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10 Shortcuts to an Organized Kitchen

10 Shortcuts to an Organized Kitchen

“If you can organize your kitchen, you can organize your life.” 

- Louis Parrish


A great kitchen is designed to make cooking and cleanup easier, not harder. And that goes for every kitchen, from a tiny galley kitchen to those sleek and tricked-out kitchens you see on HGTV and in magazines each month.

So, if you’re stll scrambling to find the right pan, or the bag of sugar you KNOW you bought last week, your kitchen isn’t serving you.

But it definitely can—and if you follow these 10 steps, it will.

A well-organized kitchen that serves you and makes mealtimes more efficient—even fun—is entirely achievable, no matter what your kitchen looks like today.

It’s tempting to chalk up wasted time and daily frustrations with the story that someday you’ll remodel and reorganize your kitchen so that it functions the way you want it to but for now, you’ll just have to limp along and accept that nothing is perfect, right?

Seriously, how long have you been waiting for someday?

And again, your solution is NOT a major kitchen remodel, unless that is already underway. In fact, you likely don’t need to change anything structural about your kitchen at all. 

You can make your kitchen more organized, beautiful, and functional in just a few minutes a day. And you can start NOW. 

(Need some inspiration? Here’s a look at mine.)

And here are my top 10 shortcuts to get your kitchen organized and feeling like you remodeled it, without spending a dime. 


#1: THROW AWAY EXPIRED FOOD

Start with something easy. Letting go of your Mom’s china might be difficult, but throwing away a crusty jar of mayonnaise past its prime is a no-brainer. Go through the fridge and pantry and toss anything that’s past its “best by” date. No expiration date? Here’s a helpful list of the shelf life of pantry staples


#2: GROUP LIKE WITH LIKE

As you go through your fridge and pantry, start to group like with like together. For example, are all of your baking ingredients—flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, etc.—in one place? Or scattered throughout your kitchen? 

You can start by organizing into these major food types:

FRUITS

VEGGIES

MEAT

DAIRY
GRAINS + PASTA
NUTS & SEEDS
PREPARED FOODS
CONDIMENTS
BEVERAGES

Later, when you’re creating your regular grocery list, this will save you time. Instead of checking five places to see if you have olive oil, you’ll only need to check one. 


#3: WIPE DOWN THE FRIDGE

Since you’re in there anyway, take a sponge and wipe down your refrigerator shelves and drawers. This only takes a few minutes, and even though the fridge door is usually closed, it’s amazing what a difference it makes for the feel of the kitchen. As a bonus, wipe down the front of the refrigerator door, too.


#4: CLEAR YOUR COUNTERTOPS

That’s right; remove everything. Pile the items on your dining room table or even the kitchen floor. Now clean those countertops and start to replace the appliances one by one—but following this simple rule: The only items you keep on your counters should be things you use daily

If you drink coffee every morning, great. The coffee pot reclaims its place. But if you eat toast once a week, the toaster is getting a new home in a cabinet. And if you’re short on cabinet space, don’t worry—you’ll have room for your less-used items once you implement the next few shortcuts.

What about stuff that doesn’t belong in your kitchen at all, like mail or shopping bags? Put it away where it belongs, of course—outside your kitchen and NOT on the counter.


#5: TIDY YOUR TUPPERWARE

Go through food storage containers and recycle or toss anything that doesn’t have a lid or a base to match it. Ditto for anything you never use because it’s the wrong shape or you just don’t like it as much. That sad plastic tub that’s stained red from an aggressive sauce? Maybe it’s time to let it go.

If you haven’t used it in the past year, you won’t—so stop storing it. 

For an upgrade, ditch the plastic containers and replace them with glass. They’re friendlier to the environment, easier to clean and more hygienic too.


#6: AUDIT YOUR APPLIANCES

Take stock of the kitchen gadgets and appliances you own. Follow the one-year rule, within reason. If COVID prevented you from hosting a big holiday gathering last year, use your discretion on keeping that turkey deep fryer.

But for most things, think about when you last used each appliance. If it hasn’t seen the light of day in over a year, you can probably let it go. Even if you used to LOVE making your own ice cream and you plan to start again any day now … If that ice cream maker has been sitting idle and your cabinets are packed to the gills, send it off to its new home.


#7: CREATE “ZONES” IN YOUR KITCHEN

Organize your kitchen the way a TV chef organizes their prep ingredients. Before the camera rolls, they have all of their food prepped and grouped so they know exactly what to reach for, in sequence. 

Use the same principle in your kitchen. A good starting set of “zones” is:

#8: RECLAIM VERTICAL SPACE

You might hang pots and pans from the walls of your kitchen already. If you do, great use of all your spaces! You’re well on your way to next-level kitchen organization. 

If you don’t, look to see if there’s any vertical space you aren’t using. This is one of my favorite ways to declutter full kitchen cabinets. Hanging items from the walls or an artful pot rack is fun, stylish, and super convenient.

Another hack: fit your shelves to your needs. Most can be adjusted, so you can take full advantage of vertical space in cabinet and pantry shelves, or double their capacity with a stackable shelf.


#9: PUT AN END TO THE “JUNK” DRAWER

You know, the one with a hodgepodge of delivery menus, expired coupons, paper clips, rubber bands, bread twist ties, leftover Ikea hardware, batteries, hot sauce packets, and all the other odds and ends that make their way into our kitchens and never find their way out again.

Just like with your food items, group like things together here too, and decide on one—and only one—home for each group. You’ll never spend time scrambling through your kitchen in search of missing items again.  


#10: REMEMBER YOUR KITCHEN’S PURPOSE

Organizing your kitchen might feel like an overwhelming project … before you start. Which is always the hardest place to be.

So if you’re feeling intimidated by the scale of what you have to do, take a moment to imagine the way you’d like your kitchen to feel.

Creative visualization is an excellent tip for motivation. And it’s fun to use your imagination and play before the first thing even gets touched.

Of course, if it’s been so long since you’ve let yourself imagine anything that feels good or reduces stress, you’ve got a bigger opportunity here.

Either way, set a timer for 5 minutes and dream. Maybe you remember a parent’s or grandparent’s kitchen? Or maybe you see the open kitchen in your favorite restaurant. Maybe you get a flashback to Julia Child’s kitchen in Julie and Julia and think … pegboard and a sharpie … I’m in! 

Whatever an attractive and functional kitchen looks like for you, hold it in your mind’s eye. Then imagine the steps you can take to create that feeling AND that space in your own home.


THE BOTTOM LINE

Your kitchen is so much more than the place you schlepp your groceries to and where you cook or assemble food. Beautifully organized, the kitchen can elevate these daily tasks, making them easier, more fun, and saving you time and hassle. The kitchen can be a haven where you nourish yourself and the people you love.

If it doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies now, that’s okay—your kitchen doesn’t need to look like the cover of House Beautiful to be the perfect kitchen for you.

Start with just a few minutes a day, and use these 10 shortcuts to quickly transform your kitchen into a beautiful, functional space that stays organized for good.

Ready to jumpstart this process—and get LIVE advice, instruction and support right here: Join our 5-Day De-Stress Your Mess Challenge, starting August 16!


Ready for a deeper dive? Join The Unstuff Your Life System® today to take your kitchen—and the rest of your home—to a whole new level of organization in just 10 weeks.

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Written by Andrew Mellen

Andrew is the Wall Street Journal,Amazon and Audible best-selling author of two books: Unstuff Your Life! and The Most Organized Man in America’s Guide to Moving.

He has been a professional organizer since 1996, and has helped over 500,000 people + businesses get AND stay organized ... so far!

Sharply dressed Andrew Mellen smiling at the camera.

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