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How to Organize a Small Kitchen for Maximum Storage

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I have been working hard to organize my small kitchen this week. Besides the mini-makeover mentioned in a previous post, I have been scouring through the cupboards trying to rethink how I use my kitchen. I started doing some of this thinking a few years ago, but it never hurts to revisit your household systems. Here is how I organized my small kitchen to maximize storage.

Under the Sink

Basically, there was too much stuff in here. I needed to clean out unused items like broken spray bottles. Instead of one plastic bin that is overflowing with stuff, I needed to put in some pull-out drawers or shelves. I tried to rethink what actually needs to be here. Do I need all these cleaners? Could I simplify what I use? Do I have too many extras? (Hello, millions of plastic storage bags!) Is this really the best place to store these items?

Take a look under your sink (I know it’s scary, but you’ll be okay!). Do you have any broken or unused items lurking there (think cleaners and old sponges)? Do you have any bins or drawers to contain all the cleaning supplies? Are you stuffing bags or towels in there? Get busy clearing out the clutter and think about the best place to store each item. You may already have appropriate containers, but if not, make a note.

Baking Area

At the time I was evaluating my kitchen, I had my flour and sugar stored in some narrow canisters that were impossible to get a measuring cup into. So I purchased wide-mouthed sugar and flour canisters like these. I love these! You press the button, it pops up to become the handle, and you can lift the lid off. I also like that I can see how much is left in the container. Do your storage containers work for you?
I thought about getting a fold-down cookbook holder that attaches under a cabinet, but ultimately I decided that I would rather have one that I can move around the kitchen. Think about this for your kitchen: do you need a cookbook holder to protect your recipes from splatters? If your kitchen is small like mine, under the cabinet items are priceless! Maybe this cookbook holder would work for you.

I also considered putting a small canister in this space for things like spatulas/food scrapers. Somehow this never happened, but I’m kind of liking the idea, so I may reconsider. Right now, those things are in a canister by the stove. If you have extras of some items, you might consider storing them near another point of use.

Drawers and Cupboards

The one (!) drawer I have in the baking area needed a holder for small items. (Good thing I just did this in my mini kitchen makeover!) I hung my measuring spoons inside the cabinet because I am tired of hunting through the drawer for them. Finally, I reevaluated my current equipment—does any need replacing? I would like to replace the plastic measuring cups with metal ones. The plastic ones just don’t stack well in the drawer and one of them is slightly melted. Maybe something like these would be good. I like how well they nest together.

How about your kitchen? Do you have any equipment that is broken, melted, or otherwise needs replacing?

During my original evaluation, I reorganized the cupboards above the baking area so that all the things that I typically use for baking are located here. This is where I put my “sweet” spices, baking soda and powder, different sugars, chocolate chips, and so forth.

I tried to relocate the equipment that I use for baking into that area: measuring spoons, measuring cups, pastry cutter. I wish I could move the rolling pin and baking pans there, but the cupboard space there just doesn’t work. Oh well, you have to work with the space you have, especially in a tiny kitchen.

Spice Storage

One thing to check on is the savory spices/herbs—do any need removing or replacing? Spices don’t last forever, so if you don’t use them within a year or so, you should probably replace them. I tossed some old ones and then replaced the ones I actually use. I arranged them in alphabetical order because that is what works for me. My spices are on lazy susans that fit in my cupboards. I like to spin them around in the cupboard to see spices instead of hunting through a shelf.

Think about how you use your spices. Do you have a baking area where it makes sense to put “sweet” spices? Or do you prefer them all together in one space? Do you like them organized on a rack, or would a small lazy susan work for you, too?

Cooking Area

The utensil drawer was so chaotic—did it need dividers? (Why yes, yes it did—check! I purchased these adjustable drawer dividers.) One other thing I purchased was a small metal paper sorter (like you might use on a desk) to put my 3 small pot lids in. I measured this carefully and found something that works to keep the lids upright.

I can’t stress the importance of measuring enough! If you know what you want to fit in the space and the exact size of the space, you can probably find a container that will meet your needs.

The location of my pantry area is not ideal for the cooking area, but my kitchen is pretty small, so it doesn’t matter that much. I try to put pots and pans in cupboards right around the stove. There is a utensil caddy on the counter that holds things I use at the stove. I keep hot pads (which I replaced because they looked awful) in the drawer nearby.

Think about putting things you use on the stove nearby. Can you store hot pads in the drawer next to the oven (or hang them)? And do you need to replace them? Will a utensil caddy fit on the counter next to the stove?

Prep Work Area

My final counter space area is what I think of as the prep work area. It is near the sink for washing fruits and vegetables. I keep cutting boards, knives, vegetable peelers, choppers, a grater, and food processor here. I also use this area for washing dishes, so I have a small basket that has various tools for scraping and scrubbing next to the sink, and another small basket for soap containers. Do you keep knives near cutting boards? And do you keep vegetable and fruit prep items near each other and near the sink?

During this round of evaluating, I decided to buy a divider to hold the cutting boards upright (no more falling over!). I leave my dish drainer sitting on the counter by the sink. In the past, the dishes were left to air dry, and so I never needed to put it away. My mother stores hers under the sink, but I don’t have room there. Honestly, there just isn’t room in my limited cabinets to put this bulky item away.

Dish Storage

Because the sink and dishwasher are in this area, I use the cupboards above the dishwasher to store the dishes and glasses. This is super handy when my kids unload the dishwasher. While I was at it, I replaced my old, faded towels with some new ones. It’s amazing how great new towels look!

Since my kids are getting older, I did a final round of culling the kid-sized stuff out of the cupboard. There were still a few toddler-type items in there (good grief!), so out they went. It was also time to replace glasses and dishes. Quite a few of our glasses have broken in the last couple of years. I also decided that we didn’t need two different sets of dishes (one being for the kids). I switched over to just having one larger set of dishes for all of us and replaced the glasses.

Are your kids getting past the stage of needing plastic dishes? Do you need to rethink where you store dishes? Handy to the dishwashing area or to the table setting area would make sense.

Food Storage Containers

In my previous evaluation, I noticed that the storage containers were getting out of control. A number of them had broken lids, and there were far too many of them. Time to cull them a bit and reorganize. The tiny containers were a mess–surely there was a better way to organize them! Could these go in some sort of basket? In the past, I did use a basket to contain them.

But this week I decided to put them in my glass bread loaf pans (that aren’t used very often) so I could see them better. As I reconsidered my storage container craziness, I decided to get rid of all the odd ones that didn’t stack well and just go with Rubbermaid containers. They stack beautifully, and the lids go on multiple sizes of containers. So much neater!

What can you do to make your storage containers work well? Are they near the refrigerator? My mother always stored lids in a drawer and containers in the drawer or two below. I have a serious lack of drawers in my kitchen, so mine are stored in the cupboard next to the refrigerator.

Whew! A lot of work this week. Now I need to make a donation run to get all of this stuff out of my house.

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