These 10 simple organization tips show how to turn empty space in kitchen cabinets and drawers into useful storage for supplies and utensils.
Gary Wentz is a Senior Editor at The Family Handyman.
For me, kitchen time is wasted time. I want to get the job done, get out and get on with life. So I designed these projects to give you efficiency, easy access and effortless organization. If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the time savings. If you’re not like me—if you actually enjoy your kitchen—you’ll love the projects even more because cooking will be more convenient.
What It Takes Time: 1 to 4 hours,
depending on the project
Cost: $10 to $50 if you have to buy all the materials. If you have some wood scraps lying around, most of these projects will cost less than $10.
Skill level: Beginner to intermediate
Tools: Drill, sander, table saw
Follow recipes online without worrying about spills frying your expensive tablet.
The shelf folds up against a plywood top.
Aluminum arms hold the tray in position.
This tray will keep your tablet computer off the countertop. As it swings down, it also swings forward, so the tablet isn’t hidden under the cabinet. The mechanism is simple; just make and position the arms exactly as shown here and it will work smoothly. I cut the aluminum parts and rounded the corners with a grinder. When closed, small cabinet door magnets hold up the tray. I clipped the plastic ears off the magnets and glued the magnets into place with epoxy. The liner in the tray is a foam placemat cut to fit. Don’t worry, small magnets won’t harm your tablet; it actually contains magnets.
You can mount a drawer for pot lids under your pot shelf—or under any other cabinet shelf. Before you remove the shelf, put some pencil marks on it to indicate the width of the cabinet opening at its narrowest point (usually at the hinges). Your drawer front and slides can’t extend beyond those marks (or you’ll spend hours building a drawer that won’t open). Then remove the shelf. If it’s made from particleboard, I recommend that you replace it with 3/4-in. plywood and transfer the marks to the new shelf. If you can build a simple drawer box, the rest will be easy.
Mount the drawer on cleats screwed to the cabinet sides.
Deep drawers often contain a jumbled pile of interlocking utensils. My solution is a sliding tray that creates two shallower spaces. Make it 1/8 in. narrower than the drawer box, about half the length and any depth you want (mine is 1-3/4 in. deep). When you position the holes for the adjustable shelf supports, don’t rely on measurements and arithmetic. Instead, position the tray inside the drawer box at least 1/8 in. lower than the cabinet opening and make a mark on the tray. My shelf supports fit tightly into the holes, but yours may require a little super glue.
This simple drawer rests on shelf supports.
Keep trays, baking pans and cutting boards organized and easy to find.
Screw two brackets to the cabinet floor; one to the face frame and one to the back wall of the cabinet (not shown).
I don’t know why the pan or tray you need is always the one at the bottom of the pile. But I do know the solution: Store large, flat stuff on edge rather than stacked up. That way, you can slide out whichever pan you need. Cut 3/4-in. plywood to match the depth of the cabinet, but make it at least an inch taller than the opening so you can fasten it to the face frame as shown. Drill shelf support holes that match the existing holes inside the cabinet. Finally, cut the old shelf to fit the new space.
Keep small stuff from getting lost in deep base cabinets.
They have to be absolutely parallel for smooth operation. So place a plywood spacer between the drawer members as you screw them to the panel. Screw the cabinet members to cleats.
Build the rollout storage panel from 3/4-in. plywood
If you know how to mount a slab of plywood on drawer slides, you can take advantage of all the nifty shelves, hooks and holders sold at home centers. It’s easy as long as you remember two critical things: First, make sure the drawer slides are parallel (see next photo). Second, make your cleats thick enough so that the slides will clear the cabinet door hinges. (I glued 1/2-in. plywood to 3/4-in. plywood to make my cleats.)
To install the panel in the cabinet, reassemble the slides. Hold the whole assembly against the cabinet wall and slide the panel out about 4 in. Drive screws through the cleats at the rear, then slide the panel out completely and drive screws at the front.
The slickest way to store a cutting board for instant access is shown in the next tip. But that only works for cutting boards less than 10-1/2 in. wide. For larger boards, mount a rack on a cabinet door. I used a sheet of 1/4-in.-thick acrylic plastic, but plywood would also work. You can cut acrylic with a table saw or circular saw as long as you cut slowly. Knock off the sharp edges with sandpaper. I also rounded the lower corners with a belt sander. For spacers, I used No. 14-8 crimp sleeves (in the electrical aisle at home centers). But any type of tube or even blocks of wood would work.
The crimp sleeves create a pocket for the cutting board.
The finish washer and crimp sleeve give the holder a clean, attractive appearance. They're available at hardware stores and home centers.
The secret to this project is “rare earth” magnets. The ones I used are just 5/32 in. in diameter and 1/8 in. tall. Browse online to find lots of shapes and sizes. Implant magnets at the corners of your cutting board and add more if needed.
Make the metal plate under the cabinet larger than the cutting board so the board will be easy to put away. Glue the sheet metal to plywood with spray adhesive. Drill holes near the corners and screw it to the underside of a cabinet.
Drill holes sized for the magnets and drop in a dab of super glue. Insert the magnets with a nail head. Slide the nail sideways to release the magnet.
The metal plate grabs the magnets. Make sure you use galvanized steel, not aluminum.
This tray is perfect for pens and paper. When closed, it’s mostly hidden by the cabinet face frame. To install the tray, screw on the hinges first. Then open the cabinet door above and clamp the tray to the underside of the cabinet while you screw the hinges to the cabinet.
Hinges and magnets hold this tray in place under an upper cabinet.
Most cabinets come with only one or two shelves, leaving a lot of wasted space. So I added one (and sometimes two) shelves to most of my cabinets. All it takes is 3/4-in. plywood and a bag of shelf supports. The supports come in two diameters, so take an existing one to the store to make sure you get the right size.
You can size this knife rack to suit any cabinet door and any number of knives. To build it, you just need a table saw and wood scraps. Run the scraps across the saw on edge to cut kerfs. Adjust the blade height to suit the width of the knife blades. You have to remove the saw’s blade guard for these cuts, so be extra careful. Also cut a thin strip to act as an end cap. Glue and clamp the kerfed scraps together and sand the knife rack until the joints are flush. To mount it, use two 1-1/4-in. screws and finish washers.
Cut the kerfs, then glue the pieces together edge to edge.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.