Seven steps for organizing your entire kitchen and setting up a functional organization system for your kitchen and pantry.
Welcome to Week Two of the Ten Week Organizing Challenge! You can read all the details about this challenge in my introductory post here. Last week we tackled our paper clutter and setup a family command center.
This week is all about the kitchen! I like to start off getting organized with some of the bigger jobs that most effect the function of your day to day life, and the kitchen definitely qualifies as that. I mean, if you are anything like me, you probably feel like you basically live in your kitchen when you are home!
When we first moved into this house, the kitchen was not yet entirely finished so we left a bunch of our kitchen stuff in boxes until all the bits and pieces had been installed. My Mom and a friend both helped unpack the kitchen for me, so although it was relatively functional there were definitely things that were not organized well and out of place. For some reason I never quite got to tackling it until now, maybe because I know what a big job it is.
I would recommend a few dedicated hours to this week’s challenge – so if you don’t have any one big chunk of time available, try splitting it up by categories. For example, maybe tackle all of your cabinets one day, drawers the next, pantry another day, and fridge/freezer later in the week. You will also want to have some boxes ready for items you purge (that can be donated or sold) as well as a big garbage bag for those things you toss.
Even though it’s often quite a large undertaking, the time and energy you invest in getting your kitchen organized probably has one of the biggest paybacks of any space in your home. By purging down to essentials that you need and setting up systems that allow your kitchen to be a highly functional workspace on a daily basis you can truly make a huge difference in the comfort and ease of your day to day life.
Step One: Identify Problem Areas
Take and minute and walk through your kitchen. Think about which parts are not functioning well. Which drawers or cupboards are overflowing with stuff? Which items do you use all the time but can’t easily access? What aspects of the way it is currently setup is driving you bananas?
For me, our under-the-sink was disorganized and puking plastic bags out at me every time I had to reach in for a dishwasher tab. I also had to tread carefully when I opened my cooking utensil drawer as items wanted to pop out and were making it hard to close the drawer each time. Plus, I had a HUGE drawer dedicated to cutlery and not enough storage for larger utensil items. Our pantry had absolutely no rhyme nor reason; it was kind of like we just randomly tossed our groceries onto the shelves when we got home. So all in all there were several key areas that needed to be dealt with.
Step Two: Pull Everything Out
You want to take everything out so you can go through, purge what you don’t need, and then assign things a new home. But it doesn’t have to be everything all at the same time.
I did this in sections and followed the steps below in sections as well. I started with my drawers, next my cabinets, followed by our pantry. The key, if you do this in sections, is to make sure that if there are any other LIKE items stored elsewhere, you get those out and put them with what you are organizing using the steps below.
Step Three: Purge
Now is the time to make some decisions! Get rid of anything you don’t use, need, love, or that is out of date. When it comes to the pantry (and your fridge and freezer) make sure to check dates on everything. I was amazed at how much food we were still storing that had unfortunately out-dated and needed to be tossed.
Because I had done a good sized purge on our kitchen cabinets when we moved out of our Forest house, the purge wasn’t very big for the rest of the drawers and cabinets. We hadn’t collected a lot of stuff in the meantime, so what we owned were things that we still use. The first time I did the challenge, I got rid of a lot more stuff, but moving definitely helps you purge and pare down (and since we’ve moved 3 times in the past two years I’ve purged a lot!).
I was surprised, for example, how many of our spices had gone out of date or that we never used. I managed to purge and organize them so that all of the oils/vinegars/spices could be in one upper cabinet instead of spread over a drawer and cabinet as they had been before.
Step Four: Group Similar Things Together
Put all of your pots and pans in one area, your dishes in another, glassware in a third. Utensils, small appliances, mixing bowls, cutting boards, baking sheets and dishes, cleaning supplies etc. etc. Everything of one type should be stored in the same area of your kitchen for best functionality. The same goes with your pantry. Sort things by themes that suit you. I sorted mine on shelves by categories such as baking, breakfast, snacks, rice/pasta/root vegetables, canned/bottled goods, tea/coffee/drinks, etc.
Step Five: Think Strategically About Where Things Should “Live”
Everything needs a home! And you need to assess whether that ‘home’ is in the spot it was living. Where does it make the most sense for things to live.
Ask yourself these kinds of questions: does storing “that” there make sense for how I will use it? Is “that” as accessible as I need it to be? Is it MORE accessible than I need it to be? Think about the way that you prepare food and cook and use your kitchen on a daily basis and make changes, if needed, to which cabinets and drawers you are storing things in.
Make sure not to overcrowd drawers or cupboards, even if you’ve grouped your like things together. Few things are less conducive to an organized system than trying to use/access things stored in an overstuffed drawer or cabinet. You’re better off to rethink the ‘home’ you are giving some things than to overstuff the spaces you use most often.
I decided to make better use of the space on our countertop by putting cooking utensils in a pretty crock, as well as displaying frequently used cooking ingredients and items on the wooden tray I already had beside the stove.
Step Six: Source Organizers Based on Storage Needs
Don’t go out and buy a bunch of baskets and organizers BEFORE you start this process or you will likely end up with baskets you don’t need or that don’t fit your needs. Once you’ve decided where things should go, you may want to purchase (or shop the house for) some organizing containers or baskets to help you sort things. And before you go to the store, measure your spaces (like the height, width, and depth of your drawers and cabinets. Make a list of what you need and bring your measuring tape to the store with you to make sure you are getting the right size!
I managed to find a cute basket to store all of our trash bags (which are leftover grocery store bags) much more neatly under the sink. I also had a little bucket and couple of small cute containers in my craft room that I was able to repurpose to turn our under the sink area into a cute and functional cabinet rather than one that incites night terrors.
Step Seven: Give Everything a Home
Once everything has a home, it is so much easier to keep your kitchen functional, organized, and running smoothly. And who doesn’t love that on a day-to-day basis? The pantry, especially, feels so much more functional. I love have things sorted by groups that fit!
My drawers had also been a huge bone of contention, as they were overflowing and making the drawers difficult to close.
By taking everything out, purging and sorting the items, and then finding a new home for some of things in a different drawer, it now functions beautifully!
I’m SO glad to have this week’s challenge: the kitchen, under wraps, and am looking forward to getting more than our laundry cleaned in that space this week.
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So far in this year’s updated version of the challenge, I’ve shared:
Want this in an easy to digest e-book form? You can learn more about that here!
You can see all of the posts related to my original take on this Ten Week Organizing Challenge by visiting my challenge Intro article here.
AND…the first time I tackled this challenge back in 2017, I shared these posts for Week Two – Kitchen Organization
Week Two: The Kitchen
Want to Join In??
Each week over the course of this challenge, I’m going to be sharing my process of working through this challenge in our new home with updated tricks, tips, and organizing systems. If you want to follow along with my new version of the challenge, sign-up below for my new email list! Ten Week Organizing Challenge 2022.