What do safety and organization have to do with each other?
Since safety has a lot to do with storage, it is important to address how to safely store your kitchen, pantry and dining room items when it comes to organizing. You may be asking, “are there really hazards hiding in my kitchen?” Anyone who has dropped a can on their toe or accidentally switched the dish detergent for the dish soap is silently screaming-- YES. Keeping things organized is a key part of having a safe environment. Better flow means fewer spills. Accessible tools means efficient movements. Kid-proof drawers mean less messes and, more importantly, peace of mind. Safety not only helps to streamline your activities in the kitchen, but also helps add a sense of security.
Addressing Each Area
Let’s discuss each area and be aware of common hazards.
Keep cleaning supplies clearly labeled, and in a place that children and pets cannot access, and in locked/off mode when not in use.
Remember that high-traffic areas and surfaces like counters and device screens get touched a lot and can carry germs. Don't forget to sanitize as you are organizing if you are touching these areas (investing in a good pair of gloves is always a good idea).
When lifting heavier items, be sure to lift them properly (bending and lifting with your knees and not your back), and when in doubt, ask for help!
For items that don't easily stack, it's worth the extra space to put them in containers that do.
Is it sanitized? Set intervals for regular cleaning so that spills don’t cause spoilage or sickness.
Does everything edible have a label or expiration date on it? This indicates when the food is safe to consume
Is your fridge overloaded? Overloaded shelves are prone to spillage and spoilage because it's less clear what lies inside.
Are you optimizing your space? Have you set reminders to re-evaluate?
Is everything sealed tightly and stored properly? See the image below (available for purchase as a high-quality PDF ).
Stove & Oven Area
Are flammable items stored anywhere close to the oven or stove? This includes fabric oven mitts or trivets, cookbooks, utensils, wood utensils, glass, flammable substances etc.
Are cardboard boxes, packaging, flour, etc. stored away from sources heat or fire? Keep in mind that otherwise safe ingredients might act as a fuel if fire is present.
Is the area well ventilated and are fire safety measures working and present? Do you have a working fire alarm?
Where are your matches, lighters, and batteries stored? Are they accessible to children or pets?
Where are your timers stored? Are they in working order to properly time items that are baking and cooking?
Are there any leaks or spills behind your equipment? Do you know how to properly clean your equipment in the case that there are?
Do you know where your documentation about your appliances and their needed maintenance is?
Are knives and other potential hazards or sharp items kept out of the reach of children?
Are items used to secure loose clothing or tie long hair back stored in a logical and safe place?
Is your sink accessible for hand-washing? If applicable, can all members of your family or household access it easily (i.e. disabled, children, elderly, etc.)?
Do you have a stepladder to access higher-up shelves? Do you have somewhere to store this so that it does not get tripped over?
Are heavy items stored below the level of your waist? Are heavy items stacked in unsafe ways?
Are your shelves overstocked? Like the fridge, overstocked shelves can lead to spills and spoiled items.
Do you have a place designated for newer unopened items so that older, opened items are used first?
Are sharp or heavy kitchen appliances/equipment stored properly (i.e. at waist level or higher, out of reach of children, with protective covering, etc.)?
THE DINING AREA
Has your dining area been dusted regularly?
Have your linens been washed and pressed properly?
Are your breakable and priceless items stored in a way that keeps them from easily being broken or damaged?
Are your valuable items stored out of sight unless in use?
Do your rugs, sharp edges, glass items etc. present a hazard (i.e. tripping, other accidents)?
How often is this area cleaned and sanitized?
Are chemicals and cleaners clearly labeled? If applicable, are they stored behind child-proof doors?
Are items that contain allergens clearly labeled? Are they stored away from items that could potentially cross-contaminate?
Is your food storage organized? How often do you check the expiration dates of your goods?
Are your cleaning supplies easily accessible to quickly clean spills?
Are your appliances and equipment kept away from water? Are they overloading your electrical sockets?
Do you have a fire extinguisher and an emergency plan? Do all members of your household understand emergency procedures? Could you access valuable and needed items quickly in case of a disaster?
Have you stored warranties, paperwork, documentation, recipes, and instructions in an organized and logical way? What is your system for organizing these papers, and does it work? Would an electronic version work better for you?
Have you made use of vertical space?
With an increased awareness, a bit of preparation, and some patience, your eating areas can capitalize on their potential by providing your space with a better sense of safety and security. Locating and neutralizing hazards will give you back a sense of freedom and flexibility, as well as a sense that you absolutely can handle the heat of the kitchen. You will go from using your references to being the reference for others when it comes to common kitchen safety questions. You can rest easy and wake up with a sense that your spaces are supporting you.
Next week, we'll be talking about how "Less is More"-- hold on if you have those overstocked shelves we've been talking about. I'll teach you my tips for navigating the mess to find the necessities. Until next week, happy organizing! If you need help and want to get rid of some of the mess in your life so you can spend less time stressing, book an organization session with me know or request a free quote!
This reference card will help you find and design an organization that works! It will help keep you and your loved ones safe from foodbourne illness and other hazards.