Homeowner’s Guide to Organizing Your Kitchen

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Bring order to your kitchen with a smart organization and storage plan that will keep your countertop, cabinets and drawers extra tidy.

Kitchens are hardworking spaces where cooking, gathering and an array of other tasks happen. Smart kitchen organization is what keeps the space humming in good, efficient order.

“The kitchen is often the heart of a home, where people gather and where the action is often happening,” says Amy Trager, a certified professional organizer. “To have an organized kitchen not only creates an inviting space for these gatherings, but allows for easy prep of meals, reduction in food waste and quicker clean-up time for the whole family.”

How to Set Up a Kitchen

From plates to food processors, kitchens are typically stuffed with all manner of items, some useful, some not. Start the kitchen organizing process by taking stock of what is in your kitchen.

Like that long-expired condiment jar lurking in the back of the refrigerator, there are likely other things taking up space that have got to go. As you sort, cull duplicate items, toss or recycle what’s no longer usable and part with things you never use. Take items with life left in them to a thrift store or a charity that accepts household items.

With your stuff inventoried, assess your kitchen layout and determine where items belong. Think about how you use the space, what frequently used items need to be close at hand and what can be relegated to the far corners.

Katy Winter, founder of Katy’s Organized Home, recommends labeling cabinets with sticky notes as you start to decide what should go where.

“You have a blank slate now that everything is out of the cabinets, so it’s a good time to really think about what was working and what was not working,” says Winter.

A big picture organization plan includes solutions for the smallest of spoons and spice jars to the biggest sheet pans and stockpots. With your overarching strategy simmering, turn up the organizing heat with solutions specific to common kitchen needs.

Cooking Utensils

Store your most commonly used utensils in a drawer that’s closest to where you prep food. Use drawer dividers and trays to group like items together. Before shopping, measure your drawers to ensure you’re buying organizers that will fit and maximize space.

To keep dividers and trays in place, Shannon Krause, chief operating organizer at Tidy Nest, recommends putting museum gel or self-stick clear bumpers on the bottom of drawer organizers to keep them from sliding around.

Dishes

Store dishes and glassware close to your dishwasher and sink to make putting away clean items quick. Elise Hay, founder of Organized Sanctuaries, recommends using shelf risers to maximize cabinet space.

Pots and Pans

Bulky pots and pans are best stored in a roomy lower cabinet.  “The challenge is that most of those cabinet shelves are deep,” says Hay. “Installing pull-out drawers will transform the most basic kitchen cabinet into a customized space.”

Hay recommends chrome pull-out cabinet drawers to keep pots and pans in order. Another option is a DIY pot and pan pullout.

Bakeware

The varied shapes and sizes of cookie sheets, baking pans and specialty items like rolling pins and cookie cutters makes it challenging to keep bakeware organized. The best method is to carve out a section of your pantry or one cabinet for bakeware.

Use labeled bins to corral items like measuring cups and spoons. Shelf dividers make stacked pans more accessible. If you have a narrow vertical cabinet, break the “group like with like” rule and store large cookie sheets there. Krause recommends a bamboo organizer to keep the sheets upright.

Countertop Appliances

Just because an appliance is categorized as countertop doesn’t mean it has to be on display there, especially if you seldom use it. Only keep out what you use daily, such as your coffee maker. Trager recommends having one location for your lesser-used appliances, whether a low cabinet (many appliances are too heavy to put up too high) or a pantry shelf.

Refrigerator and Freezer Items

Group like items together in your refrigerator and freezer. Commit to a regular cleanout schedule to toss anything that’s past its prime and tidy up the rest of the contents. Krause suggests storing items in clear containers so you can see what’s inside, and using silicone Stasher Bags in the freezer to preserve the freshness of food.

Pantry Food

Zoning is the name of the pantry organizing game. “Create zones, with prioritized real estate for the items you frequently use,” says Hay. “I’m a huge fan of decanting grains, baking items and snacks into glass or plastic containers so that you can see how much you have left of each item.”

Cleaning Supplies

Underneath the sink is the most common place to store cleaning supplies. To cut down on clutter, only store items you use for cleaning in the kitchen. But if this is your home’s cleaning supply central, Trager says to organize other cleaners in a caddy that you can easily tote around the house.

Junk Drawer

All those odds and ends have to go somewhere, so Krause says to think of this space as your “utility drawer” instead. Like with utensils, drawer dividers save the day. “They’re essential to keeping the drawer tidy,” says Krause. “Everything should be contained; never ‘floating around’ in a drawer.”

Alicia Chilton
Alicia Chilton is an experienced writer and editor, based in Des Moines, Iowa. After spending several years as a digital editor for Better Homes and Gardens, covering all manner of topics related to home, Alicia took her writing and editorial skills into the marketing and communications world, where she has tapped into the power of storytelling to connect audiences to brands in the gardening and nonprofit spheres.