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No More Clutter!

A Collected Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home  -- and all too often the arteries get clogged with kids' stuff. Here's how to pare down:

Consolidate kids' ware and utensils. Make "stackability" a priority. If you can't nest a cup, bowl, or plate, get rid of it. Place sippy-cup lids in one container, and stack matching cups nearby. House toddler spoons and forks in a SHALLOW, NARROW BIN in your utensil drawer.

Put bottle nipples, caps, and rings in a SMALL LIDDED CONTAINER; pop it into a larger one that holds bottles.

Set aside a kid-safe zone in a low, empty drawer or shelf away from the range. Along with kids' cups, plates, and toys, add pots and pans, spatulas, and plastic containers for playing. Joe Strasser safety-latched all but one cupboard door so 2-year-old Alexander can open it, grab things, and play while Dad cooks.

Create a self-service breakfast station on a low shelf or in a drawer for school-age kids. Choose foods they can prepare themselves: Pop bagel halves or mini-muffins in zippered SANDWICH BAGS; transfer cereal to a clear PLASTIC CONTAINER WITH A POUR SPOUT; include plastic dishes, napkins, and utensils. A low shelf in the refridgerator can hold milk or juice.

Tara Aronson, a columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle and the mother of three, is the author of Simplify Your Household.