Updated: Apr 20, 2022
The kitchen is the heart of the home. It's often the main place for gathering, visiting, and spending time together as a family. But, every kitchen is so different. Whether your kitchen has open shelving and is 150 sq. feet or if you have two giant islands and a 1,000 square foot kitchen, I know you can create an organized space that will work for you.
The most important aspect of creating an organized kitchen is being intentional about the zones you are creating. If you map the zones ahead of time and really think about how you want your kitchen to function, it will make all the difference. I'll show you how to get realistic about what will fit, teach you the basics of organizing your drawers and help you tackle what I think are the 9 most essential (and easiest) kitchen zones to map out and organize.
Start With a Plan
Make a plan for your kitchen. Ask yourself these questions: What has been working for you in your kitchen? What hasn’t been working? Are your oven mitts and cooking utensils close to your stove? Is your silverware close to your dishwasher? Are your hand towels closest to your sink?
If anything has not been serving you or the way you work in your kitchen, now is the time to be intentional. Make a plan. You can even label your drawers and cabinets by writing on a post-it and assigning it a job so you don’t lose track. Some zones will overlap, but think about how you use your kitchen and identify the zones that are the most important to you. Do you bake more than you cook? Do you have a bare-bones kitchen? Do you have a lot of small appliances? Here are the basic zones I like to keep in mind when mapping out a kitchen. These are loose guidelines but can help to think about your kitchen in a more intentional way.
Reference Guide for Mapping Your Kitchen
1. Everyday Dishes and Utensils
Where: near or to the right of the dishwasher
What: plates, bowls, silverware, glasses, mugs, water bottles
2. Prep Zone
Where: near the largest work surface in the kitchen
What: all things cutting (knives, cutting boards, peelers, can opener, scissors) measuring (cups, spoons, and scale), and washing (colanders and salad spinners). I also include prep bowls in this category.
Where: near or to the right of the stove
What: hot pads, pots, pans, and tools used during cooking, like stirring spoons and spatulas, oils, vinegar, and spices
Where: near the oven
What: baking sheets, muffin tins, pie plates, and cooling racks
5. Small Appliances
Where: in bottom cupboards, built-in lazy susan, or pantry
What: juicer, crockpot, mixer, rice cooker, and air fryer
6. Serving and Entertaining
Where: close to the dining area
What: serving platters, pitchers, cake stands, table cloths, placemats, and vases
7. Food Storage
Where: near the refrigerator but away from household cleaners
What: Tupperware, Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, bag clips
Where: typically under the sink, and one drawer for wash clothes and drying towels
What: towels, rags, sponges, cleaning solutions
9. Speciality Zones - these are zone I have created for many clients depending on the needs of their household.
Drinks (tea, smoothie ingredients, coffee, tea kettle, soda, etc.)
Baby Needs (formula, bottles, baby food pouches)
Toaster, bread, and spreads
Vitamins and daily meds
Clean Out and Clean Up
On the day of your project, take everything out of every drawer and cabinet you are planning on organizing and sort like items together. As you are sorting, look at what you have and make an edit. Are you using all the items in your kitchen? If there is something you never use, have already replaced with something better, or have in excess, consider donating it or relocating it. Are there any items that you aren’t ready to get rid of, but don’t have the room and don’t use very often?
Consider relocating to a different area of your home. Items like a turkey roasting pan, fondue pot, or large platters might not be used often and can either be stored up high or in another place in your home.
Next, wipe down the inside of your drawers and cabinets while they're all empty. This is a crucial step and will help you start out on the right foot when creating new systems in your kitchen. You'll see the difference in taking everything out in the before and after below.
How to Organize Each Zone
We’ve discussed what goes where and the basics of drawer organization, now let's tackle some specific spaces and tips.
Everyday Dishes and Utensils
Stack plates and bowls according to size. Don’t be afraid to adjust shelves to make things more accessible. Be mindful of what you want lower and easier to reach.
Account for any dishes in the dishwasher when making space for things.
Be intentional about anything that is put back in. Is it part of a matching set or random? Only keep the dishes, glasses, mugs, and water bottles you use on the regular.
Create clear rows of glasses and mugs.
Determine the best place to store water bottles. If storing them in an upper cabinet, I love these water bottle organizers. They come in different sizes (groupings of 2, 3, and 5) and can stack as high as you want. If storing water bottles in a deep cabinet, I like to use 16” acrylic. 16”x4” acrylic works great for small water bottles and 16”x6” acrylics are perfect for bigger ones. If storing water bottles in a drawer, I’ll either use the 16” acrylics or deep expandable drawer dividers.
If you are trying to clear items off the counter, consider using a drawer knife block. I love using these and they come in both small and large sizes.
I often separate all cutting tools into one drawer or bin and then specific baking tools into one drawer or bin.
Bowls and colanders work great in built-in lazy susans.
Hot pads usually make the most sense in the drawer closest to the oven or stove.
Spoons, spatulas, scrapers, and other cooking utensils are best organized by type and either separated by expandable drawer dividers or large drawer organizers.
Make sure your pots and pans have the necessary lids and that you use the ones you are choosing to keep. If you have room, having a lid organizer can be very helpful.
If there is an option for vertical storage of these items (baking sheets, muffin tins, cooling racks, etc.), take it! If that space doesn’t end up being by the oven, that is ok. Some kitchens have built-in vertical dividers and they are super handy. I love the 4 sort dividers from The Container Store. They come in 3 sizes, are very budget-friendly, and work great to store these items vertically.
For pie pans, cake pans, bread pans, and pyrex pans of various sizes, I like to adjust shelves (or add shelves) to allow pans to be easily accessible, but not stacked dangerously high. These items sometimes end up in drawers, bottom cabinets, or upper cabinets, so there is no one best place to store them.
Use bins to corral smaller appliances or loose parts. I love using bins for immersion blenders, hand mixers, bosch and kitchen aid parts, and food processors. I prefer 16” acrylic when storing them in a deep cabinet, but white bins with handles or other sized acrylic bins can work great for different cabinets.
The first thing I do with any small appliance is cut tags off the cords and add either a cord bundler to the appliance or a velcro strap to the cord. Tidying up cords makes any space feel tidier and helps get appliances in and out of their home much easier.
Here is everything I referenced in this post:
Are you feeling ready to map out and organize your kitchen? If you need help, consider hiring our team of professional organizers to set your kitchen up for success.