How to Organize a Small Kitchen

How to organize a small kitchen
Courtesy of Elizabeth Roberts

When you're short on storage space, staying organized in a small kitchen can be especially challenging. Without the luxuries of a walk-in pantry or a floor-to-ceiling cabinetry system, kitchen clutter can accumulate quickly—and as anyone who's unpacked a bag of groceries in a kitchen lacking sufficient counter space can attest, maintaining order in a small space is difficult, to say the least.

With the right storage system, your kitchen can feel twice as big. Here are 15 of our favorite hacks to keep your counters clutter-free.

Only Store What You Need

Paring down our stuff is something we should probably all do, but it's even more important in a small kitchen. From kitchen cabinets to drawers to shelves, it's essential to limit your kitchen items to only those you use regularly. If you never touch that expensive china, store it. Buy a set of matching dishes that you want to show off, and toss those mismatched plates that aren't doing your table any favors.

White plates stacked
Crate and Barrel Logan Stacking Collection $53

Utilize Storage Containers

Not only can matching canisters or glass jars help encourage you to stay organized and keep your kitchen supplies under control, but they're also much more visually pleasing than scattered food containers. Arrange items by most to least frequently used, and keep a list of expiration dates.

Bellemain storage containers
Bellemain 4 Piece Airtight Acrylic Canister Set $29

Think Vertically

Don't forget about the space above your cabinets. In a small kitchen, every inch matters—and if you've been neglecting that foot above your kitchen cabinets, you're missing out on some prime storage space. But it's important to keep it clutter-free: Either use it for only a few pieces, like vases or platters or utilize baskets to keep everything organized.

Look at Your Range

Small kitchen with cutting board on stove
The College Housewife

In tiny kitchens, counter space is at a premium, but a thick butcher block or cutting board placed over an unused burner or even across a sink is a great way to extend your available surface area. Splurge on a well-made and attractive cutting board and you can display it to also save cabinet space.

Thick wooden butcher block
Sonder Los Angeles Large Reversible Multipurpose Thick Acacia Wood Cutting Board $60

Clear Your Countertops

Kitchen with a large window
Julia Robbs 

Though we're all about displaying those beautiful appliances, the less you leave laying around your countertops, the better. If you absolutely don't have the storage space or you need easy access to certain kitchen gadgets, invest in wire baskets or ceramic canisters for random utensils and knickknacks in order to keep your counters free of clutter.

Add Shelving in Unused Nooks

Most small kitchens don't have a fancy walk-in pantry (and are usually short on actual cabinet storage) but if you have some unused wall space, don't be afraid to hang shelving. Whether you have an awkward corner that's going unused or a tight nook like this one, you can easily fit a shelf to add extra storage.

Use Wall Space

blue kitchen cabinets
Michelle Gage

A must-have for small kitchens? A magnetic knife holder. This kitchen from Michelle Gage proves you don't need a fancy knife block to hold your knives. A magnetic strip not only gives you easy access to your knives, but it keeps your countertops clear of a bulky knife block.

wood knife magnet
Crate and Barrel Schmidt Brothers ® Acacia 18" Magnetic Wall Bar $50

Be Smart About Drawer Space

This may be a hard habit to break, but it's time to stop tossing Tupperware or random kitchen gadgets into a drawer and forgetting about them. Though you don't have to invest in a fancy drawer-organizing system, it's essential you keep drawers and cabinets clean and arranged (this means no holding onto mismatched lids!).

If you want to make organizing easier, invest in drawer bins to encourage yourself to keep everything in its place.

Be Creative With Every Inch

Kitchen with terrazzo

If you're in the midst of designing a small kitchen, consider embracing maximalism over minimalism. The end of a countertop is often just dead space, but adding shelving can provide extra storage for those often-used items. If you opt for exposed shelving, you may have less space, but you'll be more inclined to keep it organized when it's in plain sight.

Consider a Storage Bench

An eat-in kitchen provides a lot of opportunities to add hidden storage space. Even if it's small, opt for a dining bench with storage over one without. This will give you space for those rarely-used kitchen items.

If you don't have the space for a bench, consider dining tables or kitchen islands that come with plenty of storage.

Kitchen table with storage
Alcott Hill Meidinger Counter Height Solid Wood Dining Table $390

Use the Space Above Your Stove or Sink

black and gold kitchen
Emily Gilbert Photography

Looking for some unused space? Take a look at that wall behind your stove. Adding a shallow ledge above your stove can give you easy access to your spices and keep them out of those already-packed cabinets. If you have enough vertical space above the stove, a pot rail is another great way to use it up.

Invest in a Kitchen Cart

For many of us with small kitchens, a true kitchen island is out of the question. Instead, consider a small kitchen cart with storage. A cart on wheels can be easily pushed aside when you need the floor space, but also provides extra counter space and a bit of storage where you need it.

Hide the Trash Cans

Trash cans are not only smelly and unsightly, but they can take up a lot of prime floor real estate. If you have deep enough cabinets, keep the trash inside and out of view. Otherwise, look to nearby closets or under the sink to hide the trash and save floor space.

Try Pegboard

Pegboard is an oft-forgotten workhorse of the home organization world. Consider laying down pegboard in drawers to keep dishes neat and organized or hanging it to add extra storage space for pots and pans. Not only is it incredibly versatile, but it's also aesthetically pleasing and easy to change around.

Utilize Dead Space

The space on the end of your bottom cabinets is often forgotten about, but ripe with storage potential. Add a hanging bar or install shallow wire baskets to give yourself extra space for those things you need to access quickly and often.

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