7 small kitchen organization mistakes to swerve

A tiny kitchen 101

Clean and organized kitchen utensil drawer
(Image credit: Simply Sam)

While most of us dream of large, open kitchens. if you live in an apartment, condo, or simply a smaller home, that likely isn’t a reality. One of the biggest challenges of smaller kitchens is keeping these spaces organized. This means we often make mistakes when it comes to finding a place for everything. Still, that doesn’t mean it's impossible to keep organized. Here are some of the small kitchen organization mistakes that professional organizers notice. 

1. You have too many shelves

Whether you've added extra shelves to a rental or renovated a small kitchen, Sam Lund of Simply Sam notes that when it comes to shelves, it turns out you can have too much of a good thing. “The number one issue we see in kitchens small and large are too many shelves and the addition of aftermarket drawer pullouts," she says. "More shelves do not mean more space. Kitchen items often use height and we take away shelves in almost every kitchen space we see.”

2. Trying to fit everything in your kitchen

If you have a smaller kitchen, there simply might not be enough room to store everything in one space. Lund tells me, “Our favorite way to create more space is by adding a nice bookshelf or cabinets with baskets to an empty wall and creating a pantry that is not only beautiful but creates more space in the home.” See if there are other places in your apartment or home where you can store kitchen items that you and your roommates don't use that often.

3. Your kitchen island lacks storage

Even if you don’t have a huge kitchen, there may be enough room for an island. So, if you are installing a permanent one or purchasing a portable one, Lund recommends going with something that has built-in storage.

You can also purchase a nice cabinet for the living room to store extra dishes there. Alternatively, an armoire anywhere is a great place to stash extra dishes or gadgets you only use on occasion.

4. You store too many random items in your kitchen

Many of us use our kitchens as a dumping ground for extra things. While this isn’t a problem in a larger kitchen with abundant storage, this can be disastrous for smaller kitchens. “Limit the space you have to the items that need to be in that area, and keep only kitchen items in your kitchen,” explains Jennifer Jarrett, founder of Jenuinely Contained. “If you have seasonal items that only get used once or twice a year consider storing those elsewhere, binned in the garage or attic for example. Tools or junk drawer items can also find another home elsewhere. While they don't need to be in your kitchen your spatulas and pans do.”  

5. Buying kitchen organizers without measuring first

According to Jarrett, it's crucial to measure a space before buying containers for it. “One of the biggest small kitchen mistakes, in general, is getting overly enthusiastic with product before knowing what exactly needs to be contained,” she says. “It is not uncommon to arrive at a house and a client has already purchased a mishmash of items that aren't effective for their space or the items that they need to contain.”  Yes, finding the measuring tape and taking the time to measure twice isn't the most fun job but you'll save a lot of cash in the long run. There's nothing more annoying than a drawer divider or container that just won't fit.

6. Using large dish-drying racks

If your kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher, there’s a good chance you have one of those large metal drying racks right next to your sink. But those can take up a lot of space that could be used for other purposes. “In a small kitchen counter space is often at a premium and the bulky old metal dish drying racks can really eat into that real estate,” says Jarrett.

She recommends using a roll-up dish drying rack instead. “Not only does it not take up less valuable counter space, but once you are through using it for the day or if you have company coming over and prefer a more streamlined aesthetic — you can roll it up and tuck it under your sink easily. While it doesn't have the traditional compartments for items while they are drying, the ease of use and storability far outweigh the compartmental gains.”

7. You aren't using turntables or rotating containers

If space is at a premium, it’s crucial to take advantage of every inch, especially in corners. Turntables are an easy and smart way to do this. “Turntables allow you to make use of those hard-to-reach corners in an efficient and accessible way," says Jarrett. "Nothing gets lost into the abyss of the deep corner cabinet cause you can see it and get to it by simply turning the tray.”

Another reason to use turntables is that they are versatile and can work in any space. “You can get trays ranging from 10 to 20 inches in clear, white, metal, bamboo, or acacia with higher sides and even divided sections — the variety of options makes it a great option for different styles and different spaces,” says Jarrett.

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!