Professional organizers explain how to organize a kitchen without plastic bins

Bins have become a kitchen organizing staple, but it turns out you can go without them

Dried food in jars
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It is near impossible to find a picture of a ‘Pinterest-perfect’ organized kitchen without masses of acrylic bins lining pantry shelves. This, however, is a lot of plastic to be introducing to your home – not to mention very expensive.

While these bins are certainly one of the easiest ways to organize a kitchen (and very on-trend), they are not the only option for keeping chaos out of your cooking space. In fact, you can achieve a similar effect through recycling containers and making smarter purchases, professional organizers claim.

Below, we detail just how you can organize a kitchen without bins for a more sustainable – and more affordable – approach to the perfectly functional kitchen. 

How to organize a kitchen without bins  

walk-in pantry with lighting

(Image credit: Humphrey Munson/ Paul Craig)

Although skipping out on bins may sound like a kitchen storage mistake, there are plenty of alternative kitchen organizers that can help to keep your kitchen in check. 

1. Keep hold of used jars

black open shelving with board and batten and lots of glass kilner jars

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you want to minimize waste and achieve an organized kitchen without spending a lot of money, glass jars are the perfect solution. Recycled glass jars that have been washed out make for excellent containers for decanting dried food goods such as rice, sugar, and beans while adding a little rustic charm to your home organizing ideas, says Rachel Sicherman, a professional organizer and founder of Tidy Made Easy.

‘I also like to recycle the large plastic jugs that you get from Costco or BJ's,’ she adds. ‘These are great to store flour and larger amounts of snacks and food items.’

Rachel Sicherman
Rachel Sicherman

Rachel Sicherman founded Tidy Made Easy after finding peace in tidying and decluttering. She believes that getting tidy and organized can truly revolutionize your life, and also focuses on design and aesthetics in her work. 

2. Contain clutter by reusing old boxes

When you are looking to organize your home without spending money and be sustainable at home, reusing old boxes that are sturdy and in good condition is a great way to get those pesky loose bags and bits tidied up, suggests Nancy Traylor, professional organizer. While she recommends using old shoe boxes and spray painting them for a quick DIY project, you could also use boxes from other food goods or boxes from packaging that are often a little thicker and higher quality. 

‘In our household, we buy ice cream in one-gallon plastic containers and always clean and hang onto the container when the ice cream is gone,’ Nancy continues. ‘They are so useful in many ways around the house. I keep them under the sink in our kitchen and bathroom to store cleaning products and clean sponges.’

Nancy Traylor
Nancy Traylor

Nancy Traylor founded her organizing business on the basis that you don't have to be a dedicated neat freak to have an organized home. She aims to help clients feel happier and less stressed through the power of tidy. 

3. Use vases to store utensils

kitchen utensils in jugs

(Image credit: Alamy)

Fancy silverware often doesn't quite fit when organizing kitchen drawers and needs a separate box for elsewhere in the kitchen or dining room. The same goes for those oversized kitchen utensils that are essential for cooking, but quickly clutter up a cutlery organizer.

The solution? Using vases and tins to keep them on display, suggests professional organizer Nancy Traylor.

‘When I have people over, I reach for three pretty vases for forks, knives, and spoons. They add interest rather than using a plain silverware caddy. I change out the vases I use depending on the season. I have some milk glass vases I use for spring and summer gatherings and pull out a set of red and green vases at Christmastime.

‘You can also get creative with old tins and vases, she adds. ‘These work great to store your spoons and spatulas near the stove and add decoration to your countertop.’

4. Think about multipurpose furniture

Small pink kitchen island one wheels with wine storage and wooden top

(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

Furniture is a more worthy investment than some plastic bins or containers and offers excellent storage solutions for both food and kitchen appliances. The smartest option is to hand-pick some multi-purpose furniture that offers you both workspace and storage space – something that is especially important for small kitchen storage, says Brenda Scott, professional organizer and owner of Tidy My Space. 

A good option is a wheeled cart or moveable island that can be moved into action and hold a variety of important kitchen goods, she suggests. ’Keep in mind that there are many different ways to use different furniture pieces. Think outside of the box!’

Rolling Craft Cart |

Rolling Craft Cart | $40 at Target
This simple rolling cart is perfect for keeping a variety of kitchen items together and helps to make more counter space in a small kithen.

5. Shop your home for unused baskets

pantry with window and dark shelves

(Image credit: Ema Peter for Stephanie Brown Inc)

If you have participated in any organizing trends in the last few years then you almost certainly have some storage baskets and bins around your home already that are underutilized. In an attempt to be less wasteful, consider shopping your home first to see what can be repurposed, advises Brenda Scott.

It may be that you manage to find containers that do not immediately scream ‘kitchen storage’, but can be given a new life, she adds. ‘For example, a file holder could hold drink bottles, and a stacking mail tray could be used for a raised dishware system. Small plastic containers could be great drawer organizers, just leave the lid off for quick and easy access.’

If you are aiming for beautiful kitchen storage as well as practicality, you could always paint your containers to appear more uniform, adds Nancy Traylor, expert organizer.

FAQs

How can I organize my kitchen without storage?

If you have a kitchen lacking in traditional storage such as cabinets, then you can add storage in the form of a mobile island, rolling carts, or wall pegboards to provide extra storage, as well as make clever use of what cabinets you do have with shelf dividers and risers.

How do you store food without a container?

If you do not have decanter containers such as glass jars or bins, then it is fine to leave the food in its original packaging, closing them with clips or bands to keep the food fresh. You can also recycle old food jars and containers to help contain food, by simply washing them out before decanting goods into them. Mason jars are a good option for this, as are plastic take-out containers.


Avoiding plastic bins when sorting out your kitchen storage is simple when you start to think a little more frugally and it pays to remember that you don't have to cut plastic out altogether, or all at once.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.