Kitchens are never big enough, no matter how big and beautiful it is. Or is that just me? Since A and I moved in together, it’s been difficult merging our belongings into one household. No area proved worse than our kitchen organization. Or, should I say, lack thereof.
It didn’t help that in a rush to get things unpacked, we just kind of threw my stuff in cabinets willy nilly.
Baking dishes ended up mixed in with plates. Plastic storage containers were in three separate cabinets. And no matter what, I could never find my tiny little meat thermometer in the drawer of random accessories.
I hit breaking point after the holidays. I could no longer handle looking in twelve different places for one thing anymore.
So, I put my foot down.
We pulled everything out and organized our WHOLE KITCHEN in just a few hours. This post is a compilation of the ideas we put into practice along the way. These concepts won’t cost you anything but time. Still, they are well worth the Saturday afternoon investment.
Group Like Things Together
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the sacred triangle in a kitchen. But, in case you haven’t, here is a great resource that explains the concept of the triangle vs. work zones from HGTV. Ultimately you have to decide what’s best for you.
A upgraded our kitchen before we started dating, so I didn’t have any say in the design choices, but I have to say, he did a stunning job with the layout. Once the bigger house projects of our 1899 fixer upper are complete, we might add a little island to the center for some flexible prep space, but we’ll see.
Because who doesn’t love an island?
In our kitchen, we organized in three basic categories:
- Food Preparation & Serving
- Food Storage
The largest category was Food Preparation & Serving, as it includes our pots, pans, small appliances, and dishes. Basically, if it has anything to do with preparing or serving food, it is located at the left side of our kitchen, so it’s easily accessible from the stove.
Within those three categories, we grouped things with similar functions together and tried to be intentional about how we organized them into their new homes.
Used Often = Easy to Access
Remembering how frustrating it was to find my tiny little meat thermometer, I wanted to make sure we could easily find the things we use most.
The simplest solution?
Put the things we use most often close at hand. Then, build outwards with the things we only use occasionally.
The benefits were twofold. First, everything had a place that made sense. Finally! Second, a benefit we totally weren’t expecting, was that it made us more efficient when we cook.
Instead of moving the things we don’t often use out of the way, we could just pull out what we needed. Plus, we could pull everything we needed out at once, instead of constantly going back for things mid-cook.
Here is the basic layout of our kitchen:
Having everything we need to cook with by the stove is such a relief when we cook. Now we can enjoy cooking instead of stressing about where that one thing we need got put.
Organize by Purpose
While I mentioned this a little bit above, I can’t express the importance of organizing by function. Seriously, this has changed the way I think about my entire house. In the kitchen, it actually divided my dishes in two — my drinkware is actually on the opposite side of the kitchen from the rest of my dishes.
I never would have thought to do this before. Except for my best friend, coffee.
A few months back, we moved our Keurig closer to the refrigerator because we both like cream in our coffee. Little did I know, this would inspire the relocation of all our drinkware. Having all our cups and beverage stuff near the fridge makes it easy to add ice or get our cold beverages, too.
We also keep our storage containers by the fridge, since most things we put them end up in the fridge. Since that was also the last cabinet with an abundance of space, it became an easy choice.
Other changes we made:
- We moved our cutting boards near to our knives (I know, no brainer, right?)
- Gathering our small appliances right by the outlets we plug them into but tucked out of sight in our corner cabinets made our countertops way less cluttered.
- Purging Cookbooks was beyond necessary. We had at least 30, and weren’t using any of them! Now we have a small handful tucked above the fridge.
This process is works best if everything is already taken out and your cabinets are empty.
We had to work in waves. Our cabinets hold a lot and when they’re all empty, you can’t move around everything splayed on the floor in the kitchen AND dining room. You may want to consider doing the same if you’re working in a small space.
Whatever you do, do not skip this step. It was the most important in organizing our kitchen space.
We had tons of stuff we never used –odd plastic containers with missing pieces, three can openers (seriously, who needs that many?!), and way too many dishes. We had so many duplicates of things because we didn’t take the time to purge when we merged households. Plus, I’m sure everyone has one doo dad or another that somebody gave them with good intentions, but does only one specific thing that you never actually do.
Like make mini pies. I had a special pan that shaped mini pies, but I always just use my muffin pans on the rare occasions I do make them.
It was time to let go.
The best part about getting rid of the extra stuff we don’t use is that now we can invest in the things we do need because there is space to put them! We’ve got our eye on some new stainless steel pots to level up our cooking game.
We are hyper aware of the fact that there are so many people in need of pots, pans, and other kitchen supplies, but can’t afford to buy them from big retailers. So, whenever we purge, we make sure to donate the excess.
But if you prefer, organizing a tag sale or participating in a community tag sale are also great ways to get rid of the extra stuff.
Of course, that requires storing all of it until you do….
A lot of what we found is still in good working condition. We just don’t need it anymore. So why not give it or sell it to someone who does?
For the stuff that’s too far gone, consider:
- Recycling (be sure to check your county/state guidelines)
- Repurposing (you’d be surprised how many things you can make into a planter!)
- Trashing it altogether
We try to be conscious of how much we’re throwing out, but sometimes there just isn’t another option.
Be Honest About Your Needs
We have some very tall cabinets and I can’t reach the top shelves, even though I stand at a decent height of 5’7. So, before we put everything in their new homes, I remember thinking out loud —
Okay, what do I rarely use, but still need?
On the first go around, I of course needed to keep everything.
But I didn’t let myself fall into that trap. Instead of going all KonMari Method on myself about happiness, I did the next best thing.
I looked at each small appliance I found and listed things I “needed” it for.
For example, we have two slow cookers. While most days I only use one, there are a few occasions a year (Thanksgiving especially) that I use both of them. Plus, when I’m whipping up a batch of my homemade applesauce, I like to make as much as possible.
Still, most of the year, I only need one. So this was one of my compromises. My extra slow cooker now lives nestled neatly on one of our top shelves. When I need it, A graciously gets it down for me.
One thing I enjoy baking more than anything else, is bread. There’s nothing better than taking your frustration out on developing gluten in a stiff dough.
So, I moved my cake pans and pie plates up to accommodate that lifestyle.
We drink wine and beer (and brew our own!) much more often than mixed drinks, so those glasses live right above our water glasses for easy access.
Before you start organizing, think about the life you live, and create organization systems based on what you do and use most. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later for not putting the mixing bowls on the top shelf, just because they’re light!
Create a Replacement Schedule for Tired Cookware
Every once in a while, I like to go through my kitchen and take stock of what’s starting to get “too loved to use” anymore. I keep note of what we have replaced recently. I just bought this awesome stock pot from CuisinArt* so I don’t need anything like that soon. But, there’s always something that needs replacing.
After all, we cook at home nearly every day.
Sometimes we get lucky and we get things as gifts. My mom got me the Cuisinart Food Processor* I’ve been drooling over for a combo Birthday/Christmas gift this past year. I use it all the time! But, most of the time we just update as we need to.
Still, it’s helpful to have a list of things that are starting to go, so we can shop around for a deal well before we need to replace things and save some hard-earned money!
The only thing we don’t really have a schedule of replacement for is our storage containers. That, we pretty much just buy when they start to look worn. It helps that they don’t cost hundreds of dollars to replace, like my Kitchenaid* will one day.
Kitchen Organization Made Easier
The thing I love about these organization concepts is that they are free to implement into your kitchen TODAY. It took us a few hours to go through everything last Saturday, using the opportunity to clean our cabinets in the process. They were totally gross.
Ultimately you can use whatever kitchen organization swag you want to make your organization systems prettier. These concepts work with any budget!
The point is to make your kitchen organization intentional.
That way, you’re more likely to stick to the system. A and I did this process together so that both of us would be on board. While I took the lead on a lot of things (having experience working in and organizing a kitchen), his input was valuable.
After all, he uses the kitchen, too. 😉
Plus, now instead of fighting over where something got put, we just argue over who’s going to unload and reload the dishwasher.
Pick a weekend (or weeknight) and set aside a few hours and see how you can transform your kitchen for free. Or, if you don’t have that much time to spare, pick one thing you read about in this post and set a timer for 30 minutes.
I suggest you purge first, but choose whatever makes the most sense to you?
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