In the process of everyday living, even an orderly, neat cupboard becomes cluttered and jumbled and bulges with the forgotten. There is a solution: Accept the fact that cupboards and closets must be cleaned at least once a year, and more often in areas of frequent use. Having neat cupboards and closets not only saves time but offers more storage space. Try applying the following rules as you do your cleaning to create extra storage space that is safe and convenient.
Keep everything within reach of the area where the work is to be done. This is especially important in the kitchen. Potatoes should be near the sink where they will be peeled, pot holders should be near the stove, and a pencil should be by the phone. Gravy boats and serving dishes don't have to be stored with the dinnerware just because they match. Keep them by the stove where they will be filled with hot vegetables or near the sink where the salad is prepared.
Store items where their use begins--bed sheets in the bedroom; a glass and spoon with the medicine; towels, toilet tissue and hot-water bottles in the bathroom. By storing cleanser, brooms and paper towels in several locations, you will save many steps.
Make everything earn its place. Items used most often should be stored between waist and eye level. Infrequently used items, covered and labeled, should be stored in inactive storage areas away from the kitchen. The turkey roasting pan and pressure canner alone can take up a whole cupboard.
Cupboard storage is determined by size, weight, breakability, shape and use. The highest and lowest storage space is for seldom used items, but keep the high-level storage simple. Large items like cake or pie covers are best stored above because they can be lifted down in one movement. Small items are best stored below because they can be difficult to handle when stacked up high.
Store bottles, cans and jars at eye level so they can be easily seen and reached, leaving the shorter containers toward the front. Always put items back in the same spot, even if other family members don't. It may help to put labels on the front edge of the shelf.
Is the item safe? Household detergents and plants cause poisoning among children. Plant food, pesticides, medicines and matches must be stored out of reach. Even if you don't have young children, think of others with curious toddlers who may drop by for a visit. Keep knives in a rack, out of drawers. Keep paint and other flammable materials away from the flames of the fireplace, water heater or furnace.
Accessories can improve space: step-shelves, half-shelves, racks, files, turntables, bins, boxes, dish pans, vertical dividers and drawer dividers. These don't necessarily have to cost money. You can sculpture many of these things yourself out of boxes. Carefully consider whether the accessory is really helpful. Don't put six goblets on a turntable when 12 goblets would fit on the shelf without it.
Look at storage areas with imagination. Sheets and towels can be set vertically on a shelf just like books in a case for easy selection. A shoe box or bread pan could hold plastic lids or packets of seasoning mixes and flavored drinks.
Unless it is pretty, keep it out of sight. Put away as much as possible. Open shelves are hard to keep looking neat and tidy, but those things that must be left out can be pleasing to the eye if they are balanced in a logical arrangement.
Because of the safety needs or the physical nature of the kitchen, the first-used rule can be amended. Dry cereal boxes may fit only on a tall shelf, even if it's far from the table. The baking sheets will have to go wherever they fit, sideways under the sink or in the stove drawer, rather than in the mixing center.
An efficient kitchen has enough equipment to perform the necessary jobs, but not so much that the cleanup is difficult. You may find two sets of tableware are necessary to save turning on the dishwasher before it's full, but you don't want too many dishes, either. Make life easier. Only keep as many dishes as you need.