HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Kitchen organization tips

How have you organized things in your kitchen that really helps?
OR what simple thing do you do that makes you more efficient in your particular kitchen?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have a lot of room in my current kitchen, but I didn't always. I think one of the biggest things I've always done is have smaller items/tools "contained". So, using boxes, trays etc to corral small items so they don't end up all over the place. Also, not having too much of one thing. Like, how many spatulas does one really need? I also don't have hardly any "uni-taskers".

    I also got rid of mismatched plastic storage ware, and bought an entire set of matching ones. The bases stack and nest neatly inside each other, and the lids stack nicely next to them. And, fortunately, when I moved with my SO he had the exact same set, so we were able to integrate them :) I do still have a few random plastic bowls from Tupperware that my mom gave me but otherwise it's all from the same set. Now, my entire plastic storage collection is contained to 2 shelves in a cabinet and I never have an issue getting what I need out and finding it's lid.

    For spices, I bought one of these: http://www.containerstore.com/shop?pr... and it's great! I never have a hard time finding what I need since nothing gets lost in the back.

    One other tip, store your flat items (baking sheets, trays, cutting boards etc) vertically. That way you never have to lift up a bunch to get what you want. I took the shelves out of a lower cabinet and put in two of these: http://www.containerstore.com/shop?pr...

    15 Replies
    1. re: juliejulez

      Oh! I'm going to move my flat things from a big bottom drawer to a cabinet! Thx

      1. re: juliejulez

        Also, not having too much of one thing. Like, how many spatulas does one really need? I also don't have hardly any "uni-taskers".


        Amen. My kitchen drawers are relatively bare because really, how many big spoons, spatulas, chef knives does one need to prepare a meal? Most times, you are doing dishes after each meal so one or maybe two of anything is enough. I purged all speciality items.

        Same goes for things like baking sheets, who needs more that two for a single meal? Same goes for mixing bowls, roasting pans, baking dishes, etc,

        It was really hard for me to give up the extras but it has made cooking and clean up so much easier.

        1. re: cleobeach

          I often cook with groups of friends or family members, so like to have enough tools that people can be gainfully engaged, and avoid cross-contamination. Makes me crazy when someone uses the same spoon or spatula to stir a meat dish AND a vegetable dish. Ditto with cutting boards.

          1. re: KarenDW

            I could see if you had a kitchen big enough that multiple people could be working on their own dish at the same time then you would probably have the storage space for 6 or 8 cooking spoons.

            I am brutal about purging storage containers. If the lid goes missing or gets mangled, the lid AND bottom go in the trash. Mismatched storage contains are nothing but trouble when you have limited storage space.

            1. re: cleobeach

              LOL cleo, getting my mom to throw out containers was like asking her to give away one of her children. I was organizing her kitchen as a gift and she saw the big pile of plastic ware that I was going to toss (mostly stuff that was messed up, or didn't have a matching lid), and she freaked out. Finally my stepdad intervened and I got to throw out most of it :)

              1. re: cleobeach

                Kitchen is 10 ft. from back of stove to the other side of the island, and 12 ft. from backsplash to the hall. We're lucky to have an open-plan layout in our apartment. So, theoretically, there could be 2 people at the stove, 2 working on the island, one using a mixer at the kitchen table, and someone washing dishes. We'd be in pretty close quarters, but not stepping on each others' toes :) much.
                But back OT: we keep cutting boards, platters and baking sheets vertically, in the cupboard above the fridge. And the "venting" space, between the fridge and said cupboard, is the perfect place for the stovetop grill pan.

                1. re: KarenDW

                  We have a small apartment kitchen. Someone had a computer desk out on the curb to give away, so I rolled it home down the street. My dad helped me chop it up a little, and we ended up with an "island" something like this: http://newyongsheng.en.made-in-china....

                  Except it's better because the main shelf comes out farther, under the pull-out keyboard tray (which we use to stash stuff on while we cook) is a two-sided drawer, (utensils) and the top shelf goes all the way across and is deeper (that's where we keep vinegar, oils, worcestershire, etc.). We moved the little shelf up from the bottom so it's on top of the main shelf, put a nice big chopping block on the main shelf, and put plastic drawers underneath. Bent wire hangers and stuck them in leftover assembly holes in the metal to hold pot holders and onion goggles. I felt so clever and it has made a huge difference! It's still crowded for two to work in there, but the extra storage- and work-space really help.

              2. re: KarenDW

                I have a big ceramic jar right next to the stove that holds at least a dozen wooden spoons plus half a dozen sets of tongs. It would drive me crazy to have to look for them in the drawer. Same goes for the spatulas, graters and specialty spoons that hang from hooks on the stainless steel rods that make up my open shelving next to the stove for every day pots and serving bowls.

              3. re: cleobeach

                Also, not having too much of one thing. Like, how many spatulas does one really need?

                How many? Jeez. I have the peltex, the one for non-stick pan, the wide one for turning fish filets/ whole fish, stainless steel one, the wok spatula, the flat spatula for the grill top....those are the ones that come to mind immediately so at least 6.

                1. re: Bkeats

                  Just went and counted, I have 8 and I use them all for different purposes.

                  1. re: Bkeats

                    See I have one bamboo one that I use for all stove work, although I wouldn't mind having another just so I don't have to wash it after using it with raw meat, and then maybe 2 silicon ones for baking. I get by just fine! All comes down to personal style I guess.

                2. re: juliejulez

                  Not only do I store my baking sheets vertically but when I had my kitchen redone they suggested putting them in the cabinet above the fridge. I never used the cabinet above my fridge before because it always involved pulling out a step stool. Now I can easily reach the front of the sheet and pull it out. Genius!

                  1. re: dmjordan

                    Yeah, the original kitchen in this house had one good design element in the kitchen: above the double-ovens was a huge vertical organizer for sheet pans & such. We gutted & remodeled, but I kept that idea. Have rearranged often & maximize the use of that space, which is terrific.

                  2. re: juliejulez

                    I figured out the amount of plastic containers I could fit in the designated drawer--each one with its lid snapped on--and found that was enough. Not having to look for the right top is heavenly.

                  3. 1. I bought a knife block. I don't know why it took me so long to do this.

                    2. I bought a heavy cutting board which I leave in place. It leaves a gap of several inches behind it. Bottles which don't need to be refrigerated can stay out on the counter provided that they all fit in the space behind the cutting board.

                    3. I replaced my refrigerator with a shallow-depth bottom-freezer model. Now I can see what's in it so it doesn't collect old stuff in the back.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: GH1618

                      Your second answer is exactly what I have done and I love it. Neat row of oils and vinegars, corralled in front by the 31x18 cutting board. It's a pleasure for work.

                      Your first answer is exactly opposite of what I have done: I got fed up with making space for the knife block, and got a magnetic knife strip. More counter space.

                    2. One thing I did for efficiency was buy a small plastic dustbin/trashcan. It's only about 10 inches tall. I line it with plastic grocery bags, and keep it on the kitchen counter next to the sink. When I need to prep meals, I pull it forward and use it for my prep garbage -- veggie peels, plastic tear-off strips, etc. When my prep is done, I remove the filled bag, and toss it into the big kitchen trashcan, and put a new grocery bag in.

                      It saves me the trouble of walking the few feet to the big trashcan several times during prep to throw away this and that. It's a small thing but saves me a few minutes.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: boogiebaby

                        The mini trash container is a great idea. My regular one is several steps away from my prep area and when hands are wet/sticky it get gunky all the time. Much easier to have the little one nearby with a plastic liner that I imagine has a good portion of the sides covered with draped over plastic. Dripping eggs shells begone!

                        1. re: boogiebaby

                          My mother is quite the informecial and gimmick fan and has sent me two of the Rachael Ray "garbage bowls" which is exactly what you're describing and of course doesn't need to be marketed as such but it's so helpful. People often wonder "uh, can't you walk across the kitchen (my kitchen is pretty small)" but it's very useful and I use it all the time. Garlic clove skins, package wrappers, then one single dump in the trash ca.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            I bought two of those bowls because we were tired of eating popcorn out of old tupperware. I keep them nested on the counter and use them for so many things; mixing bowls, trash bowls, and of course, popcorn!

                            When using them as trash bowls, if I've got a plastic produce bag or grocery bag, I use that as a liner, fill it and toss the bag. Saves washing the bowl.

                        2. I've got enough herbs & spices to stock a grocery store, and I put a couple of lazy susans in the cabinet plus one of these pull-down spice containers http://www.target.com/p/original-spic...

                          I'd love to be more organized/efficient!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: eepi

                            +1 for the spice stack. I have 2 in my pantry.

                            I've also tossed all my old mis-matched plastic storage and have 2 sets of Snaplock. I keep the lids in a clear storage bin in the same cabinet, vertically arranged by size. I did the same with my Glasslock glass storage.

                            Am I the only one who refuses to put any of the plastic pieces in the dishwasher or microwave?

                          2. I bought one of these lazy-susan deals years ago and wouldn't part with it. I'm not sure if they're still available. The article that went with the photo called it "vintage"! Sheesh, I haven't had it THAT long.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: grampart

                              My mother always had one of these and I bought one for my first apartment. The small tools and anything use frequently is right there.

                              1. re: grampart

                                I had one just like that years ago, it was lost in a shuffle. Have looked but never seen one like it again. I loved it, it held so much.

                              2. Long ago I invested in steel mesh trays in various sizes to hold almost everything in my drawers. Ladles/spoons, spatulas, measuring spoons, corn holders, you name it. They range in size from 2"x4" to 6"x18", including squares. Most of my drawers have a few of these. They serve a dual purpose by also corralling things aren't stored in them, like my potato ricer, egg slicer, and tongs, which fit into the spaces not taken up by the trays.

                                As you see, everything is easy to find!

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: DuffyH

                                  Nice! Better look and feel than plastic dividers, drains if you put something back a bit wet, easier to clean. Gotta get me some!

                                  1. re: mwhitmore

                                    Yup, cleaning is super easy. Take out the tray and clean the drawer. These things just never get crumby or gunky. :)

                                  2. re: DuffyH

                                    Beautiful Duffy,

                                    Contrast and compare. This is ONE of 4 drawers I have like this. Ugh

                                    1. re: ItalianNana

                                      No way! You did that just for the picture, yes? :0

                                  3. I have an open shelf at an arm's reach from the stove, where I put all the most frequently used bottles of cooking oils, sauces and wines. Finally, taking a tip gleaned from CH, I got a lazy susan that was the same depth as the shelf, where I fit in the seven or so of the bottles I use the most. It was great now that I no longer have to take out many of the heavy bottles to get one at the back, many, many times to prepare each meal. Just spin and grab with one hand, and repeat. I cannot imagine going without one anymore.

                                    Also, I use the traditional two-tier spice shelf for the most often used herbs and spices, but for the other 50+ other odd ones that come in all kinds of size and packaging, I made a deep, clear plastic drawer the same width and depth as one of my narrower shelves - by cutting out from a kitty litter container. I maximized the height of the drawer to make full use of the shelf space, which allows me to cram in a lot of stuff into limited space. And because the drawer is completely see-through, it is not too hard to find what I need.

                                    1. I store my skillets and lids vertically, just like the baking sheets and cutting boards. All of my cabinets have either pullout trays for bowls, etc. or vertical dividers. I don't have any flat stuff stacked.

                                      1. I don't have a lot of counter space in my small kitchen, so I have a magnetic strip mounted on the wall for knives. So easy to grab them from there and then to replace them when they have been washed and dried.

                                        I also have oven mitts with magnets sewn into them. Easy to grab or replace from either the front of the frig or the side of the range.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: pamf

                                          My favorite kitchen was galley-style. When I updated it, I put a 36" end-grain maple block 18" from my range and mounted magnetic knife strips above it. So handy!

                                          That cutting block took the place of 3 feet of countertop. My carpenter had to modify an apron-front sink base to make it work, but it was so convenient, I never regretted doing it. I stored my mixer and food processor in the base cabinet. I'm freakishly picky about kitchens, is there a support group for that?

                                          1. re: pamf

                                            I actually had a butcher's block and when I moved into my current apartment there was a metal strip on the wall which I was so confused about. Eventually it clicked and one day I decided to use and it's so handy dandy.

                                            The oven mitt idea is genius! They are like kitchen towels with me...where did it go/

                                          2. I recently put shallow cardboard boxes side by side in my fridge, to hold condiments. Each box has a theme-- Asian condiments, picklyish stuff, etc. Rather than fumbling around, reaching in the back where I can't see, getting irritated, and buying duplicates because I think I'm out of something, I can just pull a box halfway out and get what I need. Also, spills and drips are contained, so I can replace a box rather than try to pry sticky gook off the shelves. I should have done this long ago. Now to train the boy to return things (upright) to the correct boxes . . . .

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: juster

                                              That's a unique solution...at least to me! I find that my doors are filled not with things I use most, but rather with things hard to find. Hmmm... Refrigerator and cupboard organizing could be a whole thread by itself.

                                              1. re: ItalianNana

                                                I also use shallow carboard boxes (from the unpacked CostCo purchases), but in my lower cabinets. I have back problems and bending is a challenge. I put similar things in each "pull out" box, like bags of chips, dried fruits, etc. Makes organizing easy, at no cost (well, except that original mega-CostCo bill).

                                                1. re: pine time

                                                  Yup, good for food, too. I have boxes of cereal, crackers, and pet treats on top of the fridge, where things used to get lost in the back center and go stale.

                                              2. re: juster

                                                <Now to train the boy to return things (upright) to the correct boxes . . . .>

                                                That's a whole new thread!

                                              3. I keep spices and dried herbs in their original bottles in the YouCopia Super SpiceStack, which has space for 27 full-sized bottles or 54 half-size.


                                                1. The best thing I ever did in organizing the kitchen was to take all of the seldom used utensils and pots/pans and put the stuff I couldn't part with in a box in the basement. The rest got donated.

                                                  1. All of my coffee, liners, condiments and cups are in the cupboard by the coffee maker. All (most) of my spices are in a drawer on a tilted up panel. Open drawer and pick out your spices. Dear Sis opened it one day and in disgust immediately alphabetized said drawer. I keep it that way today. I have most of my large spoons, spatulas, whisks, etc. sitting in a big glass bowl near the stove for easy grabbing.

                                                    1. Suggestion: Once a year, clear everything out, put it in a storage area, and give your kitchen a thorough cleaning, But instead of returning everything, pull items out of storage as you need them. Than, a year later, check what you have left in storage, and contemplate whether you need it. Contemplate further if you haven't used it in two years.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: mwhitmore

                                                        That's pretty much brilliant. I can see adding a lot of new tasks to any given tool.

                                                        Let's say Spatula A used to be for x and y, and Spatula B was used for p and q, but now it's too much trouble to go get Spatula A if I need to x or y and instead find Spatula B doing all 4 jobs perfectly well, maybe A isn't needed after all.

                                                        Love it!

                                                        1. re: mwhitmore

                                                          mwhitmore: That is exactly what I tell my clients when I am designing their new kitchen. It's amazing how much stuff is cluttering some people's cabinets..grandma's old skillets, an electric frying pan from the 70's, the pressure cooker with no seal...

                                                          I tell them to put everything in the garage or the basement, so it's not handy. The ones who box everything up in the dining room tend to get tired of all the boxes, and just throw any old thing into the new cabinets, just to clear out the dining room.

                                                          1. re: mwhitmore

                                                            mwhitmore, that's how I learned what I really needed. I moved from Chicago to my mother's house in 2010. Virtually all of my things stayed in storage... maybe a box or two worth of stuff and my kitchen aid mixer made it into mom's kitchen. When I moved out to CO last year, it was fun to go through all my kitchen boxes I hadn't seen in 2 years, but I realized how much I really didn't need. There's still 3-4 boxes of kitchen stuff in the basement that I don't use and will probably end up donating.

                                                            1. re: mwhitmore

                                                              I've packed up all of mom's stuff, quality pans and such, for my son's upcoming college days. I'm still kicking myself for selling the dishes at a garage sale.

                                                              Wasn't thinking clearly after my dad's death and moving her into assisted living.

                                                              Nowdays I am all about thinking ahead. Kids, nieces, nephews, friends; could probably use the cookware you no longer need.

                                                              1. re: justalex

                                                                I packed up "iffy" utensils and gadgets and put them in the empty cabinets in the laundry room (I'm blessed with lots of cabinets). Two years later, I hadn't touched any of those boxes, so they all went to the Salvation Army (complete with the manuals, since I'm a little OCD). Problem solved!

                                                            2. Nothing gets kept if it does only one thing, unless it's a very useful one thing. Then it gets kept in the basement. I hate a cluttered utensil drawer. I used adjustable bamboo divider trays to keep things separate and visible.

                                                              Vertical storage for platters, cutting boards, trays.