By Carol Traulsen
We moved. We found a place closer to the things we like to do downtown and a shorter commute for my son to his work. And with every move you give something up. For me it was my kitchen. I miss having two ovens. I miss the storage space. I miss the glass stove top that doubled as an extra work surface. What do I have instead? A very small space, one oven, a small pantry, less storage and every counter has an appliance on it. How can I cook here? As you cn see from the pictures there’s very little room to spread out and work.
The tiny counter next to the refrigerator is home to the coffee maker, (the coffee mugs go in the small cupboard above it). A must for the early morning drive to my son’s work. To the left of the stove is the microwave which leaves the right for canisters of flour, sugar, brown sugar, and pasta. No space to work. Luckily we have a dining room, but it’s carpeted. Who does that anymore? Apparently the owner or the last tenant. That makes it a less than ideal place to work but I have no choice.
The lovely, warm, wood background that you’ve seen in the pictures of my articles and recipes is our dining room table. It’s fifty-five inches long and twenty-nine inches wide. The perfect work surface, even if it’s carpeted underneath it’s all of I’ve got. The next step was to decide which items I use every day and which items could be stored until I needed them.
Here’s a list of things to remember when setting up a small space to work in.
Keep the items you use every day at your finger tips, out on a counter somewhere or close by in a cupboard or drawer. You don’t want to rummage around in garage every time you make toast.
Put seasonal items in one place where you can find them and label the boxes. My pretty, seasonal glasses and dishes are in the garage there just isn’t room for them in the kitchen. They are LABELED! This is key if you entertain at all. Save yourself some time label the box make sure you can get to it. Don’t let your pretty stuff take up valuable real estate in your tiny kitchen. If you only use it twice a year.
Find a large flat surface to work on. Kitchen tables work well. If yours is too small empty off the counter tops. Put the stuff that’s on it elsewhere out of the way. Use a card table that you can fold up if necessary.
Use a large cutting board or tempered glass from the microwave as a work surface. I’ve got a huge cutting board with a lip that fits over the edge of a table to keep it from sliding around and a glass tray from our last microwave. They both make great work surfaces. I use the glass one for things like chicken and meat because it can be easily cleaned. I have one small cutting board, the large one, and the one slide out one in the kitchen. Each one is used for a different task. This prevents cross contamination. If you don’t have the room make sure the surface is clean when you handle each item, whether it’s chicken or vegetables. I use undiluted lemon juice on my cutting board after I use warm soapy water. You could also use peroxide or wipe it down with vinegar to kill the bacteria. Never is dishwasher detergent it can weaken the fibers of the wood.
Store your large appliances elsewhere, in a cupboard or in a special area in the garage. Crock pots, blenders, mixers, espresso machines, bread machines, ice cream makers and pasta machines are great to have, but not if you don’t use them. Sell them, give them away or donate them. Ask yourself what you have used over the last year. Chances are if you haven’t used it, you didn’t miss it. It’s probably time for me to give up my espresso machine and all the little espresso cups I collected They are cute but I haven’t used them in years. On the other hand, my crock pot and my mixer have been used a lot over the last two years. Priorities change, don’t be afraid to let stuff go.
Don’t fall into the trap of renting a storage unit for all of the stuff that won’t fit in your kitchen. You’ll never see it again and when you move you’ll have to sort or give it away then. Do it now. If there’s no room for it and you don’t use it get rid of it NOW! It’s worse than keeping a pair of jeans two sizes too small because one day you hope you’ll fit in them. Live in the now. If there’s no room there’s no room.
Measure your cupboards and look for storage solutions, shelves, hooks and racks at hardware stores and places like Target, Kmart and Ikea. Check online. Maybe someone else has already solved your problem and you just haven’t discovered it yet. No need to reinvent the wheel, but you can put your spin on it. Be creative.
Concentrate on multi-taskers. Appliances or kitchen tools that do more than one thing are ideal. It frees up space in drawers, on shelves and in cupboards. We are creatures of habit, so if you find yourself reaching for a particular pot, pan, bowl or knife more often than another, that’s the one to keep.
I have a confession to make. I have secret weapon in my fight to make a space work no matter how small or awkward. My husband. He can look at any space and instantly know where everything should go. If you’re not similarly gifted or don’t know someone who is, play around with the space. Move things around. Try out different arrangements.
One key thing to remember is that you want to be able to move from the stove to the fridge to the sink. Think of it as your sacred triangle. You may not be able to move the refrigerator the stove around if they aren’t arranged in this fashion. But at least next time you’ll know what to look for when you’re designing your own kitchen or moving into a new one.
I don’t think this new kitchen will be ever the model of efficiency, and I’m certainly not, but I’ll learn to make it work. I’m sure there will be more tweaks and adjustments to make. For now I use the table and cutting boards for my working space. I’ll have even more room in my cupboards once I make a trip to Goodwill. Then I’ll be able to buy that food processor I’ve had my eye on. It can do the job of three or four appliances or gadgets. That’s what I call efficient!