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REAL ESTATE

The Hard-Won Kitchen Organization Advice of Bon Apptit Staffers

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Kitchen tools

When the folks at Bon Apptit magazine moved from New York's Times Square to a brand-new office space in the World Trade Center, they not only had to pack up untold numbers of the usual files, staplers, desktop picture frames, and the like -- they also had to pack up untold numbers of pots and pans, funny-shaped whisks, and culinary implements most of us would have no idea what to do with. And their experience shows that even seasoned (ha!) culinary pros have a hard time taking their own advice on getting your kitchen in order.

"Organization is everything," said Dawn Perry, the digital food editor. "We donated what felt like a third of our equipment before we left, and we still got to the new place and were, like, 'oh my gosh, we still have too much stuff.'"

If real estate is precious, that's extra, extra true in the kitchen. Somehow you never have enough counter or cabinet space, unless you have a kitchen that resembles Jay Leno's garage, in which case we assume you're not organizing your own cabinets anyway.

So in the grand tradition of dishing out advice that's proven hard to take, Perry shared the lessons that Bon App's staff learned about kitchen organization in the Great Move of 2015.

Take ownership of the purge

"There are some pots that we hate that we still brought with us," Perry admitted. "We all thought, 'Oh, someone else will get rid of this.'"

If you share your home and kitchen with someone, be tough on yourself and on each other -- and speak up when there's something you don't really like.

Use it or lose it

The true test is, what are the things you reach for time and again? If that mandoline sees the light of day only once a year, it's just taking up valuable cabinet space.

"You'd better use it a lot, or you'd better really love it -- and that goes for ingredients as well," Perry said, noting that in their premove purge, the staff did a "hard eval" for one another, and one staffer had to be talked out of bringing a quart of vanilla-scented syrup that she hadn't touched in two years.

Know your needs

Conventional wisdom says that a single person does not need a 9-quart Dutch oven -- unless you love to entertain and stews are your go-to dish, in which case you do!

"You know how much you cook and what kind of stuff you cook," Perry said. So don't hang on to legacy cookware that doesn't fit your needs. "Ditch the old stuff and get the stuff that really makes sense for you."

Prioritize access

Sure, you need an assortment of Christmas cookie cutters -- but you don't need them taking up one of your main drawers. Every kitchen has its high shelves or deep cabinet corners. Reserve those for the items that come out only once a year. Your go-tos should be within easy reach.

"Know what you're willing to work for and what you know you use often, and make that part easy," Perry said.

Use space-saving devices

The new kitchen has a giant walk-in fridge with a reach-in door, and awesome rolling racks with marble counters, but that's not what Perry was excited about. Her real thrill? Getting hanging pot racks above each kitchen island.

"That's an awesome solution," she said. "It frees up your cabinets, it frees up your stovetops, and it looks pretty cool."

Be willing to re-evaluate and rearrange

Things change, and even the perfect organization system will need adjustments. You might use your popsicle molds a lot in summer -- not so much in winter. You were crazy about paella the year after that trip to Valencia, Spain, but you're more into Moroccan tagines now. Don't feel bad; you're in good company.

"It's been, I guess, two months since the move," Perry said. "We were still rearranging stuff two weeks ago."

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