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my teeny-tiny kitchen, and my teeny tiny cupboards

i have quite a small kitchen, with barely any storage space, and a large supply of spices, specialty oils, vinegars,food products of every kind, dishes, and utensils.
so First, i would like some suggestions on paring down and what is really essential in a kitchen.
and second, any ideas on maximizing storage so i don't have to get rid of my 15 bottles of oil..

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  1. I won't try to address the "what's really essential" list, since that surely depends on how you cook. You can always try putting some things in boxes in another room, and see how often you go looking for them vs what you forget about.

    Do you happen to have linen closet room? You might be able to store extra sheets/towels in bins under a bed and turn (part of) the linen closet into auxiliary pantry space. Probably not a great idea if the linen closet is IN the bathroom (humidity and all)...

    1. You may find this helpful - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33810...

      I also have a pretty small kitchen in NYC and am amazed at what I can stuff into it. One thing that I do is put spices that I use pretty much exclusively for one cuisine - Indian, Middle Eastern - in a tin and stash away somewhere other than the kitchen. My bathtub is also full of extra cookware!

      8 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        hmm, thats a good idea, putting all the related spices in one tin.. my spice shelf is a nightmare trying to find stuff... as for the other, i use my bathtub too much for that lol

        1. re: RiJaAr

          We're lucky to have a shower and the tub ... we just use the shower.

          1. re: MMRuth

            thinking of adding a second bathroom next year in the basement with a huge walk in shower and tub... maybe i can do it then ;)

            1. re: RiJaAr

              Ha, I thought you were going to write "..with a huge walk in refrigerator"

          2. re: RiJaAr

            one thing i do is put my spices in tiny ziplocks and squeeze the air out of them. i don't like spice jars because while they are pretty on the rack, they waste space and i feel like the air in the jar oxidizes the spices faster and they go stale. I keep my spices in the freezer. they take up little room in the ziplocks.

            --oh yeah and i like the jewelry ziplock bags (1"x2") sold at craft stores for this purpose or if i'm lazy i just keep it in the plastic bag I bought it in and squeeze out the air.

          3. re: MMRuth

            That's genius! I hate spice racks, but this would work perfectly for me. Kudos to you!

            1. re: MMRuth

              That's hilarious. I live in NYC too, and most of my friends use their kitchen cupboards and ovens as extra storage space for bath and beauty products... :)

              1. re: merrymc

                That is funny! I also put a shower curtain rod up over the middle of the tub to hang clothes there - above said cookware! It's all then hidden by a shower curtain.

            2. I do a few things - I put my spices in small labeled plastic bags and put them in a small canister. I stay to a regular and good olive oil and use other oils in small amounts so I buy the smallest bottles - economy of scale is for those with lots of square feet. I also decant the oils in to mason jars to help with space concerns (they are easily stackable).

              1 Reply
              1. re: swarttav

                And buying spices in small amounts is much better for the flavor of said spices. They lose their flavor too quickly to be kept for *years* in a spice rack!

              2. As far as I'm concerned, if you're using those 15 bottles of oil (though you should check for rancidity if you've got large quantities and they've been around for awhile), then they are necessary. I'm being self-serving, of course, when I say that the pantry items that we stock (to over-flow, at times) are useful and, most important, will get eaten. It's not a collection that needs dusting or inclusion in a will.

                Certain pots, pans and gadgets can and should get the critical eye at times if you haven't the space to store them. If you don't already have a hanging pot rack, consider installing one. The pots and pans you use most will migrate to the hanging position, and you can weed out the others that remain in the deep, dark recesses of the cabinet. Not that I have done this, of course :). Hopefully *next* year. Still, my pot rack does inform me of my real needs.

                With limited storage space, I think a menu plan, or at least an idea of a menu plan, comes in handy. That way you are turning over your pantry stock and perishables on a regular basis. We've all found that can or box of something-or-other in the back of a cupboard, that thing we bought on a whim and never used. I love impulse at the market, but I find it's best to resist to maximize storage. You can always make a list of things to try in the future.

                1. Refrigerator magnet spice rack! I macguyvered my own with canisters, magnets, and a hot glue gun, but nice stainless sets are available. I love having all my spices out where i can see them.


                  1. I moved about three years ago from a huge kitchen with loads of cabinets (and more a few steps away in the basement, plus a second fridge) to a 10x10 kitchen with few cupboards. My favorite two adaptations-- which I like well enough that I would miss them if I went back to the huge kitchen-- are a peg board for handing pots and pans (on a wall that is too shallow for cupboards, but which holds the pans and lids clearly visible and without the pain of stacking and searching in back of cupboards) and what I call the hanging cupboards of Babylon, three six foot high wire racks (five or six shelves each, about 30" wide each) that hold nearly all my cans, boxes, etc. (only cereal and oils and spices and a few other things get actual cupboard space). The hanging cupboards are on the stair landing to the basement, which is right next to the stove, out of sight from the main door to the kitchen but extremely handy, and since they only stick out about six inches, not at all in the way. And everything is visible! I can see at a glance what I have. I love it.

                    As I have gradually adapted, I have thinned out my cookware-- things I don't use anymore, which can be donated (the second plastic juice pitcher, from when our two kids never wanted the same kind of juice) or put in the basement if I will use them occasionally (the turkey roasting pan). This makes more space in the cupboards, so now honestly, I have plenty.

                    My spices and oils/soy/etc. are on turntables in a cupboard(the spice one has two levels) which makes more things accessible in a small space.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Anne H

                      ooh, where did you get those hanging cupboards? my basement landing is a few steps from my fridge

                      1. re: RiJaAr

                        Home Depot, I believe. Although I'm sure a bunch of other places will have them. They are Rubbermaid or something like that, covered wire. Eight shelves high, six feet, and about 24-30" wide, they screw onto the wall (all the hardware is provided). I love them.

                    2. My advice is to assess what you really use on a daily basis. If you have used an item in say, the last month, then keep it in your kitchen. But if you have not used it in the past month, that means you really don't need it on a day-to-day basis. So either move it to another room of your house, or get rid of it altogether.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Nicole

                        One way I am currently working on this in my whole house is with colored post it notes. This is going to sound extreme, but it's because it has become a big problem for me and I'm trying to get everything down to the essentials. It's not the fastest way of doing things but it's making sure that I do it right- I've tagged every single thing in my house with a post it with the date on it. Yes, every single thing. (I also made an inventory, but that's more for insurance purposes). At a month I'd gone back through and everything that wasn't used got boxed and labeled. At 3 months those boxes that haven't been opened are either going to ebay or to charity. What can I say, too much clutter.

                        1. re: jpschust

                          Wow, you are dedicated to this method! You are going to have such a wonderful, clutter-free space when you are done with this process. :)

                          1. re: Nicole

                            It took a long time to clutter my house, it's going to take a long time to unclutter it, but as I do it (my kitchen was the first to take this plunge since I use it the most), each room feels dramatically better to be in.

                      2. Getting rid of stuff you don't use or need is liberating. Spices, oils, vinegars, sauces and other products spoil, sour, lose their flavor, turn rancid, etc. even when kept under refrigeration. I did a major clean-out of my kitchen last year and tallied up roughly what I had spent on products which had gone unused or which I had used only once or twice - it was downright wasteful.
                        I now buy one really good quality olive oil instead of a cluster of 2 or 3 olive and other kinds of seldom-used, expensive specialty oils. If I buy a small bottle of truffle oil, I keep it front and center and I use it up. I'll never find half a bottle of expensive grapeseed oil in the back of a cupboard again - rancid.
                        I buy what I want, when I plan to use it. And I can afford to buy better quality since I'm not stockpiling things that may eventually go to waste. I appreciate and enjoy using things - not just having them.

                        The advice from Nicole is excellent. I did the same thing - put everything in the other room for a few weeks. The things you have to go get every day will stay in the kitchen. After a month, you may realize that there are things that you will never use again. Give them to charity. There are people who will be so happy to have them! And you will be blessed with space and a simpler life.
                        For the things which you must keep, organize similar things in clear plastic bins with tight fitting lids. I used shoe boxes for many things such as spices and cookie cutters. Larger bins for baking supplies. They stack and you can see exactly what's in them without having to open every box.

                        It was hard, so hard, to break the habit of buying the latest variety of bean, rice, oil, mustard, vinegar or sauce. I wanted to try them all. But soon they owned me and my space.
                        I haven't won the battle yet but I eat and cook better and I waste less.

                        1. I have a tiny kitchen. Regarding oil, what I have done is buy basic cooking/dressing oils in large quantities and transferred them to slender refillable bottles with pour spouts. Then I can put the large containers with the remainder of the oil away somewhere (closet, usually) and store the smaller bottles in the cupboard, refilling as needed. Yes, you're taking up more space ultimately, but you can keep more oil on hand while storing the rest farther away where you might have more room. I've also done this with rice and grains, buying airtight (and pest-proof) containers to store things in the closet.

                          1. We have a tiny horrible kitchen as well, and we just bought a bunch of the wire pull-out racks to mount in them to help organize stuff. We're also preparing in January for The Great Purge. Everything, but everything, is getting reviewed, from the attic to the closets to the cupboards. If it hasn't been used, worn, touched or looked at in a year, it's out of here automatically. I think with kitchen stuff especially, it's important to just be ruthless about getting rid of things you don't really use or need. It's easy to accumulate kitchen clutter, thanks to the the abundance cool condiments and gadgets.

                            1. i have a huge basement with tons of storage, the only problem is..it such a pain to walk down there all the time to get stuff.. hence, my basement pantry is fairly empty, some cases of soup, crackers, party supplies, but other than that... my kitchen cupboards seem to get the majority.

                              Thats it, i'm getting rid of the damn deep frier to make more room. i hate that thing anyways.

                              P.S. my house has no closets really....

                              1. I store pots and pans, baking sheets and a roaster in the oven - then remove whenever I am going to use the oven. I don't use the dishwasher ever, so I store things in there too.

                                My spices I have in revolving racks that each hold 4 bottles, 4 all together, stacked in sets of two. Bought the racks and bottles at Cost Plus - it is great as I have 64 kinds of spice at hand with a minimum of counter space used.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Seldomsated

                                  An oven is good storage, but don't do like my sib does: Tupperware stored in the oven. More than once she's had to chisel off melted plastic because of the forgetful factor.

                                  Always check! :)

                                2. You might want to browse through "The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook: Everything You Need to Know About Setting Up and Cooking in the Most Ridiculously Small Kitchen in the World--Your Own" next time you're in a bookstore. The author is named Justin Spring, and apparently he grew up on a 36-foot catamaran, so has some experience with small spaces!

                                  1. My kitchen and pantry are good-sized, but the pantry is full and I don't really have adequate kitchen cabinets. A lot of the stuff I can (and my fruitcakes, aging in brandy-soaked cloths) goes upstairs in the linen closet. The last time I made pickles a bunch of them went into a cabinet in my office at the church that had somehow remained empty.

                                    My first apartment in Portland had a ridiculously small kitchen, and I put a lot of stuff on shelves in the (almost equally ridiculously small) dining room and in the coat closet in the hallway. My microwave lived on a cart in the dining room, along with all my cookbooks, right outside the kitchen doorway. I think some kitchen stuff may even have ended up stored in the bathroom in a large closet there (why we needed more storage space in the bathroom than the kitchen escaped me).

                                    1. If your kitchen cabinets are really deep, you might not be getting the best use out of them, especially the ones on the bottom that are hardest to reach. We installed some slide-out drawers (you can get slide-out baskets, too) in our kitchen about six months ago and we love it. Now, we have easy access to the full depth of our cabinets.

                                      Also, I found I wasn't using the full height of some of the shelves in my kitchen, or, if I was, I was doing so by stacking things on top of each other, which made access very difficult. So, I bought these wire shelves to put in my cupboard. Similar to this:


                                      or this


                                      I've been very frustrated by the amount of randomly sized tupperware in my life and have been thinking about getting tupperware that perfectly nests, like this:


                                      To organize my spices, I bought some "steps" like this, http://www.stacksandstacks.com/html/1..., but now I'm intrigued by the magnetized spice rack babette feasts mentioned. I might have to explore that!

                                      And, yes, pare down. Cull, cull, cull. You have to be vigilant, too, once you've culled, that you don't start acquiring more stuff and creep back to where you were before.


                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        Oh, you didn't mention what your drawer space is like, but if your drawers are underutilized, they also make spice racks that go in drawers. If you haven't already done so, maybe you can put your cooking utensils in a crock, or on one of those hanging magnetized racks, to free up drawer space and put your spices in your drawers.

                                        We also put our kitchen towels in a basket on the counter. We actually did this to improve access and to remind us to use them instead of paper towels (save the earth!), but, it frees up drawer space, too.


                                      2. My kitchen is teensy. One drawer. One and a half cupboards. Enough counterspace for a teeny dish-drainer and my KA mixer (thank god, b/c there's nowhere else to put it!)These solutions have helped me IMMENSELY:

                                        1. HOOKS! I bought a ton of adhesive hooks and arranged them on the side of my fridge and on unused wallspace next to my sink. I hang my measuring cups and spoons, and tons of utensils (whisk, spatulas, big spoons, etc.) from these hooks. Makes it really easy to find things, and takes up a lot less space than trying to put up another shelf.

                                        2. IKEA's fold up shelf: http://www.ikea.com/webapp/wcs/stores.... They have a couple of varieties, but that's the one I have. Made a huge difference to my lack of counterspace, and when I'm done with it, I just fold up against the wall...voila!

                                        3. Magnetic knife strip. I adore my knife set, but have nowhere to put a knife block. Instead of using my sole drawer for my knives, I mounted a magnetic knife strip on the wall: http://www.amazon.com/Chicago-Cutlery...

                                        4. Another IKEA solution, another great way to make use of your wall space: http://www.ikea.com/webapp/wcs/stores...
                                        the picture actually shows three of the racks hooked vertically to each other. i just have one, and a bunch of the hooks that they sell w/ it (not shown in pic.) i hang kitchen towels, utensils, etc. from it.

                                        Hope this helps!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Aloo0628

                                          hmm i love ikea.. i like that fold up shelf idea, but the link you provided doesn't work. i will go to the website and search for it! another problem is lack of wall space..i already have a row of hooks for my utensils and pot holders and another one for my wok. good ideas tho, and i can sympathize with your kitchen, mine right now is small, but my last one sounds like yours lol.

                                        2. oops sorry the link didn't work! sometimes the ikea site can be a bit wiggidy...

                                          the shelf is called the "ingo" and is listed under "tables and chairs" in the "wall-mounted tables" section. i painted and varnished mine to make it look purty and to make it waterproof. the painting is of course totally optional, but i definitely recommend a good varnishing to repel stains and grossness. it also makes cleaning the thing with a sponge a whole lot easier.

                                          the other item is called the "utsaga", and it's in the "kitchen" section under "kitchen organizers." you may want to take a look at it; i wish i had known about it before i went and stuck a whole bunch of hooks to my walls and fridge :-P

                                          1. I have a kitchen that is 7x7 feet square. i like small kitchens. i once lived in a tiny apartment that had a kitchen that was half the size with only a sink and some cabinets and the fridge had to be in the living room. my current kitchen has a fridge and a stove and a sink and some cabinetry. I think it was a closet before because there's a doorway but the door has been removed. we put in a shelf on the wall and squeezed in a little table with a butcher block top. a paper towel dispenser was installed right underneath the shelf so i can grab one easily whenever i want.

                                            Actually cooking in a tiny kitchen is a breeze unless you're cooking for a crowd. then I found I had some problems which could have been overcome if I had a chance to buy better cookware at the time and had more experience. parties are a good time to break out the disposables which I hate to do but it's either that or find a good friend w/ lots of dishes and prepare to do a lot of sink time.

                                            One thing that I don't like is that I can't buy all the cute bakeware I want. I long for that cute lil multi mini bundt pan (and that cute mini bundt garland pan!) by nordicware but i have no idea where i'm supposed to store that thing. So i stick with muffin pans and a 9x13. and no way do I have space for a kitchenaid. still having a tiny kitchen is really kind of nice, partly because i can't buy all the crap i want.

                                            Also, I had to pare down the kinds of cuisines I cook. I don't try to follow Indian recipes anymore. I only do korean, japanese, and white bread american now. later i might try other cuisines when i use up all my supplies. so i guess you could say i rotate between cuisines.

                                            1. I must admit my old apartment was real bad in kitchen space. It was "L" shaped to begin with. For the oven door to completely open up, I had to open up the refrigerator door.

                                              The only way I survived there was to find other places to stash the kitchen odds and ends.

                                              I finally got permission to put up a pot rack and at that point it was the life saver. I added in a suspended center shelf to store my favorite stock pot. There was alot of wasted upper ceiling space so I got permission to add in some shelves along the perimeter not having cabinets.

                                              Anyway, I later moved with 2 pickup loads of kitchen stuff with my helpers scratching their head in puzzlement. They could not fathom how 2 pickup loads of stuff would ever fit in that kitchen. I said something to the effect that one has to be clever in taking advantage of wasted space. It also helped to grunt a bit like "Tool Time Tim". ;-)