True confession: I LOVE kitchens, when they’re organized. I also love them clean, but that’s another can of worms. For now, I’ll stick to organizing and leave the cleaning to someone else, preferably that man who shows up for dinner every night!

Kitchens are iconic of the American home, often cited as the heart of the home and family life. When your kitchen supports this idea, it’s great. When clutter, disorganization and chaos reign in the kitchen, that discordant energy affects the family life and disposition. Clean is good, tidy is great, but organized is the best form of family cohesiveness. When you can’t find your favorite spatula, your mother’s recipe or the right bowl for the mashed potatoes, then you and your family will suffer from disorganization.

Often when couples set up a home, they are given just about everything from pancake turners to bread machines, whether they need it or not. Often the acquisition of an item is the result of wishful thinking. You may own a waffle iron with visions of a beautiful Sunday morning breakfast of blueberries, maple syrup and two kinds of smoked meat, but in reality, your family prefers pancakes, is running late for soccer and would rather eat eggs anyway because we’re all doing low-carb nowadays, aren’t we? In this case, you can see the gap between fantasy and reality.

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If that gap has been lurking for years, then it’s time to give away the waffle iron. Let’s declare a moratorium on gifts we don’t use (more than five years) and pass them along to someone who will. Let the tools and appliances you do have reflect your actual lifestyle. Besides, if you get rid of the waffle maker, then you will have room for something you might actually use, like a grilled cheese sandwich maker!

If you have been in this kitchen for more than five years, it’s time to do an assessment of what you have, what you use and what you want. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, if I had to downsize and move tomorrow, what would I pack and what would I leave behind. Take a look at what’s in the drawers and cabinets (or stored elsewhere, like in a pantry) and what’s on the top shelf and even on top of the cupboards. Do you love and use that stuff at least once a year or are you keeping all this so that eventually the kids can throw it out when you face the pearly gates? Be honest with yourself and for the sake of those who will follow. If what you have is not supporting the life of the house, it has outlived its function.

So let’s get organized in the kitchen. Here’s a starting list:

• Remove all unused appliances, tools, dishes, glassware;

• Reduce tools to what you actually use: potato masher or hand mixer?

• Set it up to make it easier to clean;

• Clear the counters as much as possible;

• Store appliances in cabinets, except coffee pot or tea kettle;

• Discard anything broken or ugly, including pots;

• Discard food that’s out of date or not to your taste;

• Contain wherever possible on shelves and in drawers: tools, tea, seasoning packets;

• Get all food stuff and equipment off the pantry floor;

• Keep kitchen cleaning products handy, including garbage bags;

• Set up recycling so that it’s easy to use.

So this is where we start to get organized in the kitchen. Meal planning and inventory management can wait until another time, but at least start with a tidy, functional space that supports your vision of a happy home.

Good luck with reshaping your kitchen and happy organizing!

Andréa Deinstadt, is a professional organizer who helps people create order to their homes and reduce the stress when downsizing.  Contact: 914.391.8816