How to Organize Your Kitchen for Maximum Efficiency
The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in a house. You make breakfast, lunch, and dinner in it, so why not organize your space in an efficient way? Sure, it’s a project, but if you haven’t cleaned out your cabinets in a while, it’s worth it to go through everything. Update your organization system following the guidelines below, and get rid of any expired canned or baked goods. Take stock of your servingware and glassware: Could it be time to get rid of your college shot glass collection? Do you really want to eat off chipped plates? Get rid of the old to make way for the new, and you’ll end up with a kitchen that will promote fast and easy culinary adventures. Here’s how it’s done.
In most well-designed kitchens, there is something that experts refer to as the triangle. This is the shape of the space between the three main work stations of the kitchen (the sink, fridge, and the stove). Take a look at your kitchen and you might be surprised to see that the positioning of the sink, stove, and fridge make a triangle. The ideal triangle is Goldilocks style: It shouldn’t be too far apart (you’ll have to take too many steps to perform a task) or too close together (the counter space will be cramped). While you can’t change the layout of your kitchen, you can respect and acknowledge this triangle and use it to your advantage. Store pots and pans that you use on the stove next to the stove. Keep dish towels and washcloths that you’ll use at the sink in a drawer next to the sink.
Think of the layout of your kitchen as being five distinct zones. Each zone is a different area in which a certain task is performed. There is the cleaning zone, the preparation zone, the cooking zone, the consumable zone, and the nonconsumable zone. Everything in your kitchen should be classified into a zone and stored in (or as close as possible to) that zone. The dishwasher and sink is in the cleaning zone, so store everyday dishes that you use often in a cabinet closet to the dishwasher. The preparation zone should hold necessary items for prep: mixing bowls, cutting boards, knife blocks, etc. Pantry food products go in the consumable zone, while silverware, glassware, and tupperware should go in the nonconsumable zone.
This may be a no-brainer, but it’s a helpful reminder: Items that you use frequently should be at the front of cabinets or on the cabinet that is easiest to reach. Move lesser-used items to the back of cabinets or cabinets that are higher up and require a stool to reach. This applies to everything! Everyday plates and glasses should be easy to grab and use. Specialty glasses like champagne flutes and serving platters can be moved to a spot that is harder to reach. The salt, pepper, and olive oil should be at the front of a shelf that is in a prime spot in the preparation zone. If you bake a lot, keep flour and sugar at the front of the cabinet and other items like corn syrup, cocoa powder, and molasses near the back.
If you have a small kitchen, no area should be off limits. Look toward the ceiling to store things. Keep lesser-used entertaining items and culinary gadgets higher up. Sure, you may need a step ladder to get things down, but you shouldn’t need these items every day — at max, you’ll need them once a month. Keep expensive wine glasses, fine china, vases, punch bowls, and cake stands high up in the cabinets. Apply the same technique toward the pantry. If you only drink tea when you’re sick, keep the tea on the top counter. In my galley kitchen, there is a 6-inch space in between my cabinets and the ceiling, since I have a lot of things, I store votives, chargers, serving platters, and bottles of alcohol up there.
You may have never noticed it, but most kitchen tools—be it a pot, pan, whisk, or spatula—have a hole at the end of their handles. This hole is so you can hang them! If you’re short on cabinet space, consider hanging pots and pants from a work bench or rack attached to the cieling. If you add shelving to store spices, throw a few large hooks onto the shelves and hang juicers, peelers, and measuring spoons from the hooks.
The kitchen counters are your work space, so try not to store stuff on them. Keep a knife block and a few circular canisters (for spatulas and wooden spoons) on the counter—and that’s it. If there isn’t room for you Kitchenaid standing mixer in a cabinet, keep this on the counter, but in an area that is out of the way. If you use your Kitchenaid less than once a month, you might want to think about finding a storage area for it outside of the kitchen. The only things that should be visible on your counter are items you use on a daily basis.
Keep pots and pans in one cabinet, and cookie sheets, muffin tins, and cake pans in another cabinet. The pots and pans should be in an area that is more accessible than the bakeware because you use them every day.
Lazy Susans, baskets, clear containers, dividers, and racks are crucial to an efficient kitchen. Store spices in alphabetical order on a Lazy Susan. Place packets of food—like oatmeal, seasoning mixes, and hot cocoa envelopes—in clear containers. Pasta and nuts can each go in their own container. Use dividers in drawers to keep the soup spoons from the forks. Racks can be used in shelves where you want to store multiple items like dishes.
Place the trash and all related items underneath the sink. If there is room, keep the recycling and compost nearby. Store items like garbage bags under the sink, as well as cleaning supplies, sponges, brushes, and copper scrubs.
If you have a limited amount of shelf space in the kitchen, don’t devote one shelf to your cookbook collection. Instead, use that shelf for essential everyday items. Place the cookbook collection in your living room or stack books on top of the fridge.
Once your kitchen is organized, the key to maximizing efficiency when cooking is to maintain the organization. Put things back where they go. Clean out your fridge once a week. Keep drawers orderly and stacks of pots and pans arranged biggest on bottom, smallest on top. Empty the dishwasher regularly.
Opening photo: Aubrie Pick
How is your kitchen organized?