How to Organize Your Chaotic Kitchen
The kitchen is probably the only room in the house that can look incredibly well-organized while being incredibly chaotic. With so many cabinets and drawers hiding the chaos, visitors will probably be entirely unaware that you aren’t as well put together as you seem.
But you will know. The problem is that most of us don’t know how to organize kitchen cabinets and drawers.
It’s also the room where you can end up wasting the most amount of money when it is chaotic (although your closets are likely a very close second). Setting aside a couple of days to get organized can save you a lot of money in the long run. It can also be a real time saver as you will be able to quickly locate what you need while you cook.
Before you do anything to organize, you need to prepare for the cleanup.
- Make sure you have boxes and containers available and mark them based on what will
happen to the items placed in each box:
- Consider (you need to determine if you need an item or not)
- Food (or you can put food stuffs in the pantry for the short term)
- Empty your biggest trash can and have a couple of bags handy
- Cleaning supplies
Once you have all of your supplies ready, prepare to roll up your sleeves.
Don’t Forget Safety
If you have younger children or a very clever cat or dog, you want to make sure to keep anything dangerous stored where it cannot be accessed by little wandering hands or curious paws. This means you probably already have some of the storage spaces locked to prevent access. Take this into consideration when you start planning how you will reorganize your kitchen. Unless you want to redo the child locks or install additional ones, this will be a limiting factor to keep in mind.
Breaking down the Tasks by Location
Each space in your kitchen has a short checklist that you can use to mentally prepare for this time-consuming endeavor. You can also use these checklists to break down your plan of attack for getting your kitchen in better working order. The bigger your kitchen, the more time it will take. Depending on the size of your kitchen and the amount of disorganization you are facing, you may need to put aside a few hours to a couple of days to complete the project. Fortunately, it is easy to divide the tasks into a series of jobs that can be used to determine when you should take a break or stop for the day.
Before you start, remember to be tough on what stays and what goes. You want to declutter at this point, and that means getting rid of things you don’t use. If you haven’t touched something in over six months, it’s probably safe to get rid of it.
Counters – Phase 1
Counters are an easy starting point and can help you warm up. By taking care of the counters first, you can also clear off the space you need for organizing the more cluttered cabinets and drawers.
Be aware that you won’t actually be done with the counters until the end of the organizing though. You will be using them over the course of the cleanup, so you will be handling these more in two phases: initial organization and final organization.
The following tasks should be finished during the initial organization:
- Analyze all items on your counters and place them in the proper box
- Place appliances and organizers out of the way so that you maximize how much space you have available for reorganizing the cabinets and drawers
Most kitchens have more cabinets than drawers, but cabinets are easier to organize because there aren’t a lot of little items to consider.
The first thing to do is to figure out where you want items to be located. You don’t have to leave objects in their current place if you think that switching them around will make it easier to cook and clean on a daily basis.
Go through the kitchen cupboard layout and label what you want to keep in each cabinet. Consider how often you use different items. For example, if you tend to use mugs and bottles more often than glasses, you want to put the mugs close to the dishwater on the lowest shelf. Glasses can be put on the middle or top shelf if you use them less regularly. Heavier items should also be placed near the dishwasher and sink so that you don’t have to carry them far to put them away.
Remove everything from the cabinets, placing them in the box where they should be stored. At this point, you may not know which items are duplicates (dishes, bowels, and other dishware don’t count as you need extras of those), but you will want to remember if you find a duplicate item later. When you encounter a duplicate item, locate the first one, then put them both in the duplicate box. It is likely that you will encounter duplicate cutting boards, graters, or other tools. Make sure you know where you want to keep these tools in the future so that you can quickly find them, and save yourself money by not buying multiple kitchen items when only one is needed.
Go through everything in the boxes of things you want to keep, consider, or duplicates. Determine which of these items you want to get rid of (whether you want to donate, sell, or throw the items away).
Store any appliances that you aren’t likely to use regularly and don’t want to store on the countertops. For example, waffle irons and rice cookers probably don’t get used more than once a week (probably less than that). Put these items somewhere that is easily accessible, but out of the way of the items you will use often.
Start reorganizing your cabinets. Make sure you put everything away neatly so that you can easily find them. This will be especially important the more you switch the location of different things – especially dishes. The area under the sink is often the best place for cleaning supplies. If you don’t already store them there, it can help to store all of those chemicals in one place. They have a lot of different shapes and sizes and are easier to work around all of the plumbing under the sink.
You can add organizers to the shelves if that will help you keep things neat.
For something that looks so small, drawers will almost certainly consume the most time to organize. All of those little items will make it a lot harder to know what you have. This is also the time to make sure you pay attention to duplicates.
- Assess the drawers and label what you want to store in each of them.
- Empty the drawers. It will probably be easier to use the counters for this part.
- Assess every item and put it in the appropriate box. If you use the countertops, it will probably be easier to see duplicates earlier in the process. Most people have duplicates of smaller utensils like ice cream scoops, potato peelers, scissors, and spatulas.
- Organize larger tools on the countertops for easier access and so you don’t buy extras later. You may need two spatulas if you do a lot of cooking, but you probably don’t need three or four of them. Consider putting these kinds of tools out on the counters in organizers so that you don’t have to go hunting for them. Knives can be stored in a knife block without taking up too much space on the counter. However, don’t put in any of these organizers just yet.
- Add organizers to most of the drawers to keep them neater.
Counters – Phase 2
Once you finish with the cabinets and drawers, it’s time to finish the counter tops.
- While they are cleared, thoroughly clean the counters.
- Organize the things that go on the counter. Once you finish, you can start going through the boxes and getting rid of the things you don’t need. Since they are already organized into their respective boxes, you won’t have to spend time sorting through most of them (the duplicate box may still have tougher items to consider).
After the hours (or days) you spent setting up your organized kitchen, you will want to maintain it so you don’t have to do it again. This will be a lot trickier if you aren’t the only person in the home, but training others to keep it clean isn’t as hard to do if everyone puts in the effort. Give everyone a quick tour, and providing an explanation for why you put things in specific places can help people to better remember and buy into the new order of the kitchen. Set aside time every six months to assess the cabinets, counters, and drawers. This will probably take less than half an hour, and it’s the best way to keep an organized kitchen while saving time and money.