Is your ‘stash it’ place the cabinet under your kitchen sink? If you’re like me and so many people, it ends up being the place that this-that-and-the-other gets stuffed for lack of a better location or simply to get it out of sight. When this happens, it’s hard to keep this area tidy and ready for the unexpected leak.
Along with the maze of pipes that live under my sink, we have a RO (reverse osmosis) system which adds a holding tank and filters in addition to a garbage disposal and slide-out waste basket. With all of that, it would seem that there would be little space for clutter and junk. NOT! I’m always amazed what I find in the ‘cave of castoffs’ scattered among the needed and regularly used dish-washing and kitchen cleaning supplies.
Since the RO system requires annual maintenance, my cabinet undergoes purging and cleaning before service and organizing after. The annual review is scheduled so I must move forward with pulling everything out, inventorying, and cleaning to remove dust and crumbs. This is also a good time to note any water stains on the cabinet floor or suspicious signs with any of the pipes, water lines, or faucets inside the cabinet. (Anything suspicious should be checked out to prevent a plumbing disaster.)
With everything out and an open space to fill, I do something a little different each year to make the space work a little bit better using tips from various organizing experts on what to put back and what to find a new home for—a saga of Store This, Not That.
(What Not to Store under the Kitchen Sink)
Unused, old, broken or no-long suitable cleaners, sponges, scrub brushes and other castoffs that have accumulated behind closed doors should be discarded. If they might have a life in another capacity, place them with the anticipated activity. I like to keep worn nylon scrubbers and brushes around to wash the mud from garden produce, particularly pumpkins and squash, when they are harvested so I move these item to a container in the garage for this purpose.
Overstock, Refills, or Extra Supplies. Quantity or bought-ahead, unopened products should go to another storage area. Several years ago, I established a shelf in our basement for this purpose. Here I store paper towels, dishwasher tablets, boxes of trash bags, and other like items. To remind myself of what I have on hand, I leave myself sticky notes. For example, I only have space for a small container of dishwashing tablets under the sink. On the lid of the container, I have a sticky note that says “more tabs downstairs.” As the container empties, I refill from the stash in the basement until the quantity is exhausted; at which time, I pull the sticky note and place the need on the shopping list.
Towels, rags, paper towels, paper bags. All of these items absorb water and odors. While absorbing water in the event of a leak may be a good thing, it will ruin them. These items are also prone to odor absorption from other stored items or the waste basket combined with heat and humidity coming from the sink and/or dishwasher. If the only storage space available for these items is under the sink, they should be stored in closed plastic containers.
Metal items. With one exception*, tools, pots and pans, metal cookware, or anything else that is prone to rusting does not belong. This also includes small appliances and light bulbs. (*Exception will be discussed in Save This.)
Produce, food items, pet food/treats. Produce and dry foods may mold under the sink.
Harsh chemicals, flammable products, insecticides. Bleach, insecticides, solvents, thinners, paints, polishes, and household cleaners have no place under the kitchen sink. These items need to be stored in the basement, garage, or utility area and away from small children. Occasionally the containers of these items spring a leak or emit fumes—all of which we do not want in our living areas and especially not in our kitchen. Further, often a dishwasher sits next to the sink cabinet; heat or an electrical spark and flammable fumes could cause a sudden explosion or fire.
(What to Store under the Kitchen Sink)
Before putting anything back in the cabinet, consider an absorbent mat for the bottom of the cabinet to absorb a bit of water from a dripping sponge or leaking from a pipe or a stored product. These mats protect the cabinetry and prevent the formation of mold. One may also want to consider purchasing clear plastic containers for organizing or protecting items or even installing tiered under-sink organizers to make use of the available vertical space or pull-out racks to keep items from getting lost in the back of the cabinet and bring them forward for easy access. Home improvement and container stores have any number of these items designed to work around the pipes and garbage disposal. The inside of the cabinet doors are an ideal place to mount a towel rack or racks made for storing everything from trash bags to paper towels and sponges.
Cleaning products. Keep the essentials such as vinegar, dish soap, dishwasher products, cleansers, scrubbers, sponges, brushes, kitchen gloves, and cleansing agents—all of the items needed daily to maintain a clean and healthy kitchen. (If young children are in the home, the doors to the cabinet should be secured with child-proof locks to prevent accidental poisoning from any of these products.) A pull-out rack or a lazy susan is a great way to corral these items and make them easy to access.
Small fire extinguisher. One should always have a serviceable fire extinguisher in the kitchen in the event of a grease fire. Under the sink within quick and easy reach is one of the best locations for it. Before storing, the viability date should be checked and replaced if out of date. Consider mounting the extinguisher to a side wall of the cabinet.
Garbage disposal tool. The one and only tool that should be stored under the sink is the garbage disposal tool used for unjamming the garbage disposal. Inevitably this tool gets lost. Some disposals come with a pocket for storing the tool on the side of the disposal. If not, consider placing the tool in a ziplock bag and thumb tacking the bag to a cabinet wall making it easy to see and locate when a jam occurs.
Others. Depending upon space, items such as a vase or two, trash bags, dish towels in plastic containers, small dust pan and brush, and bags for recycling (contained in some manner) may find a home under the sink.
By reclaiming and organizing our under sink space, we make our home safer and more efficient with the added benefit of having just what we need under our sink!