How to Declutter and Organize Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers

Are you always struggling to find certain dishes in your kitchen? Do you have to walk back and forth from one end to the other to put things away? 

Did you know that there is a recommended way to put everything away so that the frequently used items are easy to grab when cooking and then put in the dishwasher (or sink) when done with them?

Keep reading to learn more about how you should organize your kitchen for the most productive cooking, cleanup and put away.

How do you organize kitchen cabinets and drawers for the best flow?

First, let’s discuss the kitchen design that will allow for the most productivity. 

For many years, it has been recommended that the oven/stove, your fridge, and your sink be in a triangle formation, not to exceed the sum of 26 feet, called a kitchen work triangle. 

This helps to make the flow of the kitchen better because you can quickly reach everything from the center of the triangle.

Steps to organize your kitchen

If your kitchen is not currently set up this way, don’t worry.  You can still have a very functional kitchen.

However, if you are thinking about a kitchen renovation, this may help determine where your sink, fridge, and oven will go. Then decide which type of cabinets should fill in the areas around them.

When the work triangle idea was adopted, houses generally had smaller kitchens, which made this idea more likely to work. 

However, now the trend is moving toward having larger, more open concept kitchens. 

In a large kitchen, make sure to put your dishes and small appliances in areas close to where they will be used and keep everything you would be using at once in close proximity to each other.

An additional tip is that your dishwasher and sink should be close together (which is ideal for the plumbing set up as well).  This allows you to rinse your dishes and quickly put them into the dishwasher.

What Kitchen Items to Declutter

Now that you know the best layout for your kitchen, lets decide what you should keep when organizing your kitchen.  

Storing bowls in kitchen

Make sure you really need all of the dishes that you have.  You may want to keep 8 of the same size dishes (at most), in case you have company over or if you have a large family.  Many sets come with 4 dishes, glasses, etc….so you may only have 4 or 8 of each item anyway.  If you don’t have the space in your kitchen to keep extra “just in case” dishes, get a large tote to put in the extra items and then just give them a nice washing before company comes over.  You really only need to keep out the dishes that you use all of the time.

Recommendations for what should be stored in your kitchen:

  • Large plates – 8 max
  • Small plates – 8 max
  • Bowls – 8 max
  • Smaller bowls (for dessert, sauces, etc…) – 8 max
  • 4-8 regular glasses (depending on the size of your family) that you use every day
  • Wine glasses – 4
  • Beer glasses – 4
  • Any other type of glass that you may have, mainly for when company comes over – 4 of each type
  • Coffee mugs – 4-8
  • A set of cooking dishes
  • 1 set of baking dishes (cookie sheets, muffin trays, cake pans)
  • A roasting pan
  • Set of pots and pans
  • 1 strainer
  • A set of large cooking utensils
  • 1 complete set of plastic containers for sandwiches, leftovers, etc…
  • Kids dishes (since these are only used for a short time, it’s fine to have an excess if it makes life easier!)
  • Any small kitchen appliances that you use often (blender, coffee maker, etc…)

Suggestions of What You Could Declutter

I know it is so easy to build up a collection of different types of coffee mugs.  Some have funny sayings on them, some have nice pictures on them, some just look pretty on display.  They can take up a lot of space though!

Declutter coffee mugs

Take a look through your mugs and determine which ones you can get rid of today.  30 completely random mugs are just taking up valuable space! 

If you ever had that many people over, you would likely be using cups that could be thrown away anyway.  You won’t be pulling out your large collection of mismatched mugs!  🙂 

So get rid of most of them, just keep your 4-8 favourites.  

Also look at your travel mugs.  I don’t know about anybody else, but we managed to collect many over the years and we rarely used any of them.  I would suggest keeping your favourite 2 travel mugs and donate the rest.

Even your serving spoons, ladles, tongs, and such can really build up over time.  Especially if you got married recently, since many people seem to add these to gifts.  You really only need 2-3 of each of these items at any given time.  They are not too expensive and could be re-purchased if you happen to break one.  

Where to Put things in Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers

What to Keep in Lower Kitchen Cabinets

When deciding how to arrange dishes in your kitchen cabinets, there are a few points to keep in mind. Keep heavier dishes and other heavy kitchen items in your lower cabinets, so that you are not having to lift heavy items over your head.

If you have drawers in your lower cabinets, that is the perfect place to store your plates, bowls, serving dishes, etc.  You can purchase holders to stop the plates and bowls from shifting around in the drawer when it is being opened and closed.

Any small kitchen appliances that you don’t use on a daily basis, such as; a breadmaker, food processor, blender, griddle, etc… should be kept in the lower cabinets if used once a month or more. 

Otherwise, I would highly recommend storing them somewhere other than your kitchen.  Unless you have a lot of extra space in your cabinets, you should only keep what you regularly need to properly organize your kitchen.

Pots and pans are best stored in lower cabinets, hanging from a storage unit that is connected to the ceiling or on a shelving unit in your kitchen.  I have another post on how to store pots and pans, which goes into more detail. 

What to Store in Upper Kitchen Cabinets

Any drinking glasses, which could include; your regular water glasses, wine glasses, martini glasses, shot glasses, etc.., should be in the same cabinet.  

Declutter glasses

Keep the kitchen items that you use most frequently at eye level and closer to the front. 

So any glasses that you don’t use as often should be on the highest shelf in your upper cabinets. Your everyday drinking glasses should be on the lowest shelf in your upper cabinets.  

If you don’t have a drawer to hold your plates and bowls, the next best place is to put them in your upper cabinets on the lowest shelf.  

If you have space for coffee mugs in the cabinet with your other glasses, that is a great spot to put them.  OR, another great option is, if you have a smaller cabinet near your coffee maker, you could make a little coffee nook. 

We like to keep our coffee grounds, coffee filters, any k-cups we occasionally buy, mugs and hot chocolate in that small cabinet.  This allows us to have everything right above the coffee maker, where we use all of those items.

Lacking Space in Your Cabinets?  Use Your Countertop!

For kitchen countertops, do you enjoy having only a couple items on your counter? Or do you like to have many items out but organized nicely? 

I personally love a clean look and don’t like to have much out.  The coffee maker and toaster are used frequently, so those are on the counter. We have a basket to collect anything that tends to pile up on the counter. This gives a clean appearance.

It is not uncommon to keep knife storage unit on the countertop. Maybe even a nice container for large utensils (such as ladles, serving spoons, mixing spoons, tongs, etc…).  You could also have your spices out in either a spinning unit or a nice tiered shelf.  

The goal is to use space on your countertop that isn’t used as frequently, for holding organizers or nice containers. This will save some space in your cabinets. Choose items that will look nice in an organizer and not take away from the beauty of your kitchen.  

Organized white kitchen

Are drawers or cabinets better in the kitchen?

A combination of both drawers and cabinets is ideal for organizing your kitchen.  Having drawers in the bottom cabinets is preferred, because drawers can hold many different dishes and easily pull out to see everything inside. 

If you don’t have a large drawer, plates and bowls should go in the upper cabinets at eye level.  The upper cabinets should be used for lighter items, such as; glasses, mugs, coffee, coffee filters, kids plastic dishes and other plastic containers.

What to Put Under the Kitchen Sink

Having a cabinet or drawer under the sink is a great place to keep liquid dish soap, dishwasher detergent, cleaning products, cleaning cloths/sponges and garbage bags.  Store anything that will be used in the kitchen frequently (that is not used for preparing food or putting food onto) here.

Use bins or tiered shelves to neatly organize your kitchen in this area.  If you have multiple bottles of the same product, combine them when you can.  

This may also be where you store your garbage can and recycling bin.  Just make sure you are frequently cleaning in and around your garbage can to avoid lingering smells. 

Best Kitchen Cabinet Organizers

Most kitchens have a drawer for silverware, but they come in all different sizes.  Measure your drawer to determine what size tray you can fit inside to hold all of your silverware.  I use a bamboo silverware tray and it has held up really well and looks beautiful. 

These trays are expandable to fit your space and can fit your butter knives, steak knives, spoons (big and small), forks (big and small) and extra items such as a can opener, garlic press, pizza cutter and more. Make sure that the smallest size will fit in your drawer. There are other sizes available if this one is too large. 

The plastic trays are flimsy and don’t seem to hold as much, so I don’t personally recommend those. 

For the larger serving spoons, ladles, tongs, etc… you can either put them in a cooking utensil holder on top of your counter and store it close to your stovetop where you will be using them the most. 

OR, if you have more drawer space, there are other bamboo trays made for large cooking utensils. These trays keep the utensils separate and organized. 

Cookie sheets, muffin trays, cutting boards, etc… can be stored in a rack meant to hold the items upright. Then you can easily choose which one you want and it stops them from sliding around or falling over.  I personally use this adjustable rack and I love it.

The best organizers for storing dishes, lids, plastic containers:

  1. Measuring spoons and cups could be stored in the same area as your silverware. OR get a small container to put the measuring spoons in and a larger container to put the measuring cups in. The container with the measuring spoons can then fit into the bigger container.  If you put the other baking utensils in that container as well, you can just remove that one bin when baking!
  2. For plates and bowls, you can buy plate and bowl holders that keep them from moving around in the drawer(s).
  3. If you don’t have drawers for your plates and bowls, you can use these tiered units to allow stacking, while still keeping the different sizes separate.
  4. For plastic containers (such as Tupperware), put all of the containers inside each other. Then have a separate bin to put the lids in or just a simple container would work as well.

In Summary

If you are looking for ways to organize your food in your fridge and pantry, check out this post. It covers where and how to store food in your cabinets/pantry, the fridge and freezer to avoid wasting food or forgetting what you have. 

The main takeaways from this post:

  • keep heavier dishes, pots and pans, and small appliances in the lower cabinets to avoid heavy lifting over your head 
  • keep dishes that you use often in easy to reach areas, eye level in upper cabinets and to the front the cabinets or drawers in the lower cabinets
  • put your dishes in the areas that they are needed, so any cooking dishes closer to the stove/oven
  • put your plates, bowls, cups, etc…. near your dishwasher or sink, so you can easily put them into dishwasher and then back into the cabinets or drawers
  • select organizing products that will work well based on what you keep stored in your kitchen