Organize Your Kitchen Cabinets
Once every nook and cranny of your cupboards has been emptied and the contents sorted and purged, it's time to organize your kitchen cabinets.
If you followed the
advice on my Declutter Your Kitchen Cabinets page and sorted like items together based on your plan
for kitchen work zones, then you’re half way there!
If you haven’t already
done so, decide which cabinets will be dedicated to housing the equipment
and/or food for each work zone.
TIP: Label It
I recommend using sticky notes to label each cabinet with its contents since things
are likely to be arranged a little (or a lot) differently than they were before
you emptied your cupboards. This will
help you and your family to get used to the new layout.
In my home this step
is crucial since my husband is an imprinter.
If I change my mind and relocate something one week after we have moved into a new home,
he will spend the next two years looking for it in the wrong place – because
that’s where it was to begin with.
Labels help to solidify the new location in his (and everyone’s) mind,
and they’re easy to peel off once everyone has gotten used to the new
In order to truly
organize your kitchen cabinets, you will need to put some thought into how you
arrange the items within each cupboard. Your
goal should be to make things as easy to access as possible, particularly those
items you use most frequently.
Keep these factors in mind when deciding which items will go where as you organize your kitchen cabinets:
- In general, heavier items should be located in lower cabinets and lighter items in upper cabinets.
- Within each cabinet, place the most frequently used items at the front and the items used less frequently at the back.
Organize your kitchen cabinets as follows:
- Items which are used daily should be placed on the bottom shelves of upper cabinets where they are most easy to access.
- Some daily use items can be placed on the counter top for easy access, but these should be limited to prevent clutter and preserve work space. Likely candidates for counter top privileges include regularly used cooking utensils stored in a decorative crock, the toaster, the coffee maker, or some other small appliance which receives daily use.
- Items which are used one or more times a week should be placed at the front of lower cabinets where they are relatively easy to reach.
- Items which are used infrequently go on either the bottom shelf of the lower cabinets or the top shelf of the upper cabinets.
- Items which are used only for special occasions, such as roasting pans or holiday platters, should be relegated to the most difficult to access locations within your kitchen such as the cupboard above the refrigerator. Another option is to keep these items in a storage area outside the kitchen such as the basement.
Since that is all a little confusing, here is a diagram to demonstrate how to organize your kitchen cabinets.
Space Saving Tips
Utilize these basic space saving tips to better organize your kitchen cabinets.
- Stack like items together.
Line up all the cups of the same kind.
If possible, stack them on top of each other. The more uniform you keep things, the better
they will fit within the space.
- Turn mugs over and stack them pyramid style or hang them from cup
hooks either within or beneath the cabinet.
- Store smaller items inside
larger items. Nest mixing bowls, pots
and pans, and food storage containers according to size.
- When possible, store lids separately. I keep the lids for my pots and pans in the
drawer beneath my oven, but not all ovens have a drawer at the bottom. If yours doesn't, you could use a bake ware rack or specially designed lid sorter inserted into the cupboard. Another option is to set the lids on the pots
upside down thus creating a flat surface so that you can stack pots and pans on
top of each other.
When it comes to food storage containers, store the lids in a
plastic bin or basket next to the containers, or if you've got the drawer
space, store lids in one drawer and containers in another.
Some of us think that everything has to be absolutely organized all the time. I'm here to tell you that it's OK to settle for less than perfect sometimes. An example of this is the lid drawer in my kitchen. It's organized...enough. All the lids are in one place - that's order. But the lids are not arranged in neat stacks. They are just tossed in loosely. It's good enough for me and it's easy for everyone else to maintain. It's liberating, really.
From the time my oldest child was a crawler until my youngest child was about three I always made sure that the lid drawer was the lowest drawer in the kitchen. I also made sure the baby knew where it was, and I invited him (or her) to disassemble it at his (or her) pleasure. It was a great way to keep my little one entertained while I was cooking or cleaning in the kitchen, and it was easy to pick up when we were both done - I just tossed everything back in the drawer.
It was organized...enough.
Tips for Storing Food
Don't overlook the organization of food as you organize your kitchen cabinets. You should put as much
thought into the arrangement of food within your cupboards as you do the
arrangement of the tools used to prepare the food. A well-organized food cupboard can save you
time, frustration, and money. By
arranging items in a way that makes them easy to identify and locate you can
quickly find what you are looking for and avoid purchasing items you already
have (but can’t find).
Utilize the following
strategies for storing food efficiently as you organize your kitchen cabinets.
- Store cans with labels
facing forward so that everything is easy to identify at a glance.
- Stack cans of the same
product on top of each other in order to better utilize space.
- Create rows of similar
items, such as beans or soups, three or four deep within the cabinet. Try to avoid putting unrelated items in the
same row – i.e. don’t stack the soup behind the beans if you can avoid it.
- Oldest items should be
stored at the front of the cabinet and newer items at the back. This will ensure that everything gets used
before it expires and nothing goes to waste.
- Store bagged items
(pasta, popcorn, rice) in baskets or bins to better contain them. Another option is to remove these items from
their original packaging and store them in airtight containers. This is an excellent method if you know
you’re the kind of person who will diligently transfer the product from its bag
to the container when you buy more. If
not, you will just end up with a lot of mostly empty containers taking up
valuable space in your cupboards.
Labels facing forward, like items lined up - looks good!
Utilize open bins to corral snack foods (granola bars, microwave popcorn, dried fruit, pretzels, etc.) as you see here.
I highly recommend a
few versatile, inexpensive space savers to help you organize your kitchen
cabinets. Here are some of my favorites:
Helper Shelves expand the space within your
cabinets by allowing you to stack items more efficiently. Use them for organizing
everything from food to fondue pots within your cabinets.
Prices typically range from $4 to $15
depending on the size. Some are
Under Shelf Baskets are designed to slide onto the shelf in your cabinet and extend below. These
hanging bins are perfect for keeping track of small, loose items such as
seasoning packets, bagged foods, small jars, baggies, or dish cloths.
Sizes and prices vary, but you can easily
find them for less than $10.
Lazy Susans are among the most versatile organization tools available. There’s
nothing lazy about these organizational gems!
Use a single Lazy Susan to store oils, vinegars, and other condiments in
the cupboard. Use a two-tiered version
to store spice jars and other smaller items.
A quick turn of the base brings any item to the front of the cabinet for
They come in a variety of
sizes and materials from wood to metal to plastic. Be sure to measure the depth of your cabinets as some may extend beyond the edge of
upper cabinets making it impossible to close the cupboard door.
Prices vary depending on the material you choose, but they are generally quite affordable.
Bakeware Racks allow you to store cookie sheets, muffin tins, pizza pans, and shallow baking pans
upright in your kitchen cabinets.
plastic ones are available for around $10. There are metal and wooden versions as well.
Tiered Organizers are like grandstands for your food, a tiered organizer allows you to see what's hiding behind that front row of cans. In the image at the right I've used one to organize spice jars in my cupboard, but you can use them for canned goods as well.
They typically cost around $10-$15. There are expandable versions available. Mine has skid proof tiers.
Daunting as the task
may seem, you won't regret the time you take to organize your kitchen cabinets. There is something really satisfying about
opening a cupboard door and finding shelves lined with tidy rows of logically
sorted cans or neat stacks of dishes arranged according to size. Better still than the emotional fulfillment
this feat will bring is the time and money, not to mention the frustration,
that you will save by having an organized kitchen.
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