How to Organize Your Kitchen

Domestic CEO has the key to getting a clean, organized, and functional kitchen in 8 easy steps.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #3

How to Organize Your Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where we gather, create, experiment, and nourish ourselves at least a few times a day. So what happens when this room is a disaster of clutter? It can throw off everything else in our lives. To keep things running smoothly, we are going to take 8 easy steps to get our kitchen in order. This process can usually be completed in a few hours, especially if you persuade a spouse or friend to help.

Step #1: Purge the Trash

The first step to getting a clean and clutter-free kitchen is to purge! Go into your pantry or cupboards and pull out food items one at a time. As you pull out each unopened package, take a quick peek at the expiration date. If the expiration date is in the past, toss the item in the trash. You may be able to find organizations in your area that will accept unopened items of food with recent expiration dates, but I recommend calling them in advance to confirm before heading over. If you find open bags of chips and crackers, try and remember when you opened them. Should they still be ok to eat? If you are brave, taste one. If it’s stale, toss the whole bag or box. If it’s still fresh, put it with the other “good” food. If you aren’t brave enough to taste one, that’s a pretty strong sign you should toss the whole thing immediately. As you start taking everything out, you will likely find stray wrappers, all-but-empty boxes of cereal, and a few other things you will be able to easily classify as trash.

Step #2: Clear the Cabinets

Next, focus on your cabinets and drawers. Pull out each and every utensil, gadget, appliance, and dish. If it isn’t functional, toss it in the trash. This would include plastic storage containers that are missing lids, water bottles and travel coffee mugs that dribble, single chopsticks, and all those stray items you put away hoping their other halves would come back someday.

Step #3: Clean

Now that you have empty shelves and drawers, give them a good cleaning. A bucket of soapy water or a spray bottle of surface cleaner and a rag will clean up most messes. If you have a lot of crumbs, you may want to sweep or even vacuum the surface before wiping. Once the surfaces are clean, you can add your drawer and shelf liner to any surface you want to protect. The squishy, foam liners are great for drawers because they keep your utensils from sliding as the drawer opens and closes. For shelves with food being stored in them, I recommend using a non-adhesive shelf liner because it’s easier to apply and remove if you rearrange or move to a new home.

Step #4: Form v. Function

Now is time to sort through all the “good” food and “functional” items. Food with an expiration date in the future can be put into piles with like items (for example: put all your pasta in one pile, all your soup in another). With all the items that are still functional, sort them into piles of like items, too. Coffee mugs together, drinking glasses together, knives and other sharp items together, adult dishes can go near (but separate from) kid dishes, and so on.

Once you have all the items sorted, you will likely start to see that you have unnecessary multiples. Determine how many you need, and start gathering items to be donated or given away. For example, if you have 3 can openers, and you decide you are never going to need more than one at a time, pick your favorite to keep and set the other two aside to be donated. Or say you decide you need 2 large Chef knives because you don’t want to have to wash one when switching from cutting meats to vegetables each night, you can give away any additional Chef knives to friends or family, or donate them. The same applies with food. Food that is still fresh and unopened, but your family doesn’t eat, can be given to friends, family, or food banks.

Step #5: Inspect Your Gadgets

Next, start looking at your gadgets, cookware, bakeware, and dishes. What things do you not use anymore? If they don’t get used on a regular basis (dishes at least once a month, specialty items like roasters at least once a year), put them in your give-away pile. This is where some people have a tough time, mostly because we know how much money was spent on these items. Power through the twinges of guilt you may feel at this time and try to be as objective as possible. If you don’t use an item, it’s just taking up space.

Step #6: Stick Together

Once you have determined which items are staying in your kitchen, grab a pad of sticky notes and start writing down all the themes of items you have, one per note. When you have a stack of notes with Cups, Plastic Storage, Silverware, and the like on them, start placing the sticky notes on the shelf or drawer where you intend to store that item. Measure the space as needed to make sure the items will fit. Do this until all your items have been designated a space. It may be tempting to skip this step and start putting things back on shelves, but please learn from my years of experience that it is much easier to move a sticky note multiple times than it is to move a stack of heavy dishes. You will save yourself a lot of time and effort with this one step.

Some things to keep in mind as you place the sticky notes are: “Who do I want to use/eat this item?” and “How often will this item be used?” Whatever is at eye level and easily reached will be used or eaten more. If you want your family to eat more healthy foods, keep the shelves at eye level and below stocked with healthy options. With small appliances and other larger items, keep the ones you use more often at the front of shelves and easy to reach.

Step #7: Storage Options

Once your items are in their cabinets, determine if storage containers would make your spaces look and function better. CD storage baskets are great for holding packages of microwave popcorn, granola bars, and other small packaged foods. Medium-sized baskets can hold individual bags of chips and sweets for kids to grab as snacks. Turntables can enable you to keep all your bottles of cooking oils, vinegars, and sauces in a small space, but easily visible with one spin. Small wire shelves will allow you easy access to two levels of cans or boxes.

Step #8: Label

Finally, to make sure everything gets to where it belongs, get out your label-maker. How many labels you use is up to you, but know that the more you label in the beginning, the easier it will be to train your family members where things go.

The kitchen is my favorite room to organize at home because the results often launch my clients into organizing their next space. Now that your kitchen is complete, what area of your life will you tackle next?

Have a question about anything in this episode? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at DomesticCEO@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Domestic CEO Facebook wall.

I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Woman Cleaning and Basket from Shutterstock