This past weekend my Junior Girl Scout completed her Simple Meals badge. One of the requirements for this 21st-century version of the Cooking badge was to tour a kitchen with a knowledgeable adult. Since she’s already spent a lot of time helping out in the kitchen, I had HER give ME a tour. She correctly identified what belongs where throughout the kitchen. But I quickly realized that she took for granted all of the kitchen organization hacks we’ve implemented over time to make this center-of-our-home more functional.
Lucky her, she gets to take these things for granted! A functional, well-organized kitchen is so much nicer to spend time in than one that’s not well-set-up. Having a workable kitchen is a must if you’re going to save money and keep your family healthy by cooking meals from scratch at home, rather than relying on processed foods and takeout for the bulk of your meals.
But even if the layout of your kitchen is less-than-ideal, there are things you can do to make it more functional and well-organized. Best of all, many of my favorite kitchen organizational hacks cost little to nothing to set up!
So take a peek at some of my favorite kitchen organization hacks and see if one or more might help make your kitchen work better for you!
Our Favorite Kitchen Organization Hacks
1. Double your storage with shelf risers
When we bought our current home almost a decade ago, we soon realized that our deep cupboards came with only half-shelves inside. On many levels, this works well. But on others, it’s a recipe for disaster.
So one of the first things we did was add some shelf risers. This makes it easier to keep (for example) the baking sheets on the very top of this photo accessible, but still leave room for the lids that are underneath them. We use the lids less often than the baking sheets, but without that riser, we’d constantly have to be digging the baking sheets out from UNDER the lids. Or else, have everything come crashing down on us all the time, if we tried to balance the baking sheets on top.
If you’ve never purchased shelf risers, they’re generally inexpensive and easy to find; try thrift stores if you want to save even more on them. In our case, we already had a bunch from our previous homes, so were able to repurpose them into our current home.
2. Or with under-shelf baskets
We had a similar problem with lids in our upper cupboards, until I found this hanging under-shelf basket at a thrift store. It keeps the lids contained, so they don’t slide all over the place. It also keeps them separate from the baking dishes underneath, so it’s easier to grab one or the other without having to take everything out.
Hanging under-shelf baskets are a little harder to find than shelf risers, but kitchen and storage stores often carry them (or you can buy them online, of course). I’ve found most of mine at thrift stores.
3. Limit food containers, and make sure they stack
Do you have a problem with what my husband calls RPC (Random Plastic Crap)? Laugh if you want, but this was one of the first kitchen challenges we had to overcome in our marriage: the merging of the RPC. We each had our favorite containers for toting our lunches to work, storing leftovers in the refrigerator, and freezing excess food for future use.
But as we quickly learned, having too many types of containers cluttering the cupboard makes a mess. It also slows you down when you’re trying to find a matching lid, for example.
So I streamlined our container collection to just a few types of containers. Each set is stacked directly in front of a flat sandwich box that holds the corresponding lids, standing up on end. All the odd pieces, I matched up with their lids and then donated to thrift stores.
Now, not only is our cupboard neater, but everything stacks better in the refrigerator and freezer, too.
4. Hang it up
Did you ever watch Julia Child’s cooking shows? My husband and I both spent time watching them on public TV while growing up. And as soon as we bought our current house, he began talking about setting up a pegboard to hang our larger skillets on, like Julia had.
I was skeptical at first, but have grown to love this pegboard that takes up a wall across from our appliances and island. It now provides hooks not only for pots and pans, but also for the girls’ jackets, schoolbags, lunch boxes, water bottles, headbands, hair clips, and hair ties. All those things we want to have easy access to on busy school mornings, but don’t want cluttering up a horizontal surface or taking up drawer space.
Notice (just below the black pan) that we also have a rack for some of our pot lids hanging on the wall. This is a genius solution that takes up almost no space. My in-laws have one hanging in a space only a few inches wide between their refrigerator and the wall, and it saves them precious cabinet space to have those lids stored vertically, out of the way.
Even a few extra hooks here and there can help. Consider hooks under a cabinet to store your coffee mugs, freeing up cupboard space. Or a fruit basket hanging from the ceiling. My personal must-have extra hook is the 3M Command hook I hung on the side of my husband’s espresso maker to hold our two tiny cutting boards. I use those boards every morning, right in that spot, to prep the girls’ breakfasts and lunches. Having them right there makes my life so much easier.
5. Need more storage or counter space? Add some!
There’s no reason to let a poor floor design or insufficient cabinet space stop you from having a functional kitchen:
- Instead of having barstools at our overhang counter, we’ve added a long, low bookcase to hold our cookbook collection.
- Need more cabinet space? Look for a hutch at a flea market or secondhand furniture store. Ours is an antique that I bought secondhand at a flea market and refinished.
- Or check out your nearest Habitat Restore for odd pieces of cabinetry that complement your existing decor. As I recently wrote elsewhere, I scored two like-new cabinets for the girls’ homework station at our nearest Restore for a total of $20. Never installed your own cabinets before? There are plenty of DIY guides online – for example, here, here, and here.
For more counter space, consider adding a table (and risers, if needed to get it to a comfortable work height). Several apartments ago, a tall wooden table (secondhand, $15) added crucial work space to my kitchen. A few apartments later, I bought a lightweight 8-foot folding table from Costco for the same purpose, and added bed risers to make it a comfortable work-height. Though they’re no longer in my kitchen, I still have and use them both as workspace elsewhere in our home.
- If you need more storage AND more workspace, consider adding a large rolling cart, butcher’s block, or kitchen workstation,. If not for the island that our new house came with, we totally would have done this.