100 Little Ways to Have a Neater, More Organized Kitchen in 2020
An organized kitchen is a gift to your entire household. A kitchen that’s thoughtfully organized is a pleasant place to be and a far more efficient space for doing all the things that go on in the hearth and heart of your home, from baking holiday pies to making school lunches every morning.
So every little bit counts when it comes to organizing your kitchen. Even the slightest tweak can make the difference between a dinnertime prep that’s fraught with frustration and one that goes off without a hitch.
Here are 100 little ways to fine-tune your kitchen organization in the new year.
Under Your Kitchen Sink
- Declutter unused cleaning sprays and powders. Shuffling through bottles isn’t conducive to quick cleaning, and the decision fatigue of having to choose what to use (and when!) isn’t worth hanging on to old, possibly still “useful” cleaners. Pick your best or favorite cleaner for each cleaning task (disinfecting, scrubbing, all-purpose, etc.) and get rid of the rest.
- Pare down your scrubbers. Between the dish scrubbers, bottle brushes, and small cleaning brushes, you may be surprised by how many brushes you have in your kitchen! Keep the ones you use regularly and donate or toss the rest.
- Reassess everything else under the sink. Try to keep only what gets daily, or almost-daily, use in this prime location. (This will keep the awkward space from getting cluttered.) Items that might not belong include vases, specialty cleaners, shopping bags, etc. Items that probably do belong could include garbage bags, sink scrubbers, disinfecting spray, a dish soap refill, and dishwasher detergent.
- Install a tension rod across your cabinet. This popular storage hack keeps cleaning products out of the way and super accessible. (See the photo above for proof!)
- Create zones. This level of organizing lets you clean on autopilot because your hand always knows where to go to grab the counter spray or a clean garbage bag. Put like with like, such as refills or dishwashing supplies and tools on one side and cleaning products on another.
- Contain your zones. To keep your zones categorized, corral similar things together. You can use multipurpose bins, simple plastic baskets, or a drawer unit that allows you to take advantage of vertical space.
- Use the doors. Hang storage baskets on the inside of cabinet doors or towel hangers on either side. You can also add hooks to the interior doors for hanging tricky-to-store items like rubber gloves or tiny straw brushes.
- Use Command Strip-mounted organizers. Command strip storage solutions like this under-sink cabinet caddy or this sponge caddy are a damage-free way to add functional storage to your under-sink space. They’re perfect for dishwashing supplies that you may want to get off the counters but would get lost in the under-sink cabinet cave. Check them out in use here.
In Your Junk Drawer
- Start fresh. The best way to have and maintain an organized junk drawer is to begin anew. Just take everything out.
- Create compartments. You don’t need to buy anything to separate and organize your junk drawer items. Boxes you already have can do the trick, beautifully and effectively.
- Use drawer inserts. If you don’t have or would rather not use containers you already have on hand, invest in some drawer inserts. Again, this creates compartments, which are crucial to keeping miscellaneous items from becoming a jumbled mess.
- Schedule a time for clean-out. If you tend to deposit tiny things you don’t feel like putting away into your junk drawer for “safekeeping,” pencil in a regular time to empty out this space, or it will quickly become overrun. Even twice a year is better than zero times a year!
- Corral tiny things with an ice cube tray. Tiny items get lost. And out of sight is definitely out of mind when it comes to junk drawer treasures like rubber bands and thumbtacks. Use an ice cube tray to organize these little bits and bobs.
- Take out anything that doesn’t belong. Remember how we said to take everything out? Don’t just put everything back in again. Think about every single item and definitely do not put these things back in!
- Eliminate it all together. If your junk drawer truly holds junk that you never use, maybe it’s time to re-think whether you should have one at all. The “Target trick” can help you eliminate the “junk” part for good.
- Remember that junk drawers aren’t for storage. As outlined in the 10 Commandments of a Clean & Happy Junk Drawer, don’t use your junk drawer to store refills of anything. Keep it designated for stuff you need to keep on hand. That’s some prime real estate!
In Your Pantry
- Use modular storage to maximize space. With modular storage like the ever-popular Oxo POP containers or this budget-friendly Homes & Gardens alternative, you can stack items without sacrificing visibility or access.
- Label everything. From containers to pantry shelves, if you label it, you stand the best chance of keeping everything where it belongs (and giving everyone else a little nudge to do the same).
- Use lazy Susans to make corners useful. Friends don’t let friends have dead space in their pantries. Use turntables for condiments, spices, or sauces and transform pantry corners from awkward to perfect.
- Install tiny shelves. Narrow shelves in the pantry mean every inch of space can be used and that small items won’t get buried in the depths of wider shelves.
- Organize your canned goods. Stacking canned goods is a recipe for disaster (and crushed toes!). You may want to consider an organizer that can accommodate a bunch of cans.
- Store overage ingredients behind containers. If you decant your cereal into containers but there’s a small amount left in the bag, don’t send it to no-man’s land. Store the excess right behind your modular containers, so that you can refill as soon as there’s space and then toss the rest of the original packaging.
- Put small appliances on wheels. The thought of having to take the Instant Pot or air fryer out of the bottom of the pantry is sometimes enough to make you brainstorm something else to cook. But putting these small appliances on some cheap-o wheels makes accessing them kind of fun.
- Hang a shoe holder on the back of the door. A shoe organizer with plastic, see-through pockets allows you to store oddly shaped or small items within sight and within reach so they get used.
- Use baskets or bins for bags. Even if you’re someone who regularly decants, you’ll still have some bags of things, such as dried cranberries, nuts, or grains and legumes. For instance, maybe you don’t decant dry goods that will get entirely used in one recipe, such as a 16-ounce bag of split peas. Put these smaller bags together in one larger container.
- Consider a rolling cart if space allows. If you have a pantry that’s a bit too small to store everything you’d like to store in there but big enough to fit one, a small rolling cart may be a good fit. You can roll it out to easily access things on lower shelves, but you’ll also be able to keep things contained behind the closed doors of the pantry when not in use.
- Store boxes with the skinny sides facing out. Chances are, you’ve been buying the same brand of pasta for a while now and you don’t need to see the front of the box to recognize it. Use this aha! trick to eke out a bit more space — and therefore room to be organized — in your pantry.
- Add shelf risers to double your shelf space. Whether you use them for canned goods, jars of sauces, or your sprinkles collection, shelf risers allow you to double (or more!) the shelf space in any given area.
- Hang baskets from the wall. Baskets that allow air circulation are a great way to store produce, which you can do in your pantry. Hanging the baskets from the wall allows you to go vertical to maximize space.
- Reset your pantry regularly. To maintain a ship-shape pantry interior, you’ll need to do some maintenance. Small organizational touch-ups done somewhat frequently are easier than periodic overhauls (and the messy pantry you have to live with in between them). Here are a few ways to tidy your pantry in just 10 minutes.
- Contain messy items. Honey and other sticky items (like corn syrup or molasses) can leave a big, gloppy mess on pantry shelves. To contain the mess and obtain a cleaner pantry, store sticky pantry staples in ramekins or on top of shallow bowls or plates.
- Hang bags of snacks. If you have wire shelves in your pantry, you can use cheap pants hangers to tidy up your random bags of snacks.
In (and Outside of!) Your Cabinets
- Create a “filing” system. Rather than stacking cookware on top of each other, store cutting boards, casserole dishes, baking sheets, and muffin tins on their sides. You can use tension rods to create sections, or use an organizer like this one.
- Keep items close to where they’re used. If your dish cabinet is close to the dishwasher, it’ll be easier to put clean plates away. Baking tools near the stand mixer also makes for an efficient kitchen. Apply this principle wherever you can.
- Take charge of food storage container lids. Another organizer to the rescue! When it comes to food storage container lids, order is key!
- Put the backs of cabinet doors to good use. Hooks are another way to use the space on the doors of your cabinets. Hang rags, gloves, bottle brushes, or items you might usually keep in drawers. Or steal any of these great ideas.
- Use shelf risers. Again, shelf risers make a star appearance! Use them to separate stacks of different-sized plates or to add an instant additional surface for keeping related items together but separate. Anything that saves your cupboard interiors from unwieldy piles ups the organization factor.
- Put the space UNDER your upper cabinets to good use. Install a magnetic knife block underneath your upper cabinets and hang spice jars from it. Or screw ceiling hooks directly into your cabinet under-sides and hang mugs or other items from them. Whatever route you take, seeing the air space below your cabinets as potential storage opens up many organizational opportunities.
- Use your over-cabinet space. Uniform baskets (containing various items) keeps this space from looking cluttered.
- Get your water bottles under control. Magazine holders make great water bottle holders when placed flat on your cupboard shelf, as shown here. Or buy a dedicated water bottle holder.
- Again, rearrange the shelves. Too often, we move into a space and just put dishes away, without thinking about how the shelves will really work for us. Move them up or down a peg to make the room you need.
- Install pull-out drawers. Pull-out shelves or drawers installed in your cabinets are game-changers. You won’t ever again have to take everything out of a cabinet just to reach the waffle maker.
- Add a few under-shelf baskets. Under-shelf baskets, like shelf risers, give you more space and more surfaces to work with when it comes to organizing your cabinet interiors. Use them to store rolls of aluminum foil, container lids, or folded dish towels.
- Use a dish rack to corral kiddie dishes. A dish rack in the cupboard can keep kiddie dishes together and accessible without the risk of avalanches.
- Turn a tension rod into a spice rack. Use a tension rod to create a narrow “shelf” in the back of your spice cabinet.
- Consider a seasonal approach. Just like many people swap out winter clothes for summer ones when the weather warms up, it may be worth moving summer stuff (your ice cream machine, grilling tools, ice pop molds, etc!) to the basement in order to make room for winter supplies.
In the Refrigerator
- Create zones. Knowing what’s where in your refrigerator prevents a free-for-all when it comes to placing items inside. When you know drinks are on the bottom right and condiments always go on the in-door shelves, not only will you be able to grab what you need, but it’ll also make things easier when it comes time to make your grocery list.
- Label. Zones are great, but if you’re the only one who knows what goes where, your system won’t last very long. Labels on shelves, drawers, and bins lets everyone know where to find things and where to put them back.
- Contain small packages. Using containers to corral smaller items keeps them from getting lost, keeps your fridge interior looking far less cluttered and messy, and helps you easily pull out what you need. Using clear bins to house small jars of condiments, individual yogurt cups, or even an assortment of kiddie snacks allows you to use the space all the way to the back of your fridge and creates a modular system that’s neat and flexible. This clear set of stackable refrigerator bins is perfect.
- Use your egg carton to store upside-down condiment bottles. Half an egg carton placed in your fridge door keeps upside-down condiment bottles secure. This way, you don’t have to do the old shake-really-hard-before-you-squeeze routine.
- Put drawer dividers in the fridge, too. Using drawer dividers inside your larger fridge drawers keeps smaller items (like cheese sticks or salami) from rolling every which way. You can also use taller drawer dividers to compartmentalize your produce.
- Always survey the fridge before shopping. Taking quick inventory of the entire contents of your fridge before you shop ensures you don’t get unnecessary duplicates and also builds in a habit of clearing out old food before filling the fridge with new things.
- Readjust the shelves. The shelves in most refrigerators can be moved around. If you find you that you NEVER have a place for the orange juice, consider rearranging the shelves to a configuration that works for you.
- Add a turntable or two. They’re not just for pantry corners and cabinets. Lazy Susans in the fridge make excellent use of space and allow you to search for and grab just the right item without having to shuffle everything around .
- Organize condiments by cuisine or type. Group like condiments together so that everything has a specific place. You’ll know where to look for what you need and where to put it back. For instance, put hot sauces in one spot, nut butters grouped together in another, and hot dog/hamburger fixings somewhere else.
- Stack wine. This in-fridge wine rack allows you to chill your adult beverages while being able to see what you have.
- Put a sponge holder inside. A sponge holder (with suction cups) can stick to the inside of your fridge and hold all sorts of small packets and pouches that could otherwise get pushed around too easily.
- Store raw meat as low as possible. Storing raw meat down low eliminates any risk of raw meat juice dripping on other items.
- Create extra “shelf space” with chopsticks. This brilliant chopstick trick allows you to stack bowls with little risk of them toppling over or squishing the bottom bowl’s contents.
- Or an extra baking sheet. You can also create more of that “shelf space” by putting a baking sheet on top of a casserole dish and stacking items on top of that.
- Designate a space for leftovers. If your leftovers are always in the same spot (we suggest eye level), you’re more likely to use them before they’re no longer good.
- Lift bottles with under-shelf magnet strips. Get bottles off of your shelves by using their metal lids to adhere them to the underside of refrigerator shelves.
- Regularly clear off the sides and front. If you hang papers and photos on your fridge, try arranging them in a grid pattern and definitely clear it off regularly. Fridge clutter is sure to make your kitchen appear messier than it is.
In the Freezer
- Use freezer tape to label everything. Say goodbye to mystery freezer contents for good. Use freezer tape to write down what’s in bags or casserole containers as well as any applicable dates.
- Label zippered storage bags. Use a Sharpie to write the same kind of information on your zip-top bags. Do NOT count on your memory.
- Freeze things flat. When you freeze that bag of chicken stock or your leftover Bolognese, make sure it freezes flat so the final shape can be stacked or filed vertically, taking up the least amount of space.
- Store smaller bags in baskets or bins. Put those bags of frozen veggies or the last quarter of the package of potstickers together in dollar store plastic bins or taller storage bins.
- Put hanging file holders in your freezer to store small items. Clear hanging file boxes are ideal for using vertical space, allowing you to pull out smaller items without digging, and making your freezer storage modular. Use them in all types of freezers.
- Take everything out of boxes. This trick saves valuable freezer space and keeps you from storing air that’s trapped in bulky boxes. Make sure to label everything.
- Keep a freezer inventory. Those freezer meals aren’t going to eat themselves. You’re not going to eat them either if you forget about them. Keep track of these and other items by maintaining an inventory of your freezer contents.
- Buy the same brands. When it comes to frozen fruits and veggies, buying the same brands lets you stack bags that are identical in size and shape, which goes a long way in maximizing freezer space and giving an orderly appearance.
- Set limits. Limiting the amount of protein, for example, that you keep in your freezer keeps you from overdoing it when items are on sale and then finding yourself in a freezer space pickle.
- Keep your freezer full — but not too full. An empty freezer has to work harder to stay cold, but a too packed one prohibits air from circulating. Make like Goldilocks and keep it full but not so full that you have to wedge things in and out.
- Freeze food in usable portions. Doing the upfront work of packing your freezable groceries into usable portions increases the odds that you’ll use up those five pounds of ground beef in a timely manner.
- Ditch the bag clips. Bag clips are bulky. Rather than using them to seal your ripped-open bags of frozen corn or the walnuts you keep in the freezer, use rubber bands. Alternately, or if you want to ensure a more airtight seal, put these bags into plastic zipper bags. And remember to store flat!
- Get some plastic freezer containers. Using these plastic freezer containers allows you to stack your freezer contents and to freeze liquids easily. They also guard against freezer burn and fit nicely into pots when you’re warming their contents.
- Use binder clips to hang frozen veggie bags from wire shelves. As shown here.
In All Your Drawers
- Go diagonal. Don’t be frustrated by long kitchen utensils and narrow drawers. Take charge of your drawer interiors by thinking outside the perpendicular and going diagonal with your inserts. This diagonal drawer organizer lets you store long items and shorter tools together but in their own perfectly sized slots. Or you can make your own.
- Don’t give up on narrow drawers. You do not have to resign yourself to divider-less narrow drawers. A narrow drawer organizer maximizes space and brings order to even your skinniest drawers.
- Get rid of dividers and use a mat. If you crave an open, spacious feeling in your drawers or can’t quite find a divider that works, but you still don’t want all your tools sliding around each time you open and close your drawer, try this customizable non-slip mat. You can also cut a piece of no-slip shelf liner and place it in your drawers to keep items from moving.
- Turn one into a spice drawer. And ditch the spice cabinet. Just label all of the lids and you may find that you like looking down at your spices better than staring aimlessly into the abyss that was your old spice cabinet.
- Find new homes for things when you can. Keeping your oven mitts in a drawer? Maybe they can get hung on a hook somewhere. And all those rolls of foil and parchment paper can get mounted onto a cabinet door.
On Your Countertops
- Ditch the knife block. A knife block takes up a significant amount of counter space and isn’t the most beautiful thing to look at. Put knives away (yet still in reach) with this in-drawer knife organizer instead.
- Or use a magnetic strip for knives. Another way to get a bulky knife block off the counters? A magnetic strip, which can be hung to keep your most-used knives right where you need them. Check out these ideas for inspiration about where to hang your magnetic strip.
- Replace regular outlets with outlets that have a shelf. Get your charging phones or smart home devices off your countertops with this clever and easy-to-install outlet shelf.
- Use a tray. For smaller items that you want to keep out on the counter (cooking oil, salt and pepper, etc.), a tray transforms something that could look messy into a purposeful collection.
- Or a cake stand. A cake stand makes an unusual but attractive way to store items that need to remain on the counter. We especially like it for holding dish soap and your sponge tray by the sink.
- Put everything you can away. Play a game with yourself to see how little you absolutely have to have out on your counters. Anything that can be put in drawers, in the pantry, or in your cabinets should be put away. Exceptions could be small appliances you use multiple times a day, like the coffee maker, or items that are good-looking (that’s you, stand mixer!).
- Make clearing off counter clutter part of your evening routine. Paper, keys, little items you don’t feel like putting away — they all tend to collect on kitchen countertops and it makes the whole room feel messy. Try to avoid setting things down on your counters in the first place, but make it a daily habit to clear off those counters completely.
- Keep certain things off your kitchen counters all the time. Making your counters off-limits for some kinds of items ensures they’re as clear as possible.
- “Float” your utensils. Rather than keeping cooking tools in a utensil container that sits on the counter, try this unexpected solution instead.
Clutter That Does Not Belong in Your Kitchen
- Platters you only use while entertaining. Platters and serving pieces you only use a few times a year when hosting gatherings don’t belong in your kitchen, if you can help it. Store these in an out-of-the-way place and free up space in your kitchen for what gets regular use.
- Takeout menus. They’re almost for sure online, and if they’re not, take pictures and store them somewhere on your phone.
- Napkins you snagged from restaurants. Save these stacks for the glove box in your car. Keeping your kitchen napkins to one uniform kind keeps everything nice and neat.
- Duplicate tools. If your household actually uses two vegetable peelers at one time, keep them both. Otherwise, pare down to the best, favorite, and necessary.
- Things that don’t actually belong in the kitchen. Items like sunscreen, lip balm, and safety pins may easily end up in your kitchen, but putting them back where they belong frees up space.
- Takeout condiments and utensils. It feels like a waste, but if you never remember to use the red pepper flake or wasabi packets you saved, tossing them can give you back valuable drawer real estate.
- Broken dishware. Get cracked and chipped dishware out of your cabinets.
- Extra water bottles and mugs. Drinkware seems to multiply. Declutter mugs you don’t really like and water bottles that exceed the number of members in your household.
- Your collection of washed-out jars. Use the space for something that’s definitely useful rather than something that you might use one day.