12 Ideas for Organizing with Open Shelving

Updated: Jan. 30, 2023

Open shelving is a popular storage solution whether you live in a small apartment or are just looking for a new way to organize your kitchen. However, open shelving can look cluttered and messy if not organized right. Here are 12 ideas for organizing your open shelves.

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Group Items Together

If you are storing your drinking glasses on open shelving, group them together. Same goes with spices, plates and serving bowls.

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Use Containers

Open shelves aren’t always the best place to store food, but if you have limited storage and need to store food on open shelving, invest in some containers with lids. Not only will they help keep your food from going stale, they are more attractive than a bunch of boxes and cans.

Photo: Kseniia Oshchepkova/Shutterstock

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Think Heavy to Light

If you plan to use open shelving for heavier items such as mixers and food processors, put these heavy items on lower shelves so they are easier to get down. Put lighter items such as cups and small bowls on higher shelves, but be sure to keep everyday items within reach.

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Use Baskets and Bins

Whether it’s in the kitchen, the bathroom or the toy room, baskets and bins can come in handy. Use baskets or bins in fun colors to store small items such as building blocks, art supplies, guest toiletries and cloth napkins or dish towels.

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shutterstock_528544441 bookcase library
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If your open bookshelf is looking a bit crowded, see if you can move things around to get more storage space. Push books all the way to the back and you’ll likely have some room to put out a candle or a couple framed pictures in front. You can also try stacking some books to create more storage space.

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shutterstock_185909885 kitchen open shelving
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Stick to What You Use

There’s a good chance you only use that tart pan once or twice a year, so get it off the open shelf. Only store items you use regularly or want to display on open shelving.

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Create a Solid Base

If you have metal shelves, consider using something like a cutting board or decorative serving tray to place underneath smaller items. This will help create a sturdier base for items such as spices that may otherwise fall over.

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Think About Height

For open shelving in the bathroom, mudroom or toy room, keep height in mind so everything is within easy reach. If you have high shelves in the kitchen that are hard to reach, use them for decorative items or pieces you don’t use as often.

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Edit Books

If you have more books than you have shelf space, it’s time to edit your collection. Put out the cookbooks you know you’ll use regularly, along with books that you know you might read again. Store all others out of sight or better yet, donate them.

Photo: tadamichi/Shutterstock

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Make it Pretty

Display artwork, found objects and other treasures you’ve collected on open shelving. Place smaller pieces of pottery in front of books or prop up a painting behind those drinking glasses. You can also use some open space for pretty plants and flowers.

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Go Big and Small

Mix and match big items on the same shelf with small items if possible. Too many small items on a shelf can look cluttered.

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Organize and Organize Again

There’s a good chance that when it comes to organizing open shelving—whether in the bathroom, toy room or kitchen—you probably won’t get it done the first time. Every few weeks, look at the space and remove any items that aren’t working or try reorganizing so the items you use regularly are right where you need them.

Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock