8 kitchen organizing mistakes you are probably making, according to pros

And tips on what you can do instead for a beautiful, functional kitchen

white kitchen with island and wooden floors
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Our kitchens are busy places, and home to endless flatware, cookbooks and cooking ingredients, so it pays to keep things organized. With all the kitchen organizing tips, tricks, and hacks out there, people are bound to make mistakes. At best, some of these mistakes just lead to an organizational system you don’t actually use. 

At worst, they can create more food waste and require you to spend more time trying to navigate your own kitchen. 

So, what do you do when you realize your kitchen organizing system isn't working? You consult the experts, of course! 

Kitchen organizing mistakes

In an effort to combat some of the worst offenses, we turned to a few of our favorite kitchen pros to find out what they deem to be the biggest kitchen organizing mistakes.

Kitchen with green cabinets and peninsular unit, wood floor, and yellow wall

(Image credit: John Lewis of Hungerford)

1. Wasting space on spice racks

According to Catherine McCord, founder of Weelicious and author of Meal Prep Magic, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is using up valuable counter and cabinet space with a spice rack. Even worse, McCord says keeping your spices out, in general, isn’t great for quality control. 

‘Spices often dull faster from sun exposure,’ McCord explains, who instead suggests dedicating a drawer for the job. ‘Drawers are best for laying spices jars flat and close together so you can alphabetize and see all of your options when cooking.’

Expand-A-Drawer Spice Organizer | $24.99 at The Container Store

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This expandable spice drawer organizer can be placed into any kitchen drawer. With adjustable side sections, it's the perfect solution for keeping your spice drawer organized and accessible. 

Catherine McCord
Catherine McCord

Catherine McCord is a mom of three, an entrepreneur, and a cookbook author. Catherine graduated from culinary school before working in high end restaurants. When she had her first child in 2007, she discovered there was no comprehensive guide that offered new parents simple, nutritious, flavorful recipes and guidance on how to feed their new eaters. So, she created Weelicious, which now addresses not just baby's mealtime but the whole family's. In 2015 she launched One Potato, a meal delivery service focused specifically on the dinnertime needs of families. 

2. Decanting without saving the cooking instructions

An orange larder in a well organized white kitchen scheme.

(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

Decanting your food into clear food canisters, at The Container Store, is a popular organizing hack, but often, users find they abandon it entirely. McCord says there are plenty of perks to this method, so it might just require some trial and error. ‘When you can see your food, you’re more likely to be inspired to cook with it,’ she says.

Instead of ditching this method, consider why you’re not crazy about decanting. If it comes down to needing the instructions, then that’s an easy fix – and McCord gave us her top tip for it. ‘If you’re not sure how to cook a specific food, cut the instructions off the box and tape it on the jar as a reminder,’ she says.

3. Using a corner unit

modern kitchen with large windows

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Tanya Smith-Shiflett, owner and co-founder of the interior design firm Unique Kitchens and Baths, has seen her fair share of poorly designed kitchens that are a recipe for bad organization. 

If you’re in the process of designing or redesigning a kitchen with organizing in mind, she suggests avoiding a corner unit if possible. This will make organizing kitchen cabinets much easier in the long run.

'Turntables or cloud pullouts can offer some options to fill the space but I think that the cabinetry can be designed in a better, more functional way without the use of these corner pieces,' says Smith-Shiflett. 

Tanya Smith-Shiflett headshot
Tanya Smith-Shiflett

Tanya has always believed that the kitchen is, in fact, the heart of the home. She has always been passionate about balancing function and beauty in the rooms we use most. While working full-time in medical sales, she began helping her husband’s building company part-time with kitchen layouts and color schemes. Her innate ability to create beautiful kitchens promoted her to become the founder of Unique Kitchens & Baths.

4. Stacking everything until it’s unreachable

Many pro organizers will tell you to make the most of vertical space, and it can be incredibly valuable advice – but only if done correctly. Ashley Murphy, Co-Founder and CEO of NEAT Method warns against doing this with stacking organizers.

‘Anytime you stack to save space, you’re limiting access to items on the bottom. Avoid stacking by adding additional shelves whenever possible. You can typically source standard cabinet shelves from your local hardware store or purchase them online.’

Instead, Murphy suggests adjusting your kitchen shelving. ‘Whenever possible, take advantage of adjustable shelving in order to accommodate tall items or to lower shelves that are out of reach,’ she says. ‘This will allow you to maximize space and make better use of your cabinets.’

5. Buying organizers without measuring first

Walk-in pantry with double doors opening onto a breakfast station, with shelving on the inside of the doors

(Image credit: Liz Caan/Eric Roth)

Marissa Hagmeyer, NEAT Method’s Co-Founder and COO, says she’s also surprised by how many people will invest in the best kitchen organizers without assessing their space first.

‘Stop purchasing products without assessing your needs and measuring the space first,’ she says. ‘There’s nothing worse than having to return organizers and start over, or worse, utilizing products that don’t fit your shelves or drawers.’ 

Neat Method team headshot
Ashley Murphy & Marissa Hagmeyer

Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer are the organization-obsessed co-founders behind NEAT Method. Started in 2010, NEAT Method is the result of the duo's inspiration to bring a fresh perspective to the industry. Originally servicing the Bay area of San Francisco, NEAT Method began to build a small, passionate group of organizers. Murphy, the CEO, led the team from localized markets to expanding across the US and Canada, while Hagmeyer, COO, advises on designs, builds spreadsheets, and implements efficiencies.

6. Following the trends instead of considering your needs

Of course, most of our kitchen organizing headaches come from the same source: someone on social media said you should. Smith-Shiflett is firmly against this. While it’s great for inspiration, don’t be disheartened if someone else’s method doesn’t work for you!

‘People should stop caring about what is the trendiest or most Insta-worth" organizational tip,’ she says. ‘Do whatever works for you and your family!’ 

7. Holding onto things you don’t need

View across the marble topped kitchen island with shelves in the background with dishes and baskets.

(Image credit: Jan Baldwin)

Hoarding and hanging onto unwanted and unused items is a bad idea in any room, but especially in the kitchen. That’s why McCord says decluttering your kitchen should take priority ahead of organizing – and not enough people do it correctly. 

‘Put aside the need to hold onto that sauce you’ve never used, the pot holder you hate but you don’t want to get rid of because your mother gave it to you, or your collection of wooden spoons, half you won’t ever use,’ says McCord. 

Smith-Shiflett wholeheartedly agrees. ‘Purge!! Get rid of stuff that you haven't used or don't need anymore,’ she says. ‘Donate items if you can but create a more efficient space by taking inventory of what you use the most.’ 

8. Buying too many gadgets

Ashley Macuga of Collected Interiors says the biggest offender she finds in people’s homes is a stockpile of appliances and add-ons they never actually use. 

‘Technology can get expensive really fast, and it's important to think strategically about your investments,’ she says. ‘I believe deeply in investing in quality, but not overbuying on a fancy built-in coffee maker if you are happiest drinking drip.’ 

Ashley Macuga headshot
Ashley Macuga

Ashley Macuga is the principal designer at Collected Interiors, a San Carlos-based interior design firm. Ashley’s New Orleans heritage deeply influences her design point of view and practice.

FAQs

Where do you put plates and glasses in the kitchen?

For everyday dishes, it makes sense to store them in a cabinet near the dishwasher so they are easy to put away. Some pro organizers also suggest keeping them as close to your eating area as possible so preparing meals and laying the table is more seamless. 

Be realistic about how many plates and glasses you need for the day-to-day running of your home. For instance, if you are a family of five, that's five times three meals a day. So a large pile of clean plates will quickly get used up. Rather rather than trying to streamline your collection because you think you should have fewer, purchase as many white plates as you need. White dishes will always look uniform even if they aren't all from the same store.


Of course, if you do any of the above and they work for you, then that’s what’s most important. Above all else, the priority is always on creating a kitchen that works and that you love. 

Ashley Chalmers
Contributing Editor

Ashley Chalmers is a freelance writer for Homes & Gardens with over 10 years' experience as a digital writer and content creator. Ashley started her career in entertainment and fashion PR in New York, before moving to the French countryside and taking up travel blogging. Now, Ashley lives in London. Her passion for travelling is only matched by her love of making her house feel like a home, and she loves to include her finds from around the world in her decor.