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How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets: A Practical Guide for Busy Homeowners

If the home is where the heart is, then the kitchen is where our souls reside. On average, Americans spend over an hour in the kitchen each day, so it makes sense that having an organized and functional kitchen can add ease to your day-to-day life and set the tone for the home you want to create.

If you’ve been putting off this task for a while, read on to learn how to organize kitchen cabinets and get those cluttered cabinets in tip-top shape.

How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets

1. Gather Supplies

You only need a few items to get started. Grab a couple of trash bags, a spot vac if you have one, a cleaning rag, and some cleaning spray or wipes. If you’re planning to acquire some organization containers or racks, you may also need a measuring tape.


2. Clear Off Your Countertops

Organizing your kitchen cabinets involves emptying your cabinets, so you’ll need space to put all the items that are currently in your cabinets. You can put them on the floor, if necessary, but to avoid multiple trip hazards, it’s best to place the items on your countertops or a table.

Pick a space, probably larger than you think you’ll need, and clear it off to give yourself plenty of room. Don’t be deterred, things tend to get messier before they can get better. And they will get better!


3. Empty Your Kitchen Cabinets

Now that you have cleared counter space or a nearby table, take everything out of your kitchen cabinets. Complete this step as quickly as you can to avoid getting distracted or discouraged.

Empty Kitchen Cabinets

You can bust out that set of cheese knives you forgot you had for your next charcuterie night.


4. Clean Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers

Next, thoroughly clean out your kitchen cabinets. You may want to vacuum out crumbs, or at the very least, wipe out the bottoms of your cabinets and drawers.

This step makes a big difference in the overall look of the inside of your cabinets. Not to mention, it’ll help keep pests away and remove any bad odors from festering crumbs or food residue.


5. Sort All Items

Take Inventory

Look at all of the items you’ve taken out of your kitchen cabinets and sort everything into categories like the following:

  • Glasses & dishes
  • Utensils
  • Pots & pans
  • Mixing bowls & cutting boards
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Spices
  • Food items
  • Cleaning supplies

Depending on your kitchen, you may have more categories, such as cookbooks or reusable bags. Or, you may need to subdivide a category, like glasses, into cups, stemware, and mugs. Sort your items into categories that work for you.

Discard Unnecessary Items

After you have sorted all your items into their respective categories, throw out any multiples, outdated or stale food and spices, and anything else that you no longer need. If you’d like, recycle and donate items as appropriate.


6. Plan Item Zones

How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets by Zones

Organizing your kitchen cabinets by zone allows activity to flow more naturally within the kitchen. The basic zones are as follows:

  • Food prep & cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Storage

The trick here is the store items as close as possible to where they will be needed in the kitchen. Pots and pans and cooking utensils should be near the stove and oven, cleaning supplies and food storage containers located near the sink, mugs stored near the coffee pot, etc.

Coffee Mugs on Counter

Having your items near where they will be used will make your time spent in the kitchen streamlined. Use sticky notes on the outsides of your cabinets to help yourself remember which cabinets you have designated for which items.

Another strategy on how to organize your kitchen cabinets is by activity and frequency of use. For example, you may have little ones who are learning to get their own snacks. Having a bin of healthy snacks and kid-friendly dishes in a lower cabinet is a must. Whereas, the fondue set you only need once a year is better off out of the way in an upper cabinet that you may need a step stool to reach.

Accessibility

As far as the functionality of your newly organized kitchen, remember that visibility is key. If you can’t see an item when you open a cabinet or drawer, chances are you’ll either forget you have it or get frustrated trying to find it.

Ease of retrieval is important. Store less frequently used items in upper cabinets and heavier items in lower cabinets.


7. Prepare Cabinets

Line Your Cabinets & Drawers

Adding liners to your cabinets and drawers is a fun step if you have a little extra time and budget. Liners protect the surfaces of your kitchen cabinets and drawers from wear, like scratches and knicks from appliances and utensils.

Shelf liners

This is your chance to add some hidden flair to your kitchen. There are tons of colors and patterns to choose from, and liners are generally inexpensive and easy to install.

Take Measurements

Now that you’ve cleared out your cabinets and planned out where you’re going to put things, you may decide you need to optimize your storage space with the addition of organization items like racks, bins, or hooks. For some of these items, you’ll need to measure your kitchen storage space so you can find or buy the right sizes.

Adjust the Height of Your Cabinet Shelves

Depending on the types of cabinets you have, you may be able to adjust the height of your cabinet shelves to better suit your kitchen organization. If not, there are great rack options (discussed below) that will help you utilize vertical kitchen cabinet space.

Label Shelves and Drawers

Adding labels to your shelves and drawers will help everyone remember where things go, and guests can easily find what they’re looking for.

If desired, you can hide the labels inside the cabinets by placing them on the ends of your shelves. For kitchen drawers, hide labels on the tops or insides of drawers where they will be safely out of sight until opened. This label maker creates classic embossed labels that go great in any kitchen.


8. Choose Cabinet Zones

Kitchen Sink Cabinet Organization

Keep the cabinet space under the kitchen sink accessible and easy to clean using a sliding cabinet organizer. Just remember to take into consideration any piping that may limit the vertical space in this cabinet before purchasing an organizer.

Pots and Pans

The best thing you can do for your organizing your pots and pots is to figure out a system that works best for the pots and pans that you own. This could mean adding a pot rack, finding a way to organize your lids, or simply the best way to stack or hang these items.

Pot Rack

Organizing Dishes

Store your everyday dishes in a cabinet near the cleaning zone. They don’t have to be right next to the sink. Directly across works as well. Use stackable shelves to optimize space and keep dishes organized.

Spices

If you’re keeping your spices in drawers, an expandable spice rack is a great option to organize and view all your spices. Use a turntable to store your larger spices, labels facing out, in a cabinet. From countertop spice racks to racks that hang on walls, there are tons of options available. You will no doubt be able to find a spice storage solution for your kitchen.

Food Storage Containers

When it comes to how to organize kitchen cabinets, food storage containers can be particularly daunting. First, match up all your containers to their respective lids and discard what’s left. If you have the space, the easiest option is to store the containers with lids already on them for ease of retrieval. If kitchen space is more limited, store like with like: bowls stacked with same-sized bowls, nested in bigger ones, and lids with lids.

Open Shelving and Cabinet Organization

If you have open shelves or cabinets, the key to creating a pleasing aesthetic is to keep kitchen items minimal with space between sets of items.

Open Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen Pantry Organization

Organizing your kitchen pantry could be a project all on its own. If you’ve decided to tackle your pantry along with your cabinets, stick to the basics. After going through the same steps as above, organize food into groups, consolidate your staple food items, and add storage bins.

Miscellaneous Drawer

Don’t be ashamed of your junk drawer. Everyone has one! To keep it under control, clean it out regularly, like during Spring Cleaning or during that awkward time between Christmas and New Year’s.

Organize items using drawer dividers or bins. Since they’re not in plain sight, you can use boxes that small electronics come in. They’re the perfect drawer organizers for your pens, rubber bands, and scissors.


9. Consider Additional Organization Tips and Tricks

  • Store platters and baking sheets vertically
  • Arrange items by height
  • Use clear containers
  • Hang your wine glasses
  • Add pull-out drawers to cabinets
  • Add a magnetic strip to the inside of a cabinet for knife storage
  • Organize reusable water bottles on racks
  • Create a “Baking Pantry” by the prep area with flour, sugar, and other baking ingredients
  • Utilize a corner cabinet pull-out organizer

10. Maintain Your Cabinet Organization

Since most of the hard work is out of the way, it’s easy to refresh one cabinet at a time or update an area for even better kitchen cabinet organization.


Wrapping up How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets

Now that you know how to organize kitchen cabinets, remember that every kitchen and every family is different. Organize in a way that works best for you and your everyday life. The result will be more quality time in the kitchen with those that matter most.

Now that you know how to organize your kitchen cabinets, you may decide that your cabinets could use a fresh coat of paint. We’ve got everything you need to know on our Painting Kitchen Cabinets hub page.