Even if you’re not big on home cooking, the kitchen is one of the most important places in your home to keep organized—especially if there are other people in the house. It’s inevitably a hub of activity, because our lives at home tend to revolve around eating. Says organizing expert of 13+ years, Rachel Rosenthal: “It’s not about pretty bins—it’s about saving time grabbing breakfast in the morning, cutting down on food waste, and aiding in accurate grocery shopping.”
The pictures on Pinterest and Instagram are always staged, she stresses, so it’s important not to get hung up on getting your own space to look just like the ultra-minimalist photos you see, and instead focus on what works for you and your family. Here, Rachel walks us through the best way to organize your kitchen, whether you’ve just moved into a new home, or want to take a fresh approach in a long-time residence—minus the pressures of perfection.
Unpack Right Away
If you’re tackling an existing kitchen, consider this similar to the Marie Kondo method of getting everything out of storage and into the light, so you can see what you have. If you’re moving to a new home, try to avoid the temptation to only unpack what you immediately need. With her clients, Rachel finds it becomes easy to live among boxes for weeks, and before they know it, they’ve been in a house for six months without really unpacking.
The bedroom and kitchen are vital to unpack first, Rachel says, since they’re the places you do the most important things: sleep and eat. Get everything out of the moving boxes and within sight (we know, it sounds terrifying), so you can really take stock of what you have. When things sit in boxes for prolonged periods, people tend to forget what they actually have, end up buying multiples, or don’t account for how to store what they already own.
Assess What You Have & Determine Gaps
Now that everything is out of the cabinets (or boxes), it’s time to assess what you already have. You might rediscover some perfectly good organizing products, or find that you’ve acquired more lids than you have pots. If you’re able to see your 15 coffee mugs out on the counter, you can better visualize which place they fit in best. This step is also helpful if you’re moving in with another person for the first time—so you can, for instance, come face-to-face with the lack of a toaster. Onto the shopping list it goes!
Think About How You Use Your Kitchen
Rachel encourages her clients to think critically about their biggest needs for a space: Are you a cook? Do you need to access your spices more easily? Are there plugs for all the appliances or do they need to be put away when not in use? The turkey pan can stay on top of the stove since it’s only used once a year, right?
Get Your Family Involved
When it comes to addressing everyone else’s needs, Rachel suggests allowing family members or roommates to organize things that are most important to them. If your partner is super particular about their coffee, or your kid is a burgeoning baker, let them tackle those areas they use the most. If you’re able to compromise on the way things are stored, and give more agency to the people you live with, keeping things neat and organized becomes easier down the road.
Alternatively, you can incorporate family and roommates into the process even as you’re running the show. Talk through what will work best for everyone, ask kids what they want most accessible, and see if there are any specific concerns that bother people (storage containers falling on their heads, unreachable pans, etc.). This also gets those around you to buy into the benefits of organization, and keeps it top of mind for everyone going forward.
When it comes to food products, Rachel emphasizes the golden rule that many other organizers preach again and again: take things out of original packaging and put them into containers that work for you. Flour, apple sauce packets, rice, granola bars—they should all have a designated home.
Only Use Organizing Products that Work for You
Use what’s on the market to your advantage: by that, Rachel means taking measurements of the spaces, and finding things that can really maximize your storage space. For example, a shelf riser is a great option in a tall cabinet with room for two sets of dishes, but might not work for a shorter cabinet. In the same vein, turntables are great for those with a pared-down set of spices, but might not work for someone with a vast collection. She stresses that organization is by no means a one-size-fits-all situation, and everyone’s needs and storage space vary greatly.
Rachel also warns against products that are super-specific and good for one thing only. You’re likely to get much better use out of something more general, because it can adapt to home or life changes. Rachel says drawer dividers are a great example, as they can organize kitchen utensils, but they’re also able to be used in bedroom dressers and bathroom vanities.
Feel it Out for a Week
Live in this newly organized kitchen for a week, and see if it works for you. If you find yourself stretching out of reach for a spatula, consider moving the cooking tools closer to the stove. If your kids are accessing the fruit snacks too easily, it might be time to move them up higher.
Generally speaking, Rachel encourages her clients to give themselves flexibility, and know that it’s an ongoing process. Organization works best when it takes your evolving needs into account, so lean into the process.
What’s the best kitchen organizing advice you’ve received? Tell us in the comments below!