Organizing Kitchens – the Heart of our Homes
It seems like January 1st happened so long ago and yet we’re merely a few weeks into the new year. Are you someone who sets goals and resolutions? If you did, chances are one of them had to something to do with health, organizing or happiness.
And now it’s that dreadful time of the year, AGAIN.
According to statistics, mid-February is typically the time when most people lose interest in keeping up with their New Year resolutions.
Recently I had the pleasure to interview my wonderful friend Deb Papesh about the essential connection between our common passions: Food, Health, and Organizing.
Deb and I have known each other for almost a decade. She is the owner of a small but growing business called Food Flip, local to Dublin and the Columbus Metro area.
Food Flip is a meal-prep service that comes to your home where Deb personally helps you increase your Kitchen Confidence through a series of menu preps. She works her magic with each client to meal prep everything you need for the week in a 3-hour session. In a few sessions, you recreate your mindset on how to go about finding and bringing joy back to your home kitchen.
Here’s how our recent conversation went down:
Deb: Hi – thank you so much for having me! I’m so glad that we have the chance to speak about Kitchen Confidence and proper systems and organization. If we begin with the right mindset and an organized space, everything else moves smoothly.
Lori: I am so excited to talk with you about all this, especially as a happy Food Flip client myself. My first question for you: What do you notice with your Food Flip clients about kitchens in general, any recurring roadblocks?
D: Typically I see the lack of proper definitions of the various zones of the kitchen spaces and how people tend to manage those. Cooking healthy meals, enjoying your family and being your best self must start with proper systems to support this. Does that make sense to you?
L: Absolutely. One of the things I see on my end is the overabundance of items. Anything no longer used, broken stuff, mismatched glassware, a zillion mugs, storage without lids, etc. When this happens, it is very hard for the homeowner to see past the clutter. It discourages you from cooking because you cannot find the proper tools or food ingredients. You feel less inspired and even frustrated. Sometimes I hear a client say that they prefer to order take-out because it’s simply easier. Do you see this as a reason why people reach out to you for a Food Flip?
D: It is certainly one reason – they need someone to help break the cycle of feeling powerless in their own home kitchen. It’s a huge part of why people feel distressed and they don’t know where to begin. For me, an avid cook and lover of food in general, I feel like the kitchen should be the heart of the home and a very sacred place.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it was a place of comfort, where people could go to gather, belong, share and partake in each other’s lives?
L: I’m sure that sounds amazing to pretty much anyone you’d ask. What do you ask someone before starting a Food Flip?
D: Before I go into a person’s home for a consult, I ask them lots of questions about how they organize their refrigerator and pantries. Often, they tell me this is part of their roadblock to getting started. I typically request they go through their food inventory to discard any expired or unused items. Some reasons why we do this :
- Expired items could be a health hazard
- You probably don’t need it if If you haven’t used it in a while
- You can’t use it if you can’t see it
L: That’s true. There are some items that can go bad and make you very sick. There are other items, especially dry items, like spices or baking mixes, which may not necessarily cause you a hospital visit but have lost their flavor or freshness and will not be much help in making your meal a success. In essence, some of the stuff is simply taking up space and triggering visual clutter. This actually becomes an obstacle for us to reach and utilize the necessary.
D: Lori, how can someone give their their kitchen a proper “reset” ?
L: Most often I get called to create a system and assess the whole space. We ask clients lots of questions such as :
- How much cooking do you typically do?
- What type of cooking: baking, cooking meals, prep, ethnic?
- Who cooks in the kitchen?
- How often do you shop for groceries?
- Are you right or left handed?
- Do you prefer things put away or some stuff on counters is ok?
D: That’s interesting – I’ve never even thought about left and right-handedness. Tell me more about that before we talk about kitchen zones.
L: It’s quite simple actually. Let me give you a quick example: I have you stand in front of the stove. We look to the right to where we may want to have the most used items related to cooking. You should not have to move very far, to reach the frequently used items. Sounds intuitive – but you would not believe how many of us simply stash items wherever we can because when we move into a home or apartment, we are in a rush to unpack boxes and are totally in survival mode. What about our food and our fridge Deb?
D: I find that having a clear fridge is necessary for two reasons: we need to be able to see what we have and we will eat what we can see. If we simply stash them in clear containers wherever there is space throughout the fridge, how do we make sense of what we have and what is needed?
I ask my clients to clarify/declutter first then I help them rearrange. All meal prep components remain within the same 1-2 shelves.
L: I’d also say figure out what your goals are. For my family for example, with the exception of my husband, the rest of us were doing a pretty pathetic job in eating our fresh fruit. We decided to switch the veggies and fruit drawers. Placed the fruits higher up so we could see them better and even added clear bins on shelves that we fill with anything that we should be eating more of, and make better use of vertical space. It has worked wonders for us!
D: One of the things we do in Food Flip that you probably think sounds easy but many never do this: simply rearranging shelves. Most people have had their shelves stationary from the get -go. It’s an easy step and a necessary one. People can experiment and do this themselves.
L: Exactly – the same goes for kitchen cabinets. Give yourself permission to move everything around!
D: In Food Flip we prep all the veggies and most of the fruit to be taken or eaten in the first half of the week. These items are stored on the top couple of fridge shelves or wherever your line of sight is, placed in clear containers or baggies, ready to be picked up and eaten on the go. This helps reduce waste at the end of the week because we are less likely to forget that we bought those berries and mushrooms, right? I see in your beautiful fridge pictures that you have items you are trying to use right up front. How about the pantry? Is that a forgotten space?
L: Pantries have my heart. If I could organize one every day, I would. Not just for the amazing before and after, that’s always so fulfilling, but also for the great effect this process has on the family’s well-being, eating and food wasting habits. Now the funny thing about pantries is that bigger isn’t always better, contrary to popular belief! If we aren’t careful, they become a dumping ground for all items that just seem to float around the main living area and kitchen. Party decor, kid’s art supplies, medicine, unused appliances and dishes, toys etc. Any and everything else that doesn’t have a home.
D: So share with us your steps for resetting a kitchen space:
L: I like to keep it simple. I call it “The Four P-s”
Pull it All out
Purge and Sort
Put Like with Like
Place everything back in labeled bins and baskets.
D: Tell me about some of your favorite containers:
L: There are too many depending on space, budget, and preferences – from metal, wood tones, wicker, plastic etc. Often, we utilize clear containers in many projects. They appeal to all clients for various reasons. You see it, you use it. They are lightweight, easy to clean and not that expensive. My favorite go-to source for organizing products is the Ohio-based company called M Design. Of course, there are lots of other sources such as Target, Amazon, Container Store, Ikea etc.
My best advice would be to stop doing what the next person is doing. Be inspired by Pinterest, but you do YOU.
Be realistic. How much time do you want to spend maintaining your pantry? Decanting, for example, takes extra effort each time you come home from the grocery store. You will constantly fill and refill, which is fine if this is your thing to do. If not – no reason to worry. There are other options that allow you to pool the like items together in baskets with labels. Examples include Cereals, Baking, Snacks, Sweets, Baby Food, etc. We hope you can keep better track of your items this way and reduce waste. What about Food Flip?
D: We work on a very similar goal: Reducing waste by meal prepping. Did you know that if most people end up throwing out almost half of the produce, they buy within a two – week period? My clients report they are spending the money and tossing the food because they didn’t have a plan. That hard earned money can be better invested in organizing themselves, and or improving kitchen skills. What questions should someone be asking themselves if they’d like to improve all this?
- What are you currently doing that is NOT working for you? List those things pertaining to organizing your kitchen, food, etc…
- What would you LIKE it to look like? Brainstorm, collect pics from Pinterest or Magazines. In the past, people used to create Vision Boards. You could simply bullet some of the ideas and goals. Write it all down.
- Begin with the 4 P’s and see how far you can go.
If it becomes overwhelming, contact a professional. You can always reach out to me or any Professional Organizer in your area. I’d love to partner with you in creating YOUR best-organized version of yourself. If you are struggling with your food prep and would like to improve your kitchen skills, get in touch with Deb for an awesome Food Flip. You can reach her on Facebook or Instagram.
We promise this will be the best investment in yourself and your family’s well-being. We are a good team for those who are ready!