Top Organizers Share Their 11 Best Kitchen Storage Secrets
Cluttered kitchen cabinets, a jam-packed pantry, crowded countertops—if your kitchen feels too stuffed to fit another jar of everything bagel seasoning, you need some genius kitchen storage ideas to help you make the most of every inch of space.
Start your reorganization by taking stock of what you have. Pull everything out of your kitchen cupboards (and dump out your junk drawer!) and winnow down your kitchen gear where you can—expired spices, snack containers without lids, duplicates, things that are broken or missing parts, and rarely-used small appliances are some good places to start cutting back.
Then, try a few of these genius kitchen cabinet storage ideas from professional organizers and cookbook authors to help you streamline what you're keeping and make your kitchen organization work for you.
Use Your Kitchen Space Wisely
Tiny kitchen? Be selective about what you buy in bulk. "A five-pound bag of coffee makes sense because you drink it every morning, but a 10-pound bag of rice doesn't," says Andrew Mellen, New York City–based organizer and author of Unstuff Your Life! "Focus on carving out room in your cabinets. Boxed items are filled with air, so you can fit more of those products on shelves if you decant into sealable square canisters. To optimize your small kitchen organization, move mixing bowls, measuring cups, and other kitchen tools off the shelves and into a cart that can act as a food-prep zone. Last, collect loose items—tea bags, snack packs—in clear, stackable bins to keep them from cluttering up your space."
Kitchen Organization Essential: OXO Good Grips POP Rectangle Canisters are clear to let you see what needs replenishing at a glance, and sealed to keep food fresh and pest-free.
Declutter the Countertops
"If your kitchen counters are always a mess, you probably have more stuff than space for it. Over the course of a week, take notice of what's cluttering the counter, and give those items a home. Do you need a mounted organizer for mail that piles up? A basket for schoolwork your kids hand you right before dinner? Smarter assigned spots for miscellaneous pieces coming out of the dishwasher? Once you have those solutions, upkeep is easy if you do it regularly. Every night before bed, do a quick scan of the counter and put away any items that don't belong." —Erin Rooney Doland, an organizer in Washington, D.C., and the author of Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter
Kitchen Organization Essential: Keep the countertops clutter (and drip) free, with the Container Store's Over-the-Sink Drying Rack, which can also do double duty as an extra-large trivet for hot pans.
Prioritize Kitchen Items
"No question about it: A small kitchen forces you to prioritize. First thing to do is eliminate duplicates. (Do you really need three colanders?) Then think about what absolutely must be in the kitchen and what can go somewhere else. Some of my clients keep roasting pans and lesser-used casserole dishes in the front-hall closet, and plates, silverware, and wine glasses in a sideboard in the dining area or the living room." And institute a 'one in, one out' policy, so you keep clutter creep at bay. — Lisa Zaslow, New York City–based organizer
Kitchen Organization Essential: Sterilite Six-Quart Storage Boxes let you gather related items into kits—a cake-baking kit, a holiday-cookie kit—that are easy to store and retrieve from another room as needed.
Create Kitchen Storage Zones
Place kitchen items used for cooking and food preparation in cabinets near the stove and work surfaces; those for eating should be closer to the sink, refrigerator, and dishwasher. And put ingredients near where they're used—put the basket of potatoes near the cutting board; sugar and flour near the stand mixer.
Kitchen Organization Essential: Lid Maid lid organizer helps you maximize vertical space in your cabinets, and keep your lids right at hand when you're cooking.
Find Creative Ways to Store (or Display)
Look for creative ways to solve two problems at once—like an artful trivet that can be wall decor, then taken down to use for hot pans when you need them. "Only showcase things you find both beautiful and functional—that is, things you want to look at that also serve a purpose!" —Sonja Overhiser, food blogger at A Couple Cooks
Kitchen Organization Essential: Your fridge door can hold more than just takeout menus or kids' art. The Puj Phillup hangable kids cups let you keep your child's color-coded cup where he or she can easily grab it—and frees up valuable kitchen cupboard storage.
"If you have to inch out items gingerly to avoid an avalanche, it's tough to keep cabinets neat. A smarter solution is to turn all the cookie sheets, cooling racks, and muffin tins 90 degrees and store them vertically, like books. You'll be able to pull one out easily without shifting the others. Reconfigure the shelves if you need more room. And keep in mind: Like books need bookends, you'll need to hold these items in place with dividers." —Lisa Zaslow, New York City–based organizer
Kitchen Organization Essential: Container Store's 4-Sort Wire Dividers come in different sizes, perfect for corralling everything from bulky baking pans to plastic storage container lids.
Personalize Your Command Center
"When considering what to store in the kitchen command center, think about what your family needs to accomplish in this space, then keep only the items that are relevant there. Most people use a command center like a satellite home office to organize bills and mail, plus the kids' schedules and homework. In that case, you need a shredder, a recycling bin, pens, envelopes, and stamps, plus a message board. Because people tend to drop mail or odds and ends on the desk, I have clients set up in-boxes or cubbies for each family member, just like employees have in an office." —Erin Rooney Doland
Kitchen Organization Essential: Wall-mounted pockets from Pottery Barn's Daily System let you keep paper organized and off your countertops. You can mix and match in other elements—calendars, bulletin boards, and more—to contain other clutter.
Contain the Clutter
To keep clutter from spreading, use the tray method—corral everything that's on your counters in it. Mail tends to be the biggest offender. "If you have a hard time keeping mail from piling up, first deal with the discards off the bat. A recycling bin in the kitchen or the garage is the best solution for immediately tossing junk—flyers and unwanted catalogs. (To cancel junk mail, go to catalogchoice.org). Collect unopened envelopes and other odds and ends in a tray or an open box. Then commit to a 15-minute weekly follow-up so that the pile never gets too big. Sort at the same time every week—say, on Saturday mornings—and the sessions will become automatic and (relatively) painless. —Ellen Madere, Old Lyme, Connecticut–based organizer
Kitchen Organization Essential: This pretty sage-hued accessory tray comes in three different sizes to fit your clutter. The largest tray can hold magazines and mail, while the smallest corrals pens and spare change.
Organize Your Gadgets
"It's tricky to keep a gadget drawer orderly when the contents are vastly different shapes and sizes, so I like to add an expandable insert with adjustable compartments. First give yourself more drawer space by pulling out long tools, like tongs and spatulas. Those can live in a crock on the counter. Mount a magnetic knife strip on the wall to corral sharp tools (pizza cutter, cheese slicer), and store knives in a slim holder on a countertop. Then fill the insert strategically: gadgets you use the most in front and the rest in back." —Lisa Zaslow
Kitchen Organization Essential: OXO's Large Expandable Utensil Organizer lets you adjust the sizes of the slots with a quick pinch, so you can create the perfect storage spaces for your gear.
Maximize the Space
"Once you've streamlined, it's time to maximize the space you have. Often overlooked is the wall area between counters and cabinets; put it to work by mounting a knife strip there, or a towel rod. If you have super-high cabinets, buy a skinny step stool that folds flat. Slip it under the sink or in the crack next to the refrigerator so you can utilize upper areas." —Lisa Zaslow
Kitchen Organization Essential: The Slim Folding Step Stool folds flat for easy storage, and has two steps to let you reach the uppermost cabinets with ease.
Make It Easy to Reach the Items in Back
Lazy susans, bins and sliding cabinet drawers can all make it easier to see—and grab—items stored deep inside cabinets. Install them to make it easy to utilize every inch of kitchen cabinet storage.
Kitchen Organization Essential: Container Store's Ash Roll-Out Cabinet Drawers are sturdy enough to handle your bulkiest appliances, and slide out smoothly so you can easily grab the crockpot or blender from the back.