How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets

Easy Tips for Decluttered Cabinets

Organized kitchen cabinets

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Many home cooks have a plethora of items to store in their kitchen cabinets. And the various sizes, shapes, and categories of items can make cabinet organization a challenge. However, keeping your kitchen organized is crucial. It can help you save money, as you’ll know what you have and be less likely to buy duplicate items. And it can save you time when cooking, meal planning, and making the grocery list. Plus, it can make cleaning the kitchen much easier when everything has a designated place.

Here are some simple and helpful tips for organizing kitchen cabinets.

Declutter Your Kitchen Cabinets

Decluttering your kitchen cabinets is the first step to getting yourself organized. Do this even before purchasing cabinet storage solutions or trying to rearrange items.

First, make sure you have a trash bin and a box for items to donate (or sell) nearby. Then, take everything out of your cabinets. Go through each item and either put it in the trash, donate/sell boxes, or keep pile. Remove the trash and your boxes of items to get rid of before you begin to address your keep pile.

empty cabinets and a box for getting rid of unnecessary items
The Spruce / Rachel Vanni 

Categorize Your Kitchen Items

Now it's time to organize the contents of your kitchen cabinets that you're keeping. The goal is to categorize items in a way that makes sense for how your household uses the kitchen. Don't be overly concerned with appearance; function is most important for a kitchen cabinet.

Most people prefer to separate the food items from the cookware/dinnerware in their kitchen cabinets. So right away you can divide your items into these two groups. Then, subdivide the groups from there.

For instance, the edible items can be subdivided into drinks, baking ingredients, snacks, canned goods, and whatever other food you keep. The cookware/dinnerware can be subdivided into pots and pans, cooking utensils, cutting boards, plates and bowls, glasses and mugs, and more. The specifics are entirely up to you, but the endgame is to keep each subcategory together once you return everything to the cabinets.

Organize food items
The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Assign Items to Kitchen Cabinets

Before you put everything away, step back, and evaluate how you use your kitchen. You'll want all of your kitchen items as close as possible to where you most often use them. Don't hesitate to change the location of where you previously stored items. For instance, you don't have to keep your cooking spices in the pantry if they would be more convenient for you in a cabinet next to the stove.

Furthermore, strategically plan how you'll position items within each cabinet. For example, say you've decided to dedicate a cabinet to all of your drinking glasses and mugs. If you drink coffee every day and have a glass of wine only about once a month, you don't need to put both types of glasses upfront within the cabinet. You can push the wine glasses to the back, so the coffee cups are more convenient for you to reach. Take the same approach for your everyday dinnerware and utensils versus items you only use on special occasions. And remember you don't have to put everything back into your cabinets. Some items might be better placed on your kitchen counter or elsewhere to free up cabinet space.

As you assign your items to cabinets, consider what's best to store in upper cabinets versus lower cabinets.

Place kitchen items on specific shelves
The Spruce / Margot Cavin

What to Store in Upper Cabinets

The following kitchen items are ideal to store in upper cabinets:

  • Food: Aim to store food just above your kitchen workstation, the counter space you typically use to prepare food. That way, it can be easily accessed while you're making meals. However, if you have a pantry, first use that for food storage to free up your cabinets for other kitchen items.
  • Glasses and dishes: Store glasses and dishes over either your dishwasher or drying rack to make putting away items easy.
  • Cookbooks: Keep cookbooks in your most out-of-the-way cabinet, as you likely won't be reaching for them as often as other items.
  • Food storage containers: Put food storage containers right above the counter space you use when you fill them with food.
items stored in upper cabinets such as glassware and dishes
The Spruce / Rachel Vanni 

What to Store in Lower Cabinets

The lower cabinets are a good place for these items:

  • Appliances: Store kitchen appliances in the lower cabinets just below your main work area for easy access during food prep. If you use an appliance daily, consider moving it to your countertop.
  • Pots, pans, and baking sheets: Store pots and pans in a lower cabinet by your stove, and keep baking sheets near the oven (if it's separate from the stove). Nest pots together to save space. And either nest pans or get a rack that fits in the cabinet to store them vertically. A rack to store lids and baking sheets vertically is also helpful to maximize space.
  • Mixing bowls and cutting boards: Store these items in a lower cabinet as close to the drying rack or dishwasher as possible for easy storage.
  • Cleaning supplies: Store kitchen cleaning supplies in a lower cabinet, preferably under the sink. If you have small children or pets, consider a child-proof lock on the cabinet. And if the cabinet has more than one shelf, store the cleaning supplies on the bottom in case of leaks or spills. Also, never store cleaning supplies above or on the same shelf as food.
cookware and other items stored in lower cabinets
The Spruce / Rachel Vanni 

Maintain Your Cabinet Organization

After putting in the effort to organize your kitchen cabinets, you have to make sure everyone in your household keeps them organized. Ensure that everyone knows where the items should go. And consider labeling containers, storage bins, or even the cabinet doors themselves if it helps everyone to follow the system.

Also, try to keep everything neat when you put it away. For instance, turn food labels so they're facing out. And stack dinnerware according to type and size. Doing so can encourage you and others to keep the cabinets looking tidy.

Finally, plan to go through your kitchen cabinets for decluttering and organizing at least once or twice a year. Make sure you're not hanging on to expired food—or food you're just not going to eat. And get rid of kitchen items you haven't used. The more often you do this, the more functional and beautiful your kitchen will be for you.

a well-maintained kitchen cabinet
The Spruce / Rachel Vanni