Organizing Tips for the Kitchen

I’m slowly putting my kitchen back together slowly. Did I say slowly two times? That’s O.K. It’s taking twice as long as I thought it would.

I want to make sure everything goes where it makes the most sense, and I want to make sure it makes cooking easier. Easier. See? Twice as easy as it used to be.

So I have for you 3 tips for organizing your kitchen that you can do right this very moment, without having to rip out and install an entirely new kitchen over the course of a decade. Year. Whatever. It seems like an extraordinarily long time. Elephant gestation long.

This first tip I have for you I started doing about a year ago and it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in the kitchen. Other than that one night when … well never mind. O.K. Fine, you dragged it out of me. One night a few years ago before the fella got home, I got out the plastic wrap and …  I got an absolutely PERFECT seal on every bowl in the kitchen. Not a wrinkle, not a stretch.   They were like glass.  I got so excited I rolled around in all the plastic wrap and by the time the fella got home I’d nearly asphyxiated myself.

I made that up.

But I’m not making up the fact that this first tip will make cooking MUCH easier for you.

Tip 1 A

Measuring Spoons

Tip 1 B

Measuring Spoons 2

Never again will you suffer the fate of having measured the tablespoon of peanut butter before the tablespoon of sugar. You have TWO tablespoons! You don’t care. Plus if you do a lot of cooking it just makes sense to have multiple measuring spoons and keeping them within easy reach. No more digging for them in the drawer.


Tip #2

Even if you aren’t a composter keeping a small compost bin either on the counter or within easy reach makes life EASIER.

click map

Metal trash bucketEnamel BinBlack Plastic ModernVintage Look Metal ContainerSquare BambooWhite Modern PlasticBamboo BucketSleek Metal Tin w/ Wood Accents

If you’re cutting, slicing, dicing or peeling you inevitably drop stuff on your way to the garbage with the scraps. Then you spend the rest of the day with a mushed piece of diced onion or potato peel on the bottom of your sock.

It’s easier and neater to have a small bin or bucket nearby to throw the scraps into. And if the bucket is light enough, holding it at the edge of the counter to sweep everything into is even easier.
Tip 3

I’ve mentioned before about how much easier my life became when I decanted my olive oil into a smaller jar and put a pouring spout on top. I’ve just taken this tip one step further myself, by leaving the oil out. Yes. Out for all the world to see on the counter along with the salt, pepper and perfectly plastic wrapped bowls.


If you do any amount of cooking, chances are you use olive oil pretty much every day either in a pan or in a recipe. Leaving the oil out on the counter accomplishes two things. It makes it easier to grab and it makes you much more likely to clean your oil bottle because it’s sitting right there for all the world to see. You will become especially aware of this when summer hits and there are fruit flies stuck to the outside of your oil bottle.

To make these things out on the counter look a little better, keep them together on a tray, in a box or on a plate (like I’ve done in the first photo of this post). It makes you look like you’re efficient and organized as opposed to lazy and a slob.

So those are my 3 tips for you. Get more measuring spoons, use a compost bin and put a spout on your oil. (most Dollar stores carry spouts, as do kitchen stores)

My final tip for you? If you ever find yourself alone and bored at night just turn on the television. Stay away from the plastic wrap.



  1. Katie says:

    How can I make coconut oil attractive (I do most my cooking with it, so that ugly plasticness is always running amok on my countertop)? I guess I can answer my own question: melt that sh*t and dump it in a pretty crock.

    • Karen says:

      I misread crock. ~ karen

    • Lisa says:

      I keep my olive oil in a vintage bottle – I only keep a cup or so in there at a time, and I’ve never had it spoil. But I have been very disgruntled at the coconut oil jar – it’s so obvious that I should melt it into another container, why didn’t I think of that??

    • kelli says:

      @Katie re: coconut oil: GENTLY melt your coconut oil to a liquid state (microwaves are great for this) then transfer it to a prettier container, like one of those condiment jars with the notch in the lid for a spoon. It will re-harden at room temp. Then you can scoop out as much as you like whenever. 🙂

      Karen, thought you might enjoy this since you’re on your way to a gorgeous new white kitchen: (Houzz is DA BOMB baby!) 🙂

  2. Stephanie says:

    I put almost all my veggie scraps — onion and celery ends, carrot peelings, odd bits of bell peppers, kale stems with lots of leafy bits still clinging — in a big ziplock baggie in the freezer. When it’s full I take it out and dump it in the stock pot with some chicken bones and make “garbage soup stock”. Tip: no broccoli or cauliflower trimmings, that stuff goes in the trash. Or compost.

  3. kate-v says:

    I agree – two of every size measuring spoon and cup come in very handy. As for the scraps, I just plunk ’em into an old coffee can and dump them into the compost every few days – or – every day if I’m doing a lot of scrappy cooking. I do like that pour spout on the olive oil container – might have to get one of those. Does it have all those little ridges on the base to hold it inside the neck of the bottle? are they hard to keep clean?

    • Karen says:

      Kate – It’s really easy to keep clean and yes it has those ridges. When I use up all the oil I just wash the bottle with hot water and soap and shake it, which gets soap and hot water into the spout then pour it out of the spout. I do this a few times. If all else fails, bring on the bottle brush. ~ karen!

      • Pam'a says:

        Here’s a way to dry them faster, too: Roll up a paper towel on the diagonal and slide that sucker down until it touches the bottom. It wicks the water out faster.

        • Melissa D says:

          …that’s what museum curators do when they have to wash those massive vases! (Really.)

          — I am not a museum curator, I just watch a loooooooot of the History Channel, subscribe to obscure historical Pinterest boards, and like museums. 🙂

      • kelli says:

        super hot water, dish soap (Dawn is especially good) and good old alcohol work well to get grease out of those bottle nooks and crannies.

  4. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    That’s it?? No April Fools Pranks???? Who are you and where is our Karen?????? OK then..DONE DONE & DONE…See..I’m no fool..April or any other month..

  5. Barbie says:

    What happens to the compost when that bin is full? Where do you put it if the ground is fozen outside? To a bigger bin? what?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barbie – You just chuck it outside onto the compost pile. It doesn’t matter if it’s frozen. Come the spring it’ll all warm up and break down. Or … if you have a compost program (green bins) in your area, you put it in there. ~ karen!

  6. Shelley says:

    In a jar, on a tray, in a bin, with a spout, without wrap. Got it. My kitchen and I have been…on a break, but maybe this fresh POV will help get the dialogue started again

  7. ~gloria says:

    Love Tip # 1. And smooshed onion on the bottom of your sock, yep, gross. I once left the house with a long carrot peel on the top of my black Mary Jane shoe, unbeknownst to me until I had been in the company of other people for about an hour. With me, it’s not so much that I need a counter-top bin, but that I tend to peel with wild abandon. Oh, and the only thing worse than fruit flies stuck to the outside of the olive oil bottle is fruit flies stuck to the inside of the olive oil bottle.

    • Catherine says:

      Ha! My BIL peels with the same wild abandon – I come in after to clean up the kitchen and am always wondering how the hell those carrot peels end up everywhere.

  8. Marrion says:

    Great tips! I can hardly wait to see them in situ in your new kitchen. Also, I agree that combining boredom and plastic wrap can never end well.

  9. Linda Robbins says:

    I tried composting, but the javelinas broke through the fence and mayhem ensued. Maybe I’ll take my chances with vegetable stock.

  10. Pam'a says:

    The only thing to watch out for with the open-air olive oil is that it goes rancid faster– From exposure to both air and sunlight. So if you don’t use it much, hide it in the cupboard. 🙂

  11. Claire says:

    I have about 18 coloured glass bottles with different oils and vinegars in them which live permanently on the counter; olive oil, vegetable oil, thyme oil, lemon oil, chilli oil, garlic oil, walnut oil, raspberry vinegar, pomegranite vinegar etc. it looks great!

  12. Raymonde says:

    I use spouts with a little lid that’s on a hinge. They’re a bit harder to find but they keep the cat hair, fruit flies and other miscellaneous airborne stuff out of the oil, vinegar and dish soap.
    Karen, what did you put in the bottom of the jar to keep your measuring spoons from falling to the bottom? Inquiring minds want to know!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ramonde – A crumpled up paper towel. 🙂 But I only did it for the picture so you could better see the spoons. It’s a tiny, tiny crock so the handful of spoons in there are fine without anything on the bottom normally. You know, in real life. Not picture life. I like your hinged spout idea btw. ~ karen!

  13. Sue says:

    Another advantage to having two sets of measuring spoons is that you can designate a “wet” and a “dry” set anytime you are using both so you don’t have to stop and rinse them off or get gooey.

    I’ve got the same (or similar)jars like Raymonde mentioned. Mine are made(or imported?) by Global Amici.

    One way to keep your counter top pills from going rancid (we’re very sensitive to it) is to not fill the counter top jars all the way, keep the origin supply in a dark cool place and refill as needed.

    Finally, our variation for compost is to use an ordinary bowl for veg trimmings and then add them to the under sink compost bin as soon as we’re done chopping.. It’s a little bit bigger than the counter ones and not as pretty, either. It’s from a restaurant supply store and it’s translucent plastic with a tight snap on lid.

  14. Sue says:

    Oils, not pills. :p

  15. judy says:

    I love your writing and I just went back to the episode about your yard?glorious bit of Paradise is more applicable. I can’t think of a word that would express my sense of amazement that one small ? you look quite small- female could accomplish all of that and not be somewhere in the dirt with a stone tablet marking her as finished as the yard. You commented somewhere that your sister is a decorator and you are not-and you are considered a blogger and not a writer. IMHO you are both ….with an Angel Chorus somewhere watching with mouths agape. thanks for the helpful info and the humor. you should have a PayPal link and get paid for what you do.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Judy. Well thank you, lol. I actually *do* have a Paypal link somewhere on one of these posts from a few years ago and I was desperate to make some money from this job so I didn’t have to go back to working in television. ( I know that wounds ridiculous ) Anyhow, don’t you worry. I do make money from this blog and it’s in fact my sole source of income. 🙂 The ads you see on the righthand side bar and the top of the page are how I get paid. The more people who read my site, the more I get paid from the advertisers basically. So feel free to share, lol. ~ karen!

  16. Robin Siegerman says:

    Two tips for YOU my dear Karen. Since I am a pro (and I have a bunch of official looking paper that says so) kitchen designer, my recommendation is that you actually have THREE sets of measuring spoons. I know, it may seem like a frivolous indulgence, but there are so many times when a recipe calls for the same amount of peanut butter, coconut butter AND almond flour, who wants to WASH the measuring spoon between the peanut butter and coconut butter scoop?

    And the second thing, — and I apologize in advance for bringing this to a serious level — I was recently in Spain at an olive oil producing castle (you may want to read my post on Do You Know What’s In You Olive Oil on Renovation Bootcamp dot com (the castle post is kinda cool, too.) Truly, what I learned there: #1 – you MUSN’T leave your oil out on the counter with a spout, as air and light are the sworn enemies of olive oil and it will degrade very quickly. #2 – If your olive oil is that light color, it is not olive oil and you will be SHOCKED to know what you’re buying and how scary it is and how we are ALL being deceived. Just want to make sure everyone stays healthy, because honestly, you don’t wanna put that goop in your body, which I know is your temple.

    • Karen says:

      LOL, that bottle is actually vegetable oil, Robin. 🙂 I was too lazy to refill it with olive oil. And you’re right about the olive oil being in a darker bottle. That’s a good tip. And this is just for my average, every day, olive oil. You’re right, I do keep my “good” olive oil locked up in the cupboard. ~ karen!

  17. Tigersmom says:

    If you are putting your kitchen back together that can only mean that you HAVE a kitchen to put back together.

    AAAAAAAA-lle- lu-ia AAAAAA-lle-lu-ia alleluia alleluia AAAA-LLEE-EE-LU-UU-IAAAAA!

    And congratualtions, you survived a live-in kitchen renovation.

    The tip about removing the spoons from their annoying little key ring is my favorite. I did this long ago so I didn’t have to wash all of them every time I used just one of them.

    And now, you didn’t seriously think that white pig on the tray was going to go unnoticed by me. I must know, is he attached to the tray or just his little stand? Where did you find him? He is a well done representation.

    I choose this moment to actually own up to the fact that I am a collector of pigs, but not in the way most people collect. I do not display all of my collection. All of my pigs are not kitchen items. And I am an exceedingly picky collector. My collection is small, but oh so carefully curated. I have a small pig carved from malachite that I keep in a drawer.. I have a silver pig charm that is sometimes a pendant. And, of course, I have perfectly executed piggy salt and pepper shakers (thank you very much, again). What I do not have is that white pig on a stand (or a pig shaped cutting board), yet.

    • Karen says:

      Hah! Yes, he’s attached to the rectangular plate. It’s a small charcuterie tray for … cured meats of course. I got it the same place I got the pig salt and peppers. ~ karen!

  18. Patti says:

    Hi I don’t usually promote stuff, but I use Rachel Ray’s Pouring vessels. They are a solid ceramic (so no light to the oils) and have the hinged pour spout. I have 3 of them on a
    Fiestaware oval plate on the counter by the stove. I Love the bright colors.
    I , also, do the same as you but with measuring cups. I have 2 sets so I’m good to go with dry and wet measures.
    As far as composting, I do the bowl thing and then put it all in a large bin to take out later.
    I use a very large clear plastic container that I got dog treats in. It looks like a Country Store Candy Container.

  19. Flossie says:

    I bought a stainless steel ice bucket with a lid and side handles thinking it would be nice for a swanky cocktail party. Used it once. Then when I was setting up my kitchen in a new house I gave up on the cocktail party idea and put it to use as a compost bin on my counter! Cheaper by far than the ones devoted for compost.

  20. Haha! We do this with our oil bottle already and I know all about the fruit flies sticking to the side in the summer. Too funny! Cheers.

  21. Sandy says:

    Great tips. The measuring spoon tip will make my life easier. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Diane Amick says:

    Karen, Karen, Karen…you are my go-to-guru for all things fabulous! BUT, I’ve been doing all of these things for years – more, I need more. I don’t particularly like to cook, so anything that makes it easier is at the top of my list. Surely you have one more tip to save my day. If not, I still love you and will faithfully read any scrap I can find that you write.

    • Melissa D says:

      Buy a 2nd set of dry measuring cups and keep a nice measuring scoop in your bins: 1-cup in the flour jar/bin, 1/2 cup in the sugar jar, 1/4 cup in the coffee jar. I also have 1-cups in the rice and oatmeal bins. 🙂

      • Diane Amick says:

        Thanks Melissa…great ideas. Don’t know why this has never occurred to me. Dollar store here I come for more measuring cups!

  23. JoAnne says:

    All great tips! Claire, I want to see a picture of your 18 colored bottles.
    Sounds really pretty and practical (if you have the counterspace)

  24. Ev says:

    I have 3 sets of “free range” metal measuring spoons as well as a plastic set on a ring. Three sets of measuring cups as well as a 2C and a 4C glass cup are also nearby. 99% of my baking is from scratch, so these items are very helpful. My veg scraps go in a stainless steel small bucket on the counter till dumped in the garden. My olive oil jar is on the counter next to the stove. It is just the store-bought plastic jug the oil came in, but the label looks kinda cool! Now, if I just had a new kitchen…. Sort of gave me a little boost to find out I already do these three tips from Karen! Yea!

  25. Laura Bee says:

    Sigh, I have exactly 36″ between the stove & sink. The space to the left of the stove is big enough for the coffee maker. I do have the veg oil in a pour bottle & the big ‘un stored away. The soap is in one too. I do have two sets of spoons hanging up for easy access & my daughter has the third set in her play kitchen if I ever need it. The compost will just have to stay under the sink in the old tupperware salad bowl I use. Besides, my bf hates anything on the counter. Our next home will have more counter space. I would give up the second bathroom if I could. Scratch that-I would give up closet space 🙂

  26. magali says:

    2 sets of measuring spoons is so simple yet brilliant. I’ve been getting quite angry at my spoons these days as I rummage around around the drawer to find them.

    As I read my blogs I am eating a delicious soft pretzel stuffed with chocolate chip cookie dough. It’s so good I need to share the recipe :

    • Jake says:

      Send your spoons to therapy and they will forgive you and that cookie should be illegal. 🙂

    • Jaime says:

      Don’t click the link in this comment. It leads to spam. It really sucks when people do that.

      • Karen says:

        Hi Jaime – The only link I can think that you’re referring to is the one in Magali’s comment. And it doesn’t lead to spam. It may be that you’re already infected. With spam that is. ~ karen

  27. starre says:

    I save dark wine bottles to put my oils in.
    Spoon idea in jar is great they are always falling off those rings anyway

  28. cbblue says:

    I always thought there was the measuring spoon LAW that required all spoons to be washed each time one was used. Perhaps that rule only applies here in the states. Perhaps I should become Canadian and live a little!

  29. Amie says:

    I keep my olive oil in an old wine bottle. I am now tempted to do the same with my canola.

    I like the simple human compost bin. I think Home Outfitters carries that brand, too!

    And multiple measuring spoon sets = genius. I already do that with my dry measures, but it never clicked to do it with the spoons, too!

  30. julie says:

    I’m incredibly shocked that anyone would keep their measuring spoons on the key ring!

  31. jeannie B says:

    Having two sets of measuring spoons, sitting on the counter in a small, attractive crock, is a sinple but excellent idea. I now know what a javelina is and would never have thought about a chocolate chip cookie inside a pretzel. I always learn something new from your posrts Karen.

  32. Patti says:

    First off: I don’t know why I can’t see the photo of everything neatly arrange on a tray, but I want to!

    Secondly: I also, for the world of me, can’t figure out why I had never thought to purchase a second set of measuring spoons! I have them hanging in a row up against my backsplash – they’re always within arm’s reach and it’s easy to wipe down if I get gunk on it from grabbing measuring spoons with sticky fingers.

    Third: I thought I was the only person who would walk around with bits of onion stuck to the bottom of my sock. Seriously? This happens to other people? I think that every time I cook, a random piece of vegetable goes flying somewhere and always finds itself stuck to me, and I thought I was alone in this!

    Fourth: You told me to pick up the Book Thief again, you told me that I’d like it, and so I did, and you were sooo right – I read it while you were in Thailand and I totally loved it! Well, it was sad and horrible and I didn’t like that, but I did. You know? Thanks!

  33. Kate S says:

    I do both the measuring spoons and the composting, but I have never decanted my oils. Not sure why. I do take the measuring spoons (and cups) a bit further, though . . . four sets of measuring spoons, three sets of measuring cups, and three liquid measuring cups. I cannot stand looking for the right size spoon or cup in the dishwasher or sink–drives me bananas. It was far easier to buy more spoons than to teach myself to wash dishes promptly.

  34. Karen, I love all these ideas! I live in a Tiny Home however, so sadly can’t use your first tip as there is such limited space. However, I think it’s a grand idea. I already compost, and pinned that lovely assortment of bins for others to find. I liked the metal carrot bin the best, but it’s already out of stock – story of my life! Oh, and for the person who asked about full compost bins – you can have your bin divided into compartments, so that when one section is full, you merely move on to the next. After the full compartment has been composting for at least a year, you put it on your garden, or invite your neighbors who garden to come get it. You can make friends with that!

  35. Elen says:

    I just finished doing the measuring spoon thing. I already had two sets of spoons. Well… more, actually. I’m a measuring spoon hoarder. I kept wondering why I hadn’t done that before? Because when they are all hooked together, you’ve got to wash them all every time. [smacks head]

  36. Debbie says:

    Have you been lurking in my kitchen? Are you sure? I have two sets of measuring spoons – round and “spice” shape (to more easily fit into jars). They are in their own plastic basket in the silverware drawer. I actually have four since I keep kosher – two sets for meat and two sets for dairy. And you are so right about the second spoon of the same size coming in handy!!!

    I have the OXO Good Grips Compost Bin on my counter! We have a septic tank, so nothing goes down the garbage disposal. (It was there when we moved in, I know it makes no sense.) I like that the plastic is easy to clean (I rarely use a liner as compostable ones are pricey.) The white outside and green inside are cheery.

    My counter has been the proud holder of “spouted” olive, almond and other oils. The coconut oil is in a pretty jar, as it is difficult to pour in the cold weather. 🙂

    I feel like a somebody as I already had your three brilliant and creative hints in place. Did you see my cookbook stand? I use it constantly for either cookbooks, recipes I’ve printed out and schedules for cooking when having lots of people over. Mine is wood with a plastic piece to protect the printed material. It was about $7 in an Amazing Savings (I love that store).

    Please give more kitchen tips!

  37. Maureen says:

    I have my olive oil in what it technicall a very simple vinegar thingy. I have two – one with canola oil and one with olive oil. Nothing special…except they were my dad’s vinegar-and-oil containers and I couldn’t bear to get rid of them. Now they have a nice useful purpose.

  38. Laura Bee says:

    I am pretty sure we have seen this post before….but I can’t find it. Am I the only fool who thinks this??

    • Karen says:

      LOL. You haven’t seen this post before. No ma’am. You have seen the shot of the oil bottle before, but you haven’t viewed this post. Maybe you’re having Deja view. ~ karen!

  39. Angela says:

    What kind of measuring spoons do you have? A couple look huge! I was reading on Amazon last night that some measuring spoons are inaccurate! Any recommendations?

    Your blog is my favorite!

  40. Erin says:

    Great tips Karen. I couldn’t survive without multiple measuring cups and spoons. They have their own spot in the baking drawer. Well, baking and sushi making drawer. But that’s another story.

    We’ve been successfully using the countertop compost bin for ages. This winter we need two – one for gross composty stuff and one for the “good bits” for our chooks. The gross stuff goes in the nice stainless steel bin from Lee Valley. The chicken’s goodies go in an old plastic ice cream bucket. This does not seem right. I think I’ll have to come up with something better for them.

    I still manage to get veg scraps stuck to my socks, glad to know I’m not alone in the universe.

  41. Beth says:

    Spoons: Somewhere along the way I found a set of magnetic, stainless steel measuring spoons. They are awesome because they are double ended And one end is narrow to fit in most spice jars. These are my absolute favorites. The only downside is they don’t have a 1/8 teaspoon which I use for some of my fussiest baking recipes.

    Compost: I use a large, round clickclack canister to collect scraps on the counter top. It’s awesome, easy to wash and doesn’t collect stinky smells. I’m a lazy-ass and my beloved crankypants is VERY sensitive to odor, so it’s awesome that the click-clack is also airtight. No fruit flies and when I don’t get around to emptying it for several days, no one is harmed. Our super and progressive city is currently piloting curbside compostable pickup. This is awesome in that we can include meat, bone and dairy scraps that you can’t include in a home pile. We use compostable bags inside the canister to collect scraps and add to the 5-gallon bucket the city uses for pickup. Before they had this service, I just made a “cozy” for the canister out of a tyvek envelope to spare my family from watching the ongoing science project ooze.

    Note: If you go the bag route, please be aware that biodegradable and compostable are not the same when it comes to bags. Make sure what you use is compostable.

    Bonus: My favorite measuring cups and mixing bowls are made by Pourfect. Their liquid measures are awesome for anyone who does lots of baking or who has trouble reading the lines on a regular glass measure. And if you have a kitchen aid, their bowls are ideal for adding ingredients. Best merry xmas to me gifts ever.

  42. Kim from Milwaukee says:

    Your readers just gave me a great idea. I just ordered a butter crock from a Canadian potter on etsy, and I’m going to keep my butter AND coconut oil in it!! Half and half style! I use both when cooking and I’m so excited, it’ll look so pretty on my counter.

  43. Leah C says:

    For compost, we use a dorm-sized trash can with a foot pedal that opens the lid. The outside is super cute (since it’s meant to decorate a lifeless college dorm) and the inside has a handle so we can lift it out and dump it outside in our compost pile.

  44. Barb says:

    Don’t like the idea of food decomposing on my counter top. I put all veggie scraps, chicken bones, smelly fish skin etc. in the City approved small plastic bag & keep it in the bottom of the freezer when it’s full (& quickly frozen) it goes in the green box for recycling. No odour or unpleasant messy green boxes for the garbage man.

    Just a thought.


    • Karen says:

      Hi Barb. I hear what you’re saying. Especially with the fish skin! But I still prefer countertop composting for how easy it is. I think most people just use it for vegetable skins and scraps and put anything animal related right outside. ~ karen!

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