Some of you know that I was a professional organizer long before I was a blogger. I’ve organized all areas of the home, including offices and garages. What I love most is organizing kitchens. Kitchens are the center of social gatherings, family bonding, and food that supplies health to our bodies. My favorite part about specializing in kitchen organizing is that I can make a difference in people’s health and happiness. When discovering my own gluten sensitivity six years ago, I welcomed the fun challenge of re-organizing my kitchen. Yes, fun for me since I love to organize!
What if you found out you are allergic to the food you eat?
Organizing your kitchen can help you successfully manage your food sensitivities. It’s critical for those that have severe gluten sensitivity, because cross contamination can result in serious allergic reactions. It’s important to start with basic organizing principles. Kitchens function best with at least five stations. These facilitate effective work flow, save time and money, and ultimately make cooking gluten-free meals easier. See the end of my post for essential tips on preventing cross-contamination.
The Five Kitchen Stations
- Place your prep station by the kitchen sink. Rinsing, washing, and cleaning should be a smooth process while you prepare your meal.
- Keep the counter space clear. Move papers off the counter to your desk area. Put seldom-used appliances in accessible storage, like the garage or pantry closet.
- Keep your knives nearby in a knife block, in drawers, or on a magnetic strip.
- Keep utensils such as large spoons, ladles and spatulas nearby in a crock or drawer organizers.
- Place oils nearby, but not too close to the heat source, so they maintain their freshness.
- Organize your spices in a drawer or spice rack or cabinet using turntables or shelf organizers. Put the ones you use the most in the front.
- Place cooking pans within easy reach. Utilize a pot rack or organize them by size or type in lower cabinets. Contain lids in one spot with lid organizers.
- Put oven mitts or hot pads in a drawer or hang them on a hook right next to the oven for quick access.
- Minimize the number of appliances on your counters so you have space for recipe books and hot meals coming out of the oven.
- Keep large bowls and platters nearby. Silverware, dishes, and glasses can also be in your serving area. However, they are easier to put away when stored next to the dishwasher.
- Put tablecloths, place mats, cloth napkins, and candles in a buffet or kitchen drawer closest to the table.
- Keep salt, pepper, and salad oils on a serving tray for easy mobility or on a lazy Susan on the table.
- Reduce. This crucial first step creates needed space. Go through and remove items you don’t need or want. Ask yourself questions, like: Does packaged food fit into my diet? How many canned foods do I eat? Can I give some away to a local food bank? If you are creating an entirely gluten-free home, then give away or throw out all food containing wheat, barley, and rye.
- Sort. Take what you have left and place them into groups of similar items. For examples, place baking powder with baking soda; foil with plastic wrap; olive oil with coconut oil; pasta with rice; and canned tuna with canned beans.
- Separate. Divide spices, herbs, flours, oats, and other baking items into containers and label them clearly. Try using clear containers to see at a glance when you are running low and need to refill an item.
- Organize. Put your reduced, sorted, and separated items into the storage space. Use tiered shelves or turntables for oils, spices, or baking supplies. Consider purchasing pull out drawers so you can see what’s in your pantry. Be sure and leave space for new items that you bring home from shopping.
5. Mail Center or Desk
- Designate an area for mail. If you don’t have a desk, then create a small home on your counter for paperwork with a mail sorter or desktop filing box.
- Reduce. Go through your current piles and separate recycling from “keep” papers. If you have trouble making decisions quickly, set a timer and see how fast you can sort through a paper stack.
- Categorize and file. Create files for “keep” papers, such as Bills to Pay, To File, Upcoming Events, etc. Colorful hanging file boxes are fun and best for viewing paperwork. (See photo.) Keep it simple and label them whatever makes sense to you. If you have children, you may want to create files for each child or for their school or sports activities. Remember these are current daily-access files; monthly or archive files should go in an office or long-term storage.
- Start and continue a daily mail habit. It only takes 5 minutes. As soon as you pick up your mail, stand over your recycling container and shredder and take care of junk mail. Then file your “keep” papers. Make decisions right away or as your mother used to say, “Handle it once!” (Or was that just my mother?)
Create Unique Kitchen Stations
Establish other kitchen stations based on your needs. A recycling station, kids’ lunch packing station, and gluten-free snacks station can be valuable in an organized kitchen. Be inspired! See what your imagination can dream up. Maybe a thank you card writing station or children’s coloring station?
Finally, organize your kitchen to prevent any cross-contamination. Even small amounts of gluten can cause stomach aches, joint pain, headaches, skin rashes, and flare-ups in auto-immune conditions. I have gluten-sensitive friends that can’t tolerate walking into a grocery store with an open bakery! So, even if you don’t have food allergies, consider these tips as vital for the health of your family.
Tips to Prevent Cross-Contamination
- Make your entire kitchen allergen free. This is the best way to protect your allergic family members. That means no gluten (no wheat, rye, barley, and contaminated oats) if someone in your family has celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. If this is not possible, then follow the tips below.
- Keep gluten-free snacks in separate sealed containers, labeled clearly.
- Label shelves with easy to read words or stickers. Photographs are great for young children who are too young to read.
- To prevent gluten contamination, use separate appliances and tools – two toasters, two pasta strainers, two waffle-makers, and separate cutting boards, wooden spoons, peanut butter knives, butter dishes, sponges and hand towels. Keep them in different areas and label them clearly.
- To minimize airborne gluten, place wheat flours on the lowest shelves and gluten-free flours on the highest shelves. Flour can stay in the air for up to 24 hours!
- Do not make gluten-free baked goods at the same time as wheat-flour baked goods.
- If you are extremely sensitive, wear a mask and gloves when baking with gluten flours.
- For more in-depth information about gluten-free living, read my informative post, Beginner’s Guide to Going Gluten Free.
- For more details about my kitchen organizing business, check out my website, Work in Progress Organizing.
If you are new to the gluten-free lifestyle, good luck organizing your kitchen! It will benefit everyone in your family, especially those with food sensitivities. Maybe even you!
If you already have experience preparing gluten-free meals, what organizing tip has helped you the most? Please share in the comments.
Here’s to allergy-free kitchens and healthy families!