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 bucket

Enamel Bin

Black Plastic Modern

Vintage Look Metal Container

Square Bamboo

White Modern Plastic

Bamboo Bucket

Sleek 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.

  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?

  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. 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!

  6. 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?

  7. 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!

  8. 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

  9. Karen says:

    I misread crock. ~ karen

  10. Kathy says:

    Stephanie — what a GREAT idea! Thanks for sharing!

  11. ~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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. CJ says:

    I love this idea too. Thanks Stephanie.

  15. 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.

  16. 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. 🙂

  17. 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!

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. Sue says:

    Oils, not pills. :p

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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!

  26. Karen says:

    That would look good! ~ karen

  27. 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!

  28. 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!

  29. Karen says:

    Oops, lol. “RaYmonde” ~ karen

  30. 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.

  31. Mary Werner says:

    This is why I always read the comments too. You and your readers are so entertaining.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. Sandy says:

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

  35. 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.

  36. 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)

  37. 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!

  38. 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 🙂

  39. Laura Bee says:

    Hubby once asked me if I needed ALL those measuring cups. Yes I do. And there are times I wish I had one more!

  40. 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 :

  41. 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??

  42. Jake says:

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

  43. 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

  44. 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!

  45. 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!

  46. julie says:

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

  47. 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.

  48. 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!) 🙂

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

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