Organizing the Kitchen Checklist

An organized kitchen allows you to cook more efficiently, clean up quickly―and find everything you need instantly.

  1. Check Take inventory.

    Pull all items out of the cupboards and place on a large table. Put things into groups, creating a loose hierarchy based on how often you use the pieces.

  2. Check Donate or toss.

    Evaluate each item. If you have three frying pans of the same size, donate one, along with anything you haven’t used in a couple of years. Discard anything that’s broken and can’t be repaired or is missing parts, like a pot without a handle.

  3. Check Create zones.

    When putting back items, place those 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.

  4. Check Create a hot zone.

    Designate a place around the stove and the sink for the essentials: oil, vinegar, knives, and cutting board.

  5. Check Place items within reach.

    If you cook frequently, keep ingredients where you will be using them: the basket of potatoes near the cutting board; sugar and flour near the stand mixer.

  6. Check Let usage dictate storage.

    Keep frequently used cookware immediately on hand. Stow things you use every now and then, like muffin tins and cookie sheets, in a less accessible cabinet. Move items you use only once a year, like the roasting pan for the turkey, out of the kitchen altogether.

  7. Check Organize cupboards with access in mind.

    Position heavy things below the counters, lighter things above them.

  8. Check Organize items by type.

    Pots and pans should be grouped by kind and placed one inside the other, from smallest to largest. If you have room, it’s best to keep lids atop their pots or pans; otherwise, arrange them from smallest to largest and keep their partners close by. Put all the bowls in one cabinet and all the baking pans in another to ensure that you’ll always go to the right place.

  9. Check Arrange everyday appliances.

    If you have lots of counter space and cook frequently, there’s no reason to hide your small appliances. Attractive toasters and toaster ovens, blenders, food processors, coffee grinders, and coffeemakers can stay on the counter.

  10. Check Stash less frequently used appliances.

    Those that are used only once or twice a year should not occupy valuable real estate. Store them in an out-of-the-way cupboard, the garage, or the attic.

  11. Check Put walls to work.

    Hang up racks or pegs to keep favorite utensils, pot holders, and dish towels in plain sight.

  12. Check Make recycling efficient.

    Having a bin for bottles and cans right next to the one for regular trash, instead of out in the garage or in the mudroom, streamlines end-of-meal cleanup.

  13. Check Organize under the sink.

    Start by moving anything you use sporadically to the garage or pantry and throwing out anything rusted, crusted, or congealed. Consider a pull-out trash can on gliders, and door attachments that hold sponges, brushes, and plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Or corral cleaning products and supplies on one side of the cabinet in a plastic caddy, and put the trash can on the other side.

  14. Check Contain plastic grocery bags.

    Stuff them inside an empty tissue box for compact storage and easy retrieval.

  15. Check Arrange flatware for efficiency.

    Use drawer dividers and utensil trays (large enough to accommodate oversize pieces) to keep your kitchen accoutrements in order.

  16. Check Rearrange the fridge.

    Perishable foods should go at the bottom and toward the back, not on the door. The lower shelf, where it’s coldest, is best for dairy products. Produce stays fresher in a crisper drawer. Use the door to store bottled food and condiments.

  17. Check Organize the freezer.

    Consider making designated sections (prepared meals, vegetables, desserts). Use dividers, baskets, or multilayer ice caddies to keep containers neat and accessible. Be sure to label things.