Downsizing Your Kitchen: What to Toss, What to Keep and How to Organize It

Learn how to declutter a kitchen with a few simple pieces of advice, because less is more–especially when it comes to an overcrowded kitchen.

The minimalism trend is still so in right now. The concept is simple and can be applied to the way we clean, organize, have relationships and live our lives: You can do a lot more with a lot less. When it comes to minimalistic cleaning and organizing, and how to declutter a kitchen, forward thinkers who have shared their own methods for decluttering their home, office and even their own personal lives have become role models for so many who wish to live in a much tidier space with only the things they absolutely need. (Think lifestyle and cleaning guru Marie Kondo and her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.) If you want to learn how to declutter your own kitchen, follow these tips and tricks (you can thank us later when you’re cooking in a pristine, mess-free space).

Know When to Throw Things Away

“When in doubt, throw it out” is the motto I personally live by while cleaning out my own kitchen. To be honest, it’s left me with a lot less junk, and a lot more room for the appliances I actually use. Here are the items it’s more than OK to get rid of in your kitchen right now:

  • Old, expired spices—or spices that are rarely used
  • Duplicate pots and pans
  • Plastic storage containers that have no lids
  • Takeout menus
  • Used plastic grocery store bags (recycle these if possible)
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Condiment packages—think ketchup, soy sauce, etc.
  • Kitchen gadgets you’ve only used once

Items You Shouldn’t Part with Just Yet

It’s important for everyone to learn how to let things go while decluttering their kitchen—even the funnel cake machine you bought on a whim and never looked at again. Still, it’s equally crucial to not go overboard and throw everything away all at once. You still have to live and cook in your kitchen, after all. The basics you should always have handy in your kitchen include:

  • Canned goods
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Eggs, milk and cheese
  • Countertop appliances, like coffeemakers, microwaves and slow cookers
  • Functional pots, pans and trays
  • Frequently used kitchen tools for cooking and baking, like a spatula, measuring spoons and cups, and a whisk
  • Matching cutlery sets

Clever Storage Solutions You’ll Wish You’d Known Sooner

Learning how to handle the kitchen appliances, food and general items that made the cut during the decluttering process is only half the battle. Now you need to figure out the smartest ways to store and organize all your items so your kitchen remains clutter-free. Here are a few clever storage solutions I’ve learned along the way:

Use the sides of your kitchen cabinets

The side of your lower kitchen cabinet is ideal for hanging large pans, colanders and cutting boards. All you have to do is install a few hooks to hang them.

Take advantage of wall space

If you don’t have any more room, think about organizing vertically, and install some floating shelves for extra spots to place spices, mugs or other small-scale items.

Make doors work a little harder

Cabinet doors, pantry doors and the doors under your kitchen sink are all fair game. Install a few appropriate-sized shelves on the back of each one to contain frequently used objects, like spray bottles and rubber gloves, or your collection of favorite spices.

Install a pegboard

Pegboards are a perfect way to unconventionally—yet conveniently—organize all your odds and ends. A small one mounted on your backsplash can organize your most used cooking tools, like spatulas and wooden spoons. A large one in a pantry can be installed and can even include shelves for more organizing.

If you want additional expert DIY advice on organizing kitchen cabinets, visit our sibling brand The Family Handyman. You can type “kitchen storage” into the search tool for abundant ideas, or start with Tips for Organizing Kitchen Shelves.

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Taylor Murphy
Taylor is a food, parenting and health writer. When she's not writing about the newest Oreo flavor or her favorite kitchen appliance, she can be found searching for her next coffee fix or taste-testing recipes with her daughter.