Sure, you throw out expired foods as needed and try to keep your countertops tidy, but when was the last time you gave your kitchen the full reorganization it deserved? If you’re struggling to come up with a date, then it’s been too long.
Figuring out how to organize your kitchen can be a daunting task. There’s probably no other room in your house that’s wholly devoted to storing things (and, if there is, we encourage you to check out our other tips for keeping a clutter-free home). But fret no more; we’re here to give you some tips for tackling every area of your family’s favorite room and most popular gathering spot.
We’ve broken things out by kitchen area, but there are some tasks you need to perform before you can start installing those door hangers and wire racks.
First things first: Why prep work is so important
Before you can organize, you need to go through all of your kitchen items. And, yes, we mean every last ladle and teaspoon. Now don’t stop at step one — hear us out.
Your kitchen likely contains a lot of stuff that you no longer want or need. Are you still using that juicer to make green juice every morning? Or would it be better to sell it for a little extra cash? Do you really need three colanders, or would one do? When you clear the clutter, it makes organizing so much easier.
Start with your fridge and pantry, as you probably know what’s in them pretty well. Then move to your cabinets, closets, and countertops. Divide the room into sections, and then enjoy the satisfaction of checking each one off your list. For extra credit, give everything a good scrub down once you’re done.
How to organize your pantry
Once you’ve thrown out expired food and donated anything applicable to a local nonprofit organization or food pantry, it’s time to organize what’s left.
Group like items together based on category — like grains, cereals, oils, snacks, baking essentials, etc. — and find organizational items that work for each type. For example:
- Oils and bottles can fit on a lazy susan.
- Cans can be neatly arranged in a dispenser or rack.
- Bags of potato chips and other similar snacks can fit inside a square wicker basket.
- Pasta and other grains, like rice and cereal, can be taken out of their packaging and stored inside sealed canisters to lock in freshness (and look great, too!).
If you want to maximize your pantry space, consider an over-the-door wire rack or some hooks inside your pantry for aprons or reusable grocery bags, as well.
How to organize your kitchen cabinets
After you clear out and sort through your cabinets, don’t put anything back in until you have a plan of attack. And while you’re at it, now is a great time to take advantage of the blank canvas and line your shelves with a high-quality, water-resistant liner.
Once you’re ready to stock your cabinets again, think about how you use your items. For example, keep spices, pots, and pans near the stove so you’re not running around your kitchen trying to get what you need. Make sure you have a mitt near the oven, coffee mugs near the coffee maker — you get the idea.
For items you use less often, utilize the space at the back of your cabinets. If you only use those melamine wine glasses in the summertime, there’s no reason to have them easily within reach, right? Push them to the back until it’s pool party time.
And if you’re wondering what goes in your upper cabinets versus the lower ones, here are some good rules of thumb:
- Upper cabinets: food, spices, glassware, dishes
- Lower cabinets: larger serving pieces, small kitchen appliances, pots, pans, mixing bowls, baking sheets, cutting boards
How to organize your fridge
The reasons why you wouldn’t want an overly stuffed fridge are obvious — you can’t keep up with everything you have inside, and it leads to spoiled foods, blocked air vents, and poor energy efficiency. But did you know that having an empty fridge isn’t ideal either? When a fridge has lots of open space, it can’t maintain a cool temperature. Go with the Goldilocks method and keep yours more than half full.
While everyone has different needs and opinions when it comes to organizing what’s in their fridge, here are some quick tips:
- To organize your foods, group similar types together. Then think about the ones you use most often and put those at the front or in a place that’s easily accessible. Trying to eat more whole foods? Make sure they’re front and center.
- As tempting as it may be to throw fruits and vegetables together in the crisper, it’s more efficient to separate them. Fruits need lower moisture, but veggies thrive with it. Make sure your crisper drawers each have the correct settings to keep things fresher longer.
- Store your meats on a low shelf. That way, they won’t leak onto other foods.
- Remember that your fridge door is the warmest section. Don’t put milk and eggs there. Go for condiments, butter and other items that don’t need a colder temperature.
- If you dislike cleaning your fridge (and who doesn’t?), try shelf and drawer liners. That’s right. They’re not just for cabinets — but you do need to buy the ones made for refrigerators. Want to save a few bucks? Line them with paper towels or kitchen cloths. It may not be Pinterest-worthy, but it will certainly help to keep things clean.
How to handle a small kitchen
If you’re working in a small kitchen, you understand that every inch of space is prime real estate. Make the most of it with some small space kitchen organization hacks.
- Use the space above your cabinets by adding some baskets or bins to discreetly store items.
- Invest in a ceiling rack to hold pots and pans.
- Maximize your inner cabinet space by installing a few S-hooks into the tops. This is a great place to hold coffee mugs and other small items.
- Hang wire baskets on the wall to hold produce, cookbooks, and more.
- Get rolling shelves or a rolling island so you can move things around or out of the way when they’re not needed.
How to deal with a difficult kitchen layout
Sometimes the problem isn’t the clutter in your kitchen; it’s the way your kitchen is configured. Maybe you have important appliances out of reach (like the fridge in the laundry room instead of the kitchen), or perhaps you have cabinets that don’t go all the way to the ceiling, resulting in wasted space. While organizing should make the situation better, it can only get you so far if your kitchen lacks functionality. In that case, it may be time to consider a kitchen renovation.
Even if you have a small space, there’s so much you can do with the right layout and storage system. Talk to a professional and ask how you can turn your kitchen from dreadful to dreamy.
When considering a kitchen remodel, here are some things to keep in mind:
- The scope of the work: Is the problem specific to certain areas, like your countertops and cabinets? Or do you need a complete overhaul?
- The budget: Once you consider what you want, ask yourself if it’s affordable. Most of the time, people have no idea what they’re getting into until it’s too late. If money is a concern, consider completing the project in stages. Ask yourself what’s more important and what can wait until a later date.
- The storage: If you’re moving out of a room, where does all the stuff go? If the garage is already full and the guest bedroom is occupied, consider using a portable storage container that can be delivered right to your driveway for as long as you need it. Easy peasy.
And remember: The kitchen is the spot where family and friends gather, good meals are shared, and memories are made. A tidy and well-organized space will help to ensure you and your loved ones enjoy this special room to its fullest.
LB Gabriel is a freelance writer who lives with her husband, daughter and Golden Retriever in Memphis, TN. A frequent PODS blog contributor, she’s a sucker for any tip she can find on downsizing, cutting clutter, or minimalist living. When she’s not on a deadline, you can find her on a tennis court or golf course.