I Sent a Pro Organizer a Photo of My Messy Utensil Drawer — And Her Advice Changed Everything

published Apr 14, 2024
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Credit: Sarah Crowley

I’m relatively new to cooking — for most of my 20s and 30s, my “cooking” consisted of pouring cereal, putting frozen dinners in the microwave, or, if I got a wild hair, scrambling some eggs. For years, my kitchen gear collection included one pan, one dollar-store spatula, and (maybe) a potholder — all of which barely fit in any of my Manhattan studio apartments with no counter space and nary a drawer. When I moved to suburbia and found myself with a double oven, room for utensil holders (yes, plural), and appliances galore — even an island! — naturally my cooking game was elevated, and meals evolved into dishes with actual flavor. With my newfound love of cooking, the utensils and cooking supplies multiplied, and I soon filled my space to the brim. My countertop utensil holder overflowed with spatulas and tongs, and my drawers brimmed with multiples of serving utensils, graters, strainers, measuring cups, and more — which eventually became a problem. 

When cooking became stressful due to my overgrown collection of gadgets and utensils, I knew it was time to call in the experts. What do I really need? And how could I reorganize and refocus my space? According to Ashley La Fond, founder of home organization company Of Space + Mind, the key is editing. After looking at photos of my biggest clutter pain points, she wasted no time with feedback. “We’re seeing a lot of duplicates and unnecessary amounts of things like toothpicks, serving utensils, and silicone spatulas,” she said. “By paring down and adding drawer organizers that fit your space, you’ll be able to get a lot more off your counters and into the drawers.”   

Credit: Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal

Amanda Polton, owner of OrganizePro, says that there’s no “one-size fits all” solution when it comes to organizing methods. “Sometimes you have to keep playing with different systems,” she explains. “I’ll purchase multiple containers and trial them all in a client’s space. Even if they all ‘work,’ the client usually has a preference on which is more functional or sustainable.”

If you’re like me and are dealing with a utensil and gadget overload in your kitchen, here’s a breakdown from the experts with recommendations on what you need, what you can purge, and how to keep your space looking organized and functional. 

1. Choose your “essential” utensils.

Duplicates of utensils — except for serving spoons and forks for multiple side dishes or utensils you use daily — are unnecessary. “For example, if you make eggs daily, you may need another spatula while one is in the dishwasher,” suggests Polton. 

Additionally, La Fond recommends limiting the number of “specialty” kitchen tools. “They often only do one task and take up precious space,” she explains. “‘Essential’ utensils are ones you use for cooking, food prep, and baking, and the number that you have should be based on the size of your kitchen and how much time you spend in it.” For reference, La Fond says apple corers and slicers, avocado cutters, grape slicers, whisks, and toast pinchers are all utensils that often go unused and are space-wasting culprits. 

2. Reduce clutter.  

Apparently I’m on the right track with my countertop utensil organizer. Polton believes they’re “functional and easy to maintain,” and are great for the utensils you use daily. For the utensils you use less frequently (think: grilling utensils, garlic presses and peelers), she suggests placing them in a drawer. “An overfilled utensil container will make your space appear messier,” says Polton.  

La Fond concurs that reducing “visual clutter” is the easiest way to make a space look and feel more organized. “If it can be put away, get it off the counter. If you have limited drawer space, then only leave out essential cooking utensils and put away less frequently used items like the whisk,” La Fond suggests. “Edit out any duplicates — there’s no need for two oversized spoons and several different spatulas.”

If you must leave out items like oils and salt and pepper, La Fond says you can decant them into nice-looking dispensers and mills, or add a turntable so they’re contained but also accessible. And when it comes to keeping drawers organized, she says to look for organizers that match the drawer insert. In my case, La Fond recommended bamboo inserts because they will look custom to my space. 

3. Make smart organizing purchases.

If you’re headed to a store to get containers and want to make sure organizers you have your eye on will fit in your drawer, Polton has a pro tip before you go. “Take parchment paper, lay it out in your drawer, cut the paper to fit, and then roll it up to take it with you to the store,” she recommends. “Once in the store, unroll the parchment paper and lay out the clear containers on the paper. This will help you pick sizes of containers that will fit in your drawer perfectly and won’t slide around every time you open the drawer.” Once you’re home and start organizing your items, Polton says to store similarly sized items together to help keep the containers from looking disorganized.

Credit: Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal

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On the pro organizers’ recommendations, I went ahead and removed duplicate utensils from my countertop containers (and made room for them in a deeper drawer); added a double-tiered lazy Susan to my counter for holding salt, pepper, oils, and cooking sprays; and bought a bamboo drawer insert set to help collect same-size items, primarily serving utensils that didn’t need to be out at all times. In seconds, my counter and drawer clutter was gone!

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