Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets Organization

Welcome to Week Two of the 52 Week Home Organization Challenge! This week’s challenge is all about kitchen drawers and cabinet organization, where you will both declutter and organize things in a way where you can easily access what you need, when and where you need it.

Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets Organization

organizing kitchen cabinets and drawers

The key to this challenge is to break it up into smaller chunks if you begin to feel overwhelmed, so I’ve tried to do this in the action steps below.

It also helps to keep in mind the overall purpose of organizing your kitchen cabinets and drawers. It is not to make them beautiful, and ready for a magazine cover although if they are afterward that is great. Instead, the purpose of organizing this area of your home is to allow you to easily access what you need for cooking or other kitchen activities when you need those items. With that in mind you can make good decisions about functionality and organization to suit your family’s needs without making more work for yourself than you need to.

Also, I know many of you have joined this challenge as part of a New Year’s Resolution to “get organized.” Around this time is when you may begin to lose some enthusiasm for these resolutions, because you get discouraged or lose steam. I’ve (tried) to make this easy for you, with just one task per week, so that you can feel this is doable, and keep motivated. However, if you’re beginning to feel unmotivated skip down to see suggestions for keeping the momentum going, if you need some encouragement.

Before you begin, keep the following guidelines and overall ideas in mind when doing the Kitchen Drawers and Cabinet Organization Challenge:

First, as great as it can feel to tackle the whole kitchen at once don’t get more out at one time than you can deal with, including the time needed to put stuff away. You don’t want to start the process, pull EVERYTHING out, and then run out of time to deal with and then have piles of clutter everywhere. That’s why I want you to only work on one or two cabinets or drawers at a time.

Second, as you pull stuff out from little used drawers or cabinets you will most likely see some really dusty stuff during this Challenge. If you want, fill your sink with some warm soapy water so you can give things a quick clean up as you go along. (This is not mandatory, but I know some people can’t stand dusty stuff once they see it.)

Third, as you completely empty a drawer or cabinet it is the perfect time to vacuum or sweep out the dust from inside the cabinet, or line (or reline) the shelves or drawers, if you wish. Again, this is not mandatory and if it will slow you down too much, don’t do it. However, it is a great opportunity if you have the time and desire to do this task.

Step 1: Recall The Functions Of Your Kitchen From Last Week

The first step of the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is to recall what you determined were the functions of your kitchen as part of last week’s kitchen organization challenge. If you don’t know or recall what I’m talking about, take a minute and re-read that portion of last week’s challenge.

Keeping these functions in mind as you work on the subsequent steps below will help you know what to declutter completely, what to store in a different area of the house, and how to arrange the stuff you keep in your kitchen cabinets and drawers.

Step 2: Declutter Your Kitchen Cabinets And Drawers

The second step in the Kitchen Drawers and Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is removing the excess stuff from your cabinets and drawers, so there is actually room in them for what you want to store.

The goal for your kitchen drawers should be to allow them to open and close smoothly, and for you to be able to retrieve what you need from them quickly without having to search around too long.

The goal for your kitchen cabinets and cupboards should be to retrieve things without having to unstack and restack too much, especially for those things used on a daily basis, and for nothing to fall out on us as we open the doors.

You may need to be ruthless, and remove more and more stuff until you can meet these goals. That might mean doing a couple rounds of purging, until you pare it down enough.

Declutter The Stuff You Shouldn’t Have In Your House Anymore At All

The first part of the kitchen cabinet organization challenge’s decluttering phase is to remove all the stuff from your kitchen drawers and cabinets that should not be in your house anymore. These items should be thrown away or donated to charity.

Here are examples of these types of items:

  • Broken items
  • Duplicates
  • Excess items (like too many coffee mugs, or plastic drinking glasses)
  • Oprhaned lids or containers with missing lids
  • Things you never use (because they are ugly, don’t work well, you don’t really like them, etc.)
  • Things you haven’t used in the last year, at least

Remove Stuff From Your Kitchen Cabinets And Drawers That Should Go Somewhere Else In Your Home Instead

The next step in the decluttering process of kitchen cabinet organization can also be be difficult, and that is removing things that should really go somewhere else in your home.

First, remove and put in a better place all the stuff that doesn’t serve the functions of your kitchen. For example, if you’ve got lots of medicine in your kitchen cabinets, but you’ve decided that should go elsewhere instead, move it now. (We’ll organize medicines in the 19th week of the challenge.)

Then, everything that you have left, and that is related to a kitchen function, should be sorted in the next step.

Step 3: Sort What Is Left According To How Often You Use It

The third step in the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is to sort the items you’ve decided to keep in your home, and will most likely stay in the kitchen, into one of three types.

  • Items used everyday
  • Items used often (once every couple of days to every couple of weeks)
  • Items seldom used

Your kitchen drawers and cabinets only have so much “real estate,” or space to place items. Some of that real estate is very easy to get to, such as a drawer right by the sink, and some may be difficult to get to, such as the cabinets requiring you to stand on a step stool to access them.

shelf organizer Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets Organization
Gain more space in your cabinets by using shelf organizers for dishes [Purchase on]
The rule for kitchen drawer and kitchen cabinet organization is that the more often you use something, the easier it should be to get to.

If you’re still concerned that you don’t have enough space in your cabinets and drawers for what you’ve got left after decluttering, take a hard look at the seldom used items and maybe do another round of purging. In addition, consider putting some of these items elsewhere if you are going to keep them, in another storage area in the house, so you aren’t taking up prime real estate with the roasting pan you only use at Thanksgiving, for example.

Anything used seldomly, but that will stay in the kitchen, should go in the least accessible places. Be careful, however, with high storage areas. Only large things which are light should go up high, and not things which are very heavy, or need to be stacked or nested. Things that are heavy or need stacking, but are used seldomly, should go in the far back of the inaccessible lower cabinet, for example.

Now, in the next step you’ll begin placing all the stuff you use daily or often in the rest of your kitchen drawers and cabinets. In that step of the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge you’ll be giving priority first to the items you use every day, and then the often used items, giving stuff used often the most “prime” real estate in your kitchen.

Step 4: Strategically Place Everything In Your Kitchen Cabinets And Drawers According To Their Zones

This final step in the Kitchen Drawer And Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is where you actually organize the stuff you have left. The key to this step is to place stuff where it would most logically go, to make it easy for you to grab when you need it.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to think of your kitchen in terms of “zones” or areas of use. Then, make sure you keep the stuff close to where you’ll use it. For example, pots and pans should be close to the stove, and the paring knife should be close to the kitchen sink and cutting board.

Here are some common kitchen zones you should consider using, and the items that should be in them. (Please note that there will be some overlap between zones so don’t get too caught up in splitting zones up, versus what works for you. Further, your kitchen layout may not be ideal, so just do the best you can with what you’ve got. Just thinking it through can improve the space you’ve got to work in dramatically, even if it isn’t “perfect” or doesn’t exactly follow the rules below.)

bakeware organizer Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets Organization
Don’t stack cutting boards and cooking sheets for easier access [Get on]

Food Preparation Zone

The food prep zone is the area where you cut, chop, clean, mix, stir, etc. the food you are preparing. This area needs some open counterspace, and most likely will be close to the sink.

You should keep items such as your knives, cutting board, mixing bowls, mixers and blenders, measuring cups and spoons in this zone.

Cooking Zone

The cooking zone is where you do your cooking, either on the stove or in the oven (or microwave). It should therefore be close to these appliances.

You should keep items such as pots and pans,cooking utensils, potholders and bakeware in this zone.

Dishes And Dishwashing Zone

Simple Human sink caddy Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets Organization
Simple Human sink caddy is an example of keeping dishwashing zone organized [Purchase on]

The dishes and dishwashing zone is the area where you keep your everyday dishes and eating utensils.

(Your good china and silver should most likely be stored elsewhere. Check out other portions of the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge for hints on storage for china, glassware and crystal and storing silver.)

This area should be close to the dishwasher and/or sink for ease of cleaning up and putting everything back away after use. You should also keep dishwashing supplies in this area, or in a sub-zone of this area, such as dish soap, sponges, dish cloths, etc.

Please note that if you’ve got children it is a good idea to have a special section, within their reach, for certain types of dishes, such as non-breakable cups or bowls so they can get themselves a drink or water or a bowl of cereal for breakfast without your assistance. Trust me, it will save your sanity to have this easy access area for them, and will be worth the time invested in the whole Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge!

In addition, if you want your kids to set the table or put away dishes from the dishwasher, make sure they can reach these items without difficulty or you won’t be able to assign them these chores.

Eating Zone

The eating zone should contain things you use on a regular basis for eating meals, such as tablecloths, napkins, salt and pepper shakers, serving bowls or platters, etc. It could also contain bibs for the baby.

Please note that the serving bowls and platters I’m referring to for this zone should be things you use regularly, not the ones you use only on special or holiday occasions.

Ideally the items for this zone should be stored close to the kitchen table, or dining room table, whichever you normally eat your meals at.

Food Storage Zone

We will focus on the food storage zone in the next couple of weeks of the challenge, so don’t start tackling it just yet during the Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets Organization Challenge this week. However, if you don’t have a dedicated pantry, you may need to save some space in your cabinets or cupboards for some food storage so I mention it now just so you can keep it in mind.

Further, a non-food item that does belong near the food storage zone are the supplies you use for saving leftovers, such as aluminum foil, plastic baggies, and kitchen wrap, and you may wish to organize those types of items this week as well.

That concludes the main zones in the kitchen. Really think through where stuff should ideally go in your kitchen based on those zones and shift things around until they make sense, and fit in the space allotted. This step of the Kitchen Drawers and Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is what will make your kitchen feel functional, and end up saving you a lot of time, since things will be easier for you to use when needed.

I also thought I would give special attention to three common areas in our kitchens that can be organizational challenges, so you can think through how you’ll handle them as part of the Kitchen Drawers And Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge.

Kitchen Junk Drawer

kitchen drawer organizer Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets Organization
Separate items in kitchen drawers with dividers [Available on]

Every home seems to have a junk drawer, and most likely it’s in the kitchen. There is nothing wrong with a junk drawer — if it actually gets used to retrieve miscellaneous items often, like twist ties, rubber bands, etc.

If it is a waste land where stuff goes in, and never comes out though, get rid of that stuff and put it in a more permanent place or the trash can.

The key to a functional junk drawer is to clean it out periodically, such as once a month. That way it keeps its handy functions without being overrun and cluttered to the point that it’s no longer useful.

Plastic Food Storage Containers

The most important step in dealing with this area of kitchen cabinet organization is to make sure you aren’t trying to save too many of these containers. Do you really need that many water bottles, or plastic containers? You should start by paring down what you have.

Next, consider square containers that nest instead of round containers which take up lots of room. In addition, keep the lids of the containers in a separate drawer or basket, so they don’t fall out when you open the cabinet door.

There are so many great ways to organize these containers, so I would love for you to share in the comments what works for you, to give other people ideas and suggestions.

Under The Kitchen Sink Storage

under sink shelf organizer Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets Organization
Under sink shelf organizer to keep items within easy reach [Purchase on]
Finally, under the sink can become a wasteland for cleaning supplies, sponges, etc. and become a mess quite quickly, so I wanted to address it as part of this week’s Challenge.

Again, the key is really to declutter the area and think about how you want to use it, instead of it being a catch all area where you throw stuff. You can also use some of the kitchen storage solutions ideas below to containerize the area, and make it more functional.

Please remember too, that if you do keep anything toxic or dangerous to children or pets under your sink to childproof the area to make sure that no one in your family gets harmed, since this is an easily accessible area.

Step 5: Consider Kitchen Storage Solutions For Your Drawers And Cabinets To Maximize The Use Of Your Available Space

When doing the Kitchen Drawers and Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge you may realize you need more storage space in your kitchen, to make it more functional. Here are some ideas for ways to maximize the space you have, to easily find what you need in your kitchen quickly.

    • Turntables or lazy susans, for pots and pans or other items
    • Decorative baskets to hold seldom used items on top of kitchen cabinets
    • Shelving to display cookbooks, or other pretty bowls or dishes
kitchen cabinet organizer set Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets Organization
6 piece kitchen cabinet organizer set [Available on]
  • Utilize wall or ceiling storage space by hanging things from them, such as pots and pans, or installing a magnetic strip on the wall to store knives, spices or cooking utensils
  • Similarly, utilize hanging space on the inside of kitchen cabinet doors to hang towels, or create more storage space
  • Create more cabinet space with a rolling kitchen cart or making your own kitchen island with storage spaces
  • Add extra shelves within cabinets to reduce “air” space and lessen need for stacking items too high
  • Add shelf dividers or roll out shelves within your kitchen cabinets
  • Add hooks or racks within the shelves of the cabinets
  • Silverware caddy or drawer tray
  • Drawer dividers or small storage baskets for insider drawers to containerize your drawers (especially useful for organizing cooking utensils or junk drawers)
  • Pot lid organizer
  • Vertical racks to divide and organize your cooking and baking sheets, and cutting boards

I can’t wait to see you all next week for week three of the 52 week home organization challenge! I hope you’re enjoying this as much as I am so far… I am LOVING my kitchen now! Thanks again for joining me for Week 2 of the 52 Week Home Organization Challenge, Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets Organization.

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