Martha's Top Kitchen Organizing Tips
If you're looking to design a truly functional kitchen, there are a few rules Martha would suggest you follow. At the top of her list: Use every inch of space available to you. Our founder would be quick to tell you that using shelving in place of upper cabinets can help make the room feel lighter and airier. "I use everything in my kitchen regularly, and shelves make it all accessible," Martha says. "These nearly reach the ceiling, putting underused space to work." At the same time, the shelving allows you to showcase your arsenal of kitchen tools, dinnerware, and glassware.
Beyond shelving, Martha has many tips for creating a kitchen that's both practical and stylish—from her best tips for making the most of an island to how to fold linens—and you don't need ample space to do it either. One of Martha's best tips applies to drawers: Hers are outfitted in a way that creates plenty of storage, demonstrating her belief that it's possible to maximize even unseen spaces to their fullest potential. Focus on grouping like items together, using containers and dividers to customize each designated spot, and adding labels in order to reduce the need to rummage.
Another go-to kitchen organizing trick: Drawer-liners, including an essential liner that can help maintain delicate silver tools and Martha's system for optimizing a tall cabinet by lining the shelves with DIY stainless steel sheeting, which protects the integrity of the cabinetry while making it easy to access everything from spices to dry ingredients.
The possibilities for making your kitchen an appealing and practical space are seemingly endless. Read on for more of the ideas Martha has employed in her homes over the years.
Everything Martha needs for a perfect cup of coffee or tea is all in one place: The espresso machine is on the counter; assorted cups, French presses, and teapots are on the shelves above; and everyday flatware and teas are in the drawers below. Fresh coffee beans are stored in electric grinders next to the espresso machine.
An island provides a central spot to work and eat: Martha doubles the functionality and flexibility with a pair of marble-topped islands, one on wheels and one stationary. She can use one for prep work and the other to seat guests for an informal meal. "I also push the rolling island up to the stationary one for buffets," Martha says.
For best results, Martha aims for an island to be at least four feet long and two-and-a-half feet wide, with a working space of at least three feet around the island itself when possible.
Using a rack will save so much space in your cabinets—and make your pots and pans easier to find. Martha hangs her cookware above the stationary island near the range.
Decide what you want to keep in the islands, and plan the space accordingly. "Upright steel slats provide perfect spots for heavy baking sheets," Martha says. She also has drawers for aprons and utensils; deep shelves for platters, books, and pet supplies; and small cubbies for towels and other items. Mounted hooks put towels on the sides of the islands, just where you always want them, and gives purpose to an unused space.
Kitchen Baskets and Bins
Corral various items on open shelves using sleek containers. These baskets add warmth and texture to the room; the gray trays are simple and stylish. Add adhesive pads on the bottom so they slide smoothly.
By all means, keep out the items you use often or enjoy looking at. Martha keeps fruits, vegetables, and eggs, as well as a collection of mortars and pestles, on the counter. Ensure there is plenty of room to work, however, so you don't have to rearrange things when it's time to get cooking.
Kitchen Cutting Board
Glass Kitchen Cabinets
In what she calls a "servery," which is used for washing and storing dinnerware, Martha said she wanted a storage option that felt like furniture and not simple cabinetry. "This apothecary-like glass case, one of a pair, provides the solution," she says. Light shines through it, opening up the small room and glinting off the glasses and dishes inside. See more examples of beautiful and functional kitchen cabinetry in the gallery below.
Martha prefers drawer organizers that feature rectangular compartments for the French ivory flatware that she uses daily. You can find these silverware organizers at many retailers, or you can simply fashion your own out of felt with our how-to right here.
Cake- and Cookie-Decorating Supplies
Pastry bags, biscuit cutters, icing tips, and frosting combs: Most baking essentials are easily accessible in clear plastic boxes that can be later rearranged if necessary.
These office supplies not for cooking—but don't you always suddenly need a pen, scissors, a ruler, or a stamp when you're in the kitchen? Among Martha's drawer essentials are a label maker as well as tags and twine for gifts.
Devote a drawer to the things you need most, such as lightbulbs, batteries, extension cords, and EZ Glide pads (available at most hardware stores) for chair legs.
Zesters, Graters, and Peelers
An assortment of graters lets you get just the right texture from citrus peel, cheese, and more. These tools are sharp—give them their own drawer so you don't nick yourself.
Be ready to make the perfect pot on the fly with strainers, tea balls, honey dippers, and special tea leaves all in one drawer.
Napkin Rings and Chopstick Rests
Grouped in plastic bins, Martha's Bakelite, porcelain, silver, and ivory accessories are collected in one drawer, so they're easy to find when it's time to set the table.
Protect Silver Flatware
"Shallow drawers lined with tarnish-controlling flannel provide the right environment for silver," Martha says. The pieces rest in a single layer on the fabric—no dividers or stacking necessary. You can buy special flannel cloth to preserve your silver from Amazon.
Skewers and Picks
Having a variety of serving pieces are handy for hors d'oeuvres. Bundle each kind with a rubber band or a snippet of string.
"In-drawer wooden knife trays save counter space," Martha says. There are a variety of styles available at many retailers, including this compact knife-block set from Amazon, designed for a compact drawer.
The kitchen can be the command center in most homes, and in most cases, one of the places where everyday accidents occur. It's best to keep basic first-aid supplies there, Martha says, and she arranges a few must-have essentials in compact yet durable plastic containers.
"You can't have enough soft, absorbent white cloths," Martha says. "They should be neatly folded and stacked for easy access."
Small Hand Tools
Without wire baskets as dividers, this drawer would be a jumble. Instead, the tools are ready to grab when you need them. Here's a full list of all the convinent gadgets you'll need.
"Use a plastic bin for soaking or soaping to save water," Martha says. The plastic is also more forgiving than a hard sink should you drop a dish. When you're washing a lot of very fragile items by hand, such as crystal stemware, lining the sink with a terry towel also does the trick. Keep dish soap in a clear plastic pump bottle by the sink.
Electrical outlets near the top of the island allow you to use small appliances easily, without the cord getting in the way.
High gooseneck faucets make it easy to fill large pots and vases and to maneuver things in and out of the sink. Use a small tray to keep hand soap and lotions ready.
Sneak In More Shelves
Sponges, Brushes, and Scrubbers
Large metal bins for garbage and recyclables sit at each end of the island (food scraps go into smaller pails for composting). You may wish to have pull-out trash cans located behind cabinet doors, but Martha says these are easier and cleaner to use. Simply step on the pedal to open your trash can without touching anything that's soiled.
Keep a stepladder in the kitchen—if you've maximized your space, you'll need one for reaching the highest shelves. Try storing your stepladder out of sight with one of these ingenius kitchen storage tips.
In addition to tall windows, Martha has a glass-paned kitchen door. Translucent, lightweight shades can be lowered for some privacy, while still letting daylight through—but Martha also advises that undercabinet lighting can brighten dim kitchen counters. Dimmers on fixtures let you control the amount of light and increase energy efficiency.
A cart provides storage where you need it. Martha usually parks this stainless steel one, with the described tools for cooking, by her range. A small freestanding island on wheels can serve the same purpose and is especially useful in a tight kitchen; it provides a work surface and a casual sideboard. "By adding a custom-cut marble top, a rolling cart can also be used as a bar when entertaining," Martha says.
Martha keeps two fire extinguishers in the kitchen—look for ones designed for the kitchen or multipurpose ones for the home. Read the instructions so you're prepared, and test the devices according to the directions. Keep them by exits, and remember that safe evacuation is always the priority.
Pet Food Storage
"I have three dogs, five cats, and 22 canaries," Martha says. "So it's important to be organized." She devotes pantry space to dry food, which she transfers from the bulky bags into stackable airtight plastic containers. Labels are crucial for keeping them straight, as bowls and cans are stacked nearby in see-through bins to make mealtime painless.
Pet Meal Bowls
Martha's cats have their own buffet in the servery. Several dishes are lined up in a long tray, which catches any spills so food doesn't end up on the floor.