Organizing a small kitchen may seem like an intimidating feat, but according to professional organizers, the task isn’t all that different from organizing a large kitchen. “The process is mostly the same,” Holly Blakey, a professional organizer at Breathing Room, says. “With small kitchens, the space just has to work a bit harder.”
Since storage space is limited in small kitchens, you’ll need to look for creative ways to make the most of what you have. And you’ll probably want to do a little decluttering, too. “Because space is limited, small kitchens require a bit more creativity,” Joanna Wirick, life and home professional organizer at Joanna Organize, says.
Thankfully, professional organizers have all kinds of small kitchen organization tips—and every single one of them is easy to pull off.
Meet the Expert
- Holly Blakey is a professional organizer at Breathing Room.
- Joanna Wirick is a life and home professional organizer at Joanna Organize.
- Marissa Hagmeyer is one of the co-founders of NEAT Method.
Start by Decluttering
Make life easier by decluttering before you get organized. “One of the most challenging parts of working with a small kitchen is not having enough storage space,” Marissa Hagmeyer, co-founder of NEAT Method, says. “So it’s important to go through your items to analyze what you actually need to keep there.”
Toss out broken and defective items, and get rid of anything you don’t use that frequently.
Prioritize Your Essentials
Once you’ve narrowed down what you need to store, prioritize your essentials. You want the stuff you use every day to be neat, tidy, and easy to reach.
“When organizing a small kitchen, functionality must come first,” Wirick says. She recommends “finding homes” for essentials in this order: silverware, then dishes (plates, bowls, and cups), then cooking tools (spatulas, whisks, etc.), then pots and pans, and then finally, go-to appliances (like coffee makers and toaster ovens).
Neatly Nest What You Can
In a small kitchen, your storage space may be limited. But the good news: a lot of kitchen essentials are stackable. “Nest items as much as possible,” Wirick says. So neatly stack your plates, bowls, and anything else you can.
Just don’t try to nest non-stackable items—you don’t want your items to tip over, break, or spill.
Put Your Favorite Finds on Display
One fun way to organize a small kitchen? Turn your prettiest pieces into décor. “Display what you can,” Wirick says. “Instead of tucking items away in cabinets, put your favorite pieces out on display (plates, bowls, cups, etc.). Open shelves (even in another room) are a great solution to small kitchen challenges.”
Hang your prettiest pans from a wall-mounted rack, or turn your boldest cocktail glasses into bar cart décor.
Store Dry Items in Decanters
Professional organizers love glass jars and decanters because they make it easy to store large quantities of small items.
“Decanting isn’t just for looks—it’s extremely practical in small kitchens when bulky boxes are taking up space,” Blakey says. She recommends using matching jars with color-coded lids.
Use square or rectangular canisters instead of round ones to maximize space, Blakey adds.
Learn to Love Lazy Susans
If you need to store a bunch of small items, lazy Susans—small, rotating trays—are a great option. “The must-have product for organizing a small kitchen is the lazy Susan,” Wirick says. “They maximize small spaces and make items visible.”
And Blakey agrees, noting that lazy Susans are particularly great for small cabinets and tight pantry corners.
Keep Your Essentials in Easy Access Zones
When organizing your kitchen, consider which areas are easy to access—and store your must-haves there.
“It’s important to identify the ‘prime real estate’ areas of your kitchen, especially when you have a small space,” Hagmeyer says. “Once you identify those zones, you can place items you use more often into the zones that are more accessible.”
Add Dividers to Your Drawers
Drawers are an obvious place to store kitchen essentials, and drawer dividers can help you keep those essentials organized.
“I love drawer dividers because you get to customize the drawers based on what you have,” Blakey says. “They make a huge difference for drawers, especially with dishtowels or cooking utensils.”
Spare Counter Space for Your Must-Haves
Remember that shelves and cabinets aren’t the only storage spaces you have. Your countertops are also great for storing things—though Blakey recommends reserving that space for your essentials.
“Keep only essential appliances out on the countertop, like a coffee maker, toaster oven, and possibly a stand mixer,” she says. This will cut down on countertop clutter, keeping your kitchen clean.
Ditch Any Duplicates
As you organize your kitchen, keep an eye out for duplicates—and ditch them immediately.
“Duplicates of cooking and prepping tools are an absolute no-no,” Wirick says. “Have one saute pan, one saucepan, one large pot.” After all, you need all the storage space you can get.
Sneak in Storage Where You Can
Get creative when looking for places to store your stuff. Could you make the most of a cabinet door, or sneak spices onto your tiniest shelves?
“In smaller spaces (whether it’s a kitchen or closet), I love installing back-or-door systems to create extra storage space,” Blakey says.
Snag a Flexible Kitchen Cart
If your kitchen isn’t lined with lots of shelves and cabinets, consider snagging a kitchen cart. “Rolling carts allow you to create moveable, vertical space,” Wirick says. “They are perfect for paper products or pantry items.”
Depending on the cart you choose, you can turn your cart into a portable pantry—or let it double as a kitchen island.
Use Risers to Expand Your Storage Set-up
Risers are like small staircases you can tuck inside shelves to store extra stuff. And professional organizers are big fans of them.
“With risers, you can create extra surface area in small spaces,” Blakey says. This storage must-have is particularly great for small items, like spices.
Cut Down on Single-Function Items
If you’re still pressed for space after decluttering, take a good hard look at what you own. And consider getting rid of items that can’t multitask. “Keep cooking and prep tools that have very specific purposes to a minimum,” Wirick says. Single-function items—like garlic presses and waffle irons—can be a lot of fun. But unless you really need them, they’re probably not worth sparing space for.
Make the Most of Your Under-Sink Space
The space under your sink is full of storage potential, so be sure to make the most of it.
“Don’t forget about the area under the sink,” Wirick says. “Use a basket or two to keep cleaning products grouped together. You may be able to fit a bulky appliance or less-used item down there too.”
Tuck Nonessentials Inside a Nearby Closet
Don’t be afraid to look outside your kitchen for storage space. “If possible, find an area near your kitchen (example: a nearby hall closet) to store appliances, large serving dishes, or any holiday-specific kitchen items,” Blakey says.
By storing these less-used items elsewhere, you can free up kitchen storage space for your must-haves.
Keep Trash Out of Your Kitchen
One not-so-obvious way to cut clutter in your kitchen? Take your trash out more frequently.
“If you buy anything that has excess packaging, like plastic or cardboard, discard the extra packaging immediately,” Wirick says. “The few extra trips to take the recycling or trash out is well worth the extra space you’ll have.”
And if you really want to save space, consider trading your large trash can with a smaller, sleeker option.
Stock Up on Stacking Bins and Drawers
Square footage may be limited in your small kitchen. But, there’s likely some vertical space you’re not taking full advantage of.
“Utilize vertical space,” Blakey says. “If you don’t have a ton of shelving space, create more with stacking bins, tiered shelves, or risers.”
Label Absolutely Everything
Labels aren’t a must in your kitchen. But they’ll certainly make it easier to keep your space organized.
“We love adding labels, so you know exactly where everything goes,” Hagmeyer says.
Change the Way You Buy Groceries
If you’re really committed to crafting a space-efficient kitchen, consider changing your grocery-buying habits. “Grocery shopping absolutely has to do with cluttering small kitchens,” Wirick says. “When space is limited, it’s important that you adjust your buying habits accordingly. The few dollars you save when buying in bulk isn’t worth the extra clutter.”
She notes that bulk items often end up overflowing onto your kitchen countertops—and sometimes, they even end up in other rooms. “This creates visual overwhelm, which makes a small space feel smaller,” Wirick adds.
Don’t Snag Every Single Space-Saver
When organizing your small kitchen, it may be tempting to buy every space-saving product you find. But experts actually advise against this.
“Often, buying too many of these clever space-saving products can actually be more of a hassle,” Blakey says. “It's best to take everything out, assess what you have, and then find products specifically for those items.”
Focus on using your space as efficiently as possible. “If you only use five spaces, purchasing that space-saving spice rack means less valuable space and more wasted space,” Blakey adds.
Design Your Space Around Your Needs
As you organize your kitchen, think about how you actually use the space. And build stations around your most common kitchen activities. “Create areas in your kitchen that flow well with how you spend time in your kitchen,” Blakey says.
She recommends storing coffee beans next to your coffee maker, spatulas near your stove, and lunch items together in your fridge. “Organizing is very family-specific,” Blakey adds. “And it will last the test of time if you create systems that work for how you live.”
Commit to Your System
Once you’ve created a storage set-up that you feel great about, make sure your kitchen stays organized by committing to your system. “Even though your space may be small, organization still requires maintenance to keep things in order,” Hagmeyer says.
So stack your dishes every time you remove them from the dishwasher, and keep taking out your trash. “The good news is that once you have your systems in place, it should only take a few minutes here and there for touch-ups,” Hagmeyer adds.