How to organize kitchen shelves — 7 tricks from design experts

Maximise your space and functionality by learning how to organize kitchen shelves, as shared by experts

White kitchen shelves with plates and cookware
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to organize kitchen shelves is essential if you're going to properly utilize this invaluable storage space. 

Shelves are great for making use of otherwise dead vertical space in your kitchen, but understanding how to keep them neat, ordered, and functional is key to making the most of the storage they can offer. 

To help you better organize your small kitchen shelves, we spoke to professional organizers for tips to whip them into shape efficiently — and keep them that way.

How to organize kitchen shelves 

We've all faced down the battle of organizing a small kitchen with too much stuff, so our experts have come prepared with their best tips from years doing this for a living, including the best buys to set you on the path to shelving success. 

1. Make regular decluttering a priority

An image of cream shelving unit with cups, plates, glasses, and other crockery mismatched on shelves

(Image credit: Canva)

Professional organizer Jean Prominski says to first evaluate what you can get rid of when planning how to organize kitchen shelves. “Prevent shelves from looking cluttered by regularly assessing them and being honest about what you really use."

While you might want to hang onto every item you can, the reality is most of the items on your shelves will be collecting dust and wasting space. If you've not used an item in a while, be brave, toss it out and declutter your small kitchen

She explains, “If you’re not sure you’ll use something, collect your extraneous kitchen items, box them up and put a date on the lid. If you don’t use the items in a year, pass them on to someone who will.”

If you really can't bear to part with everything, you could, instead declutter without throwing things away

Jean Prominski
Jean Prominski

An artist, productivity coach, and professional organizer, Jean Prominski is the founder of Seattle Sparkle, LLC, a company that helps its clients reorganize their homes into clean, organized, manageable, relaxing, and inspiring spaces. 

2. Group similar items together

Instead of peppering your kitchen shelves with a random mix of items, Jean recommends grouping similar items together. She says, "Use containers (such as these clear storage containers from Amazon) to group like items on shelves."

For a more aesthetically pleasing kitchen storage look, Jean says, "Take it up a notch by using attractive, similar containers (such as these bamboo storage caddies from Target). This uniformity will make things look better, as will using attractive labels (this mini label maker from Amazon should come in handy) as needed.”

3. Invest in tiered and expandable organizers

An image of cream shelving unit with crockery and appliances on it, with a kitchen island and stalls in the foreground

(Image credit: Canva)

To make the most of the shelving space you have, utilizing the best small kitchen organizers, such as tiered expandable organizers from Amazon can be a game changer. 

Jean says, “Use tiered items (like this Joseph Joseph organizer from Amazon) for items like spices and jars on shelves.” 

Likewise, organizing expert Shantae Duckworth recommends these items for maximizing vertical storage potential with designated sections, whilst not sacrificing precious shelf space. 

“I like to use adjustable tiered shelf organizers for dishes and pot lids. This not only adds an organized visual look to the kitchen but also prevents items from getting lost in the back of, or off the shelf.”

Shantae Duckworth
Shantae Duckworth

Shantae Duckworth is a professional organizer and founder of Shantaeize Your Space in Seattle, Washington. She is a Member of National Association of Black Professional Organizers, and Member of Black Girls Who Organize Group. She is a public speaker and writer about organization as well.

4. Use storage bins

For shelves that look properly organized kitchen storage bins can work wonders. 

Shantae says “Another kitchen shelf hack is to use clear bins to keep small items in check and maintain a clutter-free appearance. This hack is especially effective for open shelving units where items may be more visible. 

“Opt for clear, stackable storage bins, these bins not only provide a clean look but also make it easy to locate and access your items without rummaging through the shelves.”

While, for keeping storage bins (like these clear storage bins from Target) neat and easy to use, interior designer Chenise Hinds advises, “Labeling containers is an important step. By writing what’s inside you’ll be able to more easily find items as and when you need them.”

Chenise Hinds
Chenise Hinds

Chenise Hinds is an interior designer, home stager, and licensed realtor. She was a graduate Assistant at the prestigious New York School of Interior Design, where she cultivated her keen eye for aesthetics and functional design. She organizes homes and stages them for her clients on a daily basis, so she knows a thing or two about cutting clutter and making the most of the space that is available to her.

5. Be cohesive

An image of wooden shelving unit with plants, crockery, glasses, and other kitchen items on them

(Image credit: Canva)

For a more stylish approach to small kitchen storage, Shantae says, "To have a cohesive kitchen look, incorporate decorative storage boxes to hide smaller items and maintain your aesthetic. Choose boxes that complement your overall decor to elevate the visual look of your small shelves.”

Likewise, Jean advises it's a good idea to, “Upgrade your wares. If you’ve got lots of open shelving, use attractive dishes to add style instead of boring or mismatched dishes.”

6. Add a Lazy Susan to save space on corner shelves

Corner shelves can be challenging to make the most of. A great hack for using this compact area of space well, according to Jean, is to add aturntable organizer such as this one from Target). 

Jean says, “Use a Lazy Susan for storing small items together. This type of organizer works well to use every inch of space, especially if the shelf spans a corner." 

7. Determine how you use your shelves

An image of black metal shelving unit with wooden shelves with jars or dried goods, potted herbs and oil bottles on them

(Image credit: Canva)

When deciding how to use your shelves, be mindful about where each thing should go. 

"The things you don’t use daily can be positioned on higher shelves or in places that aren’t as handy," Chenise says. "The items you use on a more regular basis should be kept within easy reach."


How can you keep shelves organized and neat?

Jean says, “Create an organizing/ cleaning schedule. Your neglected shelves will thank you! Even spending five minutes straightening things, dusting, and wiping down the shelf will make it look so much better.”

Now you've nailed how to organize kitchen shelves, turn your attention to decluttering your kitchen drawers and bolster every inch of your kitchen. Function for the win.

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.