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It’s a ridiculously common scenario: You call a designer or contractor to look at the kitchen you want to remodel. Aside from being somewhat dark and dated, it has at least one counter covered in stacks of papers. The stacks have been there for days, maybe weeks or months. You look at the pile of mail, bills, homework assignments, teachers’ notes and catalogues through the professional’s eyes with embarrassment, hoping he or she won’t judge you, or can make it all go away.

Stacks of paper on your kitchen countertops collect dust and food particles, take up otherwise usable space, and stress you out when you look at them, (which is likely often, given their high traffic location). They might even create arguments with your kids and significant other. Clutter is stressor and a health hazard. Taken to extremes, it’s an episode of Hoarders.

Clutter can also collect in your cabinets, though it may not seem like clutter at first. Do you have utensils, pots, pans and dishes that you haven’t used in years? Do you have items in the cabinet above your refrigerator, double oven or microwave that you haven’t looked at since you put them there? Chances are, those items no longer spark joy, as Marie Kondo, author of the phenomenally-successful “Tidying Up” books and Netflix show, might say.

If you’re considering a kitchen remodel, it makes sense to tidy up your space first. You’ll likely discover that:

  • You need far less storage than you think you do, because quite a bit of what you have can be discarded or donated to charity;
  • Your space needs to be rethought before it gets rebuilt, as much of what you have isn’t in its most functional location for where, when and why it’s used;
  • You have too many items in your kitchen that don’t need to be stored there, including items used once a year at holiday time that can go into other areas of your home or garage;
  • The storage you do have is hard to access, whether it’s the recesses of a corner cabinet you need a flashlight and knee pads to see, a deep wall cabinet requiring a step ladder to reach, or the back of your pantry where a decade’s worth of Halloween and Valentine’s candy went to die.

If, after clearing out your cabinets, you determine that you still do need a  kitchen remodel, (rather than a more cost-effective mini redo), it’s time to collect your ideas, itemize your real storage needs, and call in a kitchen professional. Here are some things to discuss with this individual:

Full-extension roll-out trays for your pantry and base cabinets so you can see what’s in the back as easily as what’s up front;

Blind corner swing out accessory if your new kitchen will have one of these common cabinets;

Pull-down shelves or tray dividers for the hard-to-access cabinets above your refrigerator or high ovens;

Drawer dividers for just the silverware, spices and cooking utensils you need, to be located where you need to use them;

Easily-accessed storage space for regularly-used small appliances that don’t need to sit on the countertops every day.

One surefire weapon against countertop clutter is the “family landing zone,” which can be designed into your new kitchen, or added to an existing one. This is the designated storage spot for the bags, books, papers, chargers – and everything else that comes home with everyone in the household every day. It should include a basket on top for small items like mail, homework and other papers, a drawer for small items needed regularly, and a large cubby or closed door cabinet for backpacks, purses or briefcases. Each member of the household should have his or her own space in the landing zone, and it should be located strategically close to the most commonly-used entrance and kitchen, but not blocking either. If you’re not remodeling, a freestanding piece of furniture and attractive baskets or bins can meet the need. If you are remodeling, you can use the same cabinetry as you’re designing into your kitchen. When a piece of paper migrates to the kitchen island or peninsula, it can easily be redirected back to its rightful owner’s basket. (A good rule of thumb is to designate a landing zone cleanout at the end of each work or school week.)

With these decluttering strategies, your new (or renewed) kitchen will once again spark joy!

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