The kitchen is one of those problem areas that can be hard to tackle – even if you’re the most organized person in the room. The space is in constant flux, gets used every single day, and requires the most amount of upkeep just to keep it looking decent enough – but it is possible to learn how to organize a kitchen once and for all.
'I recommend that you designate a morning to look at every item in your kitchen,' says Rhea Becker, founder of The Clutter Queen. 'Open every cabinet and drawer. Be sure that you really need or want those items. Toss out or donate anything you are not using—and repeat this process on a regular basis.'
Streamlining your kitchen this way will enable you to see exactly what you have, instead of having to dig through little packets of soy sauce and plastic cutlery to find the things you need...
How to organize a kitchen from top to bottom
Ensuring your kitchen stays organized and efficient is going to require a regular amount of upkeep and effort. However, there are lots of tricks to help make the whole process much more sustainable and easy to tackle.
Dan Wiener, founder & lead interior designer, Homedude, comments: ‘The kitchen can quickly become the busiest room of the house. A lot of time is spent there within a day so having clutter everywhere and not knowing where anything is can mess up your productivity. It's important to keep it tidy because an organized kitchen gives you more space to get more done. A great storage system is essential, and sorted kitchen drawers will make your life easier. It's safer, more time-efficient, and makes things easier to find.’
Below, we spoke to more home organization and improvement experts to get their insights on exactly how to organize a kitchen—from top to bottom.
1. Tackle one area at a time
Don't try to clean out the whole kitchen in one day. Start by cleaning out the countertops, then move on to the cupboards, then move on to the refrigerator and finally the floor.' After completing one area, you will feel more motivated to finish the other areas,' says Zac Houghton, CEO, Loftera. It will also open help identify any areas that could do with more in the way of kitchen storage.
2. Clean out before you clean up
'Take everything out of each cabinet, drawer and shelf before you start cleaning them,' suggests Houghton. 'This will allow you to see what needs to be thrown away or recycled and allow you to easily put things back after they are cleaned.' When all the items are in a pile on your counter or table, it will be easier to see what you're working with. Then once you've sorted through your space to throw away any trash or broken items, cleaning a kitchen properly, ahead of getting organized will be a breeze.
3. Ensure what you use frequently is accessible
'One of the most life-changing things you can do when organizing your kitchen is to make sure all of your essentials are front and center,' says Andre Kazimierski, CEO, Improovy. 'Anything you use often– like spices, paper towels, and sponges– should be right out in the open where you can access them conveniently.' Not only will this make your time in the kitchen far simpler, it’ll also create more of a flow while you do what you need to do. Keeping cute spice racks and the like is a good way to have essentials on show in a controlled and good looking fashion.
4. Install shelving
On any free wall, install kitchen shelves. They will come in handy for so many items that can’t find room inside your kitchen units or countertops. 'Use your shelving to store your favorite recipe books or keep your jars of spices and herbs handy,' says Amy Stansfield, home improvement expert at Wallsauce. 'Shelves mean no more of the floor space will be used up as well meaning you can maximise your cooking area and not make it feel small and cramped.'
5. Use pull out drawers for easy access
Wiener of Homedude notes: ‘The organization of a kitchen improves its functionality. Items should be accessible enough to be easily sorted through. Having pull-out cabinet drawers is a great way to keep things organized without the hassle of putting everything out just to reach something that's all in the way in the back! These drawers slide all the way out so you can quickly find what you're looking for.’
6. Make use of baskets and boxes
Use an assortment of different sized baskets or boxes inside your kitchen cupboards to categorize and keep items looking tidy. For instance, have a box for all lentils, another for pasta and rice etc. By doing this, you will also be able to find what you want a lot quicker.
7. Consider sustainability in how you store items
Store dried ingredients and baking bits in reusable storage bowls, tins and caddies to keep things fresh and ready-to-use. Sustainable options made from glass, wood or bamboo are popular choices in homes that favor a greener approach to living. Versatile nested designs mean that you can save on space when certain sizes aren’t in use.
8. Nod to overdoor hanging storage
These aren’t just for doors! They also provide excellent storage for the inside of your kitchen cupboards or as cool pantry storage. 'Find overdoor hanging storage that is as long as your cupboard height to make the most of this unused space,' suggests Stansfield. 'Remember to measure the gap between the door and shelving inside the cupboard before purchasing one. Some provide more space than others.' Use this storage to fill with all sorts – cleaning items under the sink cupboard, for storing tea towels, kitchen foil and baking paper and whatever else you want to have easier access to.
9. Invest in an over-the-sink drying rack
It’s very frustrating when you wash the dishes, and the water gets all over the kitchen countertop—but an over-the-sink drying rack can keep your dishes dry and doesn’t create any mess around the kitchen if you're washing up old school instead of investing in a new dishwasher.
10. Give every last thing a home
The best way to keep your kitchen organized is to take that classic Marie Kondo approach which will make it easy to remember which parts of the room your materials rest in. 'Don’t put the spices in the same cabinet as the pots or pans, and keep silverware in a different compartment than big tools like your mixers and your spatulas,' says organization expert Shawn Laib. Give all items a home and your kitchen will automatically channel zen, organized vibes.
11. Keep non-cooking activities to another room
It's no secret that kitchens are pretty multi-functioning, especially if you've got a breakfast bar up which makes the perfect spot for eating, chopping and doing homework... But still, 'Try to keep all non-food or cooking-related activities in another room in the house or apartment,' suggests Laib. 'I know it’s easy to let kids do their homework at the kitchen table or run a poker game with your friends out there—and you can do those things, but never let the items used in these activities stay in the kitchen. Once you are done doing something non-cooking-related, move it out of the room.'
Where should I put things in my kitchen?
'Most kitchens have very limited space—so you’ll want to use it wisely,' says Brenda Scott, owner and operator, Tidy My Space. Here’s a handy primer on exactly where to put things in your kitchen to make the most of the space you do have.
- Consider using the top upper cabinets for light-weight items that are less used but still needed.
- Group like items together.
- Adjust the shelves, use risers, under shelf hanging shelves or even purchase another full shelf to accommodate smaller dishes.
- Most used items should be at eye level and nearest to the place used. For example, plates should be near the cooking surface and glasses should be near the sink.
- Use drawer dividers for utensils, pots and pans
- Place your largest pot in a cabinet with its lid on. Then turn over that lid and place it right back on the pot. The lid forms a relatively flat surface on which to stack your other pots.
- Use lower cabinets for heavier items like larger kitchen appliances that you don’t use often enough to merit a spot on your counter
- Consider vertical dividers for baking sheets, pizza pans and trays instead of stacking them in a drawer.
- Store all food that doesn't need to be refrigerated in your pantry
- Get your pantry organization on point by grouping like items together and follow a first in, first out method to avoid expired or stale food
- Label all decanted food (including the label from the original container for food tracing, allergies and ingredients)
- Plan for a step stool in your kitchen plans, this helps to reach items on the top shelf safely.
- Utensil drawers should only be used for your day-to-day utensils. Those corn holders you haven’t pulled out since 2007? Might be time to put them in storage. Wiener weighs in: ‘Sometimes having all utensils put together in one container can slow down productivity in the kitchen. It's why people love utensil trays! But sometimes these trays can end up being too small or too big, so only some utensils can be placed in them. This only ends up wasting both money and space. An expandable bamboo utensil tray is an awesome solution for that problem! It's adjustable, so you can tailor the compartments to fit the size of all your utensils.’
- Invest in a modular drawer organizer with separate compartments for each type of silverware.