As someone who lives in a smaller apartment herself, I’m no stranger to the unique organizational storage challenges presented by a quirky, compact home, particularly in the kitchen.
Cramped built-in storage, space-hogging blenders and toasters, cluttered Tupperware, and too many bulky, mismatched coffee mugs. And the ubiquitous kitchen “junk drawer,” that houses all the knick-knacks we accumulate over the years that laugh at tidy organizational labels.
How to deal with it all?
We’ve gathered our favorite kitchen organization tips, hacks and gadgets to optimize your space, and create order out of the chaos. Follow the steps below for a more organized, streamlined kitchen.
Step 1: Think about how you actually use your kitchen, then organize according to your habits
Before you can organize your kitchen, consider how you really spend your time there. Do you regularly prepare elaborate meals, or is the microwave your usual cooking method? Do you enjoy making meals on your stovetop with your pots, or do you mostly bake with your pans?
Step 2: Declutter
Once you’ve determined your needs for your kitchen, declutter. Be ruthless; your kitchen should accommodate and support your real uses and habits, not the ones you aspire to hold.
For example, maybe that fruit holder usually doesn’t hold fruit, but has become an awkward bread storage solution. Time to give away that fruit holder, and put a proper bread storage solution in that space instead.
Also throw out or give away foods you’ll never eat. Many cities have food giveaway groups on Facebook and other social media platforms, so if you have perfectly good, unopened food that you hate to waste but know you’ll never consume, try giving it away first.
Step 3: Organize
Keep in mind some simple rules:
- Consider the “Point of Performance.” This means that, for every task in your kitchen, you should have everything you need to complete that task within arm’s reach. Coffee in the morning? Try to consolidate all tasks related to making coffee within reaching distance. Same for chopping vegetables and fruit (chopping boards and knives nearby), or handling the trash (plastic bags and trash can deodorizers at the ready), or cleaning the kitchen (rags and cleaning solution easy to grab), and so on.
- “Like goes with like.” Wine glasses go with other serve ware, flatware should be collected in one place, canned goods are stored with other canned goods, etc.
Of course, if you find that one particular item is best housed elsewhere for “Point of Performance” purposes, consider keeping that item near that space instead, or buy two items of that kind—one specifically for that “Point of Performance” space, and another for other uses.
- Should your single-use tools be given away? Sometimes a gadget looks so handy for that one annoying kitchen task, but we don’t use it often enough to justify the space it occupies when not in use. Really, is your strawberry huller pulling its weight in your kitchen? Who honestly needs a banana container?
- Finally, deal with the “junk drawer” if you have one. Time to wrangle your kitchen’s junk drawer, if you have one. Even if you want to keep everything, things can still be better organized and easier to find by using small drawer storage bins. Pull out everything from your drawer, figure out which items can be organized and how, and customize your storage bins.
Step 4: Rotate “season-specific” kitchen items
Spring and summer call for grilling gear and ice coolers, and fall and winter call for things like cookie cutters and electric carving knives.
Don’t let these items take up valuable space in your kitchen when not in use. Invest in quality plastic totes with lids, and find space in your storage to house them until the next season.
Step 5: Explore the wide world of kitchen storage and organizational solutions
For every shape and size of kitchen, there seems to be a handy storage or organization option. Keeping in mind what you determined to be the best use of your kitchen (back in Step 1), identify your kitchen’s problem areas, and what would help streamline your experience.
As you’re looking through the ideas listed below, remember:
- You should avoid stacking items on top of, or in front of, each other. If there’s a spot in your kitchen where you can’t easily get to an item without removing the items on top (for instance, you can’t reach the Tupperware lids because all of the Tupperware bowls sit on top of them), or without having to move an item out of the way (perhaps you’ve stored your toaster in the back of the cabinet, and placed your bulky blender in front), consider finding an organizational solution to avoid this headache.
- Can’t find any more space? Try going vertical. There are loads of storage solutions that help homeowners and apartment dwellers utilize previously unavailable spaces, like kitchen doors, inside cabinet doors, bathroom walls, and more. Look for solutions online by searching “__[storage type]__ + vertical,” like “shoe storage + vertical,” or “cleaning product storage + vertical,” and see what’s available!
VARIERA Shelf Inserts
Stack these simple shelf inserts from IKEA to double or triple your cabinet space, and make your plates and cups more easy to see and accessible.
Roll-Out Bakeware Organizer
Storing bakeware items, like sheet pans and muffin tins, on their sides keeps them tidy and readily accessible. The roll-out feature also helps avoid blindly grasping for the right pan.
As mentioned above, IKEA is hard to beat when it comes to affordable drawer organizers. Browse their selection of customizable drawer organizers, and create a storage solution that fits your unique drawer dimensions. (Pictured: STÖDJA Utensil Tray.)
Several months ago, I invested in a jumbo-sized utensil crock, and it’s been one of the best investments I’ve made for my kitchen organization (and personal sanity). Storing cooking utensils in drawers inevitably leads to drawer jams, thanks to a spatula wedging itself between the back and opening of the drawer. Keeping everything in an extra-large utensil crock has totally eliminated that frustration.
Pull-Out Cabinet Organizers
Remember the rule about not storing things behind each other where you can’t easily reach? With a pull-out cabinet drawer, this problem is eradicated. Easily pull out the entire contents of a cabinet and select the item you need—no moving items around or knocking things over.
If this seems like a fussy, wholly optional gadget to add, consider how messy and disorganized an untamed napkin pile can become, with napkins falling to the floor, getting crumpled and useless, and generally being a nuisance. Keep them in order with a napkin holder.
Over-Cabinet Door Storage Organizer
A great example of utilizing unused vertical space, simply hang these baskets on cabinet doors to create an extra storage option for your items.
Under-sink organizers are perfect for storing your kitchen cleaning products, like dishwasher tabs, cleaning rags, sprays, and other kitchen sanitation products.
Clear Food Storage Containers
In addition to keeping your foods fresher longer, decanting your dry goods into clear plastic, air-tight containers is less looks better than keeping foods in their loudly-colored packaging.
2-Tiered Lazy Susan
Perfect for tucking into a deep cabinet corner where items might otherwise get buried in the back, a tiered lazy Susan can hold more items and keep them ever-ready.
Clear Plastic Fridge Storage Bins
Keeping items separate and in distinct bins not only helps to minimize clutter in your fridge, but it also keeps everything visible, reducing the chance of accidentally forgetting about something you bought, and it expiring before you can use it, or buying an unneeded duplicate.
Can Rack Organizer
No more rolling cans! Store cans of all common sizes in this handy wire storage rack.
Tight-Space Kitchen Pantry
Kitchen pantry too small, or nonexistent? If you have a small space between your fridge and its surrounds, try a slim, slide-out kitchen pantry to fit more foods in your kitchen.
Slide-Out Trash Can Organizer
Save the floorspace and keep dirty trash cans out of sight with slide-out trash can organizers. This particular model supports two trash cans, but smaller options are also available.
Keeping your Tupperware lids organized is easy with this adjustable lid rack! Each segment can be sized up or down to accommodate different-sized lids.
Under-Shelf Wire Rack
A clever way to add some more space to cramped cabinets, adding an under-wire shelf rack to the bottom of your cabinet can help store plates, dish towels, favorite spices, and more.
Carts are an effective way to give your microwave its own space in your kitchen, while also offering a home for other small appliances you don’t use daily, like your blender or stand mixer.