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Spring Cleaning in the Kitchen

“I dusted once. It came back. I am not falling for that again….” (as seen on Facebook, author unknown)

You know those people who love to clean? Yea, me neither. Now, don’t misunderstand me: you could pop in on me unexpectedly and always find my house neat and tidy. But most of my dusting and vacuuming occurs on an as-needed basis – when company is coming!

But the kitchen is a different story. I cook every day and even I recognize the need for the occasional deep clean and organizational effort, and spring is the perfect time for that. So, from our talented designers (and cooks!) here are some great tips to get your kitchen in tip-top warm weather shape.

Do you always use your exhaust hood, even when boiling water? Or, worse yet, are you stuck with a microwave/hood combo unit that moves air about as efficiently as a toddler, blowing out their birthday candles? Then your kitchen probably has my #1 pet peeve “ick” factor: that sticky, tacky residue on surfaces. Use your cabinet manufacturer’s recommended cleaner to wipe down those doors! And while you’re at it, remove and clean the filter on your hood. It’ll do a much more efficient job of cleaning the air of cooking grease, smoke, and steam.

Your appliance and countertops are the workhorses of your kitchen. Show them some love! Run the self-clean function on your oven to rid it of all those heavy winter meats, then wipe up the resulting ash.

Remove everything from the refrigerators and scrub down the interior, the shelves, and the bins. And before you put anything back in there, check for expiration dates and any fuzzy intruders (ewww). Wipe off everything that makes the cut before you put it back.

And don’t forget your microwave! Foods splatter and you’d be surprised at what finds its way under the glass tray.

Now the counters. Taking one section of work surface at a time, remove all the small appliances, utensil jars, oil or spice containers etc. Use the recommended cleaner for your countertop material. Then wipe each item, piece by piece, before putting it back in place. You could even see about storing some of the countertop clutter behind cabinet doors if possible.

It’s said that you learn something new every day. These next two nifty tops are ones I’ve never heard before. "For your stainless-steel sinks, moisten a soft cloth with a dishwasher rinse aid (such as Jet Dry) after you’ve thoroughly scrubbed and rinsed it, and the water will bead right off into the drain," says Aston Smith, designer from Bilotta Kitchens' Manhattan showroom. And the other tip, according to Bilotta designer, Fabrice Garson, is an easy way to clean crumbs and dust from your drawers and shelves. "Put the dusting attachment of your vacuum cleaner in the top rack of your dishwasher to sterilize it and make quick work of that tedious chore," says Fabrice.

As long as you’re removing items from the cabinets to vacuum, take the time to sort through the contents just as you did with the refrigerator. I’m willing to bet there’s more than a few duplicates, expired canned goods and spices that are too pooped to be potent.

So enough cleaning! Now for the fun part: organizing! No household chore gives me more satisfaction than bringing order to chaos. And my favorite organizing tool? Baskets!! That pile of mail on the counter than never seems to go away? Get a basket! All that fresh produce that shouldn’t be refrigerated? Get a basket! And “basket” doesn’t necessarily mean wicker or reed. It can just easily be a wire basket or woven fabric. Either way, it can bring color and texture to your décor and help rein in clutter.

Sometimes the simplest ideas can have the greatest impact. What about adding an extra shelf or two in your wall cabinets? Instead of stacking items in a cabinet like a game of Jenga, additional shelves will allow you to store more and access it more easily.

Speaking of access, the worst offender in the kitchen is the pantry. Says Paula Greer, CKD and senior designer at Bilotta, "If you’re lucky enough to have a walk-in space, you could probably still benefit from some extra organizing (see baskets, above) and pretty containers, like mason jars or canister that can also be labeled, can help organize your pantry and more easily identify and access items."

If you have a tall pantry cabinet with shelves, you need roll-outs. The back of a pantry shelf is a black hole where items just disappear forever. You need to bring everything to the front. Luckily, aftermarket roll-outs are available online and in home improvement stores. If you’re handy (or have a handyman), you can easily retrofit your pantry to make it more user-friendly. (This trick will work for base cabinets as well.) Believe me, it’ll change your life.

And spend sometime in the aisles of your local housewares store. You’ll find a treasure trove of dividers, containers and racks that can be added to drawers and attached to cabinet and pantry doors for utensils and tools, food wraps and baggies, trash bags, pot lids and plastic food storage.

When you’re all finished, you’ll be exhausted. But the most used room in your home will be sparkling clean and neat as a pin - all ready for easy summer living.

This post was written by senior designer, Paulette Gambacorta. Paulette has been designing kitchens with Bilotta for over 22 years.

Tips from the Experts:

Penny Bittner & Laurie Stolowitz are the founders of From Chaos to Calm. This dynamic duo works with homeowners to calm the clutter in their homes. Their tip is to organize your kitchen by stations. According to Penny and Laurie to de-clutter your kitchen you should set it up so everything is within reach for a given task:

  • Prep Station: cutting board, knives, olive oil, the vinegar you reach for most often, garlic, salt & pepper. When you start to cook, this is the space in which you most often work. It’s close to the sink/stove/refrigerator triangle found in most efficient kitchens. Chefs organize their “mise en place” here, which means having everything in its place.
  • Clean-Up Station: in/under/around the sink, ready for clean-up chores, this may include sponges, scrubbers and soap, garbage and liners, leftover containers, Saran wrap/foil. Less moving around means it goes faster.
  • Coffee Station: ease into your morning routine! With coffee maker, coffee (pods, ground, filters), tea, mugs all grouped together, you can clear your morning fog with fewer steps.
  • Cook Together: even the tiniest kitchen can function for two. With two cutting boards, you can divide the prep and each participate. Peeling and chopping go faster x2, and then you can assign tasks so that you can each take a part in getting dinner on the table.

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