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keobooks's avatar

How should I go about organizing my kitchen?

Asked by keobooks (12650 points ) February 28th, 2012

First of all, let me stress that I’m not just asking about handy racks or cute DIY projects. I’m asking how specifically to know where to put things. I have no natural organizational skills at all. You can give me dozens of cute pot and pan organizers and things and my kitchen cabinets will still look like an earthquake happened inside.

Do you take everything out of every drawer so you can figure out how much space you need for everything? How do you know where the best place to put things so you’ll actually remember where you put it? How do you know where to place things so that they are easy to put back rather than a chore?

Basically, what thought process can you use to organize a kitchen so it makes sense?

One special request. I am fairly short. I can’t reach most high shelves in cabinets and any time my husband puts anything there, it disappears in my mind.

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16 Answers

jca's avatar

I suggest you think about the “flow” of things when you’re at the stove, stove, to sink, the refrigerator (that’s called the triangle) and from there, where is the best cabinet to reach the stove when you’re cooking, etc. For me, I start by putting the necessities away and then anything else goes where ever it fits. If it’s something you don’t use very often, that could go in an out of the way place, like a buffet or the dining room cabinet, so you don’t use valuable space for stuff that you’ll rarely use.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Everything you need for a task should be located as close to that task area as possible. Towels closest to the sink, garbage bags stored with a few at the bottom of the can and the box of bags close to the can, pot holders within reach, etc.

I am also short @keobooks. Keep a folding step stool in or near the kitchen. I invested in good quality step stools. One is in the kitchen, another in the basement, one in the bathroom (it doubles as our hair trimming chair, my son’s stool and a place to set down clothes), and yet another in my bedroom closet. Having them around prevent me from getting sidetracked when doing a chore.

Store things you use less often as high as the items will fit. I’ve re-adjusted my cabinet shelves so that the highest shelves just store platters and roasting pans.

Store items you use once or twice a year out of the kitchen (if possible). We keep items for roasting the immense Thanksgiving turkey in a flip top lid down on a stainless steel rack in the basement.

When purchasing actual storage items, make certain that you can easily see what you have stored inside. A label maker is a useful tool to permanently organize your kitchen. It helps if your family members can read/know where things belong.

If you are the type of person that can’t keep Tupperware/storage wear properly stored, get rid of it. We keep only pyrex for storing. I find it’s a lot less likely we’ll lose a lid…besides, it’s healthier to use and has more usage.

Keep spices where you use them. I have a cabinet unit just for baking goods. That is where I keep the baking spices, the baking utensils, the muffins pans, mixing bowls I use only for baking-etc.

I keep the cooking spices in a drawer near the stove. The spices I use daily are kept out within reach (cinnamon by the espresso maker, sea salt & pepper hang on a magnetic strip by the stove top).

I re-adjust the kitchen as needed. If I notice a task is taking longer than it should or an item keeps getting left out, or put back in the wrong spot, I re-organize to accomodate the need.

augustlan's avatar

This is my set up:

Drinking glasses next to the refrigerator, every day plates and bowls right above the dishwasher, everyday silverware in a drawer right next to the fridge. Pots, pans, lids, strainers/colanders, and potholders/hot mitts right next to the stove (I keep mine in an upper cabinet, because we are tall… yours should likely be in a lower cabinet and/or drawer). Stack the pots by size/type, and store the lids next to them. Spices, oils, and cooking utensils very near the stove (I have a rack that stores all my spices and oils on a wall next to the stove, my most-used cooking utensils are plopped in an urn on the counter, less often used utensils are in a drawer next to the stove). Sharp knives and cutting board next to whatever surface you use for cutting.

Items that are used semi-regularly, but not daily, can go on upper shelves (definitely get a step stool). Items that are used once or twice a year can be stored outside of the kitchen.

jca's avatar

This is giving me good organizing ideas myself!

Judi's avatar

It really depends on your values. I am not a huge cook and do a lot of microwave stuff so most of my plates, glasses and silverware are near the dish washer. With the exception of mixing bowls, and pots and pans (which I rarely use) I don’t have to run around the kitchen to put things away.
My daughter loves to cook and is way more sophisticated in her organizing. Her items are all placed according to where she uses them. Spatulas and spices are both by the stove, chopping and cutting knives are by the sink, glasses are by the refrigerator and coffee cups are above the coffee maker…....

LuckyGuy's avatar

Remember the lower shelves are the most convenient and therefore are most precious. If you have many plates, mugs, and glasses you should not fill that up with all of them. Decide how many place settings you need, 4? 6?, and just keep those on the lower shelves. Stick the extras high up out of the way. This will force you to wash often and you will be ready when you have company.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I am also vertically challenged, and this set-up works for me:

I have baking things over the fridge (cake and pie pans, muffin tins). I have spices and tea in the single cabinet between the stove and fridge. Over the stove is vases. The double cabinet next is for my tupperware. The double cabinet over the dishwasher is for dishes and glasses.

For the lower cabinets, I have a set of drawers. The top drawer is for most-used utinsils. The second drawer is for metal gadgets. The third (and deepest) is for plastic gadgets. The bottom is for tin foil, plastic bags and plastic wrap.

Under the sink is where I put cleaners and soap. The next double cabinet is for pots, pans, skillets and casseroles. The single cabinet between the stove and fridge has glassware like pudding cups, banana split boats, pyrex bowls, etc.

The cabinets under the center island has all of my small appliances – deep fryer, turkey roaster, french fry cutters, blenders, choppers and squeezers.

Luckily, I also have two closet-type pantries in the kitchen. I use one for food and the other for my large kitchen stuff – chip and dip sets, teapots, cake covers, large bowls, ice cream maker, pizza stone, etc.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Oh, forgot. The single drawers over the pot and pan cabinet. One is for my flatware and the other for weird stuff, like trivets, crab cracker set, fancy chopstick set from China, Shisk-kebab stick set. There is also two drawers over the cabinet in the island. One for all my kitchen linens, the other is the infamous “junk drawer.” If you don’t get into plastic organizers, you at least should have one for your flatware drawer and one for your junk drawer. Target actually sells a junk drawer organizer that is a godsend.

keobooks's avatar

This stuff is so smart. I can already see some very simple changes I can quickly make. I think the only smart thing I’m doing right now is that I have all of the dishes located near the dishwasher.

While this isn’t the most convenient while cooking, my 17 month old daughter likes to help unload the dishwasher—really fast—and my being able to grab stuff and put it away very quickly helps out a lot.

But man.. I have tons of stuff I never use out in front and getting in the way of stuff I use all the time. I will see what else works when my daughter goesto bed tonight.

deni's avatar

My kitchen is small and it’s very hard to find a place for everything, but we’ve made it work really the only way that it can. In the pantries, about eye level and above, is where all the edible things are. We only have one drawer, so obviously thats silverware. We have one large but inconvenient (its in a corner) cupboard on the ground where all the pots and pans are stored, but as I said it’s inconvenient so we got chain and nailed it to the wall, got some S-hooks and now all the pots and pans we use all the time are hanging right in front of the stove. I also put as much on the wall as possible. Right now measuring cups and spoons, cheese grater, pizza cutter, bottle opener, apple core-r, spoon rest, sifter, oven mits, rolling pin, they’re all hanging on nails on the wall. I like the way that looks but not everyone does. All of our mugs hang from hooks as well, and then we have one more cupboard for glasses, plates, tupperware. I don’t think it really matters where things are, just that they’re grouped with similar thangs. Hanging stuff saves a lot of space if you’re crunched for space too.

A lot of our storage is higher than I can reach, so we have a foot stool (or else I just climb onto the counters but I know I’m going to rip my pants again one of these times). And we keep things that we really very rarely use on TOP of the cabinets….there is a foot and a half -ish of space up there, and it isn’t super fun to get to but it’s space! So like, barley malt syrup, camping food, yada yada.

augustlan's avatar

Oh, we keep our mugs, coffee grinder, filters, and whole bean coffee all on the bottom shelf of the cabinet over the coffee maker (which is near the sink), too.

keobooks's avatar

I am probably doing this all bass ackwards, but I have started moving stuff. I took all the stuff we never use and put it on top of the cabinets. Previously they were in this lazy suzan that we were unable to find a decent way to childproof and my daughter was constantly pulling out the egg beater and various little things she could squeeze her hand in and get.

Then I put all the pots and pans in the lazy susan because it’s very close to the stove and everything is too big for my daughter to reach in and grab stuff out of it. I put the lids in the neighboring cabinet because I am always losing lids in the pot drawer so I think separating them will keep them from getting lost in the pots.

I put cookie sheet, cutting boards and mixing bowls in the place where pots and pans were (the cabinets below the island) this makes sense because the island is where I do all my cutting and mixing.

Im doing this as I go about cleaning up the kitchen. It’s been hard to keep clean because even though we have tons of cabinet space, everything was overflowing and I’d have to pull everything out of a cabinet or drawer to find anything.

jca's avatar

I think probably the best way to organize, but maybe the most time consuming, is to take everything out of the cabinets and put it back in, eliminating what you don’t use.

@Skagfacemutt: I read a book on organizing and it said you should not have a junk drawer, because what’s in a junk drawer? Stuff that belongs elsewhere, like stationery items, hammer, nails, etc. They said you should put the stuff where it belongs and not in a junk drawer. That said, I have two :)

@deni: My mom has one of those grid things that hangs on the wall – it’s like white plastic-coated wire – with S hooks. It kind of makes the stuff look unified and S hooks are a little kinder than nails.

keobooks's avatar

I would love to be able to take it all out and put it back in, but with a toddler in tow that will never happen. I have to do little things on the fly when she’s napping or sleeping. I also have to keep things smallish in case she wakes up early or gets too fidgety in her play room. So I am just moving things around here and there.

Because I am so naturally disorganized, taking it all out is dangerous. You don’t know how many projects I’ve started by removing everything from the cabinets or boxes and then I never put it back and there were huge piles everywhere. It’s too seductive a trap for the chronically disorganized.

I don’t have enough room for a junk drawer right now. Everything in every drawer is there because it belongs in the kitchen. Unfortunately, because the kitchen is disorganized, I have to dig around forever to find anything.

Someday I will buy little grids and organizing things. But I don’t want to do that until I have a very good idea where things belong.

——
I hope nobody minds if I ask about other rooms while I get to them. The kitchen will take a while so you’re safe for now. But I plan on organizing lots of stuff in the future. It’s almost not worth cleaning when its disorganized. It gets messier faster and never quite feels clean. It doesn’t feel dirty.. but it just doesn’t feel right if you know what I mean.

augustlan's avatar

Good progress, @keobooks! Feel free to keep asking. :)

Earthgirl's avatar

I would start by listing all the items you use the most.
What are you favorite pots and pans?
Your favorite mixing bowls?
Your everyday glassware and plates?
The spices you use most?
What are your cooking staples?
Essential items: A set of mixing bowls, basic utensils (spatula,,ladle etc), basic tools (can opener, corkscrew, jar wrench, whatever you use all the time), a set of canisters for sugar, flour and (insert your choice) Get a utensil holder if you don’t have one already and keep them within easy reach.

Figure out what makes the most sense as far as size of your storage areas and what fits where. If you’re working with limitations of existing conditions, that is. It’s a whole other story if you have money to install better storage.

I bought some stepped shelves to go inside my kitchen cabinets and they work quite well for the condiments and larger spice jars.For spices, I swear by Rubbermaid tiered lazy susans!
Plate storage racks really make the most of your cabinet space and make it easier to get the dishes in and out of the cabinets.
I also highly recommend getting a freestanding pantry cabinet for canned goods and other groceries.(Assuming you don’t have a built-in pantry area, that is.) If you have room for this in a basement area it frees up your kitchen space for the essential items.

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