No matter what size your room, organizing a kitchen – and keeping the clutter at bay – can feel like a full-time job. Turn your back for just one minute, and your neatly tidied counters are once again in disarray. Drawers that were pristinely arranged are now in total chaos. If this sounds familiar, you may need to consider a two-pronged approach to regaining control with clever kitchen organization ideas.
Start with a really good clear out to cut down unnecessary, out of date or unused items, and return any non-kitchen interlopers back to their proper homes.
Next, look for smart ways to organize the kitchen space you have. The aim is to make cooking and spending time in your kitchen more pleasurable, and to show off the wonderful kitchen ideas you have invested in.
Below, we take you through the steps to organizing a kitchen, perfectly.
Organizing a kitchen
Organizing a kitchen is best done methodically, and it may be best to tackle the job one category or area at a time.
‘A good cook will organize kitchen cabinets' contents rigidly, making sure everything is easy to see, at a glance, so that ingredients and equipment can be gathered quickly,’ says chef and author Peter Sidwell. Furthermore, a well-organized kitchen will make putting everything away again just as easy. It’s one thing to organize your kitchen with military precision, but quite another to keep it that way.
Whether you’re the next Marie Kondo or can hardly keep your utensils sorted, owning a perfectly organized kitchen is seriously satisfying. To help you get a grip on your kitchen once and for all, we have gathered advice from the experts plus plenty of kitchen storage ideas to inspire.
1. Organize kitchen shelves
When organizing a kitchen, start with what's on show. Open kitchen shelving is fabulous for introducing personality and design flair but can quickly descend into chaos. ‘When choosing items for kitchen shelves I tend to pick a color palette that complements either the backsplash or kitchen cabinets and use that color throughout styling the kitchen,’ says interior designer Enass Mahmoud.
‘Remember to organize and style your shelves by grouping your items into clusters of threes or odd numbers and add different heights and sizes in each cluster. This will help give your shelves some balance and help keep them looking tidy,’ adds Enass.
You can use a utensil holder to help keep things organized — and in their place — in your kitchen. Pick a design that blends with your space, to hold everything from your spatula to your whisk.
2. Include vertical storage
‘We love to provide vertical storage for oven trays and chopping boards. Storing these items vertically rather than horizontally makes them far easier to pull out and you can easily store nearly any size tray or board,’ advises Neil Matthews, director of Lewis Alderson.
‘To organize trays by size, or use, we like to include at least three divides, which creates four slots. They are especially useful for the outsized trays used in large range cookers but I advise all my clients to have one as vertical storage is so multifunctional.’
3. Consider ergonomic efficiency
Follow the lead of chef's kitchens, where speed is everything, and arrange your cabinet contents in ‘families’ according to use. For example, locate glassware next to drinks, pans next to the oven, and crockery between the dining table and dishwasher.
‘By grouping items together to create zones – cooking, cleaning, prepping, etc – you will have everything you need close to hand as you move around the kitchen,’ explains Minotticucine London’s head designer Achala Knights. ‘By following these principles of ergonomic economy, your whole kitchen will feel well organized and intuitive to use.’
4. Organize your spices
There are several ways to organize herbs and spices to avoid scrabbling around in the back of cabinets, and frequently ending up with multiple purchases or out-of-date herbs. ‘One of the most popular methods is to add a spice rack or two to the back of larders doors, which means the jars sit at eye level with the labels facing out clearly visible,’ says kitchen designer Sam Hart, of Roundhouse.
‘But I also rate organizing kitchen drawers to take spices , with the jars laid flat to show the labels. You can get a surprising number of jars in a slimline drawer and, placed close to the hob, they’ll be easily accessible when cooking.’
The most logical way to curate a herb and spice collection is alphabetically rather than by the style/shape of packaging. If the chaotic look of items bought at different stores upsets your sense of order, do invest in more stylish glass jars – ideally with rubber seals to maintain freshness – and add your own labels.
5. Label everything
The benefit of a walk-in pantry or larder cupboard is that everything is visible in one glance, and you don’t need to remember which drawer you left the rock salt in. The one negative of having bulk order foodstuffs on display is that not everything comes in beautiful eye-catching packaging.
Happily, there is a huge array of extremely stylish ways of organizing a pantry you can mimic for your kitchen organization ideas. What you buy will partly depend on looks but you should also think about how easy your pantry organizers will be to clean, how much you can store inside and the lid design.
Some foods benefit from easy-pour lids, while others are shaped to fit specific items – like spaghetti jars, for example. Glass containers look high-end and are hygienic but won’t suit accident-prone users or children. You can buy pre-printed labels for the most common pantry staples, plain labels for chalk pens or create your own with a label maker.
6. Establish your intended use – and stick to it
Organizing a kitchen is about assigning use so that cabinets and drawers can really maximize their full potential and help keep clutter contained. Organizing a linen closet in the kitchen is the next best thing to an actual laundry room. By really paying attention to how everything will fit in, you’ll be able to neatly stow away everything needed to keep your home spick and span.
As when organizing a laundry room, mix up the horizontal and vertical dividers to accommodate tall items like mops and ironing boards. Include electric outlets if you want to charge a cordless vacuum inside and use hooks to hang dustpan and brushes.
The truly-organized might like to add a chalkboard on the interior door to keep an inventory of cleaning products and ensure you never run out of laundry detergent or stain remover. Try to avoid the temptation to stash anything non-related to the closet’s intended use, even if there’s space to spare. It’s all too easy to end up with a ‘closet of chaos’ instead!
7. Use kitchen doors
‘If you don’t have room for a large pantry, utilizing your cabinet doors can go a long way towards keeping essential ingredients organized,’ says kitchen designer Tom Howley. ‘Designing them with specific contents in mind can help you make the most of the available space when organizing a kitchen. You can add racks for oils, spices, coffee and even everyday ingredients such as pasta and rice. Creating shelves at varying heights can keep the items you use every day tidy and easy to locate.’
Wooden racks are preferable to metal in terms of reducing the noise of bottles and jars clanking as you open the doors.
8. Hang your stemware
If you love to entertain, you’ll almost certainly own an impressive collection of stemware. Hanging glasses from the ceiling, and pots and pans for that matter, is an effective way to corral them into order, while taking pressure off your cabinet space. Arrange by size and use to make it easy to cater for crowds.
Rows of glistening glassware will double as décor, as this stunning Officine Gullo kitchen designed by Himlekök shows. However, this is not an organizational tip for those who rarely host a crowd – frequent use is the best way to eliminate the need to dust.
9. Keep kitchen tech tidy
Now we’re spending more time at home, kitchens have become truly multipurpose spaces where we work, relax and entertain. As such, it’s no longer just the kettle and toaster that are to blame for cluttering up countertops and adding visual ‘noise’ in the kitchen.
‘Alongside breakfast cupboards, designed to offer easy access to toasters, juicers and coffee machines that are all plugged in and ready to go, we’re increasingly asked for "tech drawers",’ reports Richard Moore, design director, Martin Moore. ‘These powered-up drawers are extremely handy for those who work from home and also for those with teenagers! They hide away ugly wires and chargers when not in use, keeping counter space clutter-free, as well as storing everything in one neatly organized place.’
10. Schedule a regular clear out
Even with the very best intentions, it’s all too easy for your precisely arranged cabinets and drawers to descend into chaos. We’re looking at you, Tupperware drawer! A regular decluttering will help restore order and, possibly, encourage other family members to be more mindful when tidying up.
Pull everything out, throw away any out of date stock and return errant items to their correct location. Make it an annual event, or commit to clearing out one unit per week or fortnight on a rolling basis to make the chore more manageable.
‘Try to find ways to make cabinet interiors visually pleasing to keep everyone excited and motivated to keep them looking pretty and tidy,’ says interior designer Lisa Gilmore. ‘For example, introduce pretty labels or stylish storage bins and perhaps get creative with color and wallpaper inside larger cabinets to jazz up the space!’
What is the most efficient way to organize a kitchen?
The most efficient way to organize a kitchen is to think in zones. There should be three main zones in every kitchen: cooking, prep, and cleaning. If you have the space, it’s also good to have a fourth food storage zone, such as a pantry or larder with refrigerator adjacent so that gathering ingredients or putting away groceries is a one-stop trip.
Establishing zones makes it easy to organize the kitchen according to use. For example, the cabinets around the cleaning zone – the sink and dishwasher – will host cleaning products, kitchen towels and the general waste bin. The cabinets and drawers around the ovens and hob should contain pots and pans, bakeware, herbs and spices and oils. Finally, the prep space should have chopping boards, the knife block/drawer and food waste bin within easy reach. ‘To make the cooking process seamless, every item should have a purpose and a place – you should be able to reach whatever you need almost without thinking about it so that you can focus on cooking,’ advises professional chef Galton Blackiston.
How do I organize my kitchen clutter?
Start by assessing the permanent fixtures on your counters and consider if any can be located elsewhere without making life harder. Think about frequency of use. A food mixer you only use once a month can be stored in a cabinet, or even in the pantry if storage is tight. A toaster you use every day needs to be plugged in, but this can be behind closed doors or tambor-style shutters.
Switching the kettle for a boiling water tap will remove one appliance from your counters, which can make a big difference in a small kitchen. Can items like tea and coffee caddies go in the cabinet above, or on a hanging system attached to the backsplash? Switch a counter knife block for a flat in-drawer block, and also reduce the number of oils and seasonings next to the hob. Decant oils into stylish bottles if you’re leaving them on show.
Tackling the non-permanent detritus that builds up during the day/week is more of an on-going commitment. Try to clear down at the end of each day and ask family members to take responsibility for their own mess. Doing it for them is quicker but it won’t reduce repeat offending. It helps if there is a place, perhaps nearer the front door, for post, keys, home study books and so on, so that counters don’t end up a natural dumping ground.
Linda graduated from university with a First in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. Her career began on a trade title for the kitchen and bathroom industry, and she has worked for Homes & Gardens, and sister-brands Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, since 2006, covering interiors topics, though kitchens and bathrooms are her specialism.
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