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10 Tips and Tools to Organize the Kitchen

Updated on December 8, 2015
An organized, uncluttered kitchen
An organized, uncluttered kitchen | Source

Organize the Kitchen and Reduce Waste, Save Money and Know Where Everything Is

Last week, I organized my own kitchen, which had been getting a bit cluttered and chaotic. It was the one part of the house that I hadn't really kept up on and where my rather disorganized (by nature) husband spends a lot of his time.

I attribute much of the clutter and chaos in the kitchen to the fact that the organizational systems I was using weren't effective or simple enough to handle all the activity, stuff, and "stuff moving" that goes on in there. So, I decided to change that.

The First Step to Organizing the Kitchen

Spread Out and Purge

On a day when you're feeling really motivated (and have the time) pull everything in the kitchen out so you can see it all. Empty cupboards, shelves, cabinets and the pantry, and spread everything out on the table and counters, even on the floor if you need to.

Then purge whatever you no longer need or want (or that's just no good anymore). Separate these purged items -- food, pots and pans, gadgets, utensils, tools, linens, etc. -- into piles: what you'll throw away; what you'll give away or donate; what you'll try to sell.

Then put the rest back using these storage and organizational ideas, like I did....


Organize the Kitchen: Tip #1

Sort the Food

by Type and Expiration Date

I like to store common items together -- canned goods with canned goods (soups together, canned vegetables, etc.), produce with produce, dry foods with other dry foods -- and place items that will expire or go stale sooner than later at the front of my cabinets, refrigerator or freezer so I use that food up first.

Sorting your food and storing it by category and by expiration date not only cuts down on waste but saves money too. And that's always a good thing.

One idea: Store fresh fruit and vegetables that don't require refrigeration, like apples, onions, potatoes, and pears, in hanging wire baskets like those pictured here, where they can be seen and eaten sooner than later. They also look pretty organized this way.

Use Racks and Storage Containers to Sort Food

Racks like this one maximize storage space, organize and stock up.

I recommend adding one or more of these canned goods racks inside your cabinets to really make the most of the space. It's so much easier to find what you need and get to it when your canned foods are organized by type and stored on their sides like this, rather than stacked two or three high and shoved to the dark recesses of the cabinet.

Place the oldest cans at the front, so you don't end up discovering a can of soup that's a decade old.

Organize It All Deluxe 3 Tier Storage Chrome Can Rack, 12.75 in. high x 15.875 in. wide x 18 inches deep
Organize It All Deluxe 3 Tier Storage Chrome Can Rack, 12.75 in. high x 15.875 in. wide x 18 inches deep
This canned goods storage rack is made of metal wiring with a chrome finish. It fits into any kitchen cabinet and holds most types of soup cans and other canned foods. If you want, you can keep one rack out on a counter (if you don't mind using the space or the look of it) with the canned goods you'll want to use for the week.

More Food Storage Containers and Solutions to Organize Your Kitchen

These clear containers are great if you buy in bulk or prepare large amounts of food for freezing.

It's also nice to be able to see what's on hand and how much is left of something without having to open containers, boxes or bags to peer inside.

Organize the Kitchen: Tip #2

Keep an Inventory

You can use a White Board

I love my white boards, which have so many uses, including keeping track of what you have stocked in the kitchen and maybe on a second freezer where you store extra meat or vegetables, and keeping a running list of what you need to buy. Anyone in the family can erase things from the inventory as the food is used up or add it to the shopping list.

You can stick a small white board with a hanging or attached dry-erase marker on the side or front of your refrigerator or freezer and keep track of what you have on hand. You can use another white board, like the one pictured here which also has a quad kitchen timer on it, for your growing shopping list and even take that whiteboard with you to the store.

Some white boards have magnetic strips or mounting strips on the back (or you can put them on) or you can hang the board on a hook.

Use a Dry-Erase Whiteboard (or two) in the Kitchen for Inventory, Shopping Lists and Notes

This white board comes in various sizes and it's magnetic too, so you can use it as a bulletin board. Two dry erase pens, 2 chrome clips, 2 chrome magnets and magnetic eraser are included.

Organize the Kitchen: Tip #3

Free Up Kitchen Counter Space

Grind, chop, and open cans without taking up work area or cluttering the kitchen

Remove clutter from your countertops and open up food-prep and work space by using under-the-counter and below-shelf storage solutions, and put gadgets you don't use that often away in cabinets or in the pantry or other kitchen closet.

Keeping clutter off the kitchen counters also makes it easier to keep them clean. It's amazing how many crumbs and other crud hide under the stuff we keep on our counters.

One way to organize and free up a significant amount of counter space is to use mounted appliances below kitchen cabinets, like the Black & Decker SpaceMaker Toaster Oven pictured here. You can also find coffee machines, electric can openers and small microwaves that mount beneath cabinets.

Organize the Kitchen: Tip #4

Organize the Kitchen: Consolidate food
Organize the Kitchen: Consolidate food


With Re-usable, Stackable Containers

Keeping food in bags can make storage awkward and also messy once opened. And bags don't stack well, so they don't make the best use of space.

Instead, transfer bagged items such as pretzels and chips, cereals, rice, pasta and dry beans into re-usable plastic or glass containers with secure lids, like this Pyrex set pictured here. And consolidate multiple small boxes of the same item into one re-usable, labeled container.

You've already seen some good food storage options above, but here are some more....

More Food Storage and Organization Solutions

I can never have enough food storage containers for both dry foods and ingredients and leftovers. I like to transfer things like cereals, rice, extra flour, sugar, and cornmeal that doesn't fit in my countertop canisters, and snacky foods to plastic containers as soon as I get home from the grocery store.

Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids Food Storage-Containers, Racer Red, 50 Piece Set
Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids Food Storage-Containers, Racer Red, 50 Piece Set
This set includes both the containers and the lids, which snap to the base. The containers nest inside each other and lids fit multiple containers.

Organize the Kitchen: Tip #5

Divide the Drawers

Separate them into more manageable spaces

Just like most of us use dividers for knives, forks and spoons, I like to divide cooking utensils and other kitchen gadgets too, so they're easier to see and grab when you need them.

You can buy all sorts and sizes of dividers, including adjustable dividers like the Good Grips Expandable Utensil Organizer pictured here.

You can also be resourceful and save money by using things you already have lying around the house, like boxes and small baskets and even muffin tins for sorting and organizing the small stuff.

Divide and Separate with an Adjustable, Bamboo Kitchen Drawer Organizer

While many people have their "stuff" drawers full of a hodgepodge of who-knows-what, there's no need to fish around in a mass of utensils, knives, bag clips, twisty ties, measuring spoons, and so forth to find what you need. Keeping things separated not only makes them easier to get to but also helps you keep track of what you have. Ever bought something, not realizing you already had one ... or two? Keeping organized prevents wasting money too.

Totally Bamboo Kitchen Drawer Organizer, Expandable Silverware Organizer and Utensil Holder, 8 Compartments with Dividers
Totally Bamboo Kitchen Drawer Organizer, Expandable Silverware Organizer and Utensil Holder, 8 Compartments with Dividers
This high quality Moso bamboo is 16% harder and more durable than maple, and it's also an "ecologically green" alternative to wood. This drawer organizer measures 18-inches long, 12 3/4-inches wide and 2-inches high and expands to 17 1/2-inches wide.

Organize the Kitchen: Tip #6

Organize the Kitchen: Use racks and risers
Organize the Kitchen: Use racks and risers

Add Vertical Storage Space to Kitchen Cabinets

with horizontal Risers and Racks

I've found these types of risers and racks at places like the Dollar Store and thrift stores, or you can make something yourself that creates more levels to store things between existing shelves. By creating more levels in your cabinets, you can make use of otherwise wasted empty space and avoid stacks that are prone to tipping over.

This Youcopia Super Spicestack 27-bottle Spice Organizer is a great way to add vertical storage space and keep all those bottles of herbs and spices from rolling around and getting lost at the back of the cabinet where you can't see or easily get to them.

Commercial Cabinet Racks

Make use of otherwise wasted vertical space.

Ever try to get the larger plates you want for a meal out from under a big stack of other plates? Not easy, and there's the breakage risk of doing that, too. (Happened to me, where plates on top of the pile slipped out of the cabinet.)

There really is a rack or bin for just about everything in the kitchen. Racks like one this make it much easier to grab the dishes you want and see what you've got.

Panacea Grayline 40126, Large Two Shelf Organizer, White
Panacea Grayline 40126, Large Two Shelf Organizer, White
This riser is made of coated steel bars and is sturdy enough to hold dinnerware, mugs, cans, and more.

Organize the Kitchen: Tip #7

Hang Kitchenware, Dishes, Bottles and More

You can buy racks or just use screw-in hooks below your shelves and cabinets to organize and save space, by hanging things like mugs that you use most often or that at least look pretty. Also hang things like stemware, wine bottles, and spices.

A rack for hanging pots and pans and larger, longer cooking utensils is an attractive, functional way to organize, like this Mini Pot Hanger Kitchen Home Hanging Pan Utensil Holder pictured here.

Organize the Kitchen: Tip #8

Add More Functional, User-Friendly Storage to Cabinets and the Pantry

Rather than store plates, wine, glasses or other items upright, pushing some to the back of the cabinet or stacking them so high they're difficult to remove, use racks and other cabinet inserts to organize and store these items on their sides.

Even something as simple as this Simply Bamboo Plate Rack pictured here can go a long way towards organizing your kitchen and making it more user-friendly at the same time.

More Solutions to Organize Your Kitchen by Storing Items on their Sides

Storing a pan lid on top of the pan makes it really difficult to put anything else--like another pan--on top of it, and just one lid on the bottom of the cabinet effectively uses up all of that vertical space. Store lids and other slim cookware, bakeware and dishes (like platters, for example) on their sides on racks like these and make much more use of your cabinets.

Rubbermaid Slide-Out Vertical Lid and Pan Organizer (FG1H3300CSHM)
Rubbermaid Slide-Out Vertical Lid and Pan Organizer (FG1H3300CSHM)
This lid and pan organizer creates vertical space for more efficient storage for up to 6 large lids and two pans. The rack slides in and out of the cabinet for easy access. It requires a 14-inch or wider cabinet opening and measures 21-1/2 by 13-5/8 by 4-3/8 inches.

Organize the Kitchen: Tip #9

Add Storage Under Kitchen Cabinets and Below Shelves

In addition to hooks, you can attach some small appliances and storage components to the bottom of cabinets and shelves to get things off the counter and free up cabinet space too. One good solution is this Rubbermaid Under-Shelf Slide-Out Storage Basket pictured here.

If you're crafty and want to save money, one homemade idea is to collect jars--like mason jars, jam jars, baby food jars, and so forth--screw the lids to the underside of a shelf (or cabinet if you like the look and want the jars to be seen), fill the jars with whatever you want to store in them, like dry goods and candy, and then screw the jars onto their lids. Be sure to use two screws to secure the lids, so they don't turn or loosen when you screw the jars off and on. Label or decorate these hanging jars if you'd like. Have a look at this crafty organizational idea for your kitchen in 5 Decorative Uses for the Versatile Glass Jar in the Kitchen (second photo, especially).

Organize the Kitchen: Tip #10

Organize Your Recipes

If you often print out recipes you find online like I do, or tear them out of magazines, or get them from friends on scraps of paper or sticky notes, transfer all of those great recipes you want to save to index cards or recipe cards and store them in a pretty recipe box. Don't stick them all over the fridge or shove them in a drawer where they're likely to be forgotten.

You can also use an accordion file or binder, separating the recipes by type or meal. You might keep a section for recipes you want to make in the next week or month.

© 2012 Deb Kingsbury


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