Organizing a kitchen – 13 expert ways to keep order

These simple ways to organize a kitchen will help achieve a neat and tidy room with a place for everything, and everything in its place

white kitchen with pink stools and brass accents
(Image credit: Lisa Gilmore/Native House Photography)

Get on top of organizing a kitchen – and keeping the clutter at bay – can transform your life. Drawers, cabinets and countertops that are pristinely arranged will allow you, and everyone else in your family, to access everything you need efficiently when cooking and entertaining, with so much less mess ensuing. 

Before you start, it's always best to start with a really good clear out to cut down unnecessary, out of date or unused items, and return any non-kitchen interlopers back to their proper homes.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 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, organizing a pantry before organizing a refrigerator and so on. Be sure to make laundry room organization a separate project, too, even if they are located near to one another. 

‘A good cook will organize kitchen drawers and 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 kitchen organization ideas to inspire along with advice from the experts. 

1. Define your categories

Kitchen with black cabinetry and white walls showing how to organize a kitchen well.

(Image credit: Little Greene)

What you need to organize in a kitchen fall into some broad categories. For example: 

  • Dry foods, canned goods and spices
  • Pots, pans, dishes and other cookware
  • Baking essentials (for frequent bakers)
  • Flatware
  • Plates and bowls
  • Glasses
  • Special occasion china and other items used infrequently
  • Dishtowels and cloths
  • Kids’ plates, dishes and cups (if applicable)
  • Cleaning supplies (if these aren’t stored elsewhere in your home)

To start your organization project, it’s worth writing a list of categories the contents of your kitchen fall into, using our list as a starting point and adding any others that apply to your room to help you find a place in your kitchen open shelving, cabinets and drawers for everything.

2. Create storage zones

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

(Image credit: John Lewis of Hungerford)

To decide where to put things in your kitchen, mentally divide the room into zones. These will help you decide where the different categories of items should be located within which kitchen storage ideas.

Which zones should your kitchen include? 

‘Food storage, cleaning, preparation, dishware storage, and cooking zones are the key five,’ says Jake Colwill, manager at Kutchenhaus (opens in new tab). ‘Cleaning is the easiest as a dishwasher or sink is a set place for this. 

‘To make it easier for the future, reorganize all cupboard and drawers into their set zones, so all food is together, near the fridge or freezer ideally. Make sure all pots and pans are near the oven/microwave and hob and use the remaining area for preparation of food with cutlery and dishes stored in that zone.’

Organizing by zones will make individual items easy to find – and not just by you, as organizer, but by every member of the household. 

The other advantage of creating different zones? More than one person can be undertaking a task within the room without unnecessary crisscrossing of paths. 

3. Devote one cabinet to items you access daily

An orange larder in a well organized white kitchen scheme.

(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

While grouping items is a winning strategy, however, consider also this kitchen cupboard storage idea from Richard Davonport, managing director of Davonport Kitchen & Home (opens in new tab)

‘In reality, as homeowners use such a small amount of their kitchen paraphernalia, it can make sense to have an accessible cupboard of items that are used on a daily basis,’ he says. ‘For example, if you’re a couple, having four plates, four mugs, two wine glasses etc in one cupboard right next to the dishwasher can make life really easy.’

4. Organize kitchen shelves

prettily arranged shelves above a sink and blue tile

(Image credit: Studio Enass/Uliana Grishina)

When organizing a kitchen, start with what's on show organizing kitchen countertops  as well as the kitchen shelving that can introduce 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 (opens in new tab).

‘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. Holders, containers and jars can also assist with organizing deep pantry shelves, corralling items for a tidy finish.

5. Include vertical storage

baking trays in wooden cupboard

(Image credit: Lewis Alderson)

‘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 (opens in new tab)

‘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.’

6. Consider ergonomic efficiency

bottles and glassware in a pull-out unit

(Image credit: Minotticucine London)

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, organize Tupperware used for storage near the refrigerator, crockery between the dining table and dishwasher, and organize pots and pans next to the oven. 

‘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 (opens in new tab)’s head designer Achala Knights. ‘By following these principles of ergonomic economy, your whole kitchen will feel well organized and intuitive to use.’ 

The same principle of grouping items will also work for tasks such as organizing a chest freezer, making cooking a smoother process.

7. Organize your spices

spices in a wooden drawer

(Image credit: Roundhouse)

There are several ways of organizing 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 larder doors, which means the jars sit at eye level with the labels facing out clearly visible,’ says kitchen designer Sam Hart, of Roundhouse (opens in new tab)

‘But I also rate using 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 cooktop, 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. 

8. Label everything

open pantry cupboard with labelled storage inside

(Image credit: Simpson & Voyle/Anna Stathaki)

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 pantry strategies 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, which will also come in handy to execute your utility room organization ideas

9. Establish your intended use – and stick to it

utility closet with ironing board, basket and cleaning products inside

(Image credit: Neptune)

Organizing a kitchen is about assigning use so that cabinets and drawers can realize their full potential and help keep the contents in order.

Creating 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. 

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! And always be mindful not to store what you don’t need. Use decluttering tips to discard beforehand.

10. Use kitchen doors

open wall cupboards with racks on the inside of doors in green kitchen

(Image credit: Tom Howley)

‘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 (opens in new tab). ‘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.

Use the same techniques to optimize the space when organizing under the sink but opt for easy-clean racks in case of spills.

11. Hang your stemware

green kitchen with hanging pans and glasses

(Image credit: Himlekök/Osman Tahir)

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 (opens in new tab) kitchen designed by Himlekök (opens in new tab) 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.

Compact kitchen? Follow Marie Kondo’s tips for organizing a small kitchen and make sure all your items still spark joy before dedicating space to them.

12. Keep kitchen tech tidy

iPad and devices plugged inside a drawer in a kitchen

(Image credit: Martin Moore)

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 (opens in new tab). ‘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.’

If you’re repurposing an existing drawer to tidy chargers, adding kitchen organizers can prevent them becoming tangled. 

13. Schedule a regular clear out

Kitchen

(Image credit: Lisa Gilmore/Native House Photography)

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 (opens in new tab). ‘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!’

How do I organize my kitchen like a pro?

Empty cupboards

Before you begin putting items into zones within the kitchen, make like an organization professional, and empty your cupboards out. 

Discard out of date food

First of all, check dates on foods so you don’t fall into the trap of putting back those that have passed their use-by dates. 

Donate items you won't use again

For non-food items, consider whether you’ve been making room for something you’ll never use again. Bear in mind that occasional use is different: there are some items that are there for the holidays and other special occasions. 

But take a lead from Marie Kondo and discard what you won’t use. It can go to a charity, if someone else could find a use for it, and will give you extra space if you are working with small kitchen storage ideas.

Clean before putting back 

‘With all the cupboards empty, this is the perfect time to get dust from the surfaces,’ says Jake Colwill, manager at Kutchenhaus. ‘A two-step cleaning process should be employed here by first using a detergent to lift dirt and grime and then using a disinfectant to kill any germs and bacteria. Don’t forget to wipe the contents of what was inside the cupboards before, especially sticky jars.’

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. This is particularly crucial if you’re searching for organization ideas for small kitchens that lack countertop space. 

Think, too, 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 Clayton

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.