Kitchens these days are the center of activity in the home—from cooking dinner to paying bills to charging our devices. So it makes sense to have a centralized place within them for these activities, as well as for sorting mail, stashing keys and more.
If you’re thinking about a remodel or building a new home, consider installing one of these centers, whether a desk or an upright organizing center. Take a look at eight options that help keep the kitchen clutter-free.
There are myriad ways to enhance organization in your kitchen. The best solution for you will depend upon your lifestyle and needs, so take the time to analyze the challenges and consider multiple solutions before committing to the right one. Do you need a dedicated place to sit and work in the kitchen? Or are you more likely to curl up on the couch with your iPad when it’s time to pay bills? Perhaps what you really need is out-of-sight storage: cubbies for the kids’ lunchboxes, room for current bills and other paperwork, a charging station for electronics and space to post reminders to yourself and family members. Make a list of the activities that need to happen and the type of storage or tools they require. It might look something like this:
Paying bills: pens, checkbook, desktop or laptop computer, file or binder for current bills
Calendar: large, erasable, visible to other family members
Reminder notes: cork or magnet board, whiteboard, chore chart
Homework or crafts: surface to work on instead of kitchen table, supply storage, computer
Electronics: charging station for mobile devices, possibly home phone and answering machine
Storage: the files, tools, or papers that truly need to be stored here
Once you have an idea how you’ll use the space and what you’ll keep in it, it will be much easier to plan the best setup for your situation. Here are some great options to consider.
In larger kitchens, you may have room to include a built-in desk. If you are working with a custom or semi-custom cabinet company, you can create a storage solution that includes open shelves or cabinets, cubbies, pencil drawers, a pullout for a printer, file drawers or whatever you may need. Getting your storage just right can help you stay on top of your busy schedule, as it can reduce time wasted finding items.
But a word of caution: Be realistic about your habits! Many of my clients with an in-kitchen desk find that they easily become magnets for clutter, piled with papers, pencils and electronics. For some people, a messy desk may become a source of stress detracting from their beautiful new kitchen. If you suspect this may be the case for you as well, there may be better solutions than a traditional desk.
For many families, a command center is much easier to keep straight than a desk. Essentially a centrally located organization system, a command center is where you process mail, catalogs, invitations and voicemails, as well as make calendar appointments, write thank-you notes, sign report cards and process checks. Typical components include a calendar, pen, notepaper, whiteboard, files or cubbies, phone charging station and possibly an answering machine.
A command center typically includes a vertical organizing component. If stacks of paper are your nemesis, the simple act of putting them upright can make them look neater than they would on a horizontal surface. In this photo, cubbies have been added to the side of the cabinet, allowing the homeowner to rifle through paperwork easily. I recommend designating a few sections for important categories like bills, schoolwork and reading material. That way it will be much easier to lay your hands on that permission slip when the time comes.
Keep in mind that a command center doesn’t have to be an expensive custom cabinet. Any open wall space or side of a cabinet can be used to create an organization system built around your particular needs.
If you just need a small landing space for a purse, briefcase and phone, a small drop zone may be the answer. An end cabinet is a handy spot to create an efficient storage system. Don’t forget to make use of the back of the cabinet doors, perhaps for hanging a whiteboard for notes or calendars, hooks for keys or a magnetic organizer.
This solution might seem old-fashioned, but it’s my personal favorite because it is compact and effortlessly neat-looking. With a secretary desk, the work surface is a drop-down door that gives you a flat space to write or set up a laptop when open and hides clutter when closed. Sturdy hinges are a must, and a light inside the cabinet enhances function. This is a great solution when you need a desk but have only a small space.
If a dedicated work surface is necessary, consider hiding it behind pocket doors—similar to those used on entertainment centers—in a built-in desk armoire. Keeping your family computer in a centralized, open place is a good way to supervise internet use for children, and also works great for people who don’t have room for a home office. An added perk: When the doorbell rings, you can quickly hide the clutter behind closed doors.
This desk armoire is shown with a bar stool, but you could also raise the desk level so you can work while standing up. With desks that close up or fold away, it’s also important to consider where the chair goes when the desk isn’t being used. Often, the easiest solution is to borrow seating temporarily from a kitchen table or an island. If this is your plan, then you will want to match the height of your work surface to the height of your other seating.
Do keep in mind how much time you and your family members will spend sitting at your workstation. If you’ll often be there 30 minutes or more at a time, a chair would be more comfortable than a bar stool.
If you need a workstation to jot down notes, answer a few emails or look up a recipe, consider a standing desk armoire. This solution suffices for quick tasks and you don’t have to waste storage on the knee space a seated workstation requires.
If you truly need a desk but aren’t the type to open mail, pay bills and file paperwork every day, consider tucking the desk behind a wall or tall cabinet to keep it nearby but not in full view.
This clever workspace, for instance, is tucked just off the kitchen’s eating nook. It has a desktop computer and a paperwork cubby for each family member, two pencil drawers, two file drawers and a cabinet for cookbooks and reference binders above. The wall behind the desk is a magnet whiteboard for notes and reminders. All that in 4 feet and virtually out of sight from the kitchen.
Finally, though technically not in the kitchen, an adjacent space—like a mudroom, pantry or hallway—might make an ideal organization center without adding clutter to the kitchen or taking away from kitchen storage.
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