These are the basic steps to organizing your kitchen storage. We’ll go into each one in more detail:
- Empty cabinets and drawers, including pantry food items.
- Sort the cabinet contents by what you want to keep, what to throw away or recycle and what to donate.
- Thoroughly clean all the surfaces of your cabinets and drawers.
- Group all the items you’re going to store in your kitchen by category.
- Plan to place items near where they’ll be used.
- Add baskets, shelf inserts, cabinet racks and any new storage solutions you want to use to keep your kitchen cabinets organized.
- Return everything to cabinets and drawers, prioritizing items by use.
- Enjoy your clean, organized kitchen.
Take everything out of your cabinets at once, or go cabinet by cabinet, and place the contents on a table or countertop.
“Physically handling each item forces you to make decisions about keeping, donating or discarding,” says Karen Duncan, a certified professional organizer out of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
The contents of your kitchen cabinets, like many storage cabinets around the house, are likely filled with items that you use often, but they’re also likely filled with even more items that you use rarely, if ever.
Give yourself permission to let go of those unused items. Donate or give away what you can, recycling or throwing out anything you can’t, such as expired pantry items.
Now that your cabinets are empty, spend some time getting them really clean before you fill them back up. Wash all surfaces thoroughly with gentle soap and water and allow them to dry completely before restocking. For an extra level of polish, and to make future cleaning easier, you can also add shelf or drawer liners, or replace old ones.
“Think of your kitchen as functional zones: washing, prepping, cooking on stovetop and baking,” Duncan says.
Group the items or tools you use for each of those tasks together for efficiency. In the pantry, this means grouping food types by category: cooking, baking, snacks and breakfast,or whichever grouping technique works best for your lifestyle.
Once you’ve grouped your items, plan to place them in cabinets or drawers close to where their function is performed.
In the panty, place the foods that you use most often in the easiest-to-reach places. (One possible exception: “If you think you eat too many snacks, put those up high so you don’t see them as often, and it’s more of a to-do to get them,” says Tori Cohen, an organizing and decluttering specialist in New York City.)
While you’re working out what to store in each cabinet or drawer, Duncan suggests placing temporary labels made of blue painters tape on the cabinet or drawer where each group is going. This will help you get a sense of how your storage plan is shaping up and simplify making adjustments as you go.
Once you have determined where you’d like to store everything, look for places where your kitchen cabinets and drawers could benefit from additional organization and storage tools. Some ideas to consider:
Roll-out shelves. Extra-deep lower cabinets benefit from roll-out shelves, either custom-made or purchased from a kitchen or organizing store. The shelves will allow you to easily see the cabinet’s entire contents — even what’s at the very back.
The dowels can be moved to accommodate the size of whatever you want to store in the drawer. (Depending on your drawer’s construction, the bottom may need to be reinforced for heavy dishes.)
Look for adjustable dividers, which can be expanded to fit your kitchen drawers. As you have done with the rest of your organizing, group kitchen tools by type before placing them in drawers.
Put the contents of your kitchen cabinets and drawers in their new homes, prioritizing what you plan to use most in the most accessible spots and placing rarely used items, such as seasonal platters, out of the way. “This is what the top shelves are for,” Cohen says.
To maintain the organizing system, and to help you or guests quickly identify what is stored where, consider putting a label on the inside of each cabinet indicating the cabinet’s contents. “When you’re running around the kitchen trying to figure out where your roasting pan is, all you should need to do is read these labels,” Cohen says.
Cabinets versus drawers.
“Shelves are great for taller and odd-shaped items, since shelves tend to be adjustable,” Duncan says. Drawers can be useful for everyday items, including kitchen tools and cutlery. Deep drawers can also be used for baking supplies and pots and pans.
If you’d rather not display your kitchenware, peel-and-stick window film can turn transparent cabinet doors translucent. Decorative bins can sit on open shelves, with items stored inside.
Alternatively, Cohen suggests using these blind corners for rarely used items, like holiday serveware, or for storing bulk items, like paper towels, that you don’t necessarily need to see in order to grab.
- Buy only what you really need.
- Declutter frequently.
- Purchase multiuse items, rather than specialty tools.
- Designate an alternate closet for overflow items.
- Consider a portable prep cart with storage underneath.