How to organize a kitchen – a simple guide to clear the clutter

Follow this simple guide to how to organize a kitchen to ensure you're really maximizing your space

How to organize a kitchen with a bright kitchen with an island in the middle of the room
(Image credit: Anna Stathkis)

Knowing how to organize a kitchen is essential if you keep over buying cupboard groceries, losing storage lids, or hearing an ominous clatter when you close your cupboard on your precariously stacked pots and pans. 

Organizing a kitchen is a tricky balance to strike: keeping everything neat while also keeping everything you need within easy reach. Below are some tips, tricks, and handy kitchen storage ideas to get you started, whether it’s a light rearrange or a complete kitchen overhaul. 

Reorganizing your kitchen can be life-changing, says Lisa Kron, blogger and DIY guru: 'I truly believe that any organizational improvements you make in your kitchen improve your quality of life exponentially since it makes cooking and clean up so much easier.' However, reorganizing your kitchen can seem like a mammoth task, so we recommend that you spend as much or as little time as you would prefer tackling the job, and if it happens in stages rather than all in one afternoon that's totally fine too.

How to organize a kitchen - a step-by-step guide

1. Empty all your cabinets

Empty all of your kitchen cabinets and drawers of their contents. Start with the food cupboards, and throw away everything that is out of date or anything you have not used for six months or more.  Then empty all of your kitchen possessions out onto an island, worktop or table.

2. Give your cabinets a good clean

While you have them empty, give your cupboards and drawers a good clean. Margaret and Stetson, organization influencers at @EverythingEnvy (opens in new tab), say: 'The best way to clean those empty cupboards is by using a little dish soap in a tub of warm water and a sponge.  Dish soap removes any oily or sticky residue that may be lurking on the shelves and leaves a nice clean feeling. Do one shelf at a time and remember to dry the shelf thoroughly.'

Pantry storage ideas in open glass pantry

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

3. Throw away or donate any broken, unwanted or unneeded items

Now you have all of your kitchen belongings before you, it is time to cull. Throw away any gadgets with broken parts, any chipped mugs you have been clinging on to, and donate anything you have not made use of in the last six months.

'It’s important to be ruthless,' reminds Lisa Kron. 'Eliminate any duplicates, or items that never get used.  Think about your current lifestyle and make sure the items you keep are the things you use everyday.'

If you’re not ready to get rid of some of the items you hardly use – like a sentimental gravy jug, or special Christmas plates – pack them into a box and store them away, either in a garage, loft, or at the back of the pantry. Make sure you label the box so you know what is inside!

4. Make a plan for your new kitchen organisation

'When organizing your kitchen, the best place to start is by making a plan for the space,' says Lisa Kron. 'I like to open all the cabinet doors and take pictures for reference (and because a good before and after is very motivating!). Then, make a list of categories: dishware, glasses, food storage, pots and pans, utensils, etc. Then assign the categories to different areas in your kitchen,' she says. 

Make your plan according to how much you use your items, where they are used in the kitchen and the size and shape of your cupboards and drawers. 

5. Maximise your space with organisation tools

Browse our kitchen organizers shopping edit to see exactly what you need to buy to make use of all of the available storage space in your kitchen. From plate organizers to kitchen organizer bins, it's all here.

Otherwise, when returning your items to your cupboards and drawers, you should consider the shape and size of the cupboards and drawers you are putting the items into to make the most of your space. 

To make the most of tall, slim cupboards, for example, try stacking things vertically. 'For baking pans and cookie sheets, I like to turn them on their side and file in wire organizers,' says Lisa Kron. 'This method also works well for cutting boards, serving platters, and pie plates.'

'This makes it so much easier to find what you are looking for,' says Lisa, 'and to put it away when you are done!'

Maximizing space can also be done with the help of organization tools, like hooks inside cupboard doors, over-cabinet storage organizers, or even expandable kitchen shelving.

'I organize my cleaning cupboard by using dedicated caddies,' says Charlotte While. 'I have one for cleaning and one for washing up and this is where I store my rubber gloves, scourers, and other small things. I buy stick-on hooks and little clips to attach to the back of the cupboard door and use this to hang my cleaning cloths.'

Light filled kitchen with tall glass cabinets in mint green and wood

(Image credit: Future)

6. Make sure your chosen organisation method suits you

Reorganizing your kitchen is a good opportunity to change what you do not like about your current organizational system. If, for example, you hate fishing utensils out of a cluttered drawer, try a standing utensil jar next to the cooker. 

'One of the most important things is to have a kitchen system that makes sense in your space,' says Charlotte While.  Ensure the placement of items is conducive to their use. As a general rule, store everyday items at eye level, and other items closest to where they are most used. Charlotte recommends: 'Put your cups and mugs next to your kettle, put your bread near your toaster.'

'Making everything as accessible as possible has made my kitchen as efficient as possible - and we all know how important that is when you’re cooking for a family!' says Charlotte. 'Having a designated home for each type of item will make it much easier to sort through your kitchen and decide what to keep and what to remove.'

7. Try out new organisational techniques

There are lots of kitchen hacks out there designed to make your kitchen a more functional space, and reorganizing your kitchen is a great opportunity to try some of them out. Lisa Kron, for example, finds success in allowing her space to limit her clutter: 'Start with the space you have for an item and then use that space as a limit to how many items you keep,' she says.  

'If you have room for 10 mugs, pick your 10 favourites and give away the rest. Then, any time you buy a new mug, you can follow the ‘one in, one out rule to keep your total mugs at 10.'

DIY blogger Cassie Fairy suggests: 'Always divide up the space inside drawers to prevent everything from becoming a tangled mess over time. You can use trays, clip-in dividers, or even just buy multiple low-cost cutlery holders and use these to keep all kinds of small items organized, from birthday cake candles and biscuit cutters to jars of spices and egg cups.' In general, you should avoid a technique that you cannot see yourself sticking to in the long run, envision if you will stick with the system and if it's not working for you after a few weeks ditch it.

8. Pick out clever organization tools for your systems

'Once you have a plan, and have pared down your belongings, then it's time to shop for organizational supplies,' says Lisa Kron.

'I like to measure my drawers and cupboards before shopping for inserts and shelf organizers to ensure everything will fit,' Lisa says. 'My favorite organization products for drawers are bamboo silverware trays and knife organizers. For cabinets, I love shelf risers that double your storage space and turntables for organizing cooking oils and spices.'

Margaret at Everything Envy agrees: 'One of our favorite organizing tools is the expandable drawer divider. It instantly divides a drawer into compartments and creates a very simple way to organize items like cooking utensils, dish towels, and food storage containers.'

Christmas modern house ex local authority in south London

(Image credit: Mary Wadsworth)

9. Strategically organize your food

It might feel like kitchen organization revolves most around the items you own, but food organization is just as important to creating a liveable kitchen.

'We believe that the pantry is the heart of the home,' says Margaret at Everything Envy. 'When the pantry is in order, meal preparation runs more smoothly, and overbuying becomes a thing of the past.'

Frequently used food items should be stored at eye level, and food should be arranged in categories. For example, cereals and breakfast food, oils, vinegars, and spices, baking ingredients, canned foods. You can make a plan similar to that when you organized your belongings.

You can also use organization techniques within your cupboards, from a spinning lazy susan spice rack to baskets for packeted foods like crisps.  'I love using see-through containers for storage,' says Charlotte While, 'as it allows me to see what products I have to use and when I need to restock. I also label them up so everything has its own place. Plus, it makes my cupboards look so neat and well organized.'

10. After reorganizing your kitchen, re-evaluate

Give yourself a month with your new kitchen, then ask: is everything in the right place? Across the month, if you notice the location of something is bugging you, note it down to revisit at this evaluation. 

Do not worry too much about getting it right the first time: you can only know a space by living in it, and an organizational technique that sounds good in theory might not work so well in your day-to-day life.

Olivia Emily

Olivia Emily is one of the most exciting new talents in consumer lifestyle journalism. Currently finishing off a Masters in Journalism at the City University, London, she has quickly proved herself at being adept on reporting on new interiors trends. A regular contributor to Livingetc, she is brilliant at being able to decode information for our audience.