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How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets

Whether you've never had a real kitchen before or you're a kitchen organization master, everyone deserves to have a well-organized kitchen. It will make cooking faster and easier, and it makes putting away dishes a breeze. Discover our expert tips on how to organize kitchen cabinets.
How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets

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Well-arranged kitchen cabinets are the key to good kitchen organization. However, organizing the cabinets can be daunting if your drawers are crammed-full of mismatched Tupperware and mugs you never use. Where do you even begin? While it may seem impossible, organizing your kitchen cabinets is actually a straightforward process. It does take some time and planning, and you might need to buy some kitchen storage to fully maximize your space, but it's completely doable. If you're ready to revamp your kitchen, here are 18 steps that will walk you through how to organize kitchen cabinets:

Purge your kitchen.

The first step to organizing your kitchen is getting rid of everything you don't need. Obviously, you should throw out any broken or duplicate items. But what about the other items that you don't use, but might need one day? While you might be tempted to keep them, odds are that you won't use those items in the near future or ever. If you can't readily identify what items you use regularly, go through your kitchen and put stickers on every single item. As you use each one, remove the sticker from it. At the end of a month, take stock of all the items that still have stickers on them and give them away to friends or donate them to Goodwill. Ask your friends, family and co-workers if they'd like to take anything, especially more expensive items like small kitchen appliances.

Clear out your drawers.

Now that you've gotten rid of everything you don't need, you can actually organize your kitchen drawers and cabinets. Pick a day or weekend to organize your drawers and remove everything from them. Put the items somewhere out of the way since you'll need the counters and floors to be clear as you organize. While you're at it, double check the hinges on your drawer slides and tighten up any screws that are feeling loose. If you've been meaning to install child locks on the cabinets and drawers, this is also the right time to install them so you can easily clean up any wood shavings that fall.
Pick a day or weekend to organize your drawers and remove everything from them. Put the items somewhere out of the way since you'll need the counters and floors to be clear as you organize. Double check the hinges on your drawer slides and tighten up any screws that are feeling loose. This is also the right time to install child locks on the cabinets and drawers.

Wipe everything down.

Who knows the next time your cabinets will be completely empty, so take advantage of it and wipe everything down. If you have a lot of dust and crumbs in your cabinets, vacuum it up first with a handheld vacuum and then wipe the cabinets down with a multipurpose cleaner. Let them air-dry completely before placing anything inside the cabinets. If you'd like, measure the cabinets and then trim and lay down liners after the cabinets are dry. Liners add a pop of color and also protect dishes from chips and cracks.

Group things logically.

While you wait for your cabinets to dry, review all the items you've decided to keep and organize them by type. Group glasses with glasses, plates with plates, pots with pots, utensils with utensils and so on. You can also group them by type of activity. For example, if you drink coffee in the morning, you might want to put your coffee pot, mugs and coffee grinder together so you can store them in one convenient place.

Decide which cabinets you will store everything.

Now it's time to decide which cabinets everything will go in. Each kitchen is configured differently, but, in general, these are good guidelines for what you should do on the top and bottom shelves:
  • Top shelves: glasses, mugs, dishes, Tupperware, cookbooks, spices, food (if you don't have a pantry), other small and light items
  • Lower shelves: pots, pans, cutting boards, mixing bowls, small kitchen appliances, anything large or bulky
  • Under the sink: cleaning supplies, extra sponges, etc.
Choose which specific cabinets will hold each item based on the layout of your kitchen.

Put away appliances you don't use often.

Many people leave appliances on their counters, even if they only use them once every few months. As you organize your kitchen, take stock of what's on your counter and consider how often you really use the small kitchen appliances. If you don't use the item on a daily or weekly basis, consider storing it in one of the cabinets instead. (You should have plenty of room now that you've given away some of your kitchen items!) For example, if you use the coffee maker every day, that should stay out, but if you have a panini press you only use on rare occasions, that should be stored in a cabinet.

Consider storing certain items outside the kitchen.

Not every item has to be stored in the kitchen. For example, if you have special glassware that you only use once or twice a year, it might make more sense to store that in a hutch or buffet in the dining room instead of taking up an entire shelf in your kitchen. Your kitchen shelves should be "reserved" for items that you use frequently, certainly each month if not each week. Obviously, not everyone has a lot of extra storage space outside the kitchen, but if you do have it, don't feel like you have to cram everything into your kitchen cabinets.

Designate your drawers.

Most kitchens have drawers dedicated to three purposes: a utensil drawer, a towel drawer and a junk drawer for random items. Consider your kitchen and designate drawers that make the most sense. For example, you'll probably want the utensil drawer to be near the dishwasher and the towel drawer to be near the sink. The junk drawer can go anywhere. In fact, you might want to go ahead and assign all your other drawers first and then dedicate the remaining one as the junk drawer.
Most kitchens have drawers dedicated to three purposes: a utensil drawer, a towel drawer and a junk drawer for random items. Consider your kitchen and designate drawers that make the most sense. For example, you'll probably want the utensil drawer to be near the dishwasher and the towel drawer to be near the sink.

Create a cabinet for your kids.

If you have smaller children who are learning to get themselves snacks and drinks, you can facilitate this process by giving them their own cabinet. Choose a lower cabinet that's the same height as your kids and fill it with plastic cups, plates, utensils and snacks. Make sure not to put anything breakable in the cabinet as a precaution. If your kids are learning their letters, label everything clearly so they can start associating words with the correct kitchen items.

Keep containers and lids together.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can never find a matching lid for your Tupperware—until you organize your kitchen cabinets, that is. Go through your containers and match each of them to their lids. If any of the lids or containers are missing their match, repurpose them or recycle them. As for organizing the cabinet itself, nest containers of the same shape and put the lids inside them to keep them together. You can also use a box or an upright rack to store the lids by shape and size if nesting them won't work. Drawer dividers will keep smaller lids corralled.

Try out a lazy Susan.

These handy little devices help you access a bunch of items at once without having to take them all out of a cabinet or bin. If you have oils or vinaigrettes you like to leave on the counter, put them on a lazy Susan and give it a spin. Lazy Susans are also a popular organizing solution for spices if you have a wide cabinet you store them in. You can even put one under your sink to store cleaning supplies or in the fridge to hold condiments and bottles that won't fit in the door. That way, nothing gets shoved to the back and forgotten.

Use magazine files to store round items.

This hack is so genius that you'll wish youd thought of it yourself. Believe it or not, you can use magazine files to hold water bottles, canned foods and other cylindrical items. This keeps them from rolling away or toppling over and helps you maximize your vertical space. Make sure to measure the magazine files before purchasing to confirm that they're: a) not too tall for your cabinets; and b) wide enough to accommodate the bottles and cans.

Choose some pop-up shelves.

Stacks of ceramic dishes may only take up half the vertical space in a cabinet, but other items can't be placed on top of them, wasting that extra space. Reclaim your cabinets by getting a few pop-up shelves. These wire shelves have legs that fold down so they can be placed on top of dishes, pots or other items. Then, you can stack more things on the shelf instead of on top of the dishes. Not only will this maximize space, it also makes it easier to take items out or put them away because you don't have to unstack everything just to get to a plate.
Stacks of ceramic dishes may only take up half the vertical space in a cabinet, but other items can't be placed on top of them, wasting that extra space. Reclaim your cabinets by getting a few pop-up shelves. These wire shelves have legs that fold down so they can be placed on top of dishes, pots or other items.

Add a pull-out rack.

If you have really deep cabinets, getting to items in the back can be a huge pain. If you have to completely unload your cabinet to get out a pot, it might be worth it to invest in some heavy-duty pull-out shelves. These shelves slide right out on wheeled tracks, making it super easy to take things out and put them away. Be sure to measure all dimensions of the cabinet before purchasing a pull-out rack. Also, consider what you plan to store on the rack. You'll need a much stronger drawer for a stock pot vs. a stack of cutting boards.

Consider under-shelf racks.

If you have a lot of space between your cabinets and the countertop, it might be worth installing some under-shelf racks on the bottom of the cabinets. You can use these racks to store wine glasses, soup ladles, mugs and other kitchen items that you often reach for. Just make sure that the items won't interfere with your ability to use the countertops. While this won't improve your storage situation, many people also like to install lights on the bottom of their kitchen cabinets in order to increase visibility.

Store small items the smart way.

Don't just throw all your spatulas in a drawer and leave them like that. Smaller items deserve just as much organization, if not more, than larger ones. Use drawer organizers to keep utensils sorted by type. Cloth, woven or plastic bins will keep small items together and can easily be pulled out of cabinets. Command hooks attached to the backs of cabinets doors can be used to hold measuring cups, ladles and other kitchen implements.

Use resealable containers.

Even if they have a separate pantry, many people end up storing certain items, such as oils and spices, in their cabinets so that they can easily access them while cooking. You might want to transfer these supplies into matching glass or ceramic containers that seal tightly. Not only will this preserve them, having containers that are all the same size will make it easier to organize them. And the matching containers will look much prettier while they're sitting on your counter.

Label everything.

Odds are that you're not the only one who uses your kitchen, and you don't want a roommate or spouse undoing all your hard-earned organization as soon as they unload the dishwasher. To make it clear where everything goes, add labels to bins, drawer organizers and any other kitchen storage that obscures what it contains. That way, you'll never have to second guess whether the bin you just reached for holds your tea bags or your coffee filters.
Learning how to organize kitchen cabinets is one of the best things you can do to reduce your time and effort in the kitchen, and it will make cooking and cleaning so much easier. Now you'll only have to do a weekly decluttering sweep instead of constantly moving things around.

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