20 WEEKS PREGNANT
Organize Your Kitchen
This week, you can
• Clean out your kitchen cupboards, counters, drawers, and the refrigerator
• Move the items you wish to keep into “zones”
Consider the things you want to duplicate with your child if you have
any childhood memories that revolve around special meals.
AN OLD SAW BUT TRUE: Where do we all gather in the home, whether it’s
for a party, on a holiday, or simply for a quiet gathering of a few
friends? Right. Even if it’s the size of a matchbox, everyone will crowd
into the kitchen. You would think that such a popular room would be
organized to the nines. Sadly, this is not the case. I could count on
one hand the number of organized kitchens I’ve encountered over the past
twenty-plus years. Why is that, you may ask?
back to moving day. You probably had a few family members or close
friends stop by. Boxes were everywhere. You were all in a hurry to get
things put away. People slammed items into any available cabinet space.
They shoved things into drawers. And when they were done they said: “I
just wanted to get these boxes out of here. You can organize later.” But
later never comes, does it? And the reason is twofold. Many people have
no idea how a kitchen should be organized so they simply get used to
the current, albeit chaotic, placement. Or you feel like the only way to
get organized is to pull just about everything out and start over—and
who has time for that?
WHY BOTHER NOW?
But it’s easier than
you may think to get your kitchen in tip-top shape, and there’s never
been a better time to do it. For one thing, nutrition is more important
in your life than ever. After all, you’re eating for two, and what you
need are nutrition-rich calories. Learn to pick your foods not only for
how they taste and look but for the nutrients they provide.
example, to avoid constipation be sure to get fiber each day. In
addition to fruits and vegetables, consider whole-grain breads, cereals,
and legumes like beans and lentils. Fluids also help reduce
constipation so now you have even more incentive to keep drinking your
water. Calcium helps your baby develop strong bones. You don’t have to
drink gallons of milk—consider the wide variety of yogurts and cheeses
available today, not to mention dark leafy greens, broccoli, and
Finally, let’s look at how important
iron is in your diet. It makes red blood cells, which carry oxygen. The
baby needs iron to make her new blood and you need as much as 50
percent more blood during pregnancy. Without enough iron, you can find
yourself anemic, exhausted, and having trouble concentrating. The remedy
is delicious and varied: meat, poultry, salmon, soy products (tofu and
tempeh), nuts, and eggs. Cereals, dark leafy green vegetables, and beans
also supply iron. Pregnancy may usher in an entirely new way for you to
look at food.
You have a child to nurture
and love. One day she will be in your arms and you can sing her
lullabies to coax her to sleep, or toss your son in the air to hear that
wonderful laugh. The body you hold will have been created by the very
nutrients you supply during these crucial months of pregnancy. If your
kitchen is a mess, it’s less likely you’ll want to spend time there.
Instead of whipping up a good meal or a healthy snack, you’ll be running
out the front door for a burger and fries.
addition, it’s never too soon to plan ahead. Your baby is going to grow
quickly, especially during his first year, and you’ll be racing to keep
up. Organize your kitchen now and you’ll be ready to whip up homemade
baby food when he graduates from breast milk. It will be a snap to find
Baby’s bottles and later his plates and cups. It’s better to be
organized from the start than to find yourself in the kitchen around
2:00 a.m., wondering where the heck is that bottle you clearly remember
washing earlier in the day. Once you’re organized, all the gizmos have a
designated spot! And as your child grows, he’ll learn from your
Grab your journal and
go into your kitchen. Take a minute to look around. Peer into the
cupboards and drawers but don’t touch anything just yet. Now sit for a
few minutes and make some notes. Here are the questions I’d like you to
answer. But don’t spend more than thirty minutes on this exercise—it’s
meant to pinpoint your needs and spark your motivation, not rob you of
an entire afternoon.
What do you like about your kitchen? Perhaps you have a window and you
enjoy the way the light streams in. Or maybe you painted it a sunny
yellow and you think the room is cheery to be in.
• What do you not like about this room? Make two columns: On the
left, list what you don’t like that could be fixed, and on the right
side, list the things you don’t like but have to live with. As an
example, you might feel that with a baby coming you’ll need a bigger
refrigerator. You have to run the numbers to see how much you can spend
and look for a good bargain, but it’s not insurmountable. On the other
hand, if it’s a tiny space and you lament the absence of room for a
table and chairs, well, you’ll just have to eat in the dining room.
When you opened the cupboards and drawers, were the contents a mess? Or
did you have areas that were organized? What bothers you the most in
terms of the current setup?
• Would you be happier if you could function better in your kitchen?
• Do you have a few hours you can devote to this organizing project?
When you think about your childhood are there any special memories you
have about the kitchen? Did you come home to freshly baked cookies? Was
coloring Easter eggs a tradition for your family? Did you have Sunday
dinner each week?
• Was the kitchen in your childhood home organized or thrown together?
Did you have chores that revolved around the kitchen, like setting the
table, doing the dishes, taking out the trash, or cooking any of the
What types of activities would you like to do with your baby as he grows up? Do you like to bake? Are you a great cook?
want a kitchen that makes preparing nutritious meals a pleasurable
experience rather than a homework assignment. The first set of questions
helps you get a realistic idea of what needs to be done. A battle plan
ensures success. Flying by the seat of your pants can be momentarily
exhilarating but in the end you’ll only wind up depleted physically and
emotionally. People who follow this method usually abandon projects
about midway through the process. Imagine how much easier it will feel
to grind up some fresh carrots for Baby’s meal or reach for a healthy
snack for yourself when you don’t have to push aside the contents of
some cupboards that you left sitting on the countertop several months
I’ve asked you to look at the past to
help uncover any special memories you’d like to duplicate in the
not-too-distant future. Perhaps you’ll be reminded of a few things you
want to avoid at all costs. It would be interesting to compare notes
with your spouse. If you grew up in a home where everyone sat together
for dinner at 6:00 and his family ate dinner together just once a week
on Sunday, you may have different expectations about the future. It’s nice to uncover and discuss them now.
going to break this task up so you only need about two hours a day for
three days this week. Focus on what works. Take care of what is under
your control to change. And if you feel overwhelmed as you organize the
space, think about the fun you’re soon to have in this kitchen: feeding
your baby in his high chair, the cookies you’ll one day be baking with
your child, or the meals you’ll whip up together.
First, it’s time to divest
your kitchen of anything you aren’t going to use. You know what I’m
talking about, right? There’s that fancy coffeemaker you got for
Christmas five years ago. It takes up too much room on the counter and
you need a degree to learn how to operate it. It has been a space hog
since you got it. And there’s that fancy Panini maker you dreamed about
but never took out of the box. I think that was for your birthday about
three years ago. And don’t forget to look in the drawers. You went to a
cooking party at your best friend’s house last year and got all those
great kitchen gadgets. Of course, you don’t remember what they are for,
but you liked them when you saw them. And what about those threadbare
dish towels? Don’t be embarrassed. I didn’t sneak into your house last
night. This is everybody’s kitchen.
timer for twenty minutes. Start at one end of the kitchen and work your
way around to the other side. Do only the upper cupboards the first
time. Move on to the lower cabinets and finish with a third and final
round to examine your drawers. The maximum time allotted for this is one
hour. You’ll probably have the following categories:
• Items you can give to a family member or friend.
• Things you can donate to charity.
• Tools, pots, pans, etc., that have seen their best days and belong in the trash.
Items you only use once a year, like the Thanksgiving turkey roaster.
If you have a small kitchen, park that baby in the garage. If your
kitchen is large, stash it in that deep cabinet above the refrigerator.
You know, the one you need a stepstool to reach. (Don’t avoid using the
highest shelves if you are short. A two-step stepstool is one of the
best investments you can make. My favorite folds up and slips into that
sliver of space between the refrigerator and the cabinets.)
sure before you wrap things up for today that all of these items are on
their way to their new homes. Give everyone a deadline for pick up if
you don’t have a car and can’t do drop-offs yourself. If cousin Melissa
doesn’t pick up that coffee maker by Friday, on Saturday it’s going to
Goodwill or the local women’s shelter.
probably noticed I didn’t mention the counter space. Since you organized
your papers a few weeks ago (page 17), I hope you’ve stopped using the
counters in the kitchen as an adjunct office! We’re going to address
using the counters for maximum effect on day two.
I want to keep these work
sessions short so today we have just two areas to consider : the dark
cave under the sink and your counters. Since cleaning products are
usually stored under the sink, I’d play it safe and ask your spouse or
best friend to help you. I want to keep you away from toxic chemicals,
and soon enough you’ll be wiping down the counters with a baby in your
arms. That brings me to an option you have: Consider replacing your
household cleaners with “green” varieties from companies like Seventh
Generation or Meyer’s, or make your own cleaning products. With regular
household supplies like vinegar, baking soda (is there anything you
can’t do with that stuff?), and lemons, you can have inexpensive,
toxic-free cleaning agents in your home. As with any new cleaning agent,
test all of these concoctions on a small area to be sure they work in
your home without damaging surfaces.
Misadventures under the Sink
to begin? Your job is to sit on a chair and direct the operation. Have
your helper sit on the floor and pull out items one by one. Be sure a
sturdy trash bag is handy to catch the debris. You might want to spread
out a garbage bag on the floor so you have a safe staging area. If one
of your containers has a leak, you don’t want to damage your floor. As
always, put all related items that you wish to keep in categories. The
most common for this area are:
Sponges (soft and for scrubbing)
Hand soap and dish detergent
Poison for critters like ants and roaches
One by one examine the items. Here are some guidelines to help you keep this process moving quickly.
If the container is old (check for an expiration date) or leaking, toss it.
If you don’t use this product any longer, toss it or give it to your helper.
What about the condition of sponges and cleaning rags? If they have reached the disgusting stage, let them go!
If you bought several items in the large economy
size, can you better store those containers elsewhere? For example, if
you have a garage, place an inexpensive shelving unit right inside the
door for these large containers as well as for overflow paper towels and
toilet paper. In the absence of a garage, do you have a walk-in pantry?
Paper products can be kept here, but I don’t like to store cleaning
products near food. Better to keep them under the sink with a secure
lock to be sure your baby can’t access the items.
If you are storing items under the sink that you
use in other parts of the home, transfer those items to the more
appropriate location. As an example, toilet bowl cleaner should live in a
bathroom and laundry detergent should live near the washer.
HOMEMADE HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS
Let me tempt you with four easy cleaning product
recipes. The minimal expense is in your base ingredients like vinegar
and baking soda as well as in new spray and storage bottles, which you
will want to have on hand.
Vinegar: Mix one part
water with one part vinegar and you’ve got an all-purpose cleaner you
can use all over your home. (Don’t use it on marble.) Before
store-bought household products became a big industry, women
traditionally cleaned with vinegar. Did you know it disinfects and
deodorizes in addition to cleaning? And don’t worry about that
distinctive aroma: It dissipates in a matter of minutes. Your home isn’t
going to smell like a salad! Try it full strength in your toilet bowl
to remove the ring that all bowls acquire over time. And, last but not
least, you can save on fabric softener because a half-cup of vinegar
will soften your clothes and effectively break down your detergent. If
Baby turns out to be sensitive to detergent, vinegar in the wash will
help her skin stay soft and irritation free.
Lemons: You can mix fresh
lemon juice with vinegar to make a cleaning paste. Who could have
imagined that the tart and tasty lemon, so lovely in sparkling water,
tea, and salads, could also clean your home? A paste can be more
effective than liquid cleanser in those hard-to-clean areas of your
home. You can use straight lemon juice to dissolve soap scum and hard
water deposits in your shower and around the sink. Imagine how lovely
the area will smell when you’re done! Speaking of clean-smelling, don’t
toss your lemon rind away after extracting the juice: Put it in the
garbage disposal. Lemon juice is safe on copper and brass and if you mix
a half-cup of lemon juice with a cup of olive oil, you can polish your
Baking soda: You can brush
your teeth with it (my dentist suggests adding a little peroxide to
make a paste), bake with it, and keep a container in the refrigerator to
absorb odors. (You can use it in your diaper pail for the same
purpose.) Guess what else you can do with it? Add a little water (or
lemon juice) and use it the way you would a commercial abrasive cleaner.
Lavender oil: This popular
oil has antibacterial properties and a lovely, relaxing fragrance. In
your kitchen and laundry room, you can clean with fresh lemon because
the citrus fragrance seems appropriate in that room. In the bathrooms
and bedrooms, you can slightly reduce the amount of vinegar you’re
adding to your water and add a few drops of lavender. (Use the pure oil,
not a synthetic version.) You can also mix up plain water with lavender
or lemon to keep in the nursery. Use it to spray around after diaper
changes to freshen the air.
After you whittle down, take a look at your
categories. There are all manner of containers that are designed for
under the sink to help keep these items together. You might want to take
a break with your helper or send her out to shop while you move on to
the counters. The most important thing to keep in mind is the
configuration of the pipes. If the most popular under-the-sink organizer
doesn’t fit, it can’t serve you. Remember, you can mix and match your
product solutions or use items designed for other areas. And sometimes
nothing is more beneficial than a simple zip-top storage bag for loose
items like sponges. Just be sure you benefit from the container. I don’t
want to add to the clutter!
people get nervous when they see space. They feel more secure when
objects fill the area. In the extreme, you might find it’s literally
hard to breathe in their homes. “Stuff” seems to literally suck the
oxygen out of the room. The great Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat
Hanh says that sometimes his cup is full of tea but when the tea has
been consumed the cup is full of space. Wrap your mind around that for a
minute. I’d like to see your counters full of space rather than full of
clutter. I’d like to have the visual of space bring clarity to your
busy day and to those sleep-deprived nights on the horizon. Let’s take a
One of my pet peeves as an organizer is American
packaging. The smallest items come buried in five pounds of cardboard.
It’s best to remove items and store them without all that cardboard and
plastic! You’ll be surprised how much space you will save.
During the first month we were together, you
created a file system. If you didn’t gather the papers off your kitchen
counters at that time, I want you to make short shrift of them today.
First, you can speed through and eliminate what you don’t need. Next,
take the remaining material to your home office or wherever you have
designated as your workspace. Sort the items into categories and then
file the material away in the folders you created two months ago. And
you thought this was going to be a complicated process, didn’t you? You
laid the foundation, now you can reap the benefits.
way you have used your counter space is going to change. I want you to
stop and think for a few minutes about the equipment, decorative items,
and tools you now have out. Are they on display or do they get used? I
have clients who can’t boil water but who keep top-of-the-line kitchen
equipment on the counter because it speaks to their prosperity, or so
they think. On the other hand, your countertop equipment might be a
lifesaver. When I was into cooking and dinner parties, my food processor
lived on the counter. Why put it away every night only to haul it out
the next morning? I was so into cooking during that phase of my life
that I literally wore out the motor on one processor and had to replace
If coffee and toast are part of your
morning ritual, I can easily see you dedicating an area on the counter
to them. When my clients want those items out, I take the cabinet just
above to store the items that go with coffee like mugs, sugar, powder
creamer, etc. It’s creating a category by using all the related space to
make breakfast preparation as easy as possible. Personally, although I
do drink a cup of coffee each morning, I put the coffeemaker away after I
use it. I could leave it out and not fear a demerit from the Organizing
Police, but I’m into space these days. The moral of the story is clear:
There is no right or wrong. There is clutter, but then there is
Only you can design your counter
space. Every woman and every kitchen are unique; make this space serve
you. Here are some questions to help you create your design:
• Do you have plants everywhere? Could they do just as well if not better in another room?
• Are bowls or other serving items piled high and attracting dust?
Is there equipment out you never use? Can you donate it? Would a
relative like to have it? Can you pack it away in the garage for another
time in your life?
• Is there equipment out you wish to keep but aren’t going to be using for the foreseeable future?
• Is there anything in your cleaned-out cupboards that should now live on the counter?
Here are some suggestions for items you may want to have out over the next year and beyond:
Everyone needs a good blender. You can whip up food for your baby and
simple, nutritious smoothies for yourself. If your blender has seen
better days, get a new one. There are inexpensive and compact versions
out there. Watch the newspapers for a discount coupon to a store like
Bed Bath & Beyond.
Baby food maker.
Many baby food recipes don’t require the purchase of a special baby
food maker (see page 325). But again, it’s a matter of taste and
temperament. If you know that making that purchase will cause you to
prepare more fresh food for your baby because you like the machine, go
for it. By the way, start making a wish list for your baby shower. This
item is a perfect addition.
Steamer. I like to pop a steamer into a pot. But many of my clients insist on purchasing special steamers to prepare rice and/or veggies. Make the choice for the item you will use religiously.
There is one piece of equipment you can purchase
that will function as your blender, food processor, and juicer. It’s
called a Vitamix. It’s expensive but guaranteed for life. It also takes
up less counter space than three separate pieces of equipment. You can
go online to www.vitamix.com and view some explanatory videos and recipes.
Juicer. There is no doubt that using
a juicer is a super healthy choice. It will provide creative, healthy
drinks for you and every member of your family. It’s also an expensive
piece of equipment and a space hog. Be sure you are going to make use of
it before you make the purchase and dedicate the space.
The Crock-Pot has really come back into vogue. What easier way is there
to have a hot, nutritious meal at dinnertime? If you love it and use it
regularly, by all means, keep it out. But if you know in your heart
that you are the last person on planet earth who will prepare food in a
Crock-Pot, again, all you are doing is dedicating valuable space to a
By now, your kitchen probably feels
very different to you. One more day and your work here is done. If you
are wondering which cabinet should house which equipment, don’t fret. We
take care of that tomorrow.
The traditional way to
organize a kitchen involves creating zones. In every kitchen you’ll find
the dishes to one side of the sink and the drinking glasses on the
other. The pots and pans will be in the cabinets closest to the stove.
Do you have that in place? This isn’t going to be as difficult as you
thought! Now you need to look at the space and the items you decided to
keep. The goal is to create categories so that when you wish to prepare a
meal, everything is at your fingertips. When you need to clean up, your
tools are in one central area. And if you like to bake, that too is all
located in one section. Designate the areas before you get up and start
moving things around.
Here are some ideas to help make the inner life in your cupboards work better:
the shelves are deep and you lose items in the back, you can put in
sliding drawers. You can find them at a store like The Container Store
and in catalogs like www.Solutions.com.
If you don’t have a separate pantry and have to
store food in your cupboards, try using a shelf creator for your canned
goods. This unit can be found in wood, plastic, and mesh. It elevates
your cans, creating three levels. You won’t lose that treasured can of
chicken soup ever again. And if you create categories, your soup and
your veggies can live in separate areas.
Not able to put in sliding drawers? Make use of dead space in corners or in the back of a cupboard by storing items you rarely use there. Keep your everyday tools in front.
Are there any items that could be stored in your
dining room hutch? Very often I find a set of Grandma’s china in the
kitchen. It’s only used on holidays but it takes up several shelves in
the kitchen. Get china holders at any home store (I like the padded ones
that zipper close) and tuck the china safely away in your hutch.
If you want to keep items in a drawer from
exploding the first time you shut the drawer quickly, use thick drawer
liner (it’s washable and comes in colors and designs should you wish to
coordinate with your kitchen decor) and drawer organizers. They come in
plastic, wood, or mesh, but the clear acrylic has my vote, as they are
the easiest to wipe out and keep clean.
Finally, if you are blessed with a lazy
Susan-style organizer that makes the corner of a cabinet really useful,
keep in mind that you don’t want to weigh it down with extremely heavy
equipment. They are fragile units and break easily. They are great to
hold common lightweight food prep items like colanders or mixing bowls.
The overhead kitchen light may prove especially
jarring during the middleof-the-night visits on the horizon. Put a small
lamp on the counter and use it to cast a soft glow in the room. Those
late nights will be less painful on your psyche and your eyes.
Food, Glorious Food!
a few minutes more to clean out your refrigerator. Why have fresh
veggies, chicken, and a can of opened peanut butter clustered together?
Instead, create zones on your shelves so that it’s easier to prepare a
meal or find a snack. You organized categories of related items in
drawers, inside cupboards, and on the counter. Now you can do the same
inside the refrigerator. At The Container Store or in the kitchen
department of your local home store, you will find an interesting array
of products designed specifically to make your refrigerator more
organized. Take a look at what’s available and see if there is anything
When it comes to the food itself,
you’ll want to get in the habit of purchasing more fresh fruits and
veggies now, if you aren’t already. Skip the fast food, the processed
fake food, and the deep-fried, artery-clogging treats. Keep the fresh
food in the foreground. When you’re attacked by a case of the “ravenous
pregnant hungries,” or you’ve got a toddler hanging on your legs or a
baby on your hip, healthy food will be at your fingertips rather than
something processed or laden with fat or sugar. Try coming up with a
list of snacks that are healthy, easy to prepare (or that can be
prepared ahead of time), and appeal to you. Then create a place in your
refrigerator—front and center, not hidden behind the milk!—for those
“go-to” snacks. Soon it will become second nature to reach for that
hard-boiled egg or carrots and hummus when you’re hungry instead of the
chips and dip.
The Big Freeze
sure your freezer is organized, too. If you live in an area where fresh
fruits and veggies are hard to come by during parts of the year, you
may be surprised to hear that frozen veggies are a healthier choice than
what’s in your produce section. Those “fresh” veggies and fruits have
often been shipped from someplace so far away they’re two or three weeks
old by the time they get to your table. And during that time they’ve
lost a lot of flavor, not to mention nutritional value. Freezer veggies
are frozen within hours of harvest, sealing in the vitamins, minerals,
antioxidants, and flavor. You can also freeze your “fresh from the
farmer’s market” veggies to last you year-round.
of the strangest things human beings do is to fill the freezer with
packages of “mystery meat.” I know a lady who keeps these things for
years. When she offers to thaw one of these relics and make dinner for
me, I politely decline and remind her I am a vegetarian. In truth, after
six months those items should be tossed. Label your packages so you
know what’s inside. And be sure you note the date.
that note, you’ll also want to make sure to clear out some space in
your freezer and fridge close to your due date. Friends and family often
bring food to a new family as a way to help out. You’ll want to have a
place to put it.
Adapt these solutions to your specifics and you’ll come out with one organized kitchen.
you are done, please do one thing for the Zen Organizer: Be sure your
newly organized, streamlined kitchen isn’t marred by a refrigerator that
has too many photos, ads, notices, and general debris all over it! You
are about to bring a baby into your home. Create an Emergency Contact
list and post that for all to see. Include all key names and contact
numbers. I’d make this sheet the only decoration for your refrigerator.
This week is about embracing the beauty of empty space.
EXPAND YOUR CULINARY WORLD
Now is a great time to expand the variety of food
you’re accustomed to keeping on hand. What pantry doesn’t have white
rice and pasta? My friend Chef Tanya suggests you open yourself to the
world of grains and experiment with barley, oats, and soy. Don’t forget
the delicious grains with exotic-sounding names: quinoa, basmati white
or brown rice, kamut, couscous, and spelt.
If you are interested in experimenting with soy,
tofu is a great source of protein. It’s versatile because you can steam
it, sauté it, or toss it in the blender. Aside from being a substitute
for meat in main dishes, tofu makes great desserts, salad dressings, and
In your market near the
tofu you may see a product called tempeh. That’s another soy product
with a meatier texture. Get a “simple” tempeh you can steam or sauté at
home. Don’t go with the one that’s been saturated in soy or some other
salty sauce. Not all tempeh is created equal, so experiment a bit with