Tips for Kitchen Organization: Working with Small Spaces

Tips for organizing kitchens top to bottom and making the best use of small kitchen spaces.

Keeping a busy kitchen organized can be a challenge in even the most spacious environment, but those with small kitchens have to add an extra dose of creativity to the task. These tips for the organization can help you put even the tiniest galley-sized cooking space into ideal shape.

Getting started

Remove everything from your cupboards. You may be surprised at some of the things you find. If you unearth speciality pans, serving pieces, or other items that you never or rarely use, consider donating them to a good cause and regaining the storage space they have been using.

For items that you do not use often, but want to keep – for example, stock pots, roasting pans, or holiday serving pieces – look for storage outside your kitchen.

If you are only using them once or twice a year, you can keep these items in the laundry room, attic, or basement and use your valuable kitchen space for your more frequently-used items.

If you have space in a dining room, purchase a hutch or buffet to stash crystal, china, or serving pieces there instead of in your kitchen. Now you are ready to streamline your storage.

Cupboards and Cabinets

If you have a small kitchen, it is highly likely you think you do not have enough cupboard space. While this may be true, you are probably not using your cupboard space as efficiently as possible. If you have deep cupboards, one great way to make each shelf more accessible is to install sliding shelves or wire baskets on slides. Sliding shelves pull out to make it easier to see and reach items that are toward the back of each shelf.

Have an awkward corner cabinet? Install a Lazy Susan so that items are easy to spin toward the front. If your cupboard shelves are too broad, then insert an additional tray so you do not waste the space. You can also find tiered shelf inserts to make it easy to see items that you store in the back of each shelf.

If you have many small, loose items in your cabinets, try to group them and place them in stackable baskets.

As you place the items back in your cupboards, arrange them so the most commonly-used items are at the front of each shelf and less-used items are near the back. Also, keep in mind what things you use together and keep them close to one another. These tips can save a lot of time since the cooking tools you use daily will be together and conveniently located.

Pan-lid storage is a common problem. If pans are stacked to conserve space, you must store the lids separately. Some cupboards will accommodate lid hooks on the insides of the doors. If your doors will not work with hooks and you need to store the lids on the shelves, place them on their sides in order from smallest to largest. Or, try using a dishpan or wire basket to contain all of the lids.

Instead of storing baking pans in a large or nested pile, turn them on their sides and slide them into the cupboard like books on a shelf. This efficient method makes it very easy to find the pan you need and to remove it from the closet without having to dislodge every other container.

Hanging storage

Want to free up an entire cupboard? Install a hanging pot rack and store your pots and pans overhead. Pans stored this way are easy to access and efficient to keep organized. Hanging pot racks can be purchased ready-to-hang at most cooking and home-improvement stores, or you can build your custom solution.

If you have empty wall space, hang shelves or wire storage units to create additional storage space.

The space under cabinets can be used to hang smaller items on cup hooks or to hang spice racks. Also look for appliances such as can openers and coffee makers are for under-cabinet mounting.

If you have a pantry door, use over-the-door hangers to keep items conveniently arranged. This type of storage is especially useful for small baking things such as baking soda and powder, vanilla, and yeast. You can also use mall racks for baby food jars, pet food cans, and individually packaged snacks. Alternately, use a garage style pegboard system to store extra utensils and cooking implements in this area.

A magnetic knife rack can be mounted on the wall to hold knives conveniently within reach without using counter space for a knife block. You can use magnetic racks for other regularly-used metal utensils.

Instead of a counter or stovetop kitchen timer, purchase one with a magnet so you can hang it on the front of the refrigerator or oven.


Drawers can keep your kitchen implements convenient and safe, or they can become jumbled catch-alls. Invest in some drawer organizers, but make sure they are flexible enough to store everything you need and that they do not use up more space than they create.

If you have ample drawers but are tight on other storage, think about using drawers in novel ways. For example, devote a drawer to storing spices. Each bottle can be placed label up, making it easy to see all of your herbs and spices at once. Drawers are also useful for keeping food and beverage items such as tea, seasoning packets, drink mix packets, and pudding and gelatin mixes.

Portable storage

If you have floor space but not enough built-in room, look at portable islands, butcher blocks, and bakers racks. All of these are available with top work surfaces and additional shelf or cupboard space below and sometimes above. You can move a unit with wheels to where you need it most, but make sure it also has a wheel-lock mechanism so you can secure it. Microwave carts with additional storage are another portable solution.

Food storage

If you are tired of half-empty bags and boxes of food products tumbling around your pantry shelves, it may be time to organize your cooking and baking ingredients. First, throw away old or expired items.

Invest in some proper plastic storage containers: rectangular ones will allow you to put the most bottles in your space. Not only do containers stack more efficiently than the bags that commonly hold flour, sugar, rice, and other staples, but they also keep food fresh longer and help prevent pest infestations. Make sure to use clear containers so you can quickly identify the food, but clearly label anything that is ambiguous or has an expiration date you may need to track.

In the refrigerator, make use of hanging under-shelf racks to contain beverage cans. Since most top or bottom freezers do not have more than one shelf, add wire stacking units to create more shelf space. It makes it easier to remove items from the bottom without unleashing an avalanche. Keep like items in the refrigerator and freezer grouped so you can see what you have in stock at a glance.

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