Before & After: I Organized My Corner Cabinet Without Buying a Single Thing

updated Nov 30, 2020
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Do you guys want to see something super embarrassing? Something I’ve never shown to anyone? Ever? Ugh. I can’t believe I’m showing you this. Look at the photo below.

Credit: Lisa Freedman

This is what my kitchen’s corner cabinet has looked like for months. Probably longer. This would likely be embarrassing for anyone, but I’m the cleaning and organizing expert for Kitchn! So people expect more from me! Everything else in my home is perfectly in line. My glasses are arranged in size order, my tea towels are lined up according to ROYGBIV, my spices are in alphabetical order, and even my socks have a FIFO system! So I had kind of given myself a pass for this cabinet. Everyone’s allowed to have at least one messy zone, right? Yes, of course. Only this wasn’t doing me any favors. It had become such a pain in the butt to get a single baking sheet out, I started keeping my favorites in the oven (which meant emptying the oven every time I wanted to use it, which was also annoying!).

Something had to be done. I knew it. And still, I pushed this story off for months! (I originally agreed to write this in AUGUST!) Then, I spent way too much time trying to dig out a springform pan this weekend and I decided it was time. I needed to rework the space.

Credit: Lisa Freedman

There were a few issues at hand, of course. The layout was probably the most problematic. See, unlike other corner cabinets with lazy Suzans or pull-out racks, my corner cabinet has these awkward shelves. So you open the hinged doors to find perpendicular shelves and an odd angled corner in the far back. I didn’t want to deal with pulling out the shelves (they’re actually not removable or adjustable?) or even buying special baskets or organizers. No. I wanted this handled. Quickly. And for zero dollars. My approach? I pulled everything out and simply got smart about how I put things back in. I honestly didn’t get rid of much (my to-donate pile is already quite large!), I just put things away with purpose. In doing this, I learned three key lessons, which I think will probably be valuable to you, too. Let’s take a look.

Credit: Lisa Freedman

1. I was holding on to way too many things I was hoping to use.

One piece of advice that experts give again and again is that you shouldn’t hold onto things for aspirational reasons. Meaning: If you hope to become someone who rolls out cookie dough on the regular but never has, you likely will not become that person so you don’t need that rolling pin and all those cookie cutters.

I had a million and one frosting tips from my Bubbie (who owned a cake decorating store her entire life and was the greatest baker I’ve ever met). And yet, I maybe decorate a cake once a year. Of course, I didn’t get rid of her tips; I just moved them to a nearby closet to free up real estate in my kitchen. But if you, say, have an ice cream maker that you’ve never ever used, it might be time to get rid of it. (I also had a KitchenAid spiralizer attachment with no sentimental attachment that has since been moved to the basement.)

2. If you’re putting something away, it’s worth the effort to put it away correctly.

I did already know this to be true. (There’s even a rule called the 10/30 Rule, which says it’s always worth taking the 10 extra steps or 30 extra seconds to do something right.) This cabinet got that way because I was too lazy too many times, throwing this baking sheet in that way and this cutting board in another way. I gave myself a clean slate, though, so now everything has a place and I’ll be better about putting each thing back where it came from. Having a messy area gave me too much permission to adopt a “good enough” line of thinking.

3. Organizing has a domino effect.

I honestly did not get rid of that much stuff in this cabinet. I just got smarter about how it was put in there. And so, I ended up freeing up a lot of space in there. I somehow had so much extra space, I was able to find a home for my brand new Great Jones casserole dish, which I had previously placed under some mixing bowls in an upper cabinet. Again, the rest of my kitchen (and home!) is incredibly well organized, but when I freed up space in one area, I was able to find new homes for other items, making those areas even more organized.

Tell me, because I’m still feeling a little embarrassed, what’s the messiest spot in your home?