This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Our kitchen was my least favorite room for the first 6 1/2 years that we lived in our house. But even though it wasn’t exactly pretty, we made the most of it until this past summer/fall when we finally bit the bullet and did a complete renovation. Though still on the small side, our kitchen has become much more functional and I couldn’t wait to get to the fun part– organizing!
Organizing a small kitchen can be a bit of a challenge. I was constantly pinning posts about organizing kitchens, but they seemed to have oodles of drawer and cabinet space to organize every pan, plate, and spice jar. I have a grand total of 4 drawers and a limited number of cabinets to work with, and I really wanted to make the most of them. I’ve moved things around quite a few times trying to find the perfect configuration for our new kitchen, and since we’ve been living with our current setup for a little while now and it seems to be working well, I thought I’d share the tips and strategies that have helped me create our organized kitchen.
1. Purge, purge, and purge some more!
If you’ve ever read any of my organization posts before, you probably knew that this was going to be the first step. I really hate when a space feels cluttered, so I try to purge often so that we’re not feeling overrun by stuff.
Our old kitchen looked like this and was not laid out very well…
The corner cabinets were hard to access, the drawers were always breaking, and some of the cabinets were so narrow that they barely held anything. Because this is what I was working with before, I really purged down our stuff so that the cabinets weren’t overflowing.
Even so, when we put in our new kitchen…
…I went through all of our utensils, gadgets, and small appliances again and was able to get rid of even more stuff, leaving us with only the items we truly use. (I should also mention that I am not a big cook or baker, so we probably use less kitchen gadgets than most people.) I’ve learned that if I purge well, and purge often, it will make the rest of the organizing process so much easier!
2. Start with the “had tos.”
Since I was working with a small space, there were a few areas that were pretty limited (aka those areas “had to” hold certain things because that’s the only place they would fit), specifically drawers and large cabinets. Knowing this going in, I chose to sort out these areas first and then fill in the rest of the cabinets afterward.
When it came to the drawers, I knew silverware needed to be housed in one of them. Since the top drawer next to the sink is a double drawer (one of my favorite features of the IKEA SEKTION cabinets!), I was also able to store our knives in that space too. I used a knife block in our old kitchen, which was clunky and took up counter space, so I was glad to get rid of it!
I also needed a drawer to hold some of the gadgets and utensils that we use most often…
There were a few gadgets that I only use every once in a while but still needed (think: strainer, funnel, pasta measure, etc.), so those went in a basket in one of the cabinets so they weren’t taking up the “prime real estate.” 🙂
I ended up using the bottom drawer for our ziplock bags, foil, saran wrap, etc.
I considered putting these items in an organizer on the inside of one of the cabinet doors, but at the end of the day, that arrangement felt a little too clunky to me, so into the drawer they went.
Once my drawers were situated, I moved on to my other “had to” area, the large corner cabinets. Since these were the only areas that could house some of my larger items, I knew that’s what had to go there. We used a lazy susan in the lower corner cabinet, and since it is right next to the range, I use it to hold our pots and pans. Our large mixing bowls and colander also found a spot in this cabinet.
And since I like to have all of our plates, bowls, and serving pieces together, I ended up putting them in our other large cabinet, the upper corner.
3. Put items in close proximity to where they’ll be used most.
So after I had my “had to” cabinets and drawers taken care of, I tried to be strategic and put the remaining items in “zones” whenever possible. For example, I knew that I wanted the majority of my baking sheets and pans to be close to the range because that’s where they’ll be used most.
I already mentioned that our pots and pans are in the lazy susan cabinet to the right of the stove, and then I used the one small cabinet between the stove and the refrigerator to house my baking sheets with a nifty little organizer to hold them neatly in place.
Since, admittedly, I do not bake much, I was fine with putting my baking pans in the high cabinet above the microwave.
Probably the most used small appliance in our house is our Magic Bullet— both Donnie and I have a shake or smoothie at least once a day…
So in the cabinet directly above the magic bullet, I made a little “smoothie station” with all of the cups, rims, and blades we need to make our shakes. As you can see, this cabinet also holds our storage containers and leftover paper products.
4. Use organizers that work for the space, not against it.
Another issue that I’ve come across when organizing a small kitchen is that I have to be pretty choosy about which organizers I use in my cabinets and drawers. Since I’m working with a smaller space, some organizers actually hinder my ability to fit things into a cabinet rather than help it.
Take my silverware drawer, for example. When I first moved everything back into the kitchen, I tried to use IKEA’s utensil holders; since our cabinets were IKEA, I assumed they would fit the best. They would have been great, but they don’t make ones that are the exact size of our particular drawer, so I felt like I was wasting a lot of space. I then found these acrylic organizers at Target (that just so happened to have an aqua liner at the bottom!), and they were a perfect fit– so much more functional for our drawer! (Plus, being able to see the pretty contact paper through the acrylic makes me smile every time! 🙂 )
Similarly, we replaced the IKEA knife holder with two of these bamboo organizers from Amazon, and it was a much better fit for the space.
Another way I found that organizers could work for my small space rather than against it was by adding an extra level with a simple riser, like I did in my mug cabinet…
…and underneath the sink.
The under-sink space is also an example of where organizing bins came in handy to corral different items so they were not just a cluttered mess under there.
5. Place like items together, with the most used items down low and the least used items up high.
This final tip is probably the most obvious one, but it will be easier to find things if I put all “like” items together. All of our cups and water bottles are in one cabinet, for example, with the cups we use often on the lowest shelf, and the water bottles on the second shelf.
The cooling racks on the top shelf are another example of “we have a small kitchen and this is the only place they will fit,” but I don’t use them often, so they are up and out of the way.
The Cs’ plates and cups also have their own cabinet. This is another instance where, if our kitchen were larger, I probably would prefer to put them in a lower cabinet where the boys can reach them more easily, but since that’s not an option, this was our next best bet. (The basket on the top shelf holds all of the rarely-used-but-needed kitchen gadgets that I mentioned earlier in the post.)
Finally, the cabinet that always stumps me is the one above the fridge. No one in our family is tall and can reach it easily, so I just ended up using it for a serving bowl and our mini crock pot that we typically only use for get-togethers.
So that’s our organized kitchen! I talked about how we organize the pantry in a separate post, so you can pop over and see that if you’re interested. I thought about including our refrigerator organization as well, but 1. this post was already too long, and 2. when I was working on this post, we were in need of a grocery run, so it felt like cheating to show you an almost empty fridge and call it organized! We’ll save that one for another day! 😉
Have you ever attempted to organize a small kitchen? I’d love to hear your favorite tips and tricks– let me know in the comments! Have a wonderful day!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.