A fresh start for a new year

Margaret Prouse
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The New Year makes me wonder.

How will 2014 be different from the year that just ended? What changes will be imposed on me? What changes will I choose to make?

One of the changes I am planning — let’s say it’s a persistent goal, never fully achieved — is to organize myself and my home better. A friend recently told me that she reorganizes her home twice a year, and, though I am unlikely to do a full-on revamping, she did inspire me to do some organizing on a more modest scale.

There is a small window of time, before the everyday activities all resume for another season, that is good for doing some personal projects, and I’m going to use some of that time to organize my kitchen a little better. It’s a small room, and just a little clutter and confusion creates a big feeling of chaos. Organizing it well makes the space feel more pleasant to be in and makes it easier to work more quickly and effectively.

Being better at collecting than I am at discarding things, I am challenged to comply with the concept of “a place for everything and everything in its place.” That is key to having an organized space. It minimizes clutter and makes it easier to find things. What might I already have accomplished if I had applied the time that I’ve used searching for lost things to more creative endeavours?  

When we installed new kitchen cupboards a few winters ago, I found places for everything, and loved having clean, clutter-free counter tops. The room felt bigger, and I had space available for doing everyday chores. I need to clear away the papers, dishes, and containers of food that have gradually encroached and reveal the lost counter tops again.

After finding a place for everything that will be stored in the kitchen, I’ll need to cultivate the habit of putting things where they belong. At our house, we sometimes laugh at ourselves for leaving an item in a random spot, “for now,” instead of putting it away. How easy it is to delay putting the offending item where it belongs and become so used to seeing it that it fades, unnoticed, into the background.

It isn’t only the counters that I’d like to organize better. The spice drawer also needs attention. When it was at its best, I could easily choose the spice or herb that I was looking for, as all were in labelled bottles of uniform size. I could tell at a glance, too, whether I had the required seasonings for any given dish.

Now, the drawer contains an assortment of bottles, some labelled and others not, as well as a collection of little bits of spices and herbs bought in bulk and stored in the plastic bags that came from the store. A few more inexpensive bottles bought at the bulk food store and a few minutes spent filling and labelling them should make it easy to find things again.

The fridge and freezer need perpetual reorganization, as foods are added and removed. Leftovers stored in the fridge can sometimes be forgotten. I taught myself, a long time ago, to discard opaque containers that margarine and the like are packed in and keep only transparent containers for storing leftovers.

It’s just too easy to forget about and lose foods when they are hidden in opaque containers. For better organization, I could date the containers to avoid having to guess when leftovers were put in the fridge.

Some people like to keep a running inventory of what’s stored in their freezers, but I think that is unnecessary for our small freezer. I do, though, need to put on a pair of gloves and sort things out from time to time.

None of the above ideas is new to me. They are just things I’ve known about and need to remind myself to do. However, I encountered a new kitchen organization idea while watching chef Michael Smith on television recently. He keeps a kitchen journal.

Now, I’ve kept journals and find them to be practical tools for recording and organizing my thoughts. I can’t imagine why it never occurred to me to keep a kitchen journal. Since encountering the idea, I have started one and plan to use it regularly to record the menus I use on special occasions, such as Christmas, and to jot down the dates that new crops are available, original recipes and modifications of existing ones and reflections on dishes I’ve tried. Thanks for the great idea!

I know that I won’t be perfectly organized in 2014. I looked back on my goals for 2013 and found most of them to be incomplete.

However, I am looking forward to having a better-organized kitchen where I can spend more time being creative and less time searching for lost items and forgotten ideas in 2014.

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at margaret@islandgusto.com.

Geographic location: North Wiltshire

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