How to Get Organized

Junk Drawer Remodel

Yes, it's called a junk drawer for a reason, but that doesn't mean yours has to look like a landfill.

We turned to Ellen Delap of the National Association of Professional Organizers for tips on brining order to a neglected corner of your kitchen. As she says, "Your junk drawer is the best spot to start reorganizing your kitchen: It's a baby step that gives you a feeling of success and confidence!"

  • Pare down junk so it fits in one drawer. Having multiple junk drawers takes away valuable space.
  • Take everything out and group the items by category: tools, clips and twists, lighters, office supplies, etc. You'll probably find it makes sense to put many of these items in other places.
  • Label each spot so everyone in the family knows what goes where in the junk drawer.
  • Keep your junk drawer tidy by preventing overflow. As soon as a slot has too many items, donate or toss extra junk.

Spice Smarts

Six o'clock and it's time to cook, but finding all the spices you need for tonight's dinner is a chore. Taking a little time to organize your seasonings on the weekend can help you trim prep time for months to come. Check out these smart tips on how to organize spices quickly from Simple & Delicious readers:

I keep spices on a two-tier lazy Susan. I added a third tier made of polystyrene. The lower shelf holds frequently used and small jars in a zigzag pattern alphabetically so I can see them. The second tier is for taller containers. And the third shelf holds less frequently used spices and a second container of items I'll soon run out of.
—Judy Batson, Tampa, Florida
Simple & Delicious Reader Council Member

I keep all my spice jars in wire bins. Both the big jars and the small ones fit perfectly. When I need a spice, I just pull out the whole thing. It makes it easy to see where the spice is located, and they fit right in my cupboard.
—Penny Soppeland, Fort Dodge, Iowa

I write the name of the spice or herb on top of the container, along with the date. This helps me easily find containers when they're lined up in the cupboard. I also write the month and year I opened an item on the side of the container, so I know when I need to buy a fresh jar.
—Lisa Jeffries, St. Clair Shores, Michigan

Clean Out the Kitchen

Did you know that August 1-7 is National Simplify Your Life Week? We asked our Simple & Delicious Reader Council members how they keep their kitchens neat, organized and ready for action. Here are some of their smart tips.

"I donate any small appliances that only do one thing to a local women's shelter. I do the same with pantry ingredients that have a long shelf life. With freezer perishables, if I'm really not going to use it (the fish I bought in bulk because it was on sale—and now I know why), I say goodbye and good riddance!"
—Trisha Kruse, Eagle, Idaho

"My kitchen is small, so I never leave tools out. Things I don't use every day, such as a large slow cooker, don't take up space in my kitchen. I have cabinets in my laundry room for them."
—Judy Batson, Tampa, Florida

"I have a strict 'no piles on the countertops' rule. I never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. And, twice a year, I take everything out of the pantry to clean and reorganize. Things get lost in there if I don't!"
—Michele Tungett, Rochester, Illinois

"Every month I pick a section of cabinets and empty them out. I wipe them down and toss or donate anything I'm not using. Then I put the needed items back in the cabinets neatly. I only do a few cabinets at a time so I'm not overwhelmed."
—Nicole Robbins, Burlington, Iowa

"When I plan my monthly menu, I take a quick scan of what I have that needs to be used up. I sometimes also do this midmonth as needed."
—Tanya Baynes, Brookfield, Wisconsin

Find kitchen makeovers (and more organizing ideas!) in our Kitchen Tours >

Pack a Picnic

It's summertime, and the livin' is simple! On warm days, plan a picnic with friends and soak up some rays. At your next gathering, don't leave essentials behind. Let our quick checklist of must-haves ease any alfresco meal.

Party Checklist:

  • Serving spoons, cups, utensils, plates or bowls
  • Picnic basket and ice packs for chilled food
  • Bottle opener
  • A small knife and cutting board
  • Food tent
  • Napkins, paper towels and/or wet napkins
  • Bags or containers for leftovers
  • Garbage bags
  • Hand sanitizer, first-aid kit, sunblock and insect repellent
  • Games, cards and music
  • A blanket and/or chairs

Source: Deb Lee, National Association of Professional Organizers

Picnic Recipes >

Recycle, Reuse, Reorganize:
Keep Your Recycling Center Neat and Tidy

The truth is scary: Americans throw away about 28 billion bottles and jars every year, and make more than 200 million tons of garbage, according to the EPA. With numbers like that, it's easy to see why recycling is important. But figuring out how to keep those disposable goods neat and tidy in your kitchen can seem darn near impossible.

With a few tips from Julie Bestry of the National Association of Professional Oraganizers, we've sorted out a simple guide to help you start recycling.

Step 1: Contact a local recycling provider.

  • "Learn the rules for curbside pickup and the location of the community recycling center drop-offs," Bestry advises. You can find local centers on sites such as
  • Find out which items they'll take, if special bins are required and whether your area has all-in-one single-stream recycling (everything goes in the same bin) or if you have to separate recyclables.

Step 2: Designate an area.

  • Create a kitchen sorting center. "The under-sink area next to your trash can is ideal, as you can rinse recyclables before sorting into bins," Bestry says. "Also consider less-used or partially hidden areas, like the floor space below a kitchen desk."
  • Short on floor or cabinet space? "Go vertical," Bestry recommends. "Use stackable recycling bins with tip-out openings, or hang sturdy bags from hooks." (The Container Store's Stacking Recycling & Storage Bins are a good option.)
  • Label or color-code containers so you know what goes in each. An added bonus? Clear labeling makes it easy for the whole family to get involved.

Step 3: Make it a habit.

  • Build a holding center in your garage, mudroom or laundry room for larger collections. When you carry kitchen trash to your garbage bin, take a moment to transfer kitchen recycling to the larger containers in the holding area. Once you get into the habit, it's simple to maintain, and you'll feel good about the good you're doing!

Recipe Overload

Feel like you have more recipes than you know what to do with? We asked an organizing expert and some home cooks how they keep their collection together.

"I store magazines in chronological order. When new issues arrive, I copy the index and file in a binder. When I make a recipe, I put a star by the title on the index sheet and make notes on a sticky note attached to the magazine."
—Judy Batson, Tampa Florida
Simple & Delicious Reader Council Member

"We use 20 percent of our recipes 80 percent of the time. Don't be afraid to trim the fat. Alphabetically arrange must-haves in a few sections. Use binders with plastic sleeves to slide each recipe page in. Glue smaller recipes onto a full-size sheet of paper. Then flag favorites."
—Lissanne Oliver
Member, National Association of Professional Organizers

"I have our recipe book in a database (organized by course and main ingredient). My family has to approve recipes that go into the file, so it's a family affair."
—Nancy Gilmour, Suwanee, Georgia
Simple & Delicious Reader Council Member

The Taste of Home recipe box allows users to upload personal recipes and categorize favorites. Learn more >

Start Small

January is National GO (Get Organized) Month, as designated by the National Assocation of Professional Organizers (NAPO). Small steps, such as clearing off kitchen counters, can help you reach your organizing goals.

Tonia Tomlin of NAPO shares this tip for taking the first step. Place only the small appliances you use every day on the counter. It makes smart organizing sense to keep each appliance close to the other accessories you use with it. It's also a more ergonomic approach since you'll take fewer steps back and forth between items you need for fixing meals.

For example, if you drink coffee every day, place your coffeemaker above or below the cupboard that contains coffee cups. If you use your toaster oven daily, put it in a convenient location on the counter near the fridge.

Microwaves are trickier. If you don't have space to mount the microwave above your range, put it as close as you can to the range. Having the main appliances you need to prepare meals in the same general area makes cooking a seamless process.

Also think about which appliances you and your family use less often. For example, if you're not big bakers, it probably doesn't make sense to store your mixer on the countertop. Place less frequently used appliances in a pantry, in higher cabinets, or even in a nearby mudroom for easy access when you need them. They won't clutter up your countertop, and your kitchen will stay cleaner and neater.

What Facebook Fans Are Saying

I keep the toaster oven, coffeemaker and can opener on the countertop and put my food processor and KitchenAid away.
—Jennifer S.

I keep my coffeepot, KitchenAid, kettle and toaster out. Everything else gets put up out of the way. I use those four all the time, so they stay out.
—Darcie M.

Join the conversation on Facebook >

Clutter Cutters

Getting ready for holiday baking? Kate Brown of the National Association of Professional Organizers shares this tip for keeping supplies out of the way, but in clear sight:

Use see-through plastic shoe boxes to store cookie cutters, colored sugars and decorating supplies. (Small clear storage boxes are available from the Container Store for about $2 to $9.)

Label the boxes as needed and store on a top shelf or in the back of a base cabinet. Also label the inside of the cabinet door so you know where to look next season. Labels can be as simple as masking tape and marker. Or, for a more playful look, try Super Sticky Post-It labels (about $6.50 at office supply stores).

What Facebook Fans Are Saying

Put a string or some yarn through cookie cutters and hang them on the inside of your cabinet.
—Becky J.

I have a lot, so my cookie cutters are on peg boards by holiday or theme.
—Jill C.

Join the conversation on Facebook >

How to Get a Clean Kitchen >

Homemade Cleaning Products >