This article is about how to organize a kitchen. Now a days a kitchen is not just a space for meal preparation, it is the hub of the household. It gets used more often than any other room in the house. So organize the kitchen to make your life easier. Regardless of the size of the kitchen, you can transform it into a functional and productive space.
If you haven’t read my article on tips yet, I strongly suggest you read it before you begin organizing any of the rooms. That article will help you get through these tasks a whole lot easier and keep your results once you are done. I will try to repeat a few things here if I think it will help - like getting your family involved. This is important for maintaining the organized home.
It will take time to organize a kitchen since this is a large task. Have realistic goals depending on the size of the kitchen and items you have. We will split tasks into small chunks, so you can complete them in a reasonable amount of time and make progress. One way to do this is to set time limits. Do what you can in 1 or 2 hour maximum. Set this as your goal. You might be tempted to do the next task but only proceed if you have time left in your 1 or 2 hour time limit. If not, wait for the next day or weekend - otherwise you will be exhausted. Also look at what you have accomplished and enjoy it. That will inspire and motivate you.
Your first task as you begin to organize the kitchen should be clearing items in open areas as explained in article Home Organization Tips (when you begin). Separate them into five categories as explained. You can further divide and group the “Keep Here” items into spices, food, utensils, pots and pans, storage containers etc. in boxes or bags. Remember to label them. The idea is to eliminate the need for sorting them again later.
Start to organize the kitchen with one kitchen drawer (not the junk drawer). What does this drawer mostly have? – utensils, silverware, or small gadgets?. Set aside that drawer for the majority item. Lets say most of the items in this drawer are utensils. Designate this drawer as your utensils drawer. It is helpful if it is closer (within easy reach) to your stove. But don’t worry if it is not. You can always move it to the ones closer once you are done with all the drawers. When you do that (rearranging), put spices, utensils, daily use pots & pans on the right side of your stove if you are right handed and vice versa.
Only take the "other things" out - keeping the majority items inside the drawer. That way there won’t be a huge pile of things outside, which could be overwhelming. As you take the other items out, discard or recycle the things you don’t need or use, or are broken. Keep similar things in a pile or put in boxes. You can also use grocery or trash bags if you don’t have boxes. Make sure you label them for easy identification later on.
Take pride in what you have accomplished even though it is something as small as one kitchen drawer. Again, come back and look at the organized drawer to keep yourself motivated! You completed the first step in your goal to organize the kitchen.
Continue the process with the rest of the drawers. As you do, if you find items belonging to the already designated drawers, put those items in them instead of the boxes, grocery or trash bags.
If you have limited number of drawers you can combine items together – for example utensils with small gadgets (like peeler, grater, slicer), silverware with serve ware etc. But make sure you separate them by dividing the drawers with 1 by 4’s or thick cardboard pieces cut to size. If using 1 by 4 cut it a little smaller than the depth of the drawer (but needs to sit snugly) so that you can put scratch guards on both ends to prevent damage. You can also buy inexpensive utensil trays or baskets from supermarkets or dollar stores.
Storing plastic and aluminum wraps, parchment paper, plastic food storage bags etc. in drawers makes for easy access.
Once finished with the drawers and as you are getting the hang of it, you can move to upper or base cabinets. This is the next step in your journey to organize the kitchen. Don’t forget the 1 or 2 hour time limit. So be sure to do one cabinet or one shelf (pantry or cabinet) at a time.
When working on cabinets, put lighter items in the upper ones and heavier ones in the bottom cabinets. That way it is easier and safer to put them in as well as take them out. You won’t be lifting heavy items above your head. If you are right handed put spices, utensils, daily use pots & pans on the right side of your stove and vice versa.
In base cabinets, put all your saucepans on one shelf, sauté pans on another one in the same cabinet. Likewise store stockpots/dutch ovens on one shelf, roasting pans on another one. Stack these by putting smaller ones inside larger ones. Then place large lids facing up making a flat surface to put another small lid face down. If you have limited space to separate the pots and pans, stack them by putting saucepans inside dutch ovens and dutch ovens inside sauté pans and store lids inside roasting pans and or stock pots. If you have drawers on your base cabinets instead of shelves, designate drawers for each group of items like sauté pans, sauce pans, dutch ovens, stock pots etc.
It helps if these items are kept in cabinets closer to the dishwasher or the stove depending on your preference. As you organize the kitchen, don't forget convenience and functionality.
If you have a corner cabinet without a Lazy Susan, make that into an appliance garage for your blender, juicer, food processor, rice/slow cooker, hand/stand mixer, salad spinner, coffee/spice grinder etc. Make sure the ones used more often are kept in the front. Never keep more than 2 appliances on the counter. This will keep your countertops clutter free making the space look bigger.
Canned goods can be stored on the bottom shelf of a base cabinet by grouping vegetables, beans, soups, tomatoes etc., in separate plastic box/baskets (you can also use cardboard boxes or cartons from the grocery store). You can store boxed foods (like pasta, snacks and precooked meals) grouped on the top shelf of a base cabinet. This makes for easy access since base cabinets are much deeper and darker than upper cabinets. If one shelf of base cabinet is not enough for canned goods you can always stack the canned goods in boxes by keeping often used items in the box on the top.
Designate a base cabinet for appliances if you have a Lazy Susan in the corner cabinet. Store canned and boxed goods, flour, lentils, sugar etc. on the Lazy Susan. This makes for easy access and selection.
The same method of grouping and using baskets works for your pantry shelves too.
Dishwasher/dish soap, anti bacterial wipes and trash/grocery bags can be stored on one side of the sink cabinet and trash can on the other side. Storing plastic grocery bags in tall antibacterial or similar container will save space.
If you are not storing trashcan under the sink, use that space for oils and vegetables like potatoes, onions, garlic etc., which do not need to be refrigerated. If not using plastic basket or cardboard box lined with plastic wrap/trash bag to store oils, make sure you line this cabinet. It doesn’t need to be fancy. You can use a trash bag to do this. Also keep a fire extinguisher here.
Like drawers, you can designate cabinets or shelves of cabinets for specific items or group of like items when you organize the kitchen.
Use the bottom shelf of an upper cabinet to store dinnerware by stacking dinner plates, salad plates and saucers. Put bowls inside casserole or serving dishes and place them on the other side of the same shelf. Arrange the glasses on one shelf or one side of the shelf. Place mugs in another shelf or on the other side of the same shelf as glasses if there is space.
It helps if these items are kept in cabinets closer to the dishwasher.
Designate an upper cabinet for your food storage containers. Stack them to optimize space. You can use the same cabinet to store condiments, salad dressings, homey syrups, tea/coffee etc. Grouping these items in inexpensive plastic wire baskets available at supermarkets or dollar stores makes for easy cleanup if they leak or spill.
Designate a bottom shelf in an upper cabinet near the stove for all your spices. Use upper shelves of the same cabinet for bakeware (except for large cookie sheets, which can be placed in the range/oven drawer or a base cabinet), baking supplies (flour, baking soda/powder, extracts etc.) and also mixing bowls.
You can reuse boxes of parchment paper, cling wrap or aluminum foil as risers to elevate items like spices, jars, cans etc. in the back of the cabinet so that they are more visible. Leave the empty cardboard tube inside for strength. Wrap the boxes with contact paper for a decorative touch.
Similarly spices, condiments, salad dressings and baking supplies (baking soda/powder, extracts etc.) can be stored in the upper cabinet Lazy Susan if you have one.
Always group like items together whether it is spices or coffee/tea or Peanut butter/jelly, honey/syrups, condiments/salad dressings etc. Grouping those items in inexpensive plastic wire baskets available at supermarkets or dollar stores makes for easy cleanup if they leak or spill.
When putting things on the top shelves of the upper cabinets, it helps if you put them in baskets/boxes for easy reach - You may not be able to see the things at the back once the shelf is full. Also put items that are not used as often on top shelves.
Put aprons, kitchen towels, potholders and oven mitts in a basket and store them on the left side and disposable plates, cups and bake ware on the right side of the small cabinet above the stove. You can also put place mats, napkins, napkin rings etc. in another basket and stack on top of the basket on the left.
Store rarely used items like party supplies and holiday dishes and drink ware in the cabinet above the refrigerator.
You can use the same strategy of grouping items (like vegetables, fruits, meat and cheese) in baskets for the freezer too. Store smaller items like butter, ice cream, stocks or food in quart containers on the freezer door shelves. Write the date when the food was cooked so you can plan accordingly.
You can also designate the top of the refrigerator as breakfast central by grouping similar items like cereals, pancake/waffle mixes, honey/syrups, coffee, tea, sweetener and creamer in different baskets. Baskets with handle on one side are available at supermarkets for this purpose. This will also free up cabinet space.
Useful tips while you organize a kitchen:
For additional tips, see home organization tips (While you organize)
Now you have completed your goal to organize the kitchen. Congratulations! This is by far the biggest task in your whole house. Reward yourself for a job well done! Show it off to your friends and family!
Don't forget maintenance. After all, you put in a lot of effort to organize the kitchen. Don't let it go back to old ways.
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