There are a million tips and tricks on how to organize your kitchen around the internet and in magazines. There are a ton of ways to store things, whether you’re stacking your pans, hanging them from hooks, or utilizing some kind of rack – and that’s just pans! I’m going to give you a look into my kitchen to show you how I organize it and explain why I do it that way. My kitchen isn’t static, either. I move things around if I find that something isn’t working, or if I don’t like the way something looks. That’s the beauty of your kitchen – it’s yours! Do it how you want to do it, and if you don’t like it, change it!
In this article about how to organize your kitchen, I’m referring to cupboards, drawers, and countertops.
By the way, if you haven’t already, I recommend checking out my list of essential kitchen tools and equipment. It’s just about everything you’ll need to get started cooking. There are, of course, many other things that I have (or wish that I had!), but those things listed are great for getting started or if you’re looking to simplify!
How to Organize Your Kitchen
This post contains affiliate links, and I will earn a small commission if you purchase something linked. Don’t worry, it comes at no extra cost to you! These are items I LOVE and recommend, for real!
Let me just start by saying I have a tiny kitchen. My husband and I (and our cat Momo) live in a one-bedroom apartment with a galley kitchen. That means one entrance, counters on either side, and it’s a tiiiight squeeze! There isn’t a window, and there’s only a ceiling light and the light above the stove. If the dishwasher is open and you need to get into the fridge, you’ll be doing a balancing act. I have two small counters to work with, and they’re usually mostly taken up by food or utensils.
And I absolutely love it.
It’s not perfect, but it has everything I need. I make do with what it offers and am thankful for the big cupboards. Sure, I dream of an island with a big bamboo cutting board, a sink with a window above it, and a breakfast bar where I can go from cooking to serving in a snap….but, those things will (maybe?) come with time. For now, I make the best out of my kitchen, and everything works out just fine.
I’m going to go on a tour of my kitchen and explain the method to my madness, but if you’d rather get right down to business, you can click here to skip ahead to the checklist!
Let’s take the tour! On the left side, I have my stove, my prep counter, and my sink. To liven and brighten things up, I like to have some flowers and a collection of happy things by the sink. It helps make doing the dishes less horrible. To keep it tidy, I use an OXO Dish Brush for doing dishes. The brush is gentle but strong, and stands upright in its own dish to collect any drips. It has a little button that dispenses soap when I need it, so it’s not continually dispensing (ahem, WASTING!) soap. I love it!!! For more stubborn dishes, I have a brillo sponge being held by my adorable fox to keep those drippings off my counter, too. I love this because it adds a little bit of functional decor to the space. You can grab your own animal scrubby holder here!
Dishes and Glassware
Above the sink, I keep my dishes! I use a wire rack to separate the different sizes so they are easy to grab. The top shelf has a serving bowl and some random other bowls.
As you can clearly see, we have far too much drinkware. Why do we have so many glasses!? There are only two of us, and yet… Anyway, the ones on the lower shelf are the ones we use most often. I’m short, so the lower, the better. We usually have a Brita water dispenser next to the sink, but I moved it for pretty photo purposes. This way, I can reach up and grab a cup, reach down and grab some water, and I’m good to go! We keep the mugs we use most often in front, and some travel mugs and other things in back. It’s summer, so we haven’t been using them very much. I have even more mugs above the fridge. I have a mug problem.
If you check out that big picture up there again, you’ll see my knives and cooking utensils there, too, next to the stove. This counter is usually where I do all of my cutting, so the knives are easily accessible. The spatulas, spoons, and tongs are on the right of my stove. I’m right handed, so when I need to stir or flip, I just grab and go! I have other tools elsewhere, but the ones in this organizer are ones I use most often.
Above the stove is the cupboard where I keep a couple cook books, like Alton Brown: EveryDay Cook. He has some great, easy recipes in there, and several that are more complicated. I also store my mixing bowls in here. Most importantly, though, the lids to my pots and pans are above the stove! But Amy, you ask, where are your pots and pans!? Well, I don’t like to store them together because I can’t find a way to easily access the lids! Instead, I dedicated half of this cupboard to them so that I could grab them quickly and easily. I use this Ikea Lid Organizer. I like it because it’s expandable – it squishes down to almost nothing if you’re not using it, or the whole thing or each section can be expanded to fit wider or narrower lids. And this thing would work for more than just lids, you could use it for muffin tins and cookie sheets!
I don’t have photos for either of these, but I store my baking pans and dishes in the drawer beneath my oven. I also have some splatter screens there! Beneath the sink is exactly what you’d expect – cleaning supplies! I keep a small trash can, extra trash bags, extra sponges, and glass and counter cleaners.
I like to use a small trash can in the kitchen because I don’t want cuts of meat or food waste that can get stinky to be sitting in my big trash. The waste from my fruits, vegetables, and meats go in the small bag and are taken out at the end of the night. No stinky, rotting food here!
The other side of the kitchen is more interesting. There’s more potential for organization over here. (In fact, it’s my current work in progress, so forgive me for prematurely posting my disaster of a spice cabinet.)
You can see how, when I’m pretty well stocked with food, there’s not a lot of counter space! Admittedly, we have way too many apples right now. But, still. I like to keep fresh fruit and veggies out on the counter (if they don’t need to be in the fridge) so I know I have them. If I put that mango in a basket somewhere, I would totally forget about it and wonder what the weird smell was a week later. I use a small shelf to keep other things I like to have out all the time, like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. The shelf is tiny, but it keeps these things off the counter!
We have the toaster oven sitting pretty on top of the microwave because they stack kind of perfectly, and, obviously, there’s just no more room. As long as it’s stable and heat safe, stacking is a great space saver!
The Appliances, Tupperware, and Spices
In the cabinets above this counter, I keep small appliances, plastic storage, and spices. I really wish I had a better plan for the spices, but for now, I’m using little baskets I got from the dollar store. They’re long and skinny, and the little spice bottles fit great! I can grab the baskets instead of rummaging through and knocking everything over. It works for now, but I see that vertical empty space and think…I can do better.
I think a lot of people have a problem with tupperware containers…and we did, too. When we moved into this apartment, we chucked over half the storage containers we had. We just didn’t use them. My best advice is to only keep what you regularly use, and throw the others out. A small, manageable collection will be much easier to deal with. Plus, once they’re washed, stack them with the others that are the same size! Don’t just throw them in there! That’s when you get tupperware avalanche.
For storing food without tupperware, plastic wrap is my best friend. I hate the tiny rolls with the blade on the edge of the box, I can’t juggle holding the thing and ripping it without letting it stick to itself. So, I went to my big warehouse store and bought the biggest roll they had, complete with a sliding cutter. Woohoo!! It looks funny, taking up that whole shelf, but I wouldn’t move it (except maybe to swap with the spices.) My reasoning? If I need to cover something, I place the dish on the counter, snag my plastic wrap, cut it, and then it doesn’t have to travel far! I just guide it to the top of my dish. Putting it above and near where you’ll be storing reduces the risk of sticky-clingy-ball-of-useless-wrap. Less waste!
I keep my small appliances up higher because they don’t get used every day. I would love to line them up and have them displayed on the counter and ready to go at a moment’s notice, but obviously that’s not an option for me. So, the rice cooker (big white blob above the plastic wrap), the Ninja blender, the mini crock pot (so cute!), the hand mixer, the juicer, the quesadilla maker, and the (Mickey!) waffle maker are all up high. It’s not inconvenient to get them, either! Instead of having them at the ready, they’re 30 seconds away from being ready. Love it.
By the way, my Ninja blender has suction cups on the feet. To prevent it from sticking to the cupboard and being impossible to get down without ripping the shelf out (okay, that’s an exaggeration), I just placed it on a square of paper towel. This way, I can slide it easily!
(We’re almost done here. Just one more cupboard and some drawers. Stay with me!)
Dish Towels, Oven Mitts, Trivets, Storage
I’ve got four vertical drawers next to my fridge. Here’s where I keep dish towels, oven mitts and trivets, aluminum foil and plastic bags, and a nightmare of a serving set. It’s an awesome set, but there are so many pieces!! I don’t use it very often, so it stays down low.
Silverware and Other Utensils
The two other top drawers are my silverware and utensils. I use a set of drawer organizers in both of them, but it might be kind of hard to tell with the right drawer. For silverware, these organizers are a must-have. They keep the little spoons separate from the big spoons! We have our little spoons out front and the big spoons tucked in back, because we just don’t really use them. Some special spoons are behind that, even, but the drawer doesn’t pull out that far for the photo…Special spoons are, like, ones with really long handles for stirring a tall glass of iced tea, or really tiny adorable ones for spooning the tiniest amount of guacamole on your bite of enchilada. We keep our chopsticks and meat thermometer here, too, because those get used often and fit in the slot!
The drawer on the right looks crazy, but it’s not. It’s actually a very organized system, but not everything fits in those slots so they sit on top. That’s okay! I have serving utensils like salad tongs and spatulas on the right (two slots). My beloved garlic press, vegetable peeler, and squash seed-remover next. My wonderful can opener almost gets a whole slot to itself. And, finally, some measuring tools, pastry brushes, and some extra paring knives. Sitting on top are a cheese grater, a mandolin slicer, and tucked in there in my zester which happened to fall nicely for the picture.
I know where everything is and (almost) never have to rummage for something, thanks to these organizers. Who has time for that!? (The junk drawer in my office, however…that’s a different story.)
Pots and Pans
Here’s another semi-work-in-progress. My cookware. I keep these things on the bottom because they’re heavier and would be a nightmare if I dropped them. Plus, this cupboard is huge! Look at all that space!
As you can see, I don’t do anything special with my pots and pans. I stack them, because they fit together nicely and it saves space. A square of paper towel protects them from scratching each other. It’s not pretty, but it works!
My big crockpot sits down here, too, and there’s a fondue pot behind that. The crockpot gets pulled out often, so it sits in the front. The fondue pot comes out for special occasions, so it sits in the back (with paper towels protecting the pot from the forks!)
Some other great pots that don’t stack as well sit up higher, along with my glass bowl (not pictured, it was in the dishwasher!) and my rice rinsing bowl. You can see those god-awful green strainers sitting gently on top. And, randomly, another serving set that’s just awkwardly shaped and doesn’t fit anywhere else.
That’s it!! That’s my whole kitchen! For being so small, I sure had a lot to say. If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me and checking out how and why I organize my kitchen the way that I do! Now, let’s take all that information and put it into some sort of cohesive checklist.
How to Organize Your Kitchen: Checklist
- Organize by function. Put things together that serve similar functions, like everyday silverware, specialty utensils, knives, pots and pans, countertop appliances, plates and bowls, drinkware, etc.
- Clear your counters. Only keep things out on the counters that you’ll use often or make sense, like having spoons and spatulas next to the stove. Use baskets or shelves to keep them off of the counter for easy clean-up and decluttering.
- Keep everyday items in easy-to-reach places. If you’re going to use a certain appliance, dish, or utensil every day, keep them within reach! Use the lowest shelf in the upper cupboards, baskets on countertops, and the front of drawers for these favorites.
- Keep specialty items behind, up high, or down low. For appliances, serveware, or speciality utensils that won’t get used every day (or even every week!), it’s okay to keep them behind other items, way up high, or down in the lower drawers.
- Utilize vertical space. Stacking smaller appliances might be an option, but make sure they’re actually sturdy! Use wall shelves. Use wire racks within cupboards.