I Sent a Pro Organizer a Photo of My “Nightmare” Kitchen Drawer, and Here’s How She Fixed It

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Credit: Kylie McConville

When my boyfriend and I moved into our new apartment, we put things in the general area where we wanted them to go and agreed that once we were finished moving in, we’d properly declutter and organize the kitchen. That was — checks notes — more than a year ago, and what was once a fine solution for a future problem has become an ongoing kitchen cabinet nightmare. 

The kitchen cabinet spaces in our new apartment are different from our old apartment, so part of the reason I didn’t want to deal with everything all at once when we were moving in was that it meant buying more stuff, and moving is already expensive enough as is. I also didn’t want to deal with starting over with a new kitchen layout and facing the pressure to buy all new things, so I was doing my best to reuse everything (if I could). And while that has worked — we have been able to reuse everything from our other apartment so far, thank you very much! — I’ll be honest and say it isn’t really working out as well as I’d hoped. 

One drawer in particular has become our default catchall. It houses everything: all of our kitchen utensils and tools, plus everything else that we just don’t know where to put. And while it’s manageable (I know where everything is, regardless of how poorly it’s organized), it’s cluttered beyond belief. I even went so far as to tell people I thought the drawer was an eyesore and “fugly.” (I stand by it.) The tipping point was realizing I had not one, not two, but three pairs of scissors bouncing around in that drawer. Why? I have no idea. So I knew it was time for a change.

I reached out to Jean Prominski, certified professional organizer and owner of Sparkle Home Organizing, to help me. I sent her pictures of my drawer with a little bit about what I wanted to achieve (a more functional space without the mess) and asked for her advice and recommendations on what to declutter, and how to better organize the drawer. 

Here’s what she recommended.

Declutter and decide on items.

The first thing Prominski asked me to do was to take everything out, look at each of the tools, and then decide if I needed it or not. Decluttering was an easy, actionable first step, and I was totally surprised at how much junk I was holding onto. I’m not someone who has a lot of stuff (or if I do, it’s stuff that I actually use), so I was surprised (and a little bit embarrassed) to see how much was hiding in the drawer.

Contain things.

As a second step, Jean said either containers, drawer dividers, or an additional utensil organizer would be a “good idea” for me to make use of in the space. Instead of just immediately assuming I wanted to buy something, Jean asked if I had any small containers lying around that could be used in the drawer. She said that, “Sometimes it’s nice to just use what you have (even if they are small cardboard boxes).” But Prominski also had lots of different ideas for bamboo organizers that I could buy and customize to fit my needs.

At first I wasn’t interested in buying anything — I really wanted to do this project without accumulating more stuff — so I let the drawer be after my initial round of decluttering. I didn’t think the problem was solved, but I felt like it was fine. But every time I opened the drawer to look for something, things slid around and nothing was ever in its right place. Prominski’s advice was ringing in my ears, and when I saw Amazon was having a sale on a similar bamboo organizer by SpaceAid, that’s when I decided I’d try it. If it didn’t work, I’d return it. But trust me when I tell you, I am a total convert.

The bamboo organizer expands to suit the needs of the drawer and is fully customizable. It comes with four main dividers and nine inserts so I could mix and match as needed to get my drawer to fit and function.

Credit: Kylie McConville

The Final Results

Assembly was super easy, and I actually found myself doing a second round of decluttering. I asked Prominski about this, and she said this was pretty typical. “Decluttering often happens in layers,” she says. “Sometimes emotionally it can be hard for people to do it all at once.” 

Although there was nothing I felt an emotional connection to, I did find myself looking for reasons to keep something because I might use it or need it in the future. I felt guilty for getting rid of tools that someone else had bought for me, or things someone had passed on to me because they thought I’d need it. 

“But practically,” Prominski says, “once you see how much space you want to allot for each category, your brain and eyes have more of an incentive to let more things go.”

Every time I open the drawer now, things are where I expect them to be. As a bonus, nothing shifts around or moves. I can’t believe I let the drawer go untouched for so long, but I am so glad there’s finally order (and function!) in the space.

Buy: SpaceAid Bamboo Drawer Dividers with Inserts and Labels, $19.97

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: I Sent a Pro Organizer a Photo of My “Nightmare” Kitchen Drawer, and Here’s How She Fixed It