A popular Benjamin Franklin quote can be perfectly applied to approaching how to organize a small kitchen: “A place for everything, everything in its place.” For most people, though, an organized kitchen is a dream to be achieved someday after retirement when the kids have moved out, and life is less hectic.
Reversing years of bad organizational habits seems daunting, but it is possible. You can keep the heart of your home clutter-free without spending weeks on boring cleaning projects. It’s time to stop procrastinating, be honest about what you really need, and reclaim your space. Here are our top kitchen organization tips to try as soon as today.
Where do I start when organizing my kitchen?
The best place to start during kitchen organization is in your cabinets and drawers. It’s easy for items to get shoved to the back and forgotten about. Empty out all cabinets and drawers, discarding items you don’t need. Then, you have a clean slate to start organizing.
1. Reflect On How Your Family Uses the Kitchen
Most kitchens serve a greater purpose than just food storage and cooking. The kitchen is often part of your living area and is a multi-purpose space.
Consider all the functions your kitchen serves. You might have a sitting area off the kitchen that is handy for entertaining. Does part of your kitchen end up being used as a workspace? Write down the ways that you use the area to ensure that your kitchen organization accommodates the needs of your family.
Common kitchen use considerations:
- Entertaining: From a bottle opener and wine glasses to coasters and serving trays, select an accessible spot for entertainment items so it’s easy to welcome friends and family.
- Open concept: If your dining area is combined with your kitchen, keep placemats and napkins in an easy–to–reach spot so little hands can help set the table while you cook.
- Multi-purpose island: If your kitchen island is often turned into a game area or homework zone, keep favorite games in a nearby cabinet or have a bin with pencils, pens, and notebooks easy to access.
2. Practice Minimalism
Your first step toward kitchen freedom is objectively assessing the whole space. Forget about any sentimentality attached to the items you’ve kept all these years, and give serious thought to what you actually use on a regular basis.
Apply minimalism to your kitchen by:
- Setting aside your most-used tools and appliances.
- Identifying duplicates.
- Determining which single-function items can be replaced or tossed.
- Throwing out old, broken, rusty, or hopelessly dirty items.
Once you remove these items, you have a starting point to work from. Now, you can create a plan on how to organize your small kitchen. But, if organizing your kitchen seems like an insurmountable challenge, break the tasks up. Pick one job or area to focus on per day, and set aside time to complete it.
3. Emphasize Ease of Use
Every kitchen has a few critical items used to prepare and eat meals regularly. Put the items you use most in easy-to-reach places to keep from tossing everything out of the way to get to that one bowl you need. It’s best to keep like items together so everything is easy to find.
Make it easy to find your favorite items by storing dishes in one place and cups in another and putting similar preparation tools together. This not only speeds up meal prep and table setting but also streamlines the appearance of your kitchen.
4. Declutter Drawer Space
As you rearrange the items you use most to keep the kitchen organized, you’ll inevitably run across clutter in drawers, including the ubiquitous junk drawer. Take the opportunity to clear out the messes you find as part of your overall cleaning strategy.
If you need to pop out to the store to grab some inexpensive drawer organizers, do so. These simple plastic or wooden inserts can turn even the messiest drawer into a neat and tidy space. Get one for silverware and another for everyday items such as tape, batteries, and other odd items.
Some utensils take up too much space when stored in drawers. Big items such as ladles and potato mashers are better kept on a mounted wall rack or simple suction hangers placed to the side of a cabinet.
Related Article: How to Organize Your Drawers in 4 Easy Steps
5. Categorize Cabinets
Keeping with the rule of placing like items together, move on from the drawers to the kitchen cabinets. Pick logical spots for plates, glasses, and mugs, and place all similar items together. Organizing this way will unearth some things you maybe haven’t encountered in years.
If you find something you have little or no memory of using, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you really need or even want promotional items from companies you rarely do business with?
- Will you ever use kiddie dishes and cups again?
- Is there any reason to keep lids with no matching pots?
- Which items can be donated or given away to clear out more cabinet space?
This keeps you in the minimalist mindset and allows you to let go of items you have no reason to keep without the nagging feeling that you might use them at some unforeseeable time in the future. If it’s been over a year since it’s been used, it’s probably best to part with it.
6. Power Up Your Shelving
Now that you’ve sorted through most of the overwhelming volume of stuff in the kitchen, you should have a good idea of what items you will keep. It’s time to turn your attention to the shelves and see how best to organize this space in your kitchen.
Open shelving creates a sense of light and space and allows you to showcase your everyday dishes when not in use. Mix in decorative, functional items like cookbooks, gourmet olive oils, and flowers for an attractive display. Give these shelves a good wipe-down at least once a month to address dust, grease, or grime issues.
If you don’t have the space for an open shelf unit, make an effort to empty the space on the shelves you do have. Use decorative plates, potted plants, or small appliances to break up larger groups of items and improve the appearance.
Related Article: 6 Creative Storage Solutions for a Kitchen with No Upper Cabinets
7. Make The Most of Storage
If your kitchen has deep storage drawers, roll-out shelves, or a swing-out pantry, organizing your kitchen will be a breeze. But don’t panic if your kitchen is not outfitted with these great storage hacks. You can easily find perfect kitchen organization solutions that will help make life easier.
Shelf inserts can be used to create additional storage space. Cookware organizers make it easy to retrieve the pan you need. A tiered organizer helps keep things visible and sorted.
How do you organize a small kitchen with no storage?
If you have a tiny kitchen without storage, it will take some creativity to make everything fit just right. In this case, it’s best to only keep items you will use regularly on hand, and it’s even better if your items are multi-purpose. For some items, such as countertop appliances, you may need to store them elsewhere, such as in a hall closet. Maximize using any space you have, whether the wall space or above the refrigerator.
8. Consider The Countertops
Your countertop can greatly affect how you feel about your kitchen. Clutter-free counters make preparing food and cooking meals easier and reduce the possibility of accidents. They also improve the visual appeal of the kitchen.
Countertop organization tips:
- Clean up the sink and counter as soon as possible after preparing food.
- Store containers of flour, sugar, and other dry goods in cabinets or the pantry.
- Consider moving knives out of large wooden blocks and into drawers.
- Put away small appliances, such as the toaster, when not in use.
If you don’t have the option of putting everything out of sight, consider mounting as many things off the counter as you can. By mounting things items, the area still appears less cluttered and gives you more space to work when cooking.
Related Article: 5 Ways To Organize Your Kitchen Countertops
9. Organize Dry Food
Storing food improperly or holding on to expired items can create a mess and make it difficult to find what you need. Approach the fridge and pantry organization with the same mindset you used when cleaning out cabinets and drawers. Make it your goal to create an uncluttered food storage space containing only items you’ll use.
Check labels and expiration dates on all foods, and throw away anything outdated, fuzzy, or smelly. Ditch things you tried once, don’t like, or don’t intend to cook with again. If they’re not expired, give them to someone who can use them, such as a friend or a local food pantry. Plan meals to use up small amounts of ingredients lingering in the bottoms of jars, bottles, and bags.
What should I store above my fridge?
Whether you want to make use of extra space on top of your fridge or put the awkward upper cabinet to use, there are some great ways to maximize storage above the fridge. The large space is great for storing appliances that aren’t regularly used, such as a crockpot or food processor. It’s also a good place to store cookbooks or manuals. If you have kids, storing alcohol out of reach is recommended, and the top of the fridge is perfect for that.
Related Article: Complete Guide to Storing Food in the Fridge
10. Routinely Organize Your Kitchen
Creating a daily routine for kitchen organization is key. Letting small messes sit only leads to bigger messes and a more overwhelming cleaning job later on.
The refrigerator can be a particularly scary place to clean if you haven’t been giving it as much attention as you should. You don’t want the fridge in your home to turn into a mirror image of the shared fridge at the office, full of unidentifiable spills and expired food. Set aside time every two weeks to deep clean your refrigerator, including the drawers and shelves. Discard old food, repackage anything leaky, and make an effort to organize items as you put them back after cleaning.
Simple kitchen cleaning practices:
- Clean out the sink before food debris gets caked on.
- Empty the dishwasher as soon as the cycle finishes.
- Go through your mail immediately rather than tossing it on the kitchen counter.
- Consolidate duplicate ingredients into one container.
- Wipe down all surfaces after preparing meals or snacks.
11. Make A Seasonal Storage Plan
You don’t need the large roasting pan you use for holidays cluttering your in-home storage space all year. Get it out of the kitchen along with those holiday dish towels and fancy serving platters and into a shed or self-storage unit. Keep an eye out for other holiday-specific items, such as cookie presses or candy molds, and store them somewhere else until you need them.
When the holidays roll around, get what you need out of storage and wash it thoroughly. Find a good temporary spot for it in the kitchen, and put it back into seasonal storage as soon as you no longer need it. Leaving seasonal items out for too long can start the cycle of clutter all over again.
12. Let Novelties Go
When you like to cook, it’s not unusual for your counter space to become cluttered with novelty appliances and tools you thought you would use and never did. Unless you’re suddenly going to start hosting your own cooking show, it’s time to let it all go. This is especially true if you’re downsizing or have a tiny kitchen.
Offload your unused appliances in the quickest and most convenient way possible. Sell new and like-new items on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay. Give the rest away to your foodie friends, or donate your tools to a local business needing equipment.
13. Stay Accountable
Your kitchen won’t stay organized all by itself. It’s up to you to give it the care and attention it needs to remain functional and attractive. Remember all the principles you used during your big cleaning job, and put them into practice on a daily basis.
If you find yourself having trouble staying on top of small daily tasks, make a checklist. Hang it up on the refrigerator or the door of a prominent cabinet. If mobile devices are more your thing, download a “to-do list” app or use your Notes app to create a list just for kitchen organization.
Set reminders so you never forget a task. It may seem tedious at first, but you’ll thank yourself every time you look around the kitchen.
Following these principles makes maintaining an organized kitchen easy and even a bit fun. Once you have your cooking and eating space sorted out, you’ll feel as though a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Instead of wading through endless clutter, you can focus on cooking great food and spending time with the people you love.
This post originally appeared on the Life Storage Blog on 12/15/15 and was revised on 7/15/20 & 7/5/23 to provide new information.