How to organize a kitchen in readiness for entertaining – 9 ways to prep for perfection

Ensure your kitchen is well-prepped for party season with these top tips

kitchen and dining area
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Whether you’re gearing up for the holiday season or hosting houseguests from out of town, organizing a kitchen in readiness for entertaining takes away all the stress, leaving you free to enjoy the occasion along with your loved ones.

Planning the perfect party menu, décor and table settings is all well and good, but organizing the kitchen so it can accommodate your cooking needs is just as important. No matter how hard you try to steer them away, guests will congregate in the kitchen (whether they’re offering a helping hand or not) so you’ll need to think about how it looks – and have drinks and appetizers at the ready, too. 

How to organize a kitchen in readiness for entertaining 

To help, we’ve gathered advice from professional organizers (and party-goers) on how to organize a kitchen in readiness for entertaining, leaving you time to focus on the event itself, and enjoy it on the day, too! 

1. Start with a good sort out

Floor to ceiling kitchen cabinet in neutral color with doors open to show shelves and drawers

(Image credit: Martin Moore)

Gather together any cookware, serving dishes, and tableware you’ve got stashed away (ideally you’d do this a few weeks beforehand, so you know how many extra things you’ll need to accommodate) then start decluttering your kitchen to free up the space. Take the opportunity to get rid of any broken, unwanted or duplicate items, and move anything you’re unlikely to need from cabinets and drawers into the garage or loft.

While you’re decluttering, make a note of what cookware, glassware, and crockery you have, and whether you need more to accommodate extra guests. If you don’t, consider borrowing or renting items instead of buying them, so you don’t wind up with unnecessary clutter. 

2. Give party essentials prime position

Once you’ve streamlined your collection, move entertaining essentials into prime position for easy access so they’re close to hand when you need them. When deciding what goes where, think about how you move around your kitchen, taking the six key zones of kitchen organizing into account.

Create defined areas for prepping, cooking, serving, and cleanup by grouping and positioning relevant items accordingly; pots, pans, and utensils next to the hob, glassware organized in kitchen island drawers, linens and serve ware in cabinets nearest to the dining table, etc. Designate somewhere out of sight for dirty dishes rather than stacking them on the side, a utility room with a sink, ideally.

3. Introduce extra storage

An influx of ingredients and kitchenware means extra storage is required to keep things in order, even if on a temporary basis – leaving stuff out on the sides is not an option, you need all the surface space you can get. If you’re organizing a small kitchen without a pantry, kit out kitchen cabinets with inexpensive kitchen organizers such as over-the-door racks, tiered risers and undershelf baskets to increase capacity – they can be removed easily enough when they’re no longer needed.

4. Clear the counters

Kitchen Christmas decor ideas with a pine garland running along a shelf above the stove

(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

Decluttering countertops not only makes food preparation easier but also gives your kitchen a more inviting and organized look,' says professional organizer Hashi Mohamed, president of Minneapolis-based Ivy Cleans. Clear everyday items such as knife blocks, chopping boards and utensil holders, as well as bulky appliances that you’re unlikely to need. Toasters, kettles and coffee machines can go too, unless you’re planning to serve hot drinks after dinner or in the morning. 

If you’re short on time, sweep mail, spare change, pens, and general ‘everyday’ clutter into a box for the time being, with a view to organizing countertops properly once guests have gone home.

5. Reorder your fridge – and the pantry

Kitchen pantry with shelves with fruit and dry ingredients

(Image credit: Future)

Organizing your refrigerator is essential to ensure there’s enough room for ingredients and pre-made dishes, as well as anything your guests might bring. Removing packaging from food items is a great space-saver; transfer into zip-lock bags or stackable containers; compartmentalized designs like these, at Amazon, are handy for storing pre-prepared ingredients. Fruit and veggies actually store better outside of the fridge, so move them into an open basket outside the back door.

When it comes to streamlining the pantry, make a note of all the things you need to replace and do so in advance – the last thing you want is to run out of essentials. ‘We also like to empty a shelf or two in readiness for any treats that will make their way in over the holiday season,' adds Shannon Krause, chief organizer at Tidy Nest. 

Shannon Krause
Shannon Krause

Shannon Krause is a Certified Professional Organizer who holds a specialist certificate in Brain-Based Conditions from the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and is a Certified Reiki Master which she incorporates into her work with clients. Tidy Nest has helped dozens of clients bring order into their lives and has won local awards recognizing their work. 

6. Tame your Tupperware

Organizing Tupperware and plastic containers in readiness for leftovers is one for the checklist, too. As well as decluttering your container collection, stock up on some cheap food boxes (try biodegradable versions made from Kraft card, like these from Amazon) for guests to take home. Don’t forget to add labels with what's inside and the date it was made, especially if you’re planning on freezing anything.

7. Rearrange furniture to create a more social setting

Kitchen layout ideas with an L-shaped blue kitchen and island with breakfast bar

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

Rearranging your kitchen layout can have just as much of an impact on your party as refreshments and decorations – the last thing you want is guests feeling cramped or uncomfortable. Have a think about the type of party you’re hosting, and how you want it to go. 

For larger gatherings, moving your dining table and chairs against walls and corners to create a buffet-style layout makes for more relaxed, a la carte-style dining, and frees up space in the center for guests to mingle. 

‘Bringing in extra chairs and stools is fine, but unless you’re hosting a sit-down dinner, don’t feel like you have to have one seat per person. Guests can swap between sitting and standing; you don’t want to overcrowd the space with furniture and mingling makes for a better party anyway,' says Millie Hurst, Solved section editor at Homes & Gardens. 

millie hurst news writer
Millie Hurst

Millie Hurst is Section Editor at Homes & Gardens, overseeing the Solved section, which provides readers with practical advice for their homes. Millie has written about and tried out countless organizing and DIY hacks in the six years since she became a journalist, and has worked in both London and New York. She is currently studying for a diploma in interior design.

8. Set up a dedicated bar area

Bar cart ideas for small homes

(Image credit: Future)

Allocate your kitchen island or part of your countertop as a designated drinks station, so guests can help themselves throughout the evening. ‘Choose an area with easy access to glassware and set aside cocktail shakers, mixers and garnishes neatly on a tray or shelf nearby,' says Hashi Mohamed. Stash drinks in an ice bucket rather than the fridge, so guests aren’t opening and closing the door every five minutes. 

‘If you’re organizing a small kitchen and need the surface space for cooking prep, a sleek drinks trolley is a great alternative and is particularly handy if your main entertaining area is outside of the kitchen; mix up a round of drinks then wheel it out to your guests – saves you going back and forth,' says Jennifer Ebert, digital editor at Homes & Gardens. 

Jennifer Ebert
Jennifer Ebert

Jen is the Deputy Editor (Digital) of Homes & Gardens online. Before starting this position, she had completed various interior design courses at KLC Design School, as well as working across Ideal Home, LivingEtc, 25 Beautiful Homes and Country Homes & Interiors as an interiors writer.

9. Make clearing up as easy as possible

However hard you try, things will get messy. Cleaning a kitchen is inevitable, but you can make it less painful possible by stocking up on cleaning essentials in readiness: dishwasher tablets, fairy liquid, bin bags, sponges, and so on. Make sure the dishwasher and the bins have both been emptied, so you can fill as you go, and have a stack of clean tea towels at the ready.


How do I prepare my kitchen for Christmas?

Whether you’re hosting the big day or not, chances are you’re hosting a soiree or two over the festive season. A few simple adjustments to your kitchen can make a big difference to how smoothly they go, and how much you get to enjoy them, too! 

Start by decluttering and organizing your kitchen cupboards and drawers, freeing up space and positioning party essentials within easy reach – use kitchen organizers to create extra storage if you need it. Do the same with your fridge, freezer and pantry, grouping ingredients and removing packaging where necessary. 

Cooking is stressful enough without feeling cramped, so clear your kitchen countertops ahead of time – find somewhere to store things temporarily, including appliances, and designate an area for prepping, as well as for drinks and nibbles (if you haven’t got a kitchen island). Sort out your tupperware collection in readiness for leftovers. 

Organizing a kitchen in readiness for entertaining can feel like a hassle, particularly when you’ve got a list of pre-party prep to work through, but putting in the work ahead of time means less stress at the time, so you can enjoy yourself, too! 

Contributing Editor

For 10 years, Tara King worked as a Content Editor in the magazine industry, before leaving to become freelance, covering interior design, wellbeing, craft and homemaking. As well as writing for Ideal Home, Style at Home, Country Homes & Interiors, Tara’s keen eye for styling combined with a passion for creating a happy – and functional – family home has led to a series of organization and cleaning features for H&G.