If spring is time to scrub away a long winter’s worth of dust and dirt, then fall is the perfect season to gather, sift, and sort for the demanding months ahead. It’s been a long time coming—the easy, breezy days of summer have passed and you’re likely already feeling overwhelmed by the morning rush, getting dinner on the table while juggling homework and afterschool activities, and maybe even the looming holidays, which will be here before you know it.
Being prepared and feeling in control is the best way to ease your anxiety, and when it comes to the busy fall season, there’s no better place to start than the heart of the home—the kitchen. So pick a weekend, evaluate your items and space, and consider what you can do to save time and sanity. Breathe in, breathe out, and repeat “Keep it together” as your mantra. Think of the words literally as well as figuratively using these smart strategies and clever hacks.
- KEEP RELATED TASKS AND ITEMS TOGETHER: First and foremost, is your kitchen set up as efficiently as it should be? Are dishes and glasses in cabinets over the dishwasher? Are coffee-related items near the coffeemaker? Are trash bags near the trash can (or stored inside it, as many people like to do)? The goal is to complete necessary tasks while minimizing unnecessary extra steps.
- KEEP SELF-SERVE BREAKFAST ITEMS TOGETHER: AM crunch time is much easier when kids can help themselves. Keep morning must-haves like butter, jam, syrup, and yogurt in a grab-and-go fridge caddy that you can set out on the counter and quickly put away when everyone is done. Do the same with breakfast-friendly pantry items like cereal, breads, and granola bars.
- KEEP LUNCH PREP ITEMS TOGETHER: If packing lunches is part of your routine, designate a cabinet (ideally right over or under the counter) for storage of all the essentials, from reusable containers and brown bags to napkins and plastic cutlery. (Tip: This is also a great landing zone for the single-serve utensil packets and condiment packets from your takeout delivery!)
- KEEP SNACKS TOGETHER. Give your kids afterschool independence that won’t wreak havoc on your well-organized kitchen (or their well-balanced diets) by rounding up mom-and-dad-approved snacks in one accessible place.
- KEEP FOOD WRAPS TOGETHER:Magazine files are great for storing your favorite fall fashion issues—they’re also the perfect keeper for long boxes of tin foil, plastic wrap, wax paper, and freezer bags. Mount one to the inside of a cabinet or pantry door to simplify packaging leftovers.
- KEEP LIDS AND CONTAINERS TOGETHER: Kitchen and pantry organization really is a snap with Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids containers. The lids in this food storage system snap together AND snap to the bottom of matching containers, ensuring that the right lid is always there when you need it. The square containers also come in graduated sizes that nest together so they take up less room in your cupboard, fridge, or pantry.
- KEEP PLASTIC BAGS TOGETHER: Can’t corral all those loose grocery store bags? Stow them away in an easy-access container like a tissue or baby wipes box.
- KEEP PACKETS TOGETHER: Stop searching for that taco seasonings envelope you know you have somewhere and keep other loose packets like single-serve drink mixes from spilling out everywhere by attaching plastic sink caddies to the inside of cabinet doors.
- KEEP TAKEOUT MENUS TOGETHER: Get dialing faster! Invest in one of the many ready-made organizers specifically for this purpose, or make your own using a binder and clear plastic sleeves.
- KEEP THE BOTTLE OPENER AND THE FRIDGE TOGETHER: It’s as easy as a magnetic bottle opener that clicks onto the fridge. Guests on Game Day will surely thank you for it!
- KEEP RECIPES AND YOU TOGETHER: That old-fashioned recipe box may look pretty on your counter, but it’s never on-hand at the grocery store when you need it. Even if your collection is a combination of online pins and bookmarks, dog-eared cookbook pages, and Grandma’s handwritten index cards, consider aggregating it all into a cloud-based format you can access from your phone. Do a little research—there are plenty of apps for that—or you can create your own system by cutting, pasting, scanning, and snapping photos to a file on Google Drive.
- KEEP INCOMING ITEMS TOGETHER (AND SORT REGULARY): Not only is the kitchen the heart of the home, it’s also the family command center—and can quickly turn into the household dumping ground. Have one designated container for incoming papers/mail and another for random odds and ends—keys, loose change, toys, accessories, sports equipment—that end up on the floor or counter. Do a sweep at the end of each day and address accordingly before it all adds up to one big headache.