Katie Holdefehr for Real Simple on organizing your kitchen cabinets.
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If you take a peek inside the most organized kitchen cabinets, you’ll likely find some commonalities. They maximize space; they make use of effective organizers; they are somehow free of expired spice jars and those sauce-stained plastic food containers that lost their lids ages ago. By working these features into your kitchen, your cabinets may just end up on the tidy side of things. Here are five organizing ideas all tidy kitchen cabinets have in common, plus how to integrate them into your own home.
They Go Clutter-Free
Unspoken rule #1 of organized kitchen cabinets: They never store things you don’t use or need. Start be removing everything from the cabinet (then vacuum up crumbs and wipe down the interior). Dispose of any food or spices that are well past their expiration dates. Ditch the chipped mugs and those souvenir cups your kids never drink out of. Need more decluttering inspiration? Follow our list of seven items you can toss without a second thought.
They Max Out Vertical Space
Take a look in your kitchen cabinets. How much empty space is there between the top of the tallest item on each shelf and the bottom of the next shelf up? The goal is to reduce that unused vertical space. If you can, adjust the shelves to eliminate these gaps. Alternatively, you can invest in some kitchen cabinet organizers that make the most of tall cabinets. Tiered risers for your spice bottles are one option, while raised storage shelves that let you slide cups underneath and place dishes on top are another.
If you have more than 7 inches of vertical space to spare, check out these slide-out, under-shelf baskets ($57, westelm.com). They clip onto existing shelves (no screws or drilling necessary) and can hold short jars, cloth napkins, and more.
They Ditch the Bulky Packaging
I always thought that decanting pantry supplies was a frivolous pursuit reserved for Instagram-worthy kitchens and photo shoots—until I bought just a few glass canisters for my most-used pantry staples. Maybe it is more form than function, but I swear my kitchen cabinet feels much more organized without that bulky bag of flour. Plus, in the past, I could never remember if I had any sugar left and would end up buying another box, only to find the half-used one hiding on the back of a shelf when I got home—the clear canisters help with that, too. Now I can see what I have with a glance. Decanting takes less than 30 seconds, it helps cabinets look tidier, and it makes grocery shopping easier? I’m a decanting convert.
While we’re on the topic of Instagram-worthy kitchens, though, these Jenni Kayne canisters fit the bill. They’re crafted from recycled glass with a maple wood lid and leather handle, and they come in five different sizes.
They Make Everything Easy to Reach
A tidy kitchen cabinet would never require anyone to dig in the back to find that missing bottle of cumin, or remove every pot and pan to find the skillet hidden at the bottom of the pile. The right kitchen cabinet organizers are the answer. In a lower cabinet, add a sturdy pot rack with a slot for each pot and pan. In an upper cabinet, let a turntable hold condiments you reach for all the time—so you can spin it to find the item you’re searching for. Consider which cooking tools or pantry supplies you often have trouble finding, and let that guide which organizers to introduce.
To make it easier to grab a plate, stash them in a storage rack ($35, williams-sonoma.com), rather than in a precarious stack. Bonus points: the white and wood design is sleek and minimalist.
They Match Your Routine
To truly make your kitchen cabinets work for you, you may need to reconsider where you store things. Ideally, you want items stored as close to where you’ll need them as possible, so you can reduce the number of times you have to traverse back and forth across the room as you cook. For example, make sure the salt, pepper, and olive oil you use frequently are stashed in the cabinet next to the stovetop. The same goes for pot holders, so you can quickly grab a dish from the oven. Pantry ingredients that tend to appear together in recipes should be stashed near each other. It can feel disruptive to reevaluate where items live, but it will make your cooking routine go more smoothly.
To keep sponges, dish brushes, and pan scrapers at hand, slide an over-the-door organizer ($10, containerstore.com) onto the cabinet under the kitchen sink.