The kitchen is the heart of the home. It has the most storage and it’s the center of family meals and fellowship. If your kitchen wasn’t moved into properly, or if every drawer and cabinet is stuffed, you need these six essential kitchen organization strategies!
When I was at Stephanie Kralevich’s house (host of More Good Day Oregon) making over her closet a few months back, we naturally drifted into her kitchen for refreshment. Although her surfaces looked clear, the detective in me started noticing a few things (maybe these will sound familiar to you):
- I saw her opening multiple drawers looking for things. She couldn’t seem to find things in her own space and had to dig around.
- I noticed she had a rolling cart (obviously meant to add extra storage) that held random items. It was a non-working “fix” that was taking up space but not serving a purpose.
- I also realized that the kitchen was cut off from the rest of the house – a common floorplan for older homes – and realized that Steph was ALONE in the kitchen most of the time.
That’s when I knew I had to makeover this critical space for my gal Steph. She needed a FUNCTIONAL KITCHEN and we needed to create community for her.
If you need function and fellowship in your kitchen, this blog packed with essential kitchen organization strategies will change your home and your life!
Kitchen Organization Principles
This epic kitchen makeover required that we empty the whole space and redesign its use. I almost always recommend a complete unload for kitchen projects. This allows you to be creative and also allows a deep clean of dirty shelves and drawers.
Below I’m going to share 6 key principles for organizing nearly any space. They’re particularly important in the kitchen! Don’t miss a single one, and your kitchen will sparkle with order!
- Point of Use
- Purpose Each Space
- Establish Centers
- Optimize Best Real Estate
- Create Vertical Space
- Invite Community – you DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS SOLUTION!
Point of Use
Two key zones in any kitchen are cooking and cleaning. This includes the oven/range area and the dishwasher load-and-unload area. To enjoy an orderly kitchen, put commonly used items at their point of use in each area.
Utensils & Gadgets
Stephanie had two small drawers to the right of the range. They were jumbled with everything from graters to plastic storage lids to lemon zesters; things that don’t even need to live near the range. Also jammed in these drawers were knives, tongs, and measuring cups.
I separate gadgets (and most everything) by POINT OF USE. Gadgets and tools used in food prep do not need to be located near the range/oven. (This includes cutting utensils like knives and graters and choppers, as well as zesters, rubber spatulas, melon ballers and ice cream scoops.) These are best stored near a sink for the preparation of meals. However, stirring spoons, wooden spoons, spatulas and tongs (large utensils) need to be near the point they’re used: at the range top.
Once we sorted through all her gadgets and large utensils, there was only enough large utensils to fill one drawer of the two we emptied. So, since spices are usually used in the cooking center, I tucked all her spices into the other drawer on their side. Since Steph isn’t very tall, she can now actually see all the spice labels without standing on tip toe peering inside a spice cabinet.
In other drawers, Steph had random junk tucked in with her silverware (a common problem). After emptying all drawers, I moved her silverware near the dishwasher, to make unloading much easier.
Dishes, cups and mugs should also be located somewhere near the dishwasher so unloading and loading of the dishwasher is a breeze.
The former silverware drawer was located to the left of the range, so I dubbed it the Hot Stuff drawer and I added in mitts and trivets and toothpicks.
Purpose Each Space
I noticed Steph had similar stuff in multiple places. Many of our organizing clients deal with the same thing. When every drawer or cabinet has “everything” in it; it’s impossible to find things.
To clarify and streamline any space, assign it a defined purpose.
Steph’s cabinets to the right of the sink were filled with a dizzying array of items – many that didn’t even make sense together. They contained a mish-mash of items: food, dishes, water bottles, an un-given Christmas gift, ice cube makers, snacks, and more.
After emptying these cabinets, I gave a purpose to the left and right cabinets:
Smoothies & Snack Bar:
In the left cabinet, I created a smoothie bar. Since all of her ingredients had been stored in bags with no clips, they easily spilled and spoiled. I decanted her ingredients so it would be easy to see when to buy more and her food stayed fresh.
On another shelf, I stored her snacks in a bin that could be brought down and sorted through.
In the right cabinet, I created a hot beverage bar. Here, I organized her coffee mugs, travel mugs, and coffee equipment. On the counter directly below this cabinet, I snagged one of Steph’s trays, put her Keurig on it, and added her coffee and some stirrers, and voila – she now has a morning coffee station!
Purposing your cabinets and drawers will immediately clarify what is supposed to live where, helping family members to put things away where they belong!
Food Prep Center
When it’s time to prep a meal, you need access to a sink, choppers, knives, can openers, and appliances. If these items are spread throughout the kitchen, multiple drawers and cabinets are accessed gathering these handy tools.
The solution is to bring everything together that it takes to create a meal in a Food Prep Center.
Steph had some awesome roll-out drawers in one of her cabinets near her sink. They were filled with randomness, so it was easy to empty them and commandeer this useful set-up for a Food Prep Center.
Choose a cabinet near the sink for your Food Prep Center.
We collected all the colanders, measuring cups, mixing bowls, and handheld appliances into these roll-out shelves, making meal prep a breeze.
When creating a “center,” use nearby horizontal and vertical space to contain all related items.
In this Food Prep Center, I commandeered vertical space and emptied the two small drawers directly above the cabinet with the roll-out shelves. (These drawers previously contained bags, coffee maker parts, unused attachments to appliances, and trash.)
Evaluate the volume of items you have before you place it into a drawer or shelf.
Like most of us, Steph had two kinds of gadgets: those used for general food prep and those used for cutting. So, I purposed one drawer for each of these types of gadgets and I used drawer organizers to optimize the space.
The corner cabinet formerly held storage ware, measuring cups, and pans. This was odd, because most of these things were either USED to prep food, store food, or bake/cook food and were not located near those functions.
So, we emptied the space and instead created an appliance center – a destination for all corded appliances.
Tucking appliances into a spacious corner cabinet is a great solution because many appliances are unruly in size and take up too much space in a standard cabinet.
Deep drawers and cabinets are often abused precisely because they offer so much space.
To the right of the stove, Stephanie has two HUGE drawers, as big as a baby bassinet! Seriously, each enormous drawer could be a bed for a small child. (I often scratch my head at what builders are thinking when they design cabinetry!)
Everything from cutting boards to pans to measuring cups to appliances were stuffed in these drawers, making DIGGING a MUST.
When you’re working with deep, awkward spaces, subdividing is necessary!
After removing all the stuff, I simply dedicated the top drawer to cooking and the bottom drawer to baking. This simple step brought tremendous clarity to the kitchen.
Optimize Best Real Estate
One of the most obvious organizing principles is to make the MOST use of the BEST space. For most kitchens, these are the cabinets and drawers right around the sink. Let’s face it: we practically spend our lives standing in front of the sink, so that area needs to be uber functional!
The best cabinet to the left of Stephanie’s sink features glass doors. I would expect to see fancy dishes or something pretty behind these doors. Instead, this cabinet was stuffed with cookbooks, coffee mugs, and a hodgepodge of glasses
Consider aesthetics when you are optimizing the best real estate.
I moved the cookbooks to her bookshelf in the living room to clear space. After relocating other items, the everyday dishes and glasses made the perfect fit for this important real estate.
Create Vertical Storage
We discovered there was no vertical storage in kitchen for things like cookie sheets, cutting boards, and serving platters. At least a little vertical storage is essential in any kitchen.
A random cabinet on the outskirts of the kitchen was filled with household items, paper, lint roller, appliance parts, caulk, and paperwork. We quickly emptied it, took out the single shelf, and achieved a big open space. I used two vertical wire sorters to create vertical storage in this open space.
Don’t get stuck with the limitations of your shelving; get creative! Whenever you can remove shelves, you have both horizontal and vertical options!
I saved the best for last!
The FIRST thing I noticed about this kitchen was non-optimized nook space. Stephanie’s rolling rack wasn’t working in this space, though it was intended for additional storage.
Her tiny, disorderly kitchen kept her not only digging for things but also isolated from those she loves the most.
I found the perfect counter height bistro table and stools to tuck into this little kitchen nook. It took a little measuring and searching for the right furniture item; but it was worth the time.
Now, Stephanie’s son joins her for breakfast in the kitchen at this little table. He can draw or do homework while she makes dinner. The whole family can even eat here together if desired.
Evaluate your pain points in the kitchen and give yourself the time to resolve each one. Kitchens are the heart of the home because our whole lives are lived out in the kitchen; it is worth our concerted effort to streamline this space for ease and enjoyment-of-use.
A kitchen organization overhaul like this one is not only clarifying but actually life-changing. It has drastically improved daily life for this family. No more digging. No more waste. No more isolation.
We restored the heart of the home in this overhaul, and I am confident these 6 key kitchen organization strategies will help you re-envision and reclaim your own kitchen as well!
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