10 Tips for Organizing Your Kitchen Cabinets (And Keeping Them That Way)

How our entertaining-obsessed editor got control over her pantry.
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I cook a full dinner for two almost every single night of the week, save the occasional date night, and for all the money I save from not eating out, most of it goes to my never-ending collection of cookware and vintage serveware. 

Every new year, I spring clean and place each of my pots in a perfect row under my counter. Come the next day, pots are already out of place, only to be completely stacked and uneven in a matter of weeks. It's now September, and I've realized I need to come up with a solution that sticks. I'm not ready to part with all of my things (though a few Ikea bowls should definitely go), but I want my kitchen cabinets to be seamlessly organized- allowing the cooking and clean-up process to be instant and hassle-free. 

Earlier this month, I finally tackled my cabinets, and walked away with some clear takeaways that will help you if you're feeling in a similar kitchen rut: 

#1
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We're fortunate enough to have a decent-sized kitchen for a one-bedroom apartment (especially compared to past kitchens). This naturally means that we've acquired more kitchen goods over the past year than we ever have before. When we brought new items in, however, we didn't toss the old, and that's where we went wrong. Pulling everything out not only made me realize just how much we have but also what I had no idea existed. 

#2
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As a follow-up to step one: It's essential to clear out and start anew. We went by category, looking at each dish and pot, and deciding if it should be kept, replaced, or gotten rid of entirely. Anything that we decided not to keep, but was in good condition, was donated that day so it didn't find its way back into the cabinet. Things we got rid of included glass plates, older mugs, plastic mixing bowls, and random, unused utensils.

#3

We've had the same Ikea bowls since we met four years ago in college. They were scratched, outdated, and once white, but now tinted grey (?). It was clearly time for them to go. We headed to Crate and Barrel and invested in simple, plain white bowls. Now, all of our plates match, complement our glassware, and look significantly more intentional in the cabinet. Our next goal is to replace some of our plates, but we're waiting for our wedding registry for that! 

Here are some of my favorite dishes and glasses I've been eyeing: a vintage-inspired set that reminds me of morning coffee in Paris, gold-rimmed highball glasses that would be perfect for our morning smoothies, black stoneware bowls for serving snacks and side dishes, and a charming set of wine glasses that would work equally well for cocktails. 

#4

This is a tip from a family member and has been the most life-changing aspect of this kitchen clean-out. When picking where things should go, imagine you're making your go-to recipe. Go through the steps of how you would cook it, thinking where you instinctually would want to reach for certain things (tools, spices, etc.). For me, this was slightly difficult as I can't reach a lot of my cabinets without a stool, but I was able to designate each cabinet as serveware, pantry (x2), entertaining, and miscellaneous. 

#5

I've only been in my apartment a year, but this experience made it obvious that my cabinets need cleaning more often than annually (there was so much dust...). We vacuumed, disinfected, and treated each cabinet. We considered lining as well to hide areas where our cheap paint is peeling but held off, for now, to keep costs low. If you're looking to hide similar issues, this is a great option to mask any eyesores. 

#6
Our entertaining cabinet holds some of our more random entertaining needs. 

Our entertaining cabinet holds some of our more random entertaining needs. 

Our pantry cabinet, organized by baking on top and cans and grains on bottom!

Our pantry cabinet, organized by baking on top and cans and grains on bottom!

Because I have such a large collection of vintage glasses and plates, this was an incredibly important step. Only 60% of my kitchen collection is actually used on a weekly basis, making organization a priority. I ended up creating one whole entertaining cabinet above my oven. Now, I only have to get on a stool and reach over my appliances when I entertain. Plus, my vintage salt and pepper shakers and art deco cutlery don't mix in with my daily needs. 

#7
My deep, L shaped cabinets are great for storage but needed these shelves to actually maximize the space. 

My deep, L shaped cabinets are great for storage but needed these shelves to actually maximize the space. 

I never thought it would come to this, but after purchasing organizational shelves and tools, I'm never going back. These are the best items I invested in:

Bakeware rack: I have a problem where, whenever I walk into a T.J. Maxx and they have Le Creuset bakeware, I have to buy it. This means that the back of my cabinet is filled with stacks of discount ceramic dishes. This organizer keeps all my dishes in a row, neatly tucked away (since I bake far less frequently than I cook).

Shelves: Like many rental cabinets, mine have incredibly odd dimensions. My lower cabinet has such high shelves that I quickly gave into stacking pretty much everything. With two metal shelves, I can separate out my dutch oven from my non-stick pan, all while making my space look minimal (even though my collection is far from it). 

Bamboo plate shelves: Unlike the metal shelves for pots, I invested in a slightly nicer alternative for my plates and bowls. Before, I had to pull my plate of choice from a high stack of options. Now, there is a slight separation, making setting the table less of a hassle/ noisy commotion. 

Spice rack: For as long as I can remember, I fought buying one of these since they are oddly expensive (why???). I finally bit the bullet, though, and am so glad I did. Now, I can see all my spices from my countertop and can organize them based on frequency of use. My cardamom and nutmeg will never get in the way of the salt and pepper again. 

#8
A woven basket for onions and garlic, a pantry basket for snacks like bars and nuts, and a corner spice rack keep the space organized. 

A woven basket for onions and garlic, a pantry basket for snacks like bars and nuts, and a corner spice rack keep the space organized. 

For your pantry, having go-to containers for flour, sugar, and rice makes all the difference (a tip Leslie also uses in her own pantry). Your cabinets appear neater and more refined. I already had some containers for my flour and sugar, but I've now added a few for rice, tea, and other grains. I also bought two pantry baskets for snacks (which we don't have a lot of) and a basket for our morning smoothie habit. (P.S., The Home Edit has the cutest labels for your pantry baskets, but I reluctantly passed as a way of cutting costs on my clean-out!)

#9
Our new table setting cabinet holds only that- plates, bowls, and drinkware- and is organized by usage (most frequently used items are on the lowest shelf so I can reach!)

Our new table setting cabinet holds only that- plates, bowls, and drinkware- and is organized by usage (most frequently used items are on the lowest shelf so I can reach!)

When all of your various kitchen essentials are in the same cabinet, it can become mayhem. I don't have the luxury of having several drawers to separate utensils, but by investing in a cutlery organizer, utensil holders (one for daily use items and another for more obscure tools), and baskets for entertaining goods, my cabinets feel more manageable and easy to maintain. This new cutlery holder also has a place for measuring cups and smoothie lids, items I normally toss around from cabinet to cabinet. 

#10

I have a ton of kitchen tech that takes up space but actually isn't used frequently. Once I moved my juicer, sous-vide, pasta maker, and huge blender (I keep my Nutri-bullet on the counter) to either hard to reach parts of the cabinets or to our external storage unit, I instantly felt less cluttered. Now, if we're planning to use the sous-vide, I pop down to our storage unit (just down the stairs) and grab it. 

Kitchen clean-outs are far from glamorous and can feel like an annoying waste of time. Now that our space is totally reorganized, though, I already feel reinvigorated to create more elaborate recipes and even meal-prep lunch. 

What are your kitchen organizational tips? How do you keep your space clean? Let me know in the comments! x

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