The interior of a neatly organized kitchen with a white color scheme. The kitchen features sleek storage above the kitchen counter and stove, and an open cupboard on the other side of the kitchen.

How To Organize Your Kitchen So You Can Actually Use It

Home Organization Tips

by LB Gabriel Posted on January 11, 2024
Sure, you throw out expired foods as needed and try to keep your countertops tidy, but do you know how to organize your kitchen the right way? When was the last time you tried some DIY kitchen organization ideas? If you’re struggling to come up with a date, chances are, now’s the time to get started.

Figuring out how to organize your kitchen can be a daunting task, though. There’s probably no other room in your house that’s wholly devoted to storing things (and if there is, we encourage you to check out our other tips for keeping a clutter-free home). But fret no more; we’re here to give you some kitchen organization tips for tackling every area of your family’s favorite room and most popular gathering spot.

Our kitchen organization guide has broken things out by area, but there are some tasks you need to perform before you can start installing those door hangers and wire racks.

First Things First: Why Prep Work Is So Important

You may wonder, “Where do I start when organizing my kitchen?” Our answer may feel like a trick, but it’s one of the most important steps of the process. Before you can organize, you must go through all your kitchen items. And, yes, we mean every last ladle and teaspoon. Before you close your laptop, hear us out.

Your kitchen likely contains a lot of stuff that you no longer want or need. Are you still using that juicer to make green juice every morning? Or is it better to sell it and put some extra green in your pocket? Do you really need three colanders, or would one do? When you clear the clutter, it makes organizing so much easier.

Start with your fridge and pantry, as you probably know what’s in them pretty well. Then move to your cabinets and countertops. Divide the room into sections, and then enjoy the satisfaction of checking each one off your list. For extra credit, give everything a good scrub down once you’re done.

Q: How do I organize my kitchen with too much stuff? 
If your kitchen is filled to the brim, you need to declutter before you begin organizing. It’s highly unlikely that you need all the items currently taking up space in your cabinets and on your counters. After you’re done, you can move on to our full list of kitchen organization tips.

A young woman is holding an orange, a cucumber, and a jar of peanut butter in one hand, as she uses her other hand to reorganize the inside of her fridge.

How To Organize Your Kitchen Fridge

The reasons you wouldn’t want an overly stuffed and unorganized fridge are obvious — you can’t keep up with everything you have inside, leading to spoiled foods, blocked air vents, and poor energy efficiency. And while everyone has different needs and opinions when it comes to organizing what’s in their fridge, here are some quick DIY kitchen organization ideas you may want to consider:

  • To organize your foods, group similar types together. Then think about the ones you use most often and put those at the front or in a place that’s easily accessible. Trying to eat more whole foods? Make sure they’re front and center.
  • As tempting as it may be to throw fruits and vegetables together in the crisper, it’s more efficient to separate them. Fruits need lower moisture, but veggies thrive with it. Ensure your crisper drawers have the correct settings to keep your produce fresher longer.
  • Store your meats on a low shelf. That way, they won’t leak onto other foods.
  • Remember that your fridge door is the warmest section. Don’t put milk and eggs there. Go for condiments, butter, and other items that don’t need a colder temperature.
  • If you dislike cleaning your fridge (and who doesn’t?), try shelf and drawer liners. That’s right. They’re not just for cabinets — but you do need to buy the ones specifically made for refrigerators. Want to save a few bucks? Line them with paper towels or kitchen cloths. It may not be Pinterest-worthy, but it will help keep things clean.

Q: What is the most efficient way to organize a kitchen?
Divide your kitchen into sections (pantry, cabinets, countertops, etc.) and then declutter each one. When that’s done, organize the remaining items, so frequently needed items are easily within reach and lesser-used ones are stored farther away. After you’re done, repeat the process once or twice a year to keep your kitchen in prime working order. Looking for more tips for kitchen storage? Check out this article on the PODS Blog.

Fourteen glass storage jars filled with dry goods and organized into three neat rows with the tallest jars in the back and the shortest ones in the front.

How To Organize Your Kitchen Pantry

Once you’ve thrown out expired food and donated anything applicable to a local nonprofit organization or food pantry, here are some kitchen organization tips for handling what’s left in your pantry and/or food cabinets: 

Group like items together based on category — like grains, cereals, oils, snacks, baking essentials, etc. — and find organizational items that work for each type. For example:

  • Oils and bottles can fit on a lazy Susan.
  • Cans can be neatly arranged in a dispenser or rack.
  • Bags of potato chips and other similar snacks can fit inside a square wicker basket.
  • Pasta and other grains, like rice and cereal, can be taken out of their packaging and stored inside sealed canisters to lock in freshness (and look great, too!).

If you want to maximize your pantry space, consider an over-the-door wire rack or some hooks inside your pantry for aprons or reusable grocery bags.

A kitchen drawer that is left open, exposing its contents — a set of shiny metal pots with matching lids.

Finding the right place for your pots and pans makes using your kitchen easier and more pleasant.

How To Organize Your Kitchen Cabinets

After you clear out and sort through your cabinets, don’t put anything back in until you have a plan of attack. And while you’re at it, now is a great time to take advantage of the blank canvas and line your shelves with a high-quality, water-resistant liner.

Once you’re ready to stock your cabinets again, one of the best kitchen organization tips is to consider how you use your items. This lets you formulate your kitchen organization plan. For example, keep spices, pots, and pans near the stove, so you’re not running around your kitchen trying to get what you need. Make sure you have a mitt near the oven and coffee mugs near the coffee maker — you get the idea.

For items you use less often, utilize the space at the back of your cabinets. If you only use those melamine wine glasses in the summertime, there’s no reason to have them easily within reach, right? Push them to the back until it’s patio party time.

And if you’re wondering, “How do I decide where to put things in my kitchen?,” here’s a good rule of thumb for using cabinet space effectively:

  • Upper cabinets: food, spices, glassware, dishes
  • Lower cabinets: larger serving pieces, small kitchen appliances, pots, pans, mixing bowls, baking sheets, cutting boards

The space under a kitchen sink, neatly organized with plastic trays and baskets to hold cleaning supplies, and small hooks on the door to hold rags.

How To Organize Under the Kitchen Sink

An often-forgotten storage space in your kitchen is right under your kitchen sink. Or perhaps this spot isn’t forgotten — it’s just the toss spot for wayward sponges, rags, dish soap, and dishwashing tabs. Rearrange this area with these under kitchen sink organization ideas:

  • Use under-the-sink sliding shelves, like this one from Amazon, that let you access your soap, cleaning products, detergents, and more without squatting and stretching during every dishwashing session.
  • Put hooks on the doors for small hand towels and cleaning cloths.
  • Use small, clear storage containers for small items like sponges, hand soaps, etc.
  • Use shelf liners to protect the bottom of your under-the-sink kitchen cabinets from spills or leaks.
  • Put a lazy susan underneath, if you have a garbage disposal that’s taking up a lot of space, like one of these from Amazon, to maneuver around it easily.

Close-up view of a white kitchen countertop. Decorative glass bottles and jars of dry goods and cooking oils are arranged neatly against the subway tile backsplash or in an open wooden box. There’s a white lazy Susan on the counter as well.

How To Organize Your Kitchen Countertops

No one wants overly cluttered kitchen countertops. But having them completely clear may be impractical. Here are some kitchen counter organization ideas that are functional without sacrificing your decor.

  • Use cute containers for your flour, sugar, coffee, etc., if you’re short on pantry space. Match them to your kitchen aesthetic; no one will notice that it’s not part of the overall design plan.
  • Repurpose a small stone cutting board and use it to hold bottles of oil, spices, and other cooking necessities.
  • Use corner space for storing fruit bowls, appliances, and more, since this isn’t typically an area you need anyway.
  • Invest in a small, mobile kitchen island. Move it in when you need the counter space, then roll it away when no longer in use.
  • Get rid of the paper clutter. We know it’s tough to trash the mail, homework, and other documents that naturally settle in the kitchen, but these items can either be filed away or digitized instead. If you just can’t get rid of that small mail pile, use a small decorative basket for more discreet storage.

View of a small kitchen from the dining area of a small apartment. In addition to typical appliances, the kitchen features an island/bar with overhead storage.

Kitchen organization is especially important in a small kitchen.
(Source: Francesca Tosolini via Unsplash)

How To Handle a Small Kitchen

If you’re working in a small kitchen, you understand that every inch of space is prime real estate. Make the most of it with some small-space kitchen organization hacks, like these.

  • Use the space above your cabinets by adding some baskets or bins to discreetly store items.
  • Invest in a ceiling rack to hold pots and pans.
  • Maximize your inner cabinet space by installing a few S-hooks into the tops. This is a great place to hold coffee mugs and other small items.
  • Hang wire baskets on the wall to hold produce, cookbooks, and more.
  • Get rolling shelves or a rolling island, so you can move things around or out of the way when they’re not needed.

A homeowner and a contractor are standing in a kitchen, shaking hands, The contractor will be renovating the kitchen for the homeowner to make the layout more user-friendly.

How To Deal With a Difficult Kitchen Layout

Sometimes the problem isn’t the clutter in your kitchen; it’s how it is configured. Maybe you have important appliances out of reach (like the fridge in the laundry room instead of the kitchen), or perhaps you have cabinets that don’t go all the way to the ceiling, resulting in wasted space. While organizing should improve the situation, it can only get you so far if your kitchen lacks functionality. In that case, it may be time to consider a kitchen renovation (and, if you’re partial to a modern farmhouse style, this PODS Blog article has all the inspo you need!). 

Even if you have a small space, there’s so much you can do with the right layout and storage system. Talk to a professional and ask how to turn your kitchen from dreadful to dreamy.

When considering a kitchen remodel, here are some things to keep in mind:

The Scope of the Work

Is the problem specific to certain areas, like your countertops and cabinets? Or do you need a complete overhaul?

The Budget

Once you consider what you want, ask yourself if it’s affordable. Most of the time, people have no idea what they’re getting into until it’s too late. If money is a concern, consider completing the project in stages. Ask yourself what’s more important and what can wait until later.

The Storage

Where does everything go if you’re moving out of a room? If the garage is full and the guest bedroom is occupied, consider using a portable storage container that can be delivered right to your driveway for as long as needed. Easy peasy. 

For more information on revamping your space, check out our handy home remodeling checklist and other tips and tricks from the PODS Blog.

And remember: The kitchen is the spot where family and friends gather, good meals are shared, and memories are made. A tidy and well-organized space will help to ensure you and your loved ones enjoy this special room to its fullest.

LB Gabriel is a freelance writer who lives with her husband, daughter, and Golden Retriever in Memphis, TN. A frequent PODS Blog contributor, she’s a sucker for any tip she can find on downsizing, cutting clutter, or minimalist living. When she’s not on a deadline, you can find her on a tennis court or golf course.
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