Practical, affordable tips and tricks from a professional organizer on how to organize your kitchen efficiently and maximize functionality so it works best for you!
When we bought our first home in Denver, I knew I wanted to make it as organized as possible (especially with our second baby on the way!). Our Columbus kitchen was great, but we lacked storage space and a functionality.
While packing for our Ohio to Colorado move plus the move from our rental into this house the following year, I got rid of a lot. I adopted a "less is more" mindset (this book was a game changer!) and it made the whole process quite cleansing.
I'm so grateful to have found Melissa, the professional organizer behind Happy Organized, to help make our new kitchen truly shine. I love home decor, and she truly transformed the space in ways I could not have imagined.
Since we can't all hire a professional organizer, here are the top tips I learned working with Melissa in hopes they'll inspire you, too! I couldn't have done any of this without her guidance and expertise.
You can also connect with Melissa on Instagram and shop her favorite products here!
1. Make the space work for YOU.
Melissa reminded me that although there's a lot of pretty organizational content on Instagram these days, it's pretty useless if it's not implemented according to your family's unique needs.
You certainly don't have to have a big, fancy space or spend tons of money to make impactful changes, either.
For example, I used to have all our plates and bowls in this main upper cabinet area. Melissa suggested I keep all my baking ingredients there instead and move the dishes to the cabinet to the left, which happens to be right above the dishwasher.
It could not be more convenient, but I never would have thought about switching them. If you're not regularly baking, that may not make sense. But for me, it's life-changing having everything I need right there!
Melissa is really passionate about sustainability and function. Another example of this that we talked about was not needing to transfer all your spices into uniform glass jars.
If that's your desired aesthetic, great! I knew I wanted to minimize waste so I had no problem keeping all my mismatched spice bottles and organizing them on a lazy Susan.
We decided on a lazy Susan versus a tiered shelf because the spices tend to fall. I did use that shelf for heavier canned goods, though!
I keep my most used spices, vinegars, and salt on the lowest shelf and my less frequently used ones above.
2. Embrace letting things go.
Let's face it: it's a lot easier to organize when you have less stuff.
Sometimes it takes an accountability buddy to look you in the eye and say, "do you really need this warped Tupperware? Or this cat mug you ex's mom gifted you? Or twelve of the same Mason jars?"
Melissa did a great job reminding me that I don't need to keep items that I don't love or that don't serve a purpose in my home.
We get so used to having things around that the thought of getting rid of them can be jarring. It helps to consider that they may get more use in someone else's home! Donate, donate donate.
That said, I do have things I rarely use but don't want to part with. Maybe they have sentimental value (like my Grandma's seder plate) or maybe it's those four mugs we for some reason never grab for coffee but I want to keep for when I have guests over.
Since it calms me to have less around and I really only want to look at what we use regularly, I moved those items to the high cabinet above the fridge where I can access them on the rare occasions I need to.
3. Give everything a home.
I used to keep mixing bowls, strainers, my hand held mixer, waffle iron, and tofu press in this one cabinet somewhat haphazardly. Like, one day the tofu press might be shoved behind the bowl kind of hard to access and one day it might be to the left.
Melissa reminded me that we shouldn't have to wonder where an item is. Everything should have one home and one home only. I love how when Jeff asks where something goes, I can point to an exact spot. The mixing bowls are stacked together as are the strainers. Logic, people!
Melissa is also a big believer in not stacking since it makes things harder and more unlikely to be willing to get to. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule (like nested bowls) but that was a powerful new way of thinking for me.
I have my bakeware mostly not stacked in a lazy Susan and it's really great to not have to remove an 8x8 pan in order to get to my 9x13. Simple but so effective!
4. Utilize unique space-staving storage options.
My pots and pans and lids used to be stored on top of each other with absolutely no rhyme or reason. It was a crapshoot guessing what was where and there really was no method to the madness. I'd just shove stuff wherever there was a spot after cleaning.
Melissa also introduced me to...
- this adjustable cookware rack to use for pans. One of the most impactful storage solutions!
- this shelf to separate my pots.
- this simple wire storage lid organizer for all the pan lids, which is in a deep drawer to the left of the oven.
- this taller wire storage organizer for cutting boards and cooling racks to stand upright.
5. Take advantage of drawer dividers.
Who else has a hodgepodge of cooking utensils, measuring cups, and spoons all messy in a drawer? It's so helpful (and ensures everything has a home!) to have designated section for categories of items.
Check out this comprehensive list of My Favorite Kitchen Tools plus the Top 10 Kitchen Tools We Use Most!
My most used (and aesthetically pleasing) cooking utensils are in a canister next to the stove (favorite silicone spatulas, whisks, wooden spoons).
Then the main cooking drawer is organized by most-used cooking gadgets/utensils that aren't already sitting out (citrus juicer, can opener, meat mallet, peeler, etc), scissors, measuring cups, and measuring spoons.
I love having all my blog props and serving spoons accessible!
6. Use large bins for pantry storage.
I learned that a common mistake people make when organizing is that their products don't work.
While we don't have a big fancy butler's pantry, this small space actually works perfectly for our needs!
I can't tell you how many adorable little wire baskets I found that totally nailed my desired aesthetic only for Mellissa to give me the reality check that they were too small.
She encouraged me to do a full food shop before we overhauled the pantry and I indeed found I needed large bins (we alternated between these large natural hyacinth baskets, and large black wire milk crates) to meet our needs.
I thought the baskets looked huge but they're already overflowing. LOL.
I also love this bamboo lazy Susan turntable, which I use for oil and vinegar in the pantry and also for baking in the cabinet.
7. Labeling is key.
Transfer items out of containers only when it makes sense.
Function, function, function! I don't personally have spaghetti or cereal in big storage containers. I change up what I buy all the time and it just didn't make sense.
Now for my most-used items like almond flour and coconut sugar that I hate dunking a measuring cup into, I use air-tight containers with labels (I use this label maker) and it works so well.
Check out my Pantry Organization Ideas post for more info!
I always keep lots of backups on hand, like pasta sauce, peanut butter, extra black peppercorns that didn't fit in the grinder, etc.
Melissa suggested having baskets labeled "Overstock" and "Refill" bins for those purposes and it's helped keep my extras nice and neat.
8. Keep kid's stuff low and easily accessible
I always kept my toddler Max's plates, bowls, cups, and silverware up high where we kept ours.
Melissa wisely advised me to designate a drawer for Max in the lowest drawer so he can be independent and pick out his plateware. It's nice having a separate space for them now that he can access!
Kids love to be in control, and Max gets super excited to grab his own bowl or snack cup.
If you live in Denver, I highly recommend hiring Melissa! She also transforms closets, offices, garages, basements, and offices.
Thank you Happy Organized for providing your services and making this possible. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.
It looks soooo good! Thanks for all these tips, I need that lid holder in my life.