How to Organize Your Kitchen to Make it More Tidy and Functional

A more organized space can save you a lot of frustration.

<p>JazzIRT/Getty Images</p>

JazzIRT/Getty Images

If navigating your kitchen feels like going through a scavenger hunt, it's probably time to get organized. A cluttered, unorganized kitchen can lead to a lot of frustration and make it harder to find motivation to cook. Figuring out the right organizational system for your space and needs can take some time (and patience), but when you're done, spending time in your kitchen will be far more enjoyable. Of course, most of us do much more than just food preparation in our kitchens and every layout and family style is different. However, there are some tried-and-true rules that can apply to any space. So, we asked three organizing experts for their best advice on how to organize a kitchen in the most functional and tidy way possible.

Related:6 Things All Organized Kitchen Cabinets Have in Common

Before You Begin

Rather than tearing straight into the task, fix your favorite beverage, take a breath, and think about how you and your family use the kitchen. What is the most frequently used spot in the kitchen? Does it cause a traffic jam when others are around? Are there problem areas that bother you regularly?

Gathering your thoughts will make the organization more efficient, especially if you don't have time to revamp the entire kitchen at once. Think of the process in zones—kitchen cleaning and cleaning supplies, food storage (pantry and refrigerator), meal preparation and cooking equipment, serving pieces (dishes, glasses, cutlery), and whatever else applies for you. Keeping similar items together and as close as possible to where they are used will save you steps and time. For example, pots, pans, and cooking utensils belong near the stove.

Once you've thought about the different ways you use your kitchen, you'll have a better idea about whether you need to purchase any new storage or organizing supplies and how to make your kitchen more functional. Now you're ready to tackle the entire kitchen—or, at least, one zone at a time.

Related:How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets—So You Can Actually Find Everything You Need

Clear It Out and Clean It Up

When it comes to organizing, Jamie Hord, founder of Horderly Professional Organizing, always recommends pulling everything out to see what you're working with. "You want to approach your space as a blank slate," she says. This tip works whether you're organizing just one zone or the entire kitchen. Ashley Murphy, co-founder of Neat Method adds, "We suggest protecting the counter and table tops and removing everything from the cupboards and pantry." (Leave refrigerated foods for another day.)

Related:7 ADHD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Fridge

Once your cabinets, shelves, and drawers are empty, thoroughly clean them by wiping up spills and crumbs, dusting shelves, and, if needed, replacing shelf and drawer liners.

Sort, Toss, Recycle, and Donate

With all your kitchen items spread out in front of you, it's time to decide what should be put away and what should just go away. Move the trash can close by and gather four containers—like cardboard boxes, plastic tubs, or laundry baskets—to sort the items into different categories. Label them as "Keep," "Recycle," "Donate," and "Return to Proper Spot" (why is there a baseball in the pantry?).

"Sort into piles of what we call 'likes with likes,'" Hord says. "For example, all appliances together, all bakeware together, all to-go cups together, etc. You might not realize how many storage containers you've had add up over time. This will help make your decisions easier as you can compare items and keep only the best of the best."

As far as the determining what should be tossed or donated, Murphy suggests, "A good rule of thumb in the kitchen is to say goodbye to any unnecessary duplicates you’re holding onto as well as anything broken or missing parts."

Take a long, hard look at small appliances—especially those specialty items, like a bread maker, ice cream churn, or waffle maker. When was the last time you used them? Unless you use an appliance frequently, the space they take up may be more valuable for something else.

Think About Placement

Once everything is sorted, it's time to put your kitchen back together—better than it was before.

  • Place Items Strategically. "Start by placing everyday dishes and glasses near your dishwasher for easy unloading," Marissa Hagmeyer, co-founder of Neat Method recommends. "Next, create zones, such as a coffee station, based on your daily routines. This might mean placing coffee beans, filters, and mugs close to your coffee maker. From there, place items next to the area where they're used, such as dish towels next to the sink and pots and pans next to the stove. Lastly, ensure those top drawers and arms-reach shelves are being used for items you access the most often."

  • Look for Storage Spaces Elsewhere. If you use that huge roasting pan only during the holidays, look for another storage space in the garage, attic, basement, or a miscellaneous closet. Other seasonal items, like holiday-themed cookie cutters, can be stored with holiday decorations. And seasonal outdoor cooking equipment can be stored with camping gear, or any other warm-weather supplies you're likely to pull out at the same time.

  • Add Organizing Tools. Most kitchens only offer the bare bones of what we need to stay organized, so a few strategic products here and there can be helpful to customize the space to your needs. "Kitchen cabinets don’t typically need a lot of products, but drawers can benefit from organizers to give boundaries to your categories and prevent them from shifting," Murphy says. Make use of vertical space, as well. You may be able to add shallow racks or hooks to the inside of cabinet and pantry doors to take advantage of every inch of space. Or, add a wall or ceiling-mounted pot rack to clear up some space inside cabinets. Don't forget the space between the upper cabinets or shelves and the countertop. It's a perfect space for hanging paper towels or adding magnetic strips for knives and other utensils.

Related:12 Vertical Storage Ideas to Make Your Space Feel Less Cluttered

How to Keep a Kitchen Organized

If you live with others, add labels to shelves to help them return items to their proper place. And, make sure to keep editing and adjusting your kitchen as things change. At least four times a year, take the time to work on each zone to toss broken or unusable items. Keep an eye on plastic containers, to-go cups, and shopping bags so they don't take over the storage space.

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