attainable sustainable book cover
Check out my new book!

A Publishers Weekly top ten pick from National Geographic Books!

Get Organized in Your Kitchen: 12+ Easy Ideas to Streamline Cooking

May contain affiliate links. Please see my privacy policy and affiliate disclosure.

Here’s how to get organized in your kitchen. Streamlining things like kitchen cupboard storage solutions and kitchen utensil storage makes it easier to cook at home. And when it’s easier to cook at home, you’re more likely to actually cook at home! Get organized as one more step toward a more self-reliant lifestyle.

And take note of my must-have kitchen essentials!

assorted ladles hanging on a wall


Guest post by Brette Sember.

The kitchen, among all other rooms in the house, is the most likely to show the fruits of our labors — and the mess of our hard work! Whether you’re an active homesteader, a city dweller, or living life in suburbia, you know that projects like canning, gift making, or even just cooking at home can get hectic, especially if the space isn’t organized well.

The kitchen is one of the rooms in the home that produces the highest amount of waste. An organized kitchen allows you to use less and use what you have more responsibly. Learning to improve kitchen efficiency will not only save time and money, but will make you more likely to want to spend time cooking at home and making the most of this important space.

Multiple uses creates multiple confusion

Your kitchen is probably the most used room in your home, even if you don’t cook at home every day. It’s the room in the home that has the most traffic and which we ask to do the most.

Think about the activities that are happening in your kitchen. Most people use the kitchen as a multi-purpose room. Homework, laundry, crafts, bill-paying, and more all take place in this one space. If you can shift some of these activities to other areas of the home, it will free up storage space.

Keep your scrapbooking supplies in a hall closet and move your household files to a box under your bed, for example. Your kitchen will feel less cluttered and over-used.

Get organized one step at a time

The thought of completely re-organizing your kitchen is just too daunting. Instead, tackle one drawer, cupboard or shelf a day to make progress. Completely reorganizing your entire kitchen is an overwhelming task, but if you can find five minutes a day, you can get a lot done over a week’s time.

Get organized while your pasta is cooking, your coffee is dripping, or your broccoli is steaming.

Maximize your kitchen storage space

The biggest complaint people have about their kitchens as they get organized? There just isn’t enough storage space. No need to build out though! In truth, most people don’t maximize the space they have. You likely have wasted or under-used space in your kitchen. If you can turn that into workable space, your kitchen will feel much bigger.

  • Keep your eyes open for square storage containers at the thrift store. Use them for pantry items like flour, pasta, cereal, rice, beans, etc. Square containers stack and fit together on shelves much easier and actually save space (eliminating those gaps between round containers). Your food will stay fresh longer. Plus, you’ll be able to see how much you have left, so you won’t overbuy.
  • Trying to get organized? Look up for more storage space. Install shelves over the doorways of the room. Hang a three-tier basket from the ceiling for additional space or install a pot rack. Put shelving around your soffits for tons more storage. If you have a separate pantry with a door, install storage above the door on the inside.
jars in an organized kitchen

Kitchen utensil storage

  • Bring in a recycled book case. Paint it to match your cabinets and mount matching drawer pulls. It will look like additional built in cabinetry.
  • Add dividers to your drawers to keep similar items together.
  • Consider mounting a magnetic knife strip to the wall for knife storage.
  • Make the most of small spaces and install shallow shelving for small utensils or spices.

Kitchen cupboard storage solutions

  • Use the insides of cabinet doors for storage.
    • Mount wire racks for spices
    • Hang pot lids using a metal towel bar
    • Add a message board
    • Store shopping bags
  • Install roll out drawers inside your lower cabinets. These cabinets often end up messy and underused. No one wants to crawl on their hands and knees and reach back into the dark corners! You’ll double your usable space with this trick.
  • Add metal standing shelves to double your storage area in cupboards. Instead of one level of cans or glasses, you can now fit two.

No more junk

  • Banish the junk drawer. This is additional storage space you could be using. Dump everything out and sort it. Put everything away in a newly identified home and gain an entire drawer.
    • A pencil cup on the counter for pens
    • Add a small container to the plastic wrap drawer for twist ties
    • Velcro a flashlight to the inside of a cabinet drawer
    • Add a magnetized notepad to the fridge

Make cooking at home a snap

When your kitchen is not easy to use, it can be hard to motivate yourself to cook dinner at home. And cooking at home helps save money, eliminate packaging, and leads to healthier choices.

  • Create meal kits—group the ingredients you need to make your go-to dishes. This way you can just reach into the pantry and grab everything you need for a recipe. It also makes it much easier to direct someone else in your home to make dinner this way.
  • Make a list of the dishes your family enjoys that you make over and over. Buy all the ingredients and always keep them on hand. You will always have something to cook.
  • Use the one out, one in rule. If you use up a bag of rice, buy a new one. This way you will always have the same basic items for easy meal prep.
  • Prep food before you put it away. Make hamburgers from ground beef, trim meat, and wash lettuce and vegetables before refrigerating. Divide large packages of things like bacon or chicken breasts into serving sizes before freezing.

jars on shelves to get organized in the kitchen

Create a better food storage system

  • Date your leftovers. No sniff test needed to determine if you can use them.
  • Store items in clear containers. It will be easy to see what you have at a glance.
  • Keep a running list of what’s in your freezer. Post it on the door and cross items off when you use them and add them when you buy them. This way you will always know what you have. This eliminates spoilage waste, as well.
  • Keep track of your pantry items with a similar list.
  • If you do your own canning, use this system to keep track of what you’ve used and what you have plenty of.
  • Use magnetic spice tins and store them on the refrigerator.
wooden spoons organized in a white jar

Bring your kitchen to life

Too often when we try to get organized we forget about comfort. The kitchen needs to be a room that is welcoming and warm. While you’re clearing your counters and shelves of clutter, don’t forget to keep some touches that express your personality and make the room comfortable.

Stencil quotes on the wall, frame children’s art or family photos, rotate seasonal decorations, or choose one really gorgeous expensive item that makes you happy. A big throw rug, pricey vase, or framed print can expresses your personality.

With a little thought you can get organized and make your kitchen a place you love to spend time in.

About Brette

You want your country kitchen to work for you! Here's how to organize the most important room in your house so you can be more efficient.

Brette Sember is the author of The Organized Kitchen published by Adams Media. She writes the popular food blogs No Pot Cooking and Martha And Me. She is also the author of The Parchment Paper Cookbook and the upcoming The Muffin Tin Cook Book from Adams Media.

You might also like:

Click to save or share!

Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

22 comments… add one
  • Darcy Jan 11, 2012, 9:27 am

    One of my biggest issues is my cabinets. I swear I organize them all the time, only to find a jumbled mess of wire racks, appliances, and bake ware a week later. I hate how everything tumbles out when I open a cabinet door. Second to that is my pantry. I find it hard to strike a balance between “well-organized” and “well-seen”. I can stack and line things up, but invariably something ends up out of sight. And for me, out of sight means out of mind, and I forget I have (for example) Crisco. So I re-buy Crisco. And the cycle continues until I have 5 tins of Criso, 2 of which are out of date. *sigh*

    I love the cooking cues segment of this post. Totally going to implement that tonight.

  • Judy Taylor Jan 11, 2012, 9:43 am

    I am challenged with disabilities (polio survivor) and being able to stand and cook in the kitchen. So far, because of chronic bursitis in hips and shoulders, upper cupboards and lower cupboards are extremely difficult for me to use. I’ve brought in a couple of bookcases, open, to hold dishes, glassware, pans, etc. Also one holds extra pantry items. I have a free standing island which I use close to the sink with a stool in between. This allows me to sit and do some cooking, prep work, etc. I could always use more ideas to help make it easier for me to cook in my kitchen. I love to cook, bake, etc. and have a large collection of recipes including those from both grandmothers, my mother, friends, etc.

  • joyce avans Jan 11, 2012, 3:52 pm

    I don’t use my dish washer to do dishes. I use it to store my use often items like knives, strainers, funnels, cutting boards, sheet pans, ect. These items used to always fall out of my cupboards. Now they are within a easy reach of my sink and prep counter.

  • Lori CB Jan 11, 2012, 4:03 pm

    I use the bottom of empty milk containers to keep pouches and bagged mixes organized in my cabinets.
    I roll my towels and put my sheet sets in inside out pillowcases
    the large plastic zippered bags that sheet and comforters come in i keep for seasonal storage or yarn, material and if they are from curtains i keep them in y suit case for souvenirs and trinkets and other items we collect during our trips and also for craft projects ready to do just plan ahead and put it all in like a ready made kit and the kids can go at it on rainy or snow days.
    for all those extra electronic cords put them in TP or paper towel tubes and label the tube and put them in a cerial box on its side in the cupboard or drawer.
    hang crown molding down on your wall and use it for shoes with heels or setting out your outfits for the next day or packing.

  • Dennis Gentry II Jan 11, 2012, 4:06 pm

    where to start…… Pots and pans falling out of cabinets,lost items floating through cabinets and draws. Let’s not even start on the refrigerator and the disorganization happening among the in and out of date produce and condiments. lets just say this book would be of great use and not just for collecting dust or leveling out that table 😉

  • Brandee Jan 11, 2012, 4:09 pm

    Space is my biggest problem in the kitchen. I know…people say that all the time. But it’s especially true for me. My kitchen’s footprint is about 16 sq ft. It’s a U-shape, with a sink and stove not leaving my counter space. I have to get creative with placement. Cookbooks go on top of the upper cupboards. The shelves in the lower cabinets are not as wide as the cupboards, so in the void I store cutting boards upright (they go back…it’s hard to explain). And I dedicate counter areas and corresponding cupboards to specific things. Coffee filters & mugs above the coffee maker; canister of flour & sugar with the mixer, etc.

  • Michele Keeley Jan 11, 2012, 4:14 pm

    I live in a 100+ year old farm house. It started off as a two room house and over time others added to it. My two big problem (aside from electric & plumbing!) are there are only 2 closets and very few cabinets. This fall my in-laws got annoyed over having so little cabinet space in the kitchen (there was only one cabinet with about a 3 ft. counter!) they went to Lowes and bought me some cabinets with a 6 ft counter!!! Not exactly how I imagined remodeling the house but it was a very welcome gift!

  • Sheryl Jan 11, 2012, 4:16 pm

    I never seem to have enough room to store everything – then end up putting things in random places, and forgetting they’re there! Great, helpful tips from Brette…thanks

  • Julie Jan 11, 2012, 5:14 pm

    My random utensil drawer. I once heard you should take everything out and put it in a box on the counter. If you use it, then it gets to go back in the drawer. Haven’t tried it, but have thought about it.

  • Eric Chapman Jan 11, 2012, 6:12 pm

    My wife and I have implemented most of the suggestions listed above over the last three years of our three year marriage. Our best “new” trick is to use the space above our shelves to store dry goods (we creates a list on a notepad hung inside a cabinet to detail what is stored above the cabinet). Another good idea we stumbled upon is to use the “rack” from a roasting pan as a lid rack for our pots and pans. This way we save room (we store bread pans, etc. in the roasting pan) and still organize without buying new items. We also keep a dry-erase board on the side of our fridge to detail 1) grocery lists; 2) freezer cotents; 3) schedules (where we are or might be at dinner time); and 4) suggestions for items in our pantry (vegetables, canned goods, dried-goods, and fridge-stuff, etc. to use in the next week).

  • Jen Corbin Jan 12, 2012, 1:36 am

    My biggest challenge in the kitchen are my utensil drawers. Spatulas, spoons, pastry blender, thermometers, tongs (especially tongs!), etc get all jumbled together and it’s hard to find what I want. Sometimes it’s even hard to close the drawers!

  • Alicia Jan 12, 2012, 7:03 am

    My biggest organizational challenge is definitely my pots and pans and big items. I actually use things like my food processor quite often, but I don’t have enough storage space for everything.

  • Deanna Jan 12, 2012, 7:58 am

    pans and baking utensils are my downfall, they just don’t stack well!

  • Mary Jan 12, 2012, 8:29 am

    My biggest challenge is lids for pots. Especially the large glass ones. They take up tons of space. Thanks for the offer to win a book.

  • April Jan 12, 2012, 9:55 am

    We moved into our house in September, and the layout was different than what I’m used to, so I had to think outside the cabinet. It has some of those large storage drawers, which I had never used before. I love them. I also installed those pan dividers from Ikea for my baking pans, skillets, cooling racks, etc. LOVE. THEM. I have the Snapware MODS for all of my baking supplies and things like rice, macaroni, beans. It’s an investment up front, but I don’t waste things bc I always know what I have. It’s not lost in bags and little containers shoved in the back.

    I also got rid of a lot of things. I make most things from scratch, but I narrowed it down to what I really use and love. I waited through canning season and the holidays to decide on a few things, and ended up keeping all of my 9x13s bc I now host holiday dinners, and I used every last one of them (5). In our last house I had a pan rack hung above my island and LOVED it. I hate stacking and unstacking pans. This house doesn’t really work with that idea.

    As we live here I’m still going through and rearranging my kitchen, getting rid of things, making it a space I love even more. I’m really interested in those pull out shelves in the bottom cabinet. I love that idea. I hate bending down to get things. I wonder if they make ones that can hold 50-100 pounds for my giant buckets of grain I have stored in some of them.

    I took a bunch of crafty, junk frawer things like markers, pens, pencils, scissors and put them in cups and put the cups and things like tape and glue in a shoe box. I just pull it down and find my thing. The top of my kitchen desk needs help. I also put some shoe boxes in my drawers to hold socks, underwear, etc. so it’s not a jumbled mess.It is my this-has-no-home spot for mail, magazines, etc.

  • Sonia Jan 12, 2012, 10:52 am

    As with most everyone else, space is at a premium in my kitchen. Fortunately, the counter that acts as a divider between kitchen and family room is quite wide, so I have plenty of space to use the far side of counter as storage for my collection of clamp/glass lidded jars which I use for storage of dry ingredients and such. 4 years ago I ordered a 24×20 pot rack from Taylor and Ng ( and ordered extra hooks (some conveniently swivel!) that holds more than just pots and pans…I hang clusters of utensils and colanders…and I can slide the lids to pots through the handle of the pots and then hang…so my pots and lids hang together from just one hook! The pot rack was not cheap, but it was one of the best investments I’ve made. I also have a 3 tier wire hanger as suggested and use that for my potatoes, onions, garlic storage. My next project is to instal a board/shelf above the kitchen window (over the sink) to hold other items. My extensive collection of bakeware is stored in a shelving unit that fits sideways in my laundry closet and the whole thing closes with louver doors so all is hidden when the doors are closed.

  • Traci Sellers Jan 12, 2012, 2:04 pm

    My challenge is finding storage space for large bulky appliances. I have 8 linear feet (divided into 3 chunks) of countertop and there just isn’t enough room for my Bosch Mixer, Kitchen Aid stand mixer, Vitamix, 2 crockpots (which I use daily or every other day), percolator and electric skillet. Is there a keen trick for the big guys?

  • judy stock Jan 13, 2012, 9:51 am

    Some great suggestions Brette! Will print this out and look around my kitchen to see if there’s anything I can do to “upgrade” this outdated kitchen of mine. It actually needs a face lift, but organizing it will have to do for now.

  • Living Large Jan 13, 2012, 11:33 am

    We have a small house and keeping organized is a challenge. I have this book and just want to say it is a great read! No need to enter me in the contest, I just wanted to say I enjoyed the interview with Brette!

  • MyKidsEatSquid Jan 14, 2012, 1:28 pm

    Love these ideas. I have a small kitchen, but I like having lots of different spices on hand. I organize them according to flavor family–Italian, Mexican, Asian, Thai, BBQ, etc. in plastic bins that I mark and then keep in a shelve in the basement. I just pull out the one I need when it’s time to cook.

  • merr Jan 15, 2012, 6:28 am

    I posted this on my FB page! As someone who has a minutely small kitchen (for example, 2-1/2 drawers is all we’ve got in the drawer department!) this books sounds great.

  • Jane Boursaw Jan 22, 2012, 6:27 pm

    Great tips, and not just for the kitchen either. I’m in declutter mode around here, and I think they apply to other areas of the house, too.

Leave a Comment