Feeling stressed? Your untidy kitchen could be the culprit

For homeowners, no other room than the kitchen brings more clutter and consternation.

That packed-to-the-gills hall closet remains an eyesore. Your kid's disaster zone of a bedroom doesn't exactly make you feel calm and content. And that unsightly garage is more of an obstacle course than a streamlined shelter for your car.

But the room that raises your blood pressure more than any other is likely the kitchen, according to the results of a MasterBrand Cabinets survey. More than four out of five homeowner respondents revealed they can't relax if their kitchen is messy; 60 percent said countertop clutter is the issue that triggers the most stress, with the primary offenders being appliances (52 percent) and mail or other paperwork (16 percent). Forty-two percent of people store items wherever they can find room in their kitchen. And homeowners admitted they'd enjoy particular activities more in a better-organized kitchen, including cooking or preparing meals (64 percent) and hosting social gatherings (36 percent).

Stephanie Pierce, director of design and trends at MasterBrand Cabinetry in Jasper, Indiana, says she's not surprised that untidy kitchens are a consistent source of consternation.

"Kitchens are the center for daily activities in our homes. The frequency and visibility of this space make it constantly top of mind and a focal point. It's not like a messy closet where you can shut the door and forget it; a cluttered kitchen sets the mood of the individuals in that space, and many people don't function optimally when there is disarray," says Pierce.

Gilat Tunit, founder of a home organization company, says neatening up your kitchen is worth the time and expense.

"When you are able to open your pantry or cabinets and get what you need quickly without rummaging and creating more mess, you can adopt a sense of calm," says Tunit. "Having a streamlined kitchen saves time, creates efficiency and looks more inviting."

Darla DeMorrow, a certified professional organizer in Pennsylvania, agrees. "Getting organized saves money, too. Most disorganized homeowners admit to buying things they know they already own but can't find, like paper towels or spices," says DeMorrow.

Fortunately, organizing your kitchen doesn't have to involve a costly remodel. Instead, you can implement effective decluttering strategies and retrofit your space with inexpensive products and organizing systems.

"For example, you can have an appliance garage built into your existing cabinets and countertop that will keep your appliances concealed behind a rolling door," says David Sipp, owner of Mr. Handyman in Granger, Indiana. "You can install pull-out spice, cookie sheet and wastebasket cabinets. Roll-out trays and caddies for easy access to pots and pans can be added. Wine and glass racks can be hung from the wall.

And you can opt for a pull-out pet feeding station that hides in a base cabinet."

Other tips to tidy up your chaotic kitchen include:

Remove all unnecessary items from your counters. Aim to conceal/store as many of these objects as possible. "Microwaves stored under the counter, for instance, can be easier and safer for children and save space," DeMorrow says.

Sort keepers from expendables in all drawers, cabinets and pantries. "Make sure the spice cabinet is cleared of any expired items, and donate or discard all those odd items you'll never use, like old coffee mugs, sports bottles and gadgets. Thin down cabinets with dishes and glassware to those you really use, and look into secondhand good sites to sell the ones you no longer need," says Jacquie Denny, co-founder of Everything But The House, an online estate sale site based in Cincinnati.

Organize items into zones. "For example, group into a coffee section, cutlery section, etc.," Tunit says.

Create categories for all perishable items. "Buy clear bins to keep items separated — such as a snack bin, cereal bins, pasta canisters and a bread box," limit says.

Allow yourself a junk drawer, but only one. "Keep all other drawers organized by designating a space for each type of stored item," Pierce says.

Commit to remaining organized. "Organizing products can create an efficient system, but you have to be willing to maintain that system consistently," Tunit says.

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