10 Things You Can Do NOW to Make Your Kitchen More Organized
If you find that you hit your daily goal of 10,000 steps just moving around your kitchen to make dinner, or you're not entirely sure what lurks behind the first row of bottles and containers in your fridge, or getting at your favorite baking dish means playing Tetris with a bunch of other pans, it might be time to reorganize your kitchen.
Whether this means just spending an hour purging your gadget drawer of duplicates (do you really need three melon ballers?), or taking a weekend to rearrange the whole thing, a more organized kitchen can help you save money and time — and will make cooking a heck of a lot more enjoyable.
With the feedback of two professional organizers —Elisabeth Shake, CPO of Yourganized in Chicago and Julie Bestry, CPO, Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, Tenn. — who've tackled their fair share of messy, overcrowded kitchens, we've put together a list of things you can do right now to make your kitchen more orderly and efficient.
1. Purge expired food.
Shake says there are a few issues she's noticed in pretty much every kitchen she's worked in, and topping the list is expired foods. Take some time to weed out unidentifiable leftovers, rotting veggies, condiments that are past their prime, and canned goods that are beyond their sell-by date.
Feeling guilty about the wasted food? Next time, take a cue from the restaurant industry and practice the first in-first out method, where your newly purchased groceries get put away behind the existing foods so that you'll use those before reaching for the new stuff.
2. Prioritize most-used items.
"With the kitchen especially, it's important to make sure that the things you use every day, like silverware or your coffee maker, are the things that are easiest to access or get out and put away," says Shake. Consider what these are and move them to a designated area that's easy and convenient to reach.
Bestry considers the area between eye level and hip level, including the counter, as "prime real estate" where those commonly used items should live.
3. Relocate rarely used gear.
If you have things that you're reluctant to get rid of completely, but you don't use often, such as a hand-crank pasta maker or a food dehydrator (some day you'll make that beef jerky, right?), they should be stored in a less accessible area, such as on a high shelf or even in another part of the house, such as a laundry room or a hall closet. Advises Bestry, this frees up valuable space for things you know you'll be using more frequently.
4. Set up a "seasonal" drawer.
Just like you change out your summer and winter clothes in your closet, you can set up a drawer in your kitchen or pantry for summer and winter equipment, suggests Shake. In the summer, the drawer could be filled with picnic supplies, ice cream maker, and popsicle molds.
In the fall and winter, the drawer could include your holiday serving pieces, cookie cutters, and Thanksgiving cooking equipment like the gravy separator and turkey platter. Pack the off-season gear in a plastic bin and store it in an attic or closet, swapping it out when the season changes.
5. Repurpose a stand-alone piece of furniture.
If you have a tiny kitchen with too little cabinet space, consider co-opting a piece of furniture from another part of the home to make more room for storage, says Shake. Use a bookcase to arrange stacks of dishes or mixing bowls and canisters. A dresser can stash small appliances, seasonal items, or can even be used in a dining area or a corner of the kitchen for a coffee and beverage station.
6. Clear your counters.
Bestry suggests clearing countertops of appliances, piles of mail, cell phone chargers, and all the other random detritus that tends to gather in kitchens, and finding homes elsewhere for these items.
What's allowed to stay? The coffeemaker or toaster if it's used daily, heavy items like a standing mixer that's too heavy to haul out from a low cabinet, and the paper towels. When you're ready to cook, you'll have the space to do so.
7. Create a zone or two.
"Have specific zones for specific tasks that you do all the time," suggests Bestry, such as baking, meal prep, or coffee/beverage making. Everything needed for that task should be in the same area in the kitchen so that it'll all be at your fingertips when you're ready to get to work.
8. Know which organizing products to buy.
...and which to skip. Bestry loves wire risers, which can maximize the vertical space in a cabinet. She also uses inexpensive dish pans on deep pantry or cabinet shelves. They can be filled with groups of like items (such as all the baking ingredients or all your oils and vinegars), making it easy to slide them out like a drawer.
Shake, meanwhile, is a fan of modular plastic drawer compartments of various sizes, so you can sort out small gadgets and utensils in drawers and they won't turn into a jumble.
Both organizers are fans of lazy susan turntables, which make more things accessible.
As for what to skip, Bestry suggests nixing canned food organizers, since not all cans are uniformly sized. And despite the many Instagram photos of pantries organized with wicker baskets, Shake says, "I go to the Container Store a lot, I know how much those baskets cost! Plus, I wouldn't use an actual wooden basket in a pantry where something could leak onto it." You can find cute plastic containers that are a fraction of the price and wipe clean easily.
9. Designate a leftovers shelf.
For highly perishable foods like leftovers or frequently consumed things like cut-up veggies for school lunches, have a designated shelf or section of your fridge where these things are kept, advises Shake. It'll make them easier to find, and will keep them more visible so that you'll be more likely to eat them before they go bad.
10. Know when to call in the pros.
Any one of the aforementioned tips can be done quickly and easily, and will make a big difference in how efficient your kitchen is. But what if you're too busy to carve out the time to organize your kitchen, or you're truly overwhelmed with overcrowded cabinets that don't close properly, and precariously stacked piles of stuff? That's when it's time to hire a professional organizer.
A pro can help you customize a system that's tailored for your specific needs, says Bestry, and they can often see solutions where you cannot. Rates for a kitchen organizing project vary based on where you're located, the organizer's experience, and the scope of the project, but you can expect to pay from $500 to $1000 depending on these factors.