There are so many things I love about my little house: its pretty backyard, its sunny, open floor plan, its spa-like bathroom after a recent remodel-but its tiny kitchen has always been a source of frustration with me. There’s minimal counter space, a few cupboards and-worst of all-no designated pantry. Almost immediately after moving in, I had to get creative. I pulled out every card in the book to gain extra counter space, including installing a small kitchen island, extra shelving and a handy pot rack. With some simple tricks, I managed to make the most of my cute-as-a-button kitchen.
Do I still wish I had more storage space? Of course. With my ever-growing kitchen collection, I’m on the hunt for more clever storage ideas. So I asked some of the staffers here at Taste of Home for their brilliant tips for organizing the kitchen. Here are their genius ideas (plus a couple bonus ones I couldn’t help but chime in on).
Take stock of all the tools, dishes, platters and serveware you have in your kitchen. Then think about how much of it you actually use. If you’re doubling or tripling up on specific tools, pare down. Food Editor Peggy Woodward may have recently built a new kitchen in her home, but she’s all about the minimalist movement. She’s pared down on the number of pots and pans she owns, based on which ones she uses for everyday cooking (here are the essential kitchen tools you’ll want to keep around). And her kitchen tool stash has been whittled down, too. “I used to have eight wooden spoons. Eight!” she says. “I kept three and donated the rest. And who really needs two vegetable peelers? Keep one and that should do the trick.”
Do Double Duty
In keeping with the minimalizing theme, buying items that work in multiple ways is a great way to pare down on “stuff” that takes up kitchen space. Taste of Home Content Director Julie Blume Benedict shares her brilliant idea: “All of my regular beverage glasses are working glasses with lids so they can do double-duty,” she says. “I can use them for a drink of water or a cocktail, but they can also be used for leftover food or chicken broth to be stored in the fridge.” Mason jars work as great double-duty kitchen workhorses, too.
And Food Stylist Shannon Roum uses cookie trays in a creative way. “I keep things on cookie trays if they’re going to be stored back deep into a cabinet,” she says. “That way I can slide out the pan to easily reach whatever’s in the back, without any digging.”
Keep It In Sight
For things you reach for often, keep them in plain sight on the countertop or on open shelves. Peggy corrals her silverware in mason jars inside a wooden crate placed on her kitchen counter, opening up space in kitchen drawers for less-used (or less pretty) tools. She also keeps plates, bowls and drinkware within reach. “I like keeping my dishes on open shelves to help get my family’s meals on the table faster,” she says.
Associate Digital Editor Nicole minimalizing knows the value of keeping often-used tools in plain sight, too. “When I moved into my apartment, my cabinets were either way too high or much too low, which turned cooking into a pain,” she says. “To solve the problem, I installed a DIY hanging rack for my pots and skillets, using a $10 towel rack. It’s perfect for my skillets, strainer and sauce pans. And having things at eye level is so much nicer. Plus, it looks cute!”
Divide and Conquer
We all know how easy it is for kitchen drawers to turn into a jumbled mess if tools aren’t corralled strategically. But sometimes standard utensil organizers just aren’t the right fit for every kitchen tool. Senior Editor Ellie Martin Cliffe opts for larger desk drawer organizers to keep everything in order. “They help create ‘zones’ that keep like tools together: Wooden spoons and spatulas, measuring cups and spoons, and sharp stuff like veggie peelers and kitchen scissors.” She also corrals all her standing mixer attachments in a large, clear container so she can find them easily.
Our culinary director, Sarah Thompson, divides her kitchen into zones based on the job each tool performs, including a dedicated space to wrangle essential baking tools, like these. “I have a ‘baking tools’ drawer, where I keep clear containers of measuring spoons and cups, offset spatulas, a ruler, a cake tester and a pastry blender,” she says. “And then there’s my ‘decorating tools’ drawer, filled with cupcake liners, pastry bags and tips, assorted sprinkles, candles, parchment paper and cardboard cake rounds.”
Similarly, I have a dedicated “baking cart” that I stash in a closet just off the kitchen. The top shelf holds baking ingredients like flour, sugars, baking powder and more. The middle shelf holds sprinkles, food coloring, cupcake liners and offset spatulas. The bottom shelf is where pastry bags, parchment paper and pastry tips go. Whenever the urge to bake strikes (especially when it comes to Christmas cookies), it’s so nice to be able to roll the cart into the kitchen and find everything I need in one place. And when I’m done, back to the closet it all goes.
Utilize Vertical Space
Food Editor Peggy’s lucky enough to have built-in vertical shelves in her cabinets that help organize her pans so she doesn’t have them stack them all on top of one other, but if you can’t swing built-ins, head to your local housewares store and pick up a couple plastic or metal cabinet shelves to help organize plates, bowls and pantry items, and utilize every inch of vertical space in those cabinets.
If you’ve got space above your upper cabinets, that’s a great place to tuck away less-used items like serving bowls, platters and specialty kitchen tools. You’re freeing up space for anything you’ll use more frequently, and all you need is a small stepladder to reach them when the time comes.
Store Pans Sideways
It’s so frustrating when you’re reaching for a cookie sheet or baking pan, only to have to wrestle it out from the middle or bottom of a stack. Vertical wire organizing racks let you slide pans in sideways, making them easier to grab when you need them quickly. In the Taste of Home prep kitchen, we use inexpensive wire file organizers you can find at any office store to organize cutting boards neatly. “They work great for holding pot lids, too,” says Food Stylist Shannon Roum.
If you’re low on drawer space, magnetic strips can be your kitchen’s best friend. Install magnetic strips above counters to hold knives or smaller metal utensils. Or do as Taste of Home Content Director Julie Blume Benedict does and shop for magnetic gadgets like bottle openers and chip clips you can wrangle on the fridge. “I purposely didn’t get a stainless fridge because they aren’t magnetic!” she says. “I keep magnetic items on the side of the fridge so the front doesn’t look like a utility drawer.”
I like to keep my favorite spices in small jars with magnetic backs so I can stick ’em on the side of the fridge, too. That way they’re easy to grab if a need a pinch of this or dash of that. Plus, I won’t been scrounging around for them in my cabinet along with the specialty spices I don’t use as often.
I’ve added inexpensive hooks on the inside of one of my cabinets where I can loop on potholders when not in use. And there’s another hook on the side of my fridge, where I keep my cutest oven mitts on display-they add a fun pop of color to my kitchen, plus they’re easy to reach quickly as soon as the oven timer goes off.
Installing little hooks inside your upper cabinets also makes the perfect place to hang coffee mugs, freeing up surface space for plates, bowls or drinking glasses.
Are you feeling inspired? Keep the organization buzz going by learning the right way to organize your fridge. Your whole kitchen will be looking pinterest-worthy in no time.