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How to Save Space in a Small Kitchen

Updated on January 29, 2013
Keep calm and organize!
Keep calm and organize!

My boyfriend Nathan and I just moved into a new apartment. It's the first home that we've rented together, and we're both very excited. However, given our budget right now, the place is a bit small, and we've found that the kitchen in particular doesn't quite have room for all the gizmos and doo-das we've accumulated between the two of us. With limited cupboard space and a surplus of pots, pans, and a few cooking utensils we couldn't actually identify, we decided to get a little creative with our organizing. Here's a list of the strategies that I found helpful in turning a small space into a functional kitchen with easy access to all the supplies we need-- without losing our deposit due to any forbidden renovations!

1) Pare things down

I'm a bit of a pack rat, so this was my least favorite step, but it was also the most helpful. Between the sacks of utensils Nathan inherited from his great-aunt and the piles of dishes my grandmother insisted on giving me, our kitchen was flooded with duplicate dinnerware. So, we went through everything and decided to keep only what we needed. Narrowing things down to a couple of different sized skillets and saucepans, a single cookie sheet, and one can opener instead of three, we found that we had a bit more room to breathe without losing any of our kitchen's functionality. In fact, paring down on extras made the things we did have easier to use because they were easier to locate and could be stored far more conveniently.

Even without overly generous relatives, most people seem to have plenty of redundant equipment in their kitchen. If you find your drawers and cupboards overflowing with excess tools, try narrowing your collection down to the things you really need. Try to use kitchen supplies that can multitask, like glass bakeware that can be used for cakes and casseroles and as serving dishes. Mixing bowls with lids can be used to refrigerate leftovers, a George Foreman grill can be used on meats and hot sandwiches, and a single cutting board can be flipped over to provide surfaces for cutting both meat and vegetables safely. The more versatile your inventory, the less space it will take up, and the more easily you'll be able to find and access everything.

2) Use Vertical Space

If you find yourself short on counter or cupboard space, try looking up. Often enough, you'll find that there's plenty of empty space above whatever you've got lying on the kitchen counter or cupboard shelf. Why not use shelves or hooks to take advantage of the unused room? Many pots and pans have holes in the handles designed to be hung from hooks or pot racks, and both hooks and shelving can help you fill your cupboards entirely without causing a Tupperware avalanche every time you open the doors.

Department stores like Walmart carry a wide variety of affordable wire, plastic, and bamboo shelving, while 3M manufactures a series of plastic and metal hooks called Command Hooks that you can adhere to walls and cupboards without drilling or hammering any holes into drywall or woodwork. Unlike some other sticky-mounting devices, they're easy to apply and easy to remove, without any stubborn leftover residue. Nathan and I are considering using a row of the brushed nickel ones to hang a row of pots and pans on the wall without damaging the walls by installing a pot rack.

3) Don't forget the fridge! (In other words, get creative)

When putting together a functional kitchen in a small space, prepare to be creative. In most rooms, there's a wealth of unexpected storage space waiting to be discovered. In our kitchen for example, we decided to use the side of the refrigerator, which sits beside the stove, to hold oven mitts and potholders. Attaching a few white Command Hooks to the side, we added some color to that particular part of the kitchen and placed our heat-handling equipment right where we needed it, for convenient access.

We also had an excess of coffee mugs, so we took some of the prettiest ones, in coordinating colors, and arranged them on the ledge above the stove controls. We put a liquid measuring cup and a kitchen timer that matched among them and filled the sturdiest one with a few often used serving spoons and spatulas, making good use of a space that would otherwise have gone untouched.

Beyond my own kitchen, some of the most useful and interesting creative space-making products I've seen are:

  • A magnetic spice rack, which can free up space in your cupboards by helping you store seasonings on the side of the fridge. In back to school season, you might even try picking up a magnetic storage unit designed for kids' lockers. It could come in handy holding a small collection of seasonings or as a replacement for a kitchen junk drawer, with scissors, twist ties, rubber bands, and batteries.
  • A grocery bag holder. A lot of people save up plastic bags from the grocery store, and they can come in handy when you need a last minute carryall or a liner for a small wastebasket. Grocery bag holders will store these bags neatly. You can even try mounting them on the inside of the cupboard under the sink to keep them out of the way.
  • Lazy susans. If you have a particularly deep cupboard, you might want to try storing its contents on a spinning turntable so can easily access supplies without having to dig around inside. Alternatively, if you're allowed to make alterations to your cabinets, you can try installing pull-out shelves that will allow you to access the contents as easily as you could a drawer.
  • A rolling cart. If you have the floor space, a rolling cart can give you more counter, drawer, and cupboard room. It's even portable, providing you with an easily moving work surface, or a place to set extra serving dishes by the side of the table at large family gatherings.


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    • pbsandwichofdoom profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathryn Lamoreux 

      7 years ago

      Thanks, Peter! I hope you find them useful.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Just read your hub on traffup.

      I too have a small kitchen, & will be trying a few of your tips. Voting it up


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