Kitchen cabinets are a high-traffic area in the home. From quickly grabbing mugs for coffee in the morning to bringing down plates to set the table for dinner, they get daily contact with the whole family. But are you making the best use of the space? Dishes in the back very well may be gathering dust and getting lost in the shuffle, and do you really need that egg slicer? Probably not.
To get the situation under control, we enlisted a couple experts to lay out the best way to organize our kitchen cabinets in just seven easy steps.
Know Your Goal
Before you get started, Jennifer Jones of I Heart Organizing suggests taking down a few notes. What has been causing problems in your kitchen? What are your frustrations? Ultimately, why did you decide to take this reorganization on in the first place? Having this in mind will keep you focused and on track as you go. If the project feels overwhelming, just start slow. Ashley Murphy, co-founder of the NEAT Method, suggests choosing one area like your cooking utensil drawers or food storage containers to begin. If you’re feeling sure of yourself, go straight for the cabinets!
Clear it Out
The first step is to take everything out of your cabinets and clean them out. “I always recommend beginning with a blank slate,” says Jones. “By removing everything, you are required to touch the item and think about it before you put it back.” It’s also much easier to edit when you have all the items grouped together in one place, adds Murphy. “You might be surprised by what you find in there!”
Assess Your Stock
“Less is always more when it comes to organizing and simplifying the kitchen,” says Jones. She encourages being selective with how many things you keep, especially if you have a small kitchen. “Many tasks can be completed without a variety of bulky appliances,” she says. “Eliminate any duplicates and only keep what you utilize frequently.” Both Jones and Murphy are anti any specialized gadgets—so say goodbye to that avocado slicer. “Don’t buy one-use items that take up space,” says Murphy. “Instead, invest in two to three high quality knives that do everything you need, and then hang them from a magnet strip on the wall so they don’t use precious drawer space.”
All your items should be first sorted by type—mugs stick with mugs, plates with plates—then by frequency of use. “Grouping items by type keeps order and allows everyone to quickly identify and locate things,” says Jones. “It also creates a visual harmony.” How often you reach for something should then dictate where things go— everyday items should be on the lowest shelf and seasonal or occasional items on the highest shelf. “The biggest mistake people make is that they don't set up their cabinets to easily flow with their daily routine,” says Jones. “It’s so important to store items in easy to understand categories that coordinate with kitchen usage.” For example, the dishes should be near the dishwasher, leftover containers and wraps near the fridge and pots and pans near the stove.
Stack With Care
Murphy warns that dishes, unless they are all the same, shouldn’t be be stacked more than three high. “If you go any higher, you’ll avoid using the dish at the bottom of the stack because it will be too difficult to access,” she explains. Stacking may also increase the risk of cracking and and can trap moisture between the drinkware. Wine glasses should be stored upright to avoid chips on the delicate rim. If plates are fragile, Jones says to store them with a piece of paper towel or napkin in-between. Some items, however, are designed specifically for stacking or nesting—these are great options for saving space. “Otherwise, I prefer to store my glasses lip up and in tight rows by type,” says Murphy. “If the glass is an awkward shape, you may find alternating between edge up and edge down will offer up a few extra inches of space.”
Bring in Reinforcements
If your shelves are adjustable, add one or two more to avoid stacking and make it easier to put things away. “Additional shelving will better utilize the vertical space in your cabinets,” says Murphy. Even if you rent, you can go to a local hardware store and have extra shelves cut or buy wire shelving. Dish risers are another way to make the most of space and to avoid stacking different item; while lazy Susans or turntables are extremely helpful in deep or corner cabinets. Lastly, baskets are always an option for items that are mismatched, hard to reach or visually jarring. “Baskets are a great way to ensure upper shelves stay organized,” says Murphy. “Typically, a step stool isn’t needed to pull down a basket and everything inside can easily be seen once it’s taken down from the top shelf.”
Use All the Space, but Don’t Cram
“Always think vertically and be creative in using the backs of doors and the entire cabinet area for the items you are storing,” says Jones. “If you have enough height, you could add hooks to the shelf above and hang mugs by the handle.” But be sure to keep a little space between items and not overcrowd. “To maintain organization, you need to ensure anyone in your kitchen can easily access any item and put it away after they’re done using it,” Jones continues. “If it’s difficult to put something away, it will be crammed into any open spot, and usually not the right one.”
*Feeling Inspired: watch how easy it is to organize your cabinets with the video below.