Secrets of an Organized Kitchen

Space-saving storage ideas for your cooking work space.

Hidden in every kitchen is something nearly every homeowner seeks: room for improvement. Regardless of your kitchen’s size, age or configuration, you can increase its efficiency, convenience and appeal with a few simple projects and affordable products. Any combination of these upgrades will help you make the most of your space (and the time you spend there).

Whether you’re considering a “gourmet-scale” makeover (such as replacing cabinets, work surfaces and appliances) or a “fast-food” fix (installing manufactured inserts or building simple components), you can adapt the following ideas to your plans. The additions and modifications we’ve highlighted can be applied to new installations or retrofitted to improve existing cabinets. Best of all, you’ll find multiple options to suit the size of your kitchen and your budget, regardless of your skill level or time availability.

Size doesn’t matter
If you’re one of the fortunate few homeowners who have empty kitchen space to work with, an obvious solution to organizational deficiencies may be to add new cabinets or an island. But if you don’t have the luxury of surplus square footage, you can incorporate amenities that help a cramped kitchen function and feel even better than one that’s spacious but disorganized.

Regardless of a kitchen’s size, organization is essential to its functionality. Whether it’s a small galley-style layout or a chef’s grand domain, every kitchen serves the same basic purposes:

  • Meal preparation
  • Storage of food and equipment
  • Cleanup and waste management (including recycling and trash collection)

Keep these functions in mind as you analyze your kitchen’s efficiency. The first step is to clean the room and remove clutter. Then you can enhance efficiency by installing manufactured inserts in the existing drawers and cabinets or by building your own components.

To determine which additional components will best enhance your kitchen, take a critical look at what you currently keep there. In the course of time, you’ve likely accumulated extra dishes, utensils and paraphernalia that seem at home in a kitchen but that you don’t actually need.

Enlist a friend who can help you to be objective; then throw out, recycle, sell or donate any nonessentials. If you must keep items of sentimental value, pack them in boxes and store them elsewhere. (If you don’t miss or use them within a year, consider selling or donating them.) Getting organized takes time and thought, but the outcome makes it worth the effort. Once you establish an effective arrangement, you’ll find it easier to maintain order.

The main course
Now that you’ve trimmed the fat from your kitchen, you can devise a model plan for the essentials. Designate an area for each activity and then sort and store supplies accordingly. For example, baking supplies may be stored separately from meal-preparation items but near a good work area. Tableware is most conveniently located by the dishwasher/sink but close to the eating area.

ACCESSORIZE FOR ACCESSIBILITY

Appliance lift
A built-in appliance lift solves the problem of using counter space to store stand mixers and other small but heavy appliances. Operating with the aid of gas cylinders, this lift is rated to hoist 30 pounds.


Drop-down shelf
To boost accessibility to high cabinets, a pull-down shelf system employs a gas-cylinder mechanism that lets you easily lower and raise the contents. The shelf lowers 10 in. and pulls out nearly 15 in. to put kitchen supplies within reach.


Pantry pullout
With generous depth and height, a pantry provides plenty of storage space, and a slide-out shelving system enhances access and visibility. In this model, the shelves are mounted to the pantry door, so they slide out as you open it.


Vertical dividers
Vertical racks provide convenient storage for trays, pans, cutting boards and cookie sheets. You can choose from pullout models such as this one or stationary units that stand inside the cabinet.


Blind corner access
An alternative to the traditional lazy susan, this blind-corner storage system allows easy access to the deepest corners of your kitchen. When you pull the door open, two door-mounted baskets pivot out of the cabinet, and the rear baskets slide into the opening to put items within reach.


Cookware sliders
This convenient storage system functions like the pullout rack of a dishwasher and has dividers to efficiently store large cookware pieces. Similar inserts are available for storing dishes without stacking.

Whether you’re organizing a drawer or a cupboard, storage inserts can make a huge difference. A wide array of products are available that offer these benefits:

  • Improved capacity - With the right systems, you can add storage capacity without increasing the size of a drawer or cabinet. For example, inserts that hold plates upright can put to use dead space between shelves, and drawer inserts efficiently corral flatware.
  • Convenience - Making frequently used items accessible lets you finish cooking and cleanup chores faster. To keep pots and pans close at hand, consider installing a cookware caddy in a drawer or cabinet next to the stove or adding a hanging pot rack. A lazy susan or pivoting corner unit can provide easier access to awkward corner cupboards.
  • Money and time savings - Pantry inserts and spice organizers help you keep track of inventory so you don’t waste time hunting for ingredients or spend money buying supplies you can’t find.
  • Increased safety – Groping for items on overhead shelves can be hazardous to your head. Rather than investing in a hardhat (which you would then have to find a place to store), consider installing pull-down shelving inserts. To avoid back strain from carrying heavy appliances such as a large mixer to a counter, you can buy an appliance lift that allows you to stow the item inside a base cabinet and easily hoists it to the work surface when needed. And to prevent poisoning, store toxic chemicals and cleaning supplies in a locking basket made for under-counter storage.
  • Cleanliness – Crumbs and clutter offer an invitation to rodents, insects and bacteria. Streamline storage, and make your kitchen easier to clean, by incorporating drawer and shelving inserts. Hanging racks can keep brooms and mops handy for quick cleanup tasks, and sliding storage drawers can hide trash and items for recycling so they’re less likely to attract pests.

Whether your kitchen-enhancement plans are simple or grand, the amount of money you spend is less important than the time you invest in evaluating your needs and finding the best ways to accommodate them with the space you have. Whatever approach you take, a few creative additions can greatly improve the kitchen’s organization, convenience, appeal and value – both for you and your family as well as for future homebuyers.


WALL WOW FACTOR
Similar to traditional workshop pegboard racks, wall-mount rail systems hold frequently used equipment and ingredients within reach while keeping work surfaces uncluttered and easy to clean. These systems feature a range of accessories, including hooks, trays, spice racks and a quiver to hold utensils. You can change the configuration of hanging components to suit your needs and space – in fact, the systems also work well to eliminate kitchen-desk clutter by holding office supplies.

DROP-DEAD DRAWERS
Because base cabinets are less expensive to build than drawer units, kitchens often lack ample drawer storage. Manufactured inserts can help you make the most of valuable drawer space by facilitating organization and boosting storage capacity. Racks in large drawers can provide easy access to bulky items such as cookware, dishes and plastic storage containers, and inserts for smaller drawers efficiently store spices, cutlery and assorted utensils.


Spice tiers
Small spice jars are especially prone to being lost in the back of a cupboard. Stepped drawer inserts efficiently stack spices and make small containers easy to find. (Here’s your opportunity to organize ingredients alphabetically.)


Adjustable wooden dividers
Divider inserts come in various sizes to fit standard drawers, or in styles that can be easily adjusted to fill any drawer shapes. Sections in this wooden divider can be trimmed for a perfect fit.


Two-level sliding trays
To use the full height of a silverware drawer, add a two-tier tray set with a rolling top layer that slides on a track to reveal objects in the lower level. Trays are available in a number of configurations and sizes, or they can be trimmed to fit.


Knife/cutting board insert
You can safely store sharp knives and a cutting board together using a combination insert. The wooden cutting board can be easily removed for use and cleaning.


UNDER-SINK MAKEOVER
Kitchen sink cabinets are notorious for clutter. These spaces are tricky to organize because they are often half-filled with plumbing, appliances such as garbage disposals and electrical outlets. Pullout racks specifically designed to fit around sink drains work well for storing frequently used supplies. Another storage solution that provides easy access is a door-mounted rack - perfect for shorter items such as trash bag boxes. A third option is to store products that are typically used at the same time in a portable tote rack that can be pulled out when needed. It’s also a good idea not to install too many organizers and to leave some of the space under the sink open for larger items.