How to organize a kitchen island — 7 expert tips from pros

Organizing a kitchen island will mean that you're able to get as much use out of it as possible. Here's what the experts have to say

An image of a white kitchen with kitchen island in the foreground and white cabinets and countertops to the right
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's no doubt that a well-organized kitchen island can be a game-changer. 

After all, it's likely to be the most-used part of your kitchen, so getting it functioning seamlessly is a must.

Whether you use your kitchen island for storage, preparing food, cooking, doing dishes, entertaining and dining, these are the best ways to rethink it, say experts, so that unnecessary clutter is minimized, helping you to better organize your small kitchen.

Here’s how to organize a kitchen island

When it comes to maxing out kitchen island storage, ensuring that it's not just neat but is functional and well-ordered is vital for making the most of the space available. 

Audra George, owner and pro-organizer at Pretty Neat, says, “A kitchen Island can be a great spot in your kitchen for extra storage and functionality if it's organized correctly.”

Audra George
Audra George

Audra George is a professional organizer who owns Pretty Neat. She loves to organize because she enjoys helping others and believes that organizing can truly impact every area of a person's life.

1. Start by decluttering and categorizing

White kitchen with wood detail with central pendant light over an island; window has a venetian blind

(Image credit: Wayfair)

A good starting place for organizing a kitchen island is to focus on what you're going to trash, and decluttering a small kitchen regularly is particularly important. 

Amy Trager, Certified Professional Organizer, says, “Pull everything out of the island and create categories: baking dishes, serving dishes, utensils, and so on. Once everything is categorized, it's much easier to assess not only the volume of each category but also if everything in each group should be kept. 

Clearing the entire kitchen island out will give you a better idea of how much space you have to work with. 

“Tackling one category at a time, determine if the items have been used in the last year; if shopping today, would it still be bought; and if it's in good enough condition to continue using. If the answer is no, it's likely time to donate or dispose of the item.”

Amy Trager
Amy Trager

Amy Trager is a Certified Professional Organizer® based in Chicago. Certified in 2007, she is also a NAPO member and past president of the Chicago chapter. Since 2006, she has been guiding individuals through the stress of their stuff by creating calm, enjoyable spaces.

2. Put similar items together

kitchen island with open drawer showing pans; hob over drawer with bowl of lemons next to it; kitchen in background; tiled floor

(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

The next step to organize a kitchen island thoroughly (and any other well-used space): focus on grouping items into how you want to store them, such as bakeware, serveware, appliances, and so on. By grouping and storing items in these categories it’ll be easier to find items as and when you need them. 

“Group like items together. Spices together, utensils together, and so on,” advises Audra. 

While Amy explains, “Next time it's time to use measuring cups, it's much easier to look in one place, not three. Having a dedicated place for each category makes it easier for anyone in the kitchen to find and put back whatever is needed.”

3. Reserve your island for one purpose

white open plan room with kitchen island in mint green in foreground with kitchen stools and three pendants over the top

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Kitchen islands are multifunctional spaces but it’s still a good idea to think about what you want the focus of your kitchen island to be. Do you want it to be somewhere that you use purely for entertaining guests? Or, would you prefer to use your kitchen island to prep and cook food at? Pick a key purpose for your kitchen island and organize it around that purpose. 

Certified Professional Organizer, Sara Bereika says, “To achieve a well-organized kitchen, you should identify different zones for different purposes. For instance, the kitchen island could be reserved for food preparation tools such as knives, spoons, whisks, can-openers, spatulas, graters, pots, and pans. It is not a place for storing daily mail or everyday plates and silverware. 

“By creating this boundary, you can easily avoid confusion and keep things organized in the kitchen.”

Sara Bereika
Sara Bereika

Sara Bereika is a Certified Professional Organizer. She has always been an organizing enthusiast, spending hours as a child organizing her clothes and toys in her room. She was raised on principles of efficiency and structure. Her father valued order, and her grandmother, Jane, was an organizer before organizers existed. 

4. Keep item function and accessibility in mind

Open kitchen drawers with pegged drawer organizer and pans and cutlery inside

(Image credit: Rational)

When storing items in or on your kitchen island, it’s important to think about what that item is used for and how accessible you will want and need it to be. 

Audra says, “Store items with function in mind; Store utensils near the stove that you use to cook and cutting boards and knives close to one another so they are there when you need them.” 

She also advises that it’s good to, “Keep in mind the things you use the most in your kitchen and put those in highly accessible places; things you do not utilize much can go towards the back out of the way.”

When it comes to knowing the best kitchen storage ideas, ensuring that you have adequate storage solutions on hand for keeping items neat and ordered is vital. From small kitchen cabinet organizers to knowing how to store appliances in a small kitchen, there are lots of storage solutions that you can utilize. 

5. Consider appliance storage carefully

A modern white kitchen with built-in hob in foreground of the kitchen island; in the background a minimalist kitchen in white and pale wood with black detail

(Image credit: Smeg)

You may currently have appliances on your kitchen island or you may be thinking about integrating them into the design. Either way, it’s a good idea to take the time to think about where and how to position your appliances on or in your kitchen island, so to ensure that it remains organized and clutter-free. 

'In my experience, a kitchen island is a good place to site your hob so that the cook can face outwards while prepping and engage with other people in the room. However, I would avoid having a bulky gas hob on an island, opting for a sleek induction hob that is also arguably safer and easier to keep clean,' advises Real Homes' Content Director Lucy Searle

'On the dining/living room side of the island, a drinks refrigerator is a great option, since it allows diners to access cold drinks without getting in the way of the chef, too.'

It’s also worth thinking about how you store appliances in a small kitchen, as well as accessories or essentials that come with different appliances. 

Heavier appliances, such as stand mixers, are best kept in deep drawers so that you don't have to crouch to retrieve them, while smaller items, such as coffee pods can be usefully kept neat and to hand in purpose-made buys, such as this Joseph Joseph slimline coffee pod storage tray from Amazon, to complement your pod coffee maker, for instance. 

6. Keep drawers and cabinets organized

pale blue kitchen with countertops on the kitchen island in the foreground; background includes a cream colored larder, chimney breast and artwork

(Image credit: Neptune)

One of the first steps in organizing a kitchen island is ensuring you know all the tricks for organizing cabinets in a small kitchen, and drawers, too.

Audra says, “Use small bins (like these clear plastic storage caddies from Amazon) and baskets or drawer organizers (like this drawer organizer from Amazon) to keep similar items together making it easy to store items and locate what you need, as well as, ease of putting things back when you are done.”

7. Invest in organizing tools

Ikea basket shelf insert used to double space in a kitchen cupboard with food containers

(Image credit: Ikea)

For keeping a kitchen island organized, having the right tools on hand is vital. 

Sara says, “Another great organizing tool is a canister (like these neutral utensil canisters from Amazon) that can be placed on the countertop. Many items that are used for cooking and food preparation are large and bulky. You can put large ladles, spoons, spatulas, and graters in the canister and keep smaller items that fit inside a drawer better in the drawer.

“Consider using small hooks (like these easy-to-fit peel and stick hooks from Amazon) on your cabinet doors to hang the dish towels you need while prepping food. You can also store lids on the cabinet door with small hooks.

“If you don’t have pull-out drawers (like these expandable pull-out drawers from Amazon) in your kitchen island, it might be a good idea to get some installed. Prepping and cooking food is much more pleasant when you don’t have to get down on your knees to find the tools you need.”


What should go in the center of a kitchen island?

Ideally, you want the center to look nice, while also ensuring that it remains clear and clutter-free. For a larger island countertop, opting for a larger multi-purpose item, that doubles as decor and a functional piece of kit, such as a fruit bowl, can work well. Whereas, if you have a smaller kitchen island it’s usually best to keep the center of the island completely clear, to avoid making the space look and feel cluttered.

Knowing how to organize a kitchen island, whether it’s a small kitchen island or a larger design, can feel challenging, but it’s actually far easier than you might think. The key is to decide on what you want to use your kitchen island for, whether that’s cooking, dining at, or entertaining – or any combination of the three, as well as taking the time to put adequate storage solutions in place to keep your kitchen island neat and ordered. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.