. We are an hour’s drive away from the nearest store, don’t want to run out of anything, and we shop for dry goods twice a month. We eat fresh from the garden, and butcher our own meat, chicken, cows, pigs, and tilapia. My cold food is kept in a big fishing cooler, we keep a freezer in town and make ice there. Wore the hinges off the cooler. This is the longest picnic I have ever been on, can’t remember what year I last has a fridge.

    Those magazine kitchens…those people don’t cook, they warm up take out.

  31. Leigh says

    *What about a wall hook for the spray. Pretty close to where it is, but off the counter. I use an empty method spray bottle because it is prettier.
    *Putting groups of things on trays helps me. If nothing else it makes it look tidier and easier to wipe the counter.
    *I love the kitchen rails with hooks and baskets from Ikea. They have moved through several houses with me.
    *I also saw someone who had a full shelf all the way around the backspash where she kept the most used dishes, cups etc. I seen shallower versions too.
    *A shelf above the toaster oven (with enough clearance) would get stuff off the counter and meld visually.
    *The baskets right on the back splash could help too. This sort of thing
    *For the cups. I like the tray you see on pinterest with labels for everyone and their water cup lives there.
    *Utensils. I have a crock for tall ones and a shorter crock (actually a flower pot) for shorter ones.
    *For the knives the magnetic strips scare me, but mostly because I am a clutz. I traded the nice one that came with my set for this one, which can hold my extra knives.,40733,40738&ap=1

  32. Danielle says

    For a few years now, each kid was assigned a water bottle to be used for only water. Picked up a 3-pack of these at Costco:

    I think the 3-pack was around $20. Definitely worth it to watch out for it at Costco.

  33. Trish says

    I also have mice, and can leave no food out,, except like you, things like winter squash, and in the summer, baskets of fresh picked tomatoes. I just have to say that you seem to do really well, and maybe a clutter free kitchen just isn’t in the cards at the moment. Six kids, and you cool from scratch? and you already get up at 4 am? I am in awe of your accomplishments!!! I am glad others are helpful with advice – I stink at organization, so all I can offer is encouragement. I am very very impressed with what you accomplish, and love to read your blog.

  34. Stephanie M. says

    Unfortunately, the more counter space you have, the more room for clutter. As others said, I would rid myself of one of the knife holders. Don’t store any kind of food on the counter. Put lemons and limes away in the fridge. I have my flour and sugar stored in OXO containers in the pantry but any kind of air tight container will do. The coffee station is good; I have one myself; but get rid of the cleaning supplies. Put all produce in the fridge or in a large basket on the kitchen table to make it a decorative thing, including veggies and bananas. Narrow your cooking utensils down to what you absolutely need on the counter and only have one crock for them; not two. Put the rest in the drawer – what you don’t need on a daily basis. Put dishes away in cabinets. If you have too many, consider a garage sale. I find myself downsizing as I get older; it really feels good to let go of things I really don’t need. Don’t keep plastic containers and kids toys on the counters. Strive to keep you counters as empty of unnecessary items as possible. If you want to pretty up your counters as you take uneeded items off, consider a faux plant or a real one if light permits. Just keep as much space as possible on countertops. The less “stuff” on the counters, the more orderly things will look.

  35. Debra Marie says

    Your kitchen is clean and lived in.It is obvious you love your family and your home. there are a few things which can be done which would help you. I believe the goal would be to make life easier for you. look at your knives and determine those that you can not live without. have them sharpened. put a heavy duty magnet strip on wall under cabinet use this for your favorite knives. Pack up extras and put in storage. go through all your cabinets and consolidate as much as you can. pack everything else and store. you can purchase wire racks at lowes for putting under those too deep shelves allowing you to make extra shelves in your cabinets. buy strip of hooks made for hanging coats to put on wall and hang those kitchen utensils you use everyday. of course near stove or one for baking area and one for cooking. the top of fridge is perfect flour and sugar and bulk items you can buy gallon mason jars very cheap. and label with chalk board labels. if you want them pretty wrap raffia around lid. put a clay plant pot on stove for wooden and other storing implements. hang hooks under cabinet for cups next to coffee pot area. these are just a few simple ideas. basically consolidate and simplify items so you have more storage space in cabinets which will immediately make room for items on counter to be stored. Introduce a color that you love in a few little items tea towels pot holders knick knack etc. this changes it up and makes everything look new and bright. have fun I love looking at ways to make my home easier and more efficient so I can cook and have room to be creative and make a huge mess. which is not too hard to clean up after. Have Fun!

    • Thanks for your encouragement! I appreciate that.

    • Debra Marie says

      it is charming that your children hang out with you and help you in the kitchen. I keep toys in small pretty wicker basket under my kitchen table. they know to keep them in there and those are the only toys permitted unless traded.

  36. I think most of us dream about having a well-used, but picture-perfect kitchen. I’m not sure if this would just be moving the clutter, but I keep my fresh fruit in a bowl on the table. My kids also keep their water glasses at their spot at the table. That might just be shifting your problem to another area of the house, but it works for us. Just think…one day our kids will be grown up and moved out and we will have our Donna Reed kitchens, but then we’ll miss the kids, right? 🙂

  37. Jayne says

    Your husband is awesome for replacing the grout in the kitchen! Until you get it all done, or in case you have issues in the future, here is what worked wonders for me in our bathroom. I had tried Ev.Ry.Thing I could buy to clean the grout with no luck, but a combo of baking soda and peroxide and a little scrubbing did the trick about a million times better. And if you get your kids to shut the cabinet doors, let me know how lol!

  38. Janet says

    My husband and I like to watch some of the decorating shows on TV. I envy the large, spotless, clutter-free kitchens, but we laugh every time the homeowners say they rarely cook. It seems that the smaller the kitchen the more cooking that takes place in it.

    Kids stuff: I have a lower cabinet where the kids keep all their art supplies and other toys they use in the kitchen along with their aprons.

    Produce: We have a meat platter that goes with our everyday dishes. I keep it on the counter with onions and other produce that do not do well in the fridge.

    Knives: I would suggest a smaller under counter mount block with fewer knives – just the essentials. I am not a fan of the magnetic strips.

  39. Janel Piersma says

    Okay some ideas…
    * DISHES – I know your kids have kitchen chores, but how is “washing dishes” divided up? Does one wash and one put away? If so, maybe the one who puts away should work alongside the washer so the dishes get put away right away. I now that I breathe a sigh of relief when my dish rack is empty.
    * COUNTER STORAGE – I know that you might want to keep some stuff on the counter. Check out World Market — I think they have some pretty inexpensive glass or ceramic canisters that would be pretty on the countertop. I use glass jars — like this — for my flour, etc. I don’t keep them on the countertop, but I think they’d look nice…especially since you use flour so frequently. Because they’re clear, I can see how low I am and restock when needed.
    * END OF THE DAY CHECKLIST – Maybe come up with a checklist of ideally how you’d like your kitchen to look before the lights go out at the end of the day. Have each of your people check off their chores and make sure it is done at the end of the day. You could even assign things like “pick up toy clutter” and “put away cleaning supplies”. If the end of the day is writing time for you or you’re busy with other things, assign one of the kids to be the “foreman” in the kitchen to make sure it all gets done.

  40. Kristi says

    Lots of great suggestions already. I have just a couple of ideas that have helped me, but here is my disclaimer— there are exactly half the people in our house, probably half the counter space, and I do not write cookbooks. =) Awhile back when my dishdrain needed to be replaced, I decided to just put a dishtowel out for things that had to be hand washed. I found that it was too easy to let things pile up in the dishdrain and it became another storage area. When dishes are on the towel, I dry most of them and put them away. I would also agree with those who suggested not storing knives on the countertop. I prefer a drawer for that. I also live in an area of the country where I can’t keep flour out. I freeze it, then put it in a storage container. And, perhaps you could store some of your less frequently used utensils in your pantry.

  41. Jenni says

    We have a lived in kitchen too. Dishes are always in rotation. I keep a fruit bowl out. And certain appliances just make sense to keep out.

    BUT…confession time. I live in the country, and country mouse and his family moved in. And despite our pest control company’s efforts (really a lack of) a mouse or two is still hanging out. So now we obsessively clean. So, you could always get a mouse infestation for motivation! Haha.

    I hope you never have that!

  42. kellybd says

    Hi jess,had to write in,although I have no advice..your pictures made me looks like my kitchen…he he..acorn squash on counter..check..broom leaning ..check…cabinet doors open..check..haha look,the truth is..those lovely neat and tidy kitchens don’t have big families living in them..I have 7 kids,work 3 overnite shifts a week,and do almost all my cooking from scratch,like you do..I do the best I can with keeping the clutter down(love the hanging basket idea)..only suggestion I have is for my baking supplies I use Tupperware modular mates..they come in different sizes,tight fitting them….other than that ,I will be watching for any good ideas you come up with!thanks for always keeping it real!

  43. Sara says

    I feel your pain. I am the clutterbug of my household, and my husband thinks we should live in Architectural Digest. He is a bit of a surface Nazi, always moving things off countertops and stowing them away. While some of his little hidey holes drive me insane, I have adapted to some of his suggestions. I agree with everyone else that streamlining should be the first thing you do. Pare down to one knife block and get rid of what you dont’ use regularly. Cleaning supplies should go under the sink. This is also where we have our garbage can on one of those slide-out rack thingys. Go through your dishes and get rid of what you don’t actually use. For instance, we never used the tiny cups/saucers that came with our Fiesta ware, so those went on a garage sale and it freed up half a shelf in a cupboard. Also, we put all the kids dishes in one cupboard. Ideally, one that’s accessible for them. And one large container for something is always going to look neater than a bunch of small containers. For instance, one large utensil crock rather than two small ones. Use a large basket, serving platter or bowl to contain fruit and veggies. My favorite thing that we adopted is to put up metal rails underneath the counters and use S hooks to hang our coffee mugs from. They’re easily accessible and visible that way, but off the counter top. Also, for flour, I bought a giant glass container that would fit probably about 10lbs of flour in it. Got it at Walmart for $10. Clear glass so you always know how much you have.

  44. Janel says

    Here’s a storage idea from World Market. They’ve got a whole system, but I noticed the knife rack — it’s not magnetic. I think you have to buy the bar separately and then the different pieces.

  45. Alice E says

    My counters are worse, I think. But, I will put my two cents in. I use the Rubbermaid canisters and bought them at the grocery store. They come in sets, or separate and I can have several canisters for flour. I don’t really want the counters completely clean, I like to leave appliances and canisters out. I would also suggest some kind of tiered baskets or bins for produce storage on the counter. Do try to identify and store elsewhere stuff you rarely use, perhaps in a basement or other storage area. However, you have a large family and use lots of items in recipe testing and display pictures, so you may need more items than your kitchen can store neatly in cupboards. If this is so, then grouping and using matching or coordinating containers for things like utensils will have to do for know. I knew someone with a house that had nothing on the counters. But, some of her cupboards were crammed full. I prefer organized cupboards and stuff on the counter, where it isn’t forgotten. Good Luck and God Bless.

  46. LeesaB says

    Regarding the metallic strip for knives, you ought to look into something like this . Or, your husband might even be able to make you one – I’m not sure how handy he is, but I imagine it would be pretty easy to get some strong magnets (rare earth, perhaps?), a block of wood and some food-grade finish.

    That said, we have a regular metallic one and I’ve never noticed it damaging our knives. You do need to remember to pull it off edge first, to not dull the knife.

    I can’t offer you any suggestions about the clutter as my entire house is in desperate need of a purge. 🙁

  47. Danielle L. Zecher says

    You’re probably much better at organizing your kitchen than I am, but here goes:

    My kitchen is really tiny (the whole house is about 900 square feet, so you can imagine how tiny the kitchen is) and has only one drawer. We added a small bookshelf to the kitchen for all of my cookbooks (I have tons, and have inherited some from grandmothers, great grandmothers, etc) and we keep sort of wooden buckets that we picked up at Michael’s really cheap on the top of the bookshelf for storing thinks like onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc in. We’ve started keeping things like apples in a large bowl that matches our china pattern on the table. The bowl was a wedding gift that we loved, but didn’t store very well, so that seemed like a way to kill two birds with one stone. Plus, it looks really pretty with Granny Smith apples in it. 🙂

    I’m still working on good ways to store flour, bread flour, etc. A lady in Sam’s Club recently told me that you can get the empty icing buckets for free, and that they’re really good for storing thinks like flour and sugar. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m hoping to pick up a few this week.

    There are a lot of good suggestions here; I may have to look into some of those storage containers. I also agree with the people who’ve said that you’re doing well. It’s your kitchen, if it works for you as is, then who is anyone else to declare it cluttered?

  48. Leah says
  49. Brooke says

    Have you considered a pegboard for the kitchen wall? To me, this is like art, but I love all of my kitchen tools and would lovingly gaze upon them if I had any real wall space in the kitchen. The link here is to the DIY instructions and an image – Julia Child used this method! If it was good enough for her, it must be perfect! 🙂
    Although, this might not work if the only wall space you have it what is in the picture…

  50. elie says

    i would suggest one of those magnetic strips for the knives…they save space and the knife blocks dulls the knives.

    • I’ve never heard of the blocks dulling the knife. Huh. I’ve been reading a lot of reviews for magnetic strips and most complaints are about damage done to the knives. Do you have a brand you recommend?

  51. Michelle S. says

    Oh Girl. I so feel your pain! Although your kitchen is much, much larger than my teeny one, we have the same issues. Have you a space for a hanging wire basket (or tiered wire baskets)? I have a 3-tiered one I hung underneath a cabinet. I store fruit or veg from our CSA baskets there and up off the counter, since we have little space. I know they sell grout-whitening paste at Home Depot. Perhaps it might be worth a shot if FishPapa doesn’t want to do it all right now. For flours, I really prefer vintage metal flour bins from the 50’s or 60’s. I have several, and they look great and work great. My dream, though, is to have an old Hoosier cabinet with the flour and sugar bins and the big, enamel work surface. That would be heavenly!

    Because my space is so small, I have a clip thing on the wall that holds the broom and dustpan. The bigger wall has a wall-mounted pot rack from Vermont that I ordered on Amazon. It is fantastic and has a shelf above for my larger pots. I got a great wall-mounted magnetic knife strip for all of my knives, and then an IKEA rail system, with hooks and buckets for cutlery, other utensils, and all my kitchen tools. Perhaps you could use something similar to catch some of the clutter.

  52. Esther says

    At our old house we had 2 metal magazine baskets hanging on side of the lower cabinets for the over flow of produce. I loved them. We too are a family of eight and you just can’t fit it all in the fridge!

  53. Demi says

    I have been inspired! Just ordered a spice rack with matching jars and labels, and a produce hammock. Thanks for the ideas!

  54. Carla says

    I think a long, bigger, low-rimmed basket would be good for the produce(a tray just visually seems like stuff would try to roll off and not stack well). We did get a sleek, simple, cheap, black tray from amazon to put our electric kettle, kuerig spinny thing, spoon rest and a spare black cup for filling the kettle & keurig. It’s amazing how much better this area looks with these more “cluttered” items contained on a tray. I pull it out to heat water and then it gets slid back on the counter. I ditched my knife block—the few knives i have are in a drawer ( a couple nice/sharper are in a cabinet). Maybe separate the containers for spoons & such. For example, on one side of my stove is a crock for spatulas & wooden spoons. The other side is for cooking spoons, strainers, etc. Maybe separate won’t look so piled up? Oh, my vinegar spray I put in a cute little spray bottle from one of the dollar general stores. I have to fill it a bit more often, but it stays out on my counter by the sink . . .ahem . . . or wherever else it lands. The other stuff I insist goes on the rod under the sink. But this little bottle is cute enough to not be a bother. Curious to see what you do. 🙂

  55. Naomi says

    Hi! I’m not sure i have any additional suggestions to add to the wealth of advice above, I’m just curious – do you really get up at 4am – every day? Wow!

  56. Dana says

    Over the last few years I have been downsizing my kitchen and all the stuff in it. One thing that has been helpful to me is to have less utensils and bowls etc. If I need more bowls for baking or whatever I just wash them. And since you have kitchen helpers they could just hand wash them and dry them to use again. Instead of waiting for the dishwasher to finish up. I hate hand washing dishes but it is so fast and not really a big deal if you just do it. Two kids could get it all done and put away much quicker than the DW could.

  57. Cathy says

    Thanks for sharing your struggles with the kitchen. We have some of the same ones and the ideas are helpful. A friend of mine gave me this idea for cleaning supplies – they all live in a small tote with a handle. I can fit window cleaner, duster spray, cleaner spray bottle, toilet bowl cleaner, papertowels, a sponge, and plastic gloves. It lives under the sink. The kids are encouraged to put the cleaning supplies back as they learn how frustrating it is to not be able to find it when it is their turn to clean. The cleaning supplies are easily portable and can be taken around the kitchen or into the bathroom for cleaning. It’s also helped with not keeping extra supplies we don’t use.

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