Thursday, March 19, 2009

Simple Kitchen Organizing

The kitchen is a room where chaos can strike at a moments notice, but fortunately it’s one of the easiest rooms to keep organized; once you get it arranged. Most kitchen areas come already compartmentalized with a stove, a sink, a refrigerator and cabinets, thus you have a template to work with, and it’s just a matter of designing your personal storage plan.

Let’s start with the stove area:

1. A food prep area based on the flow of your counter, usually on the side closest to the sink. So that you can clean your food then take it to the prep area with minimal mess and fuss.

2. The stove, it should be clear; only the pots and pans you are working with. Make sure nothing flammable is in the immediate vicinity. Any spices you are going to use for your food should be within reach but not above the stove; many a dinner has been ruined by a wayward spice falling off the shelf into the pot.

3. On the other side of the stove is the “pull-off” area, a place where you can safely put the hot pan. This area should have some sort of heat proof pad, and make sure that the pot is not going to fall. By having an immediate pull off area you can control the cooking process quite easily, and with a big enough area you can portion the food for serving.

The refrigerator:

1. Don’t over stuff your refrigerator, there needs to be airflow to effectively keep your foods cool.

2. Food rotation is very important, otherwise you’ll end up with a funky smell emanating from somewhere in the refrigerator, first in, first out is a good rule of thumb.

3. Where’s the freezer? This is a matter of personal taste and what’s convenient for you; some have a top freezer, others a bottom freezer, or a side freezer. I prefer the bottom freezer, because I don’t get things out of the freezer that often and I don’t want to have to bend over to see what’s in the refrigerator.

The pantry, a place to store cereals, pasta, rice, and other dry goods and canned products:

1. Foods that come in boxes should be used completely, where practical otherwise store the unused portion in an air tight container, to keep the food as fresh as possible. These containers also lend themselves to a more efficient use of your cupboard space.

2. Once a box of cereal is opened it’ll never be as fresh as it was before you opened it, because it’s very hard to seal that bag in the box. I suggest transferring your cereal to sealable container or a zip lock type bag to preserve freshness and to keep out bugs.

3. Tuna in a can or tuna in a pouch that is the question. Cans are stackable and they recycle easier, they can also be “repurposed”. In the end it’s a matter of choice, I prefer the cans of tuna or chicken at home, but if I’m camping or traveling, the pouch sure is handy. Remember to take care of these containers in a way that helps the planet stay green.

The drawers:

1. Arrange your drawers according to the work area they are near, so that they are close at hand when you need them. For example, in the food prep area of your counter the drawer should have various knives and the other tools for preparing your meal. The drawer near the pull off area should have tools for portioning and serving.

2. The drawer nearest to the plates and bowls should be where you find eating utensils and smaller serving implements.

The cabinets can be arranged by frequency of use and proximity to the various work areas. Usually pots and pans are stored in the bottom cupboards, unless you have one of those hanging racks for your pans.

Through thoughtful consideration I’ve been organizing my kitchen, if not for any other reason than sanity, the points above are some of the ideas I’ve found to be most helpful.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Use your memory to make things easy

Sometimes in the effort to make things in our lives easier, we overlook the obvious. Most of us are aware of the need to “capture” our ideas, tasks, and appointments in a little notebook we carry around with us, for the most part this works out very well.

It’s during those times when recording information in a notebook doesn’t work that we should have something to fall back on to help us, a microcassette would work, but I’m thinking even simpler; your memory. A little preplanning to create a list, just a small one and you’ll be on your way to remembering all kinds of information with ease. It doesn’t take much effort, and those moments when you can’t write down the information, will become simple because you can remember it until you can write it down.

First you start with a list of objects, real things that you can visualize and the best choices are items in a familiar room in your own home. I’ll make a list here of my items in my office, you can use the same items or different ones if you wish.

1. Refrigerator

2. Cat perch

3. In-box

4. Desk lamp

5. Computer

6. Monitor

7. Printer

8. Trash can

9. Chair

10. Stereo

These are all items, or in memory terminology, “pegs” where information can be visualized and hung or pegged to for easy recall. For example, if I got a call while I’m driving and I was asked to pick up eggs and bananas at the market, I’d just get a quick mental picture of me throwing eggs at my office refrigerator, watching the shells slide down the front making a sticky mess, then for bananas I’d just hang them on the cat perch and visualize the cats swatting them and clawing the peels off.

The secret to this whole process is to pick familiar objects, put them in a list order; I usually go clockwise around my room to get a mental photograph and in the time it takes to create the list you’ve usually got it memorized. Once you’ve done this you can start “pegging” things you want to remember to your item list. Just make your mental pictures of the peg and the item you want to remember outrageous and nonsensical, plus it really helps to have things happening, lots of action.

This is not a replacement for writing important information in your capture notebook, but it is a way to make a mental note until you can write down the information. You also may find that you don’t always have to write things down. As an added bonus this technique is fun and exercises your brain. Feel free to make longer lists if you wish, then you could “peg” more items and you’ll have more information readily available without looking it up.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What's for Breakfast?

What’s for breakfast, good question? No one contests that your first meal of the day is probably the most important, but what to have is the bigger question. The answers really run the gamut of people’s tastes. Some skip breakfast, others have coffee and donuts; others hit the local fast food place for the breakfast value menu. Some of us cook something simple, instant oatmeal or a couple eggs.

My breakfast varies, most days I start my morning with 2 poached eggs on toast, sometimes instant oatmeal. Usually I’ll have an energy drink (check out the vitamin content) for a quick wakeup then choose the rest of my breakfast.

Now, here’s your chance to share your breakfast recipes. Don’t be shy my breakfast plan sometimes gets skipped and sometimes I eat a bigger breakfast that is more nutritional. Please share, perhaps we can get breakfast tips from each other.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Create systems to Simplify

What’s the best way to get things done, is it the easiest way, or is it the “old fashioned way”, do you have to sweat and toil because that’s the only way? I guess the best way is to have a system, a way of organizing tasks and getting them done. It seems a bit disconnected and calculating, but in the end when you have a plan of action or a routine to deal with various tasks that you encounter it becomes easier and you have a sense of satisfaction. A system helps you to get a task done quicker with less stress which allows you to take advantage of opportunities that reveal themselves to you.

Let’s start by, figuring out where we can develop routines and systems in our life. Some general areas that particularly lend themselves to routines:

1. Internet “surfing” and email, these things can easily be batched and scheduled to get the most from them.

2. Morning tasks, such as; showering, breakfast and making lunches, etc.

3. Pm tasks that could be used to facilitate morning tasks.

Other items can be put into lists and worked into routines on a different scale, such as monthly items, bills, auto maintained services and other regular appointments. These logically tie into annual lists. The reason for the lists is to quantify your tasks and appointments so that you now have more control by knowing what’s coming at you.

The list process also gives you the opportunity to “pare” down your activities to the most effective and to eliminate the least effective or useless tasks. There are many methods for making the decision of what to use and what to get rid of, the 80/20 principle, Parkinson’s rule, are the most prominent.

Myself, I’ll use self-questions to make the decision, basically asking is this working for me or is there a better way. These questions also bring me back to ways of eliminating stress because I’ve made the decision to continue to do this particular task and I know I can always come back to this and change my mind if some better method comes along.