Organizing your kitchen can seem overwhelming. Even in small kitchens, there are usually multiple cabinets and shelves, and so many different potential areas for clutter: food, cleaning supplies, dishes, and so on. But creating a neater kitchen doesn’t have to be an onerous all-day project. You can get a lot done in 30 minutes. Remember you’re not completely organizing the kitchen or cleaning everything in sight, just taking a few easy steps in a few minutes to help yourself maintain a neater kitchen in the future.
You can do this without any special tools, but you might want to keep a pen and paper near you for jotting down any thoughts you have about future organization. For example, while working, you might realize that drawer dividers would be a smart purchase, or that you’re running low on dish soap. Make a quick note about anything you discover so you’ll remember it later. Move from area to area in the order listed below.
The Junk Drawer(s)
Organizing the junk drawer is fast. First, take all the contents out. Then, throw away anything that you don’t need. Of the objects left, select the ones that are in no way kitchen-related and return them to their proper places throughout the house. Everything that remains either has a more likely place within your kitchen (if so, put it there now) or deserves to stay in the drawer. Arrange the true junk drawer items so they’re not a jumbled mess.
The Undersink Cabinet
Toss anything that’s leaking, empty or otherwise not worth saving, and quickly neaten everything else up. You don’t have to be perfect about this, or any straightening you do in this half-hour. Just line up your bottles of cleanser, boxes of tin foil and other supplies in rows so you can see—and access—what you have.
Cupboards and Pantry
Is any of the food in there expired? Any dented cans or otherwise scary-looking packaging? Throw all of those items away. Now arrange what’s left in sections (e.g. baking, canned food, tea) or at least make sure it’s all upright and visible.
Fridge and Freezer
If these are in a really bad state and haven’t been cleaned in forever, you may want to leave them for another time. But if they’re mostly fine, you can quickly go through them and check for anything disgusting or ancient. There’s no need to remove everything from the fridge or freezer (unless, again, they are very dirty.) Simply check for anything that needs to be thrown away while you arrange your food so you can get to it.
Dishes, Utensils, and Cookware
You don’t have to make any huge decisions here, just look out for anything out of place or anything you don’t want anymore. (I tend to accumulate reusable plastic water bottles in inconvenient sizes; every so often I’ll take them away and add them to the bag going to Goodwill). If you spot a broken dish, either dispose of it or take it out of the cupboard so you’ll remember to fix it later.
Peruse the Kitchen
Is there anything there that belongs somewhere else, like a coat draped over a chair that belongs in the hall closet? Is there anything that’s simply in the wrong spot, like a pot you left out on the counter that you can put back on the shelf? These superficial little touches can make the difference between a room that looks sloppy and one that looks polished.
Nothing major–just do any dirty dishes left in the sink, put away the clean dishes in the drying rack and wipe down counters and other surfaces with a cleaning spray or a disinfectant cloth. A kitchen that’s freshly organized and smells like lemon-spearmint-ocean (or whatever you're into) will make you feel inordinately accomplished.