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Organizing small kitchen

I am in need of wise counsel as to some "tricks" or tools for organizing a very small kitchen, with not enough cupboard or counter space. I live in Canada, so for purchases, I would prefer Canadian retailers or retailers that deliver to Canada. Thank you!

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  1. I have a pretty small apartment kitchen, but I do have a bit of wall and floor space. Here's what I've done: I have a plastic-coated wire rack about 6 feet high, 18 inches wide, and 5-1/2 inches deep that hangs on a wall. I keep all my herbs and spices, in alphabetical order, on the upper shelves and flour, sugar, rice canisters, etc., on the lowest shelf. I also have a peg board, cut to fit a small area above my butcher block table, that holds all the things I reach for nearly every day: tongs, measuring cups, measuring spoons, strainers, funnel, poultry sheers--just about everything that has a handle and can be hung. Spoons and spatulas are in two decorative pots, one for wooden utensils and one for all else, that sit on the butcher block table along with a knife block (I really don't like magnetic knife strips, but that's a personal preference). Since I have practically no counter space, and what I do have is taken up with my stand mixer, food processor, and toaster oven, my small butcher block table--also cut to fit--is where I do nearly all my chopping and food prep.

    1. I've got a small kitchen too. What I've done recently is to put in hooks and hang flat organizers on the inside of the cupboard doors. I put up a magnetic strip on the inside of a lower cupboard door closest to the sink to store my knives. Inside the pantry door, I have a plastic organizer to store packets of flavourings, mixes, etc; also inside the pantry door, I have hooks to hold the chef's coat, BBQ tools and other utensils.

      The great advantage of not having lots of space is that you pare down to the essentials and find creative ways to use things. I don't care for single-purpose machines (so Mr OCAnn has to keep his ice-cream maker, bread maker, etc all in the garage), so it helps me consider if a purchase is really necessary or a luxury item. (This is my attempt @ the glass half full.) =)

      1 Reply
      1. re: OCAnn

        I use something similar to this...but I got mine in clear plastic so I can see what's kept inside. You can find these at dollar stores; I got mine for $1.50.


      2. I found a lot of space by installing a pot rack in my kitchen.

        1. A lot of my small kitchen organization stuff comes from Ikea. I love the Grundtal line which is based on round, towel bar-type bars in varying lengths. Everything else (hooks, dish drainers, caddies, paper towel holders etc) hangs on those bars. They're also all fairly inexpensive (at least for my budget) and have lasted me for many years in 4 different houses/apartments now.

          I'm able to hang all of my utensils, small pots, pans and things like strainers and so forth. Then a cupboard or shelf for the heavy cast iron and I'm set. I'd definitely recommend them.

          1. One tip that really helped me was putting stainless steel lazy susans into my refrigerator and "pantry" cupboard (above the counter). Made it much easier to find things. I got some two tiered ones for the refrigerator.

            2 Replies
            1. re: MMRuth

              Great suggestions so far. I recently discovered the Grundtal line at Ikea and have installed one set of bars already. MMRuth, where did you find the steel lazy susans? All I seem to find are the crappy looking white plastic ones.

              1. re: foodiemommy

                I think I bought mine at my local hardware store, but this site has them (don't know if available in Canada?)


                This thread might help you too:



            2. The IKEA Grundtal stuff is great. IKEA also makes a wire rack for pot lids that can also be mounted on the inside of a cabinet door. It's only about $8.

              They also make some nice screw-in dividers and slide-out racks.

              1. My tip: Put as much stuff as possible on the walls and counter doors. Use magnetic spice racks, wall-mounted knife bars, utility bars, and pot hooks. Put a mug rack next to the sink (or the coffee pot). Mount hooks, lid holders, magnetic strips, or whatever inside counter doors for flat stuff.

                Things that work well for me and my smallish kitchen:

                - Magnetic "pencil cups" on the fridge, which I use for frequently-used utensils and gadgets. I've got four, and I've managed to free up most of a drawer this way.

                - A three-tiered wire basket hanging from a curtain rod on the back door to hold my dish towels, measuring cups and spoons, and other bulky, light stuff.

                - Two magnetic knife racks next to my cutting board. No more countertop knife block means I have space for a radio in my kitchen - yay. (I wanted an under-the-cabinet radio, but I didn't have the space.) But this is NOT a good idea if there's small kids around - knives occasionally do fall off the bar.

                - A bar with hooks near the stove to hold cooking essentials - stuff that I need to grab quickly. Mine has spatulas, tongs, a flat pot strainer, a silicon squeegee, two tiny pans, and of course potholders - at the end farthest from the stove.

                - Sturdy hooks on the wall of the basement stairs (mere steps from the stove) to hold my wok, some skillets, pan lids, and a few other big but flattish items.

                - A shelf over each doorway (I have three doors in my kitchen!) to hold rarely-used items. Make sure you can still open your cupboards, though, if they go up that far.

                - A tiny wheeled cart for extra storage and worktop space. I managed to squeeze one next to the fridge. It blocks a cabinet and two drawers, but the extra storage space is worth the hassle of moving it. The extra "counter" space alone is worth its weight in gold for me!

                What I wish I could have:

                - Slide-out organizers for my low cabinets, which aren't fully usable because I can't see what's in them. These sliding/rolling shelves are great but I can't can use them, because my cupboards are less deep than standard. Ditto with tiered risers for spices and canned goods - they're a great idea if they would work for you.

                - Ikea's wall-mounted drop-leaf table for an extra work surface. I just don't have a spot wide enough.

                - A wall-mounted spice rack - I just haven't tackled this issue yet. My sister glued magnets to baby-food jars and uses them on her fridge for spices (use good glue and really strong magnets; hers are falling off!)

                - Somewhere to store my huge cast-iron skillet. It's too big for a cabinet and too heavy for a hook. I currently store it in the oven (or on the stovetop when the oven's on). At least I get plenty of wrist exercise moving it around.


                P.S. I've gotten a lot of my organizing stuff from the Container Store, which delivers to Canada (if you don't mind the shipping costs).

                4 Replies
                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  Lots of great ideas. Another thing I bought are these plastic covered wired "shelves" that I can put dishes under and on top - makes more room and less likelihood of things breaking. My problem is that I rent, and the backsplash, which constitutes the entire "wall space", is tiled, so hard to add things to it.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    For a tile backsplash, perhaps suction-cup hooks might work for mugs and other things you want near the sink? Not sure they'd be strong enough, though, unless your mugs are plastic.

                    I found a great suction-cup soap dish (at Bed Bath & Beyond, I think) that holds soap, sponges, and several other things - it's nice and big.
                    [EDITED TO ADD] They have great suction-cup "pockets", too, in a bath collection. See here - http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/produ... ].

                    Small kitchens require creative thinking - lots of it. It has taken me several years to get to where I am now, and I've just picked up more good ideas here. (Like those wire shelves/racks for my cupboards - thanks!)


                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                      What a great idea - never thought of that. I do have some in the sink with a little holder for the sponges etc. My biggest issue is the knife block taking up so much space - would love to have one of those magnetic strips. I actually have storage of my ridiculous dish collection under control (well, my husband might not think so).

                      Edit - I also had wasted space behind the sink, which is in the corner, but managed to find a double wire basket for a corner, so I store onions etc. there.

                    2. re: MMRuth

                      3M Command Adhesive strips are great for attaching things, when you want to be able to remove them later without damage to the original surface.

                      They are available everywhere, and in cases where you need extra hold, you can use more than one.

                      I use these everywhere in my home for a variety of tasks. They are great.

                  2. Definitely second the magnetic knife strip. I'd also say try and find shelving units that fit right, and try to get a small stove if you don't already have one.

                    Attaching an image of the (tiny) closet sized kitchen at my old place. The fridge and another prep station are on the other side of a little hallway.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: will47

                      I'm impressed - I think you have me beat in the "small kitchen" category! I do use my coat closet as an extra pantry area.

                      1. re: will47

                        Wow--after looking at your photo, I feel loads better about my smallish, boxy, 50s kitchen. It is palatial in comparison to your space!

                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                          Yeah. Thankfully I haven't lived there in a while. The kitchen at my new place is much larger, and I replaced the tiny O'Keefe and Merritt with a bigger one.

                      2. I had to fight my builder for my medium-size kitchen in Mexico. He thought something about twice the size of Will47's was adequate.
                        In the food pantry at one end of the kitchen I have stainless steel graduated racks for spices and stainless steel shelf racks to stack canned goods on and under. I have purchased plastic containers to store pasta, beans, flour and sugar so that the space is maximized. This pantry is about 7' tall and divided into 2 upper sections and 2 lower sections. I got some of the stick-up lights that you press on and off to illluminate the cabinets
                        In the breakfront that I use for dishes, I put in the stainless steel shelf racks for the dishes and cup hooks from the top of the pantry for mugs and coffee cups.

                        1. When I had a small galley kitchen, I used plastic coated wire grids that I placed on a wall and hung all of my cookware from it. It saved the cabinet space, and since there wasn't much floor space (for standing), it was a better alternative than an overhead wire rack. If you can't find grids, it IS possible to used peg board, but I was always concerned about that material in the kitchen -- not so easy to keep clean.

                          1. I too have a small galley kitchen, and I rent, which means I cannot do as much as others have done. I just finished a kitchen "purge" the other day and boy did it ever free up space. First, I opened every cabinet door and took a good hard look at the things on the counters. Everything that does not ever get used, except maybe rarely got put in a closet elsewhere or put up on craigslist. This act alone freed up tons of space. I realized I have been storing tons of dishes that I never use. They are still accessible if I need them, but in a better part of the apartment. I also made copious use of the wire racks you can get at home depot. I think they are from California Closets. I use them everywhere; in the freezer, on the countertop, in the cabinets. I also, (without permission), hung a number of shelves for various dry goods. I would hang even more, everywhere really, but I think my landlord might finally get annoyed. I also had the idea to put shelves above my doorways as per Anne in mpls. Also, my kitchen came equipped with two corner lazy susan cabinets. What a great use of space! If you have corner cabinets, put in a lazy susan. You can cram so much into them and can always find what you need. In an ideal world, all of my dining and cooking related items would be in one spot, but getting rid of, or moving non-essentials has made my life so much happier.

                            1. This and another thread got me inspired this morning to start looking at my kitchen and what can "go away." Then it hit me. A few months ago we bought a big French-door style fridge with freezer on the bottom. Previously we had an older side-by-side (never hated an appliance so much!) that was the same width as the new one but rotten storage. So since breakfast I've moved small cans of V8 and some beers from the pantry-equivalent :) to the fridge and the limoncello and the top shelf gin to the freezer. Will be looking at more to move. Thanks for inspiring me.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: c oliver

                                I just did a google search on organizing small kitchens and this thread came up as one of the first items of my search. What great ideas! I am moving next month to a very small house and I currently have a small kitchen but the new one will be even smaller and it has no dining room so I will have an ity bitty table and at least 4 chairs and a high chair in the middle of the kitchen as well. Thanks for writing this post! =) Which suggestions did you end up using?


                              2. Here's a very good deal for help with storage http://www.amazon.com/Whitmor-6056-34...
                                I have one of these wheeled carts--it is sturdy, easy to assemble, and roomy. Contents of my cart right now: 1 rice cooker, 1 food processor+accessories, 1 12" Dutch oven, 6 cake pans of varied sizes stacked, ice cream maker, big ol' set of mixing bowls. Lots of space around each item! *Can be wheeled around*, very easy to lift items in and out, easy to clean. As you can see, it will accomodate tall (or stacked) stuff as well as wide (like a brazier or big frying pan. Strong, can take a lot of weight.

                                1. I have a small galley kitchen. The key to maximizing space is to use every inch of available space from floor to ceiling including on the walls.

                                  I have tall ceilings so I use a hanging pot rack. This saves having to keep pots in cabinets and makes them easy to access as well.

                                  Frequently-used utensils are on hanging bars from Ikea. I use the GRUNDTAL rail with hooks and spice rack.

                                  Maximize the inside of cabinets by using stacking racks, inside door racks, and I also attack screw-in large mug hooks -- http://hardware.hardwarestore.com/28-... to the inside of the cabinet sides and hang anything on them that has a hole, like measuring spoons, dry measuring cups, etc. Under the sink this is especially useful. You can line the side of the cabinets under the sink with hooks and hang stuff like bottle brushes, dusters, etc. If things don't have holes, you can drill a hole and make it hangable on a hook.

                                  Also get rid of stuff you don't need. This probably goes without saying.

                                  1. Well, I have what I consider to be a very small kitchen. Nothing like the bitty closet pic (wow!), but particularly small in comparison to the rest of teh house (proportion? ratio? however you want to look at it). Anyway, one of the things I've done that has freed up cabinet/counter space in my kitchen is finding/creating storage elsewhere (I know that's not always an option, but just in case it helps anyone else out).

                                    Specifically, I have a 'closed' grandfather clock at my front door, that's all storage below the clock face itself. As well as a conestoga cupboard at the end of my entry hall that now holds all my less often used/bulky items (bread machine, even my huge food processor). And, most recently, I got a pot stand to store/display my Le Creuset pieces that had to go in the dining room (again, no room in the kitchen!).

                                    1. We have something like this on the back of a closet door. It holds an amazing amount of stuff.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: LolaP

                                        Yes - I have one of those on the inside of the coat closet door, and then one inside the "closet" that holds the stacking washer/dryer. I too am amazed at how much stuff I can stash in them.

                                      2. well, i just discovered this site ... but i thought i'd put in my 2 cents worth on a subject i love .. cooking ...and one i hate, ha ha, small kitchens. I cooked a lot before, then went to culinary school so i have MORE stuff ... I use top of fridge for large, regularly used appliances (crock pots) and frying pans... top of dishwasher has a wooden slatted board i found so more storage..wall rack for regularly used utensils, lovely old urn for larger tools. small table with cutting boards, which i cover with those inexpensive acrylic sheets, cookbooks are on a bookshelf in living/dining room - found a give-away hutch and baker's rack which are in hall leading from kitchen to rest of house. spice racks on wall and on rack outside kitchen door. wall is cement ... otherwise i could get rid of hutch and do a lot more. need a handyman in my small kitchen. :) interesting stuff here - wish i'd have found the site sooner.

                                        1. I'm glad this thread was revived, my kitchen needs help.

                                          I have Lazy Susans in the pantry corners, making good use of what was once black hole. My application is not nearly as nice as what you'll see in the photo and at the following site, which is where I got the idea. Hooray, Pinterest!