Anatomy of an Organized Kitchen

Over the last week I’ve kicked my cleaning and organizing into high gear, trying to get through the whole house, before I leave for BlogHer next week. This weekend I attacked the kitchen, defrosting the freezer and reorganizing every cabinet. I thought through where I wanted to place things, so I could use my kitchen as efficiently as possible. Here’s what I came up with.

First, welcome to my kitchen! Here’s a shot of almost the whole room, so you can get your bearings.

To the right, cut off in the picture, is my refrigerator. The white door goes to the pantry. To the left of the sink is the dishwasher, with a cabinet above it. And to the left of that, not in the picture, are three more cabinets (stacked from floor to ceiling).

I began with organizing the pantry. I keep most of my food in there, opting to use the kitchen cabinets mostly for dishes, pots, pans, and baking equipment. I tend to buy a lot of food in bulk, but storing things like beans and grains in plastic bags gets messy, making it hard to find things I need when I need them. Not to mention the potential problem that would be if, heaven forbid, a mouse ever broke into our house. Living in the country, I have to think about these things. So far it hasn’t happened, but I’d rather be safe, than sorry.

Back to the topic of organizing…I put all of my bulk foods into some old canning jars I had on hand. Then I labeled them with a label maker. And this is what I came up with.

These are the bottom three shelves of my pantry. I tried to keep foods in rough categories, so I can find things in a hurry. The top shelf in the photo holds my tomato products and a few processed foods. The middle shelf is baking products, and the bottom shelf holds rice, beans, and pasta.

The top shelf of my pantry holds big jars of grains. I put them on the top, because I can’t reach all the way to the back of the top shelf to grab small cans. This way I never need to grab a ladder, because I can reach the front of the shelf to pull down the big jars.

Back in the kitchen, I tried to group things together logically, according to how I use them.

For instance, in one of the upper cabinets near the refrigerator, I put my drink mixes, as well as my drink containers. When I want to mix up some lemonade, everything is right there, including the ice in the freezer.

Similarly, my pots and pans are stored in the cabinet next to the stove, my dishes and glasses are near the sink and dishwasher, and things I don’t use frequently, like my china and my canning supplies are tucked up high or way back inside my cupboards.

Another thing I tried to do is give myself lots of space in the cabinets.

My pots and pans cabinet looks rather bare, but I like it that way. I don’t have to dig around to find the lid I need. Some might say it’s a waste of space, but if it helps me stay organized, I’m going to waste the space!

Finally, my kitchen had two big problems that I needed to solve. First, my cookbooks used to live in the cabinets above the microwave, but there wasn’t enough room up there. I could never find the book I was looking for, because they were wedged in so tightly, with some books stored behind other books.

Second, I needed a better system for recycling. We recycle a lot, since we get free recycling pickup. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great place to store the recyclable items, until I could bring them outside to the recycling container. They’d stack up on the counter, driving me crazy, until it was time to go out.

I solved the problem by buying a bookshelf and a couple of kitchen trash cans.

These are placed along the wall to the left of the island in the kitchen. The door goes to the laundry room, but unfortunately there isn’t enough room in there for the recycling containers.

The bookshelf holds my cookbooks and the household notebook I’m working on. There’s actually another bookshelf right next to it for school books, since we do a lot of our school work in the kitchen. The two trash cans are labeled, one for comingled recycling and one for drink bottles that can go back to the store.

Hopefully now that I have a convenient place for everything, I can keep up the organization throughout the school year! What do you think? Am I off to a good start?


By , on Jul 26, 2010
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Ethyl Drozdenko:

    Google TV appears to be literally remarkable. I am not sure if I would like to pick up a lcd tv with it included or simply a separate box.

  2. Wow, that is how I am striving for my kitchen to look, though my orange tile and 1962 cabinets don’t help it look very organized even when it is.

  3. Just had new flooring put in my kitchen and office, I’ve so have done some reorganizing there. I enjoyed your post and have decided that I need a label maker. My cookbooks reside in a hall cabinet across from the kitchen door. It is the perfect spot for them and my large appliances. I still have stuff from the office spread out all over; since we had to remove everything from bookshelves and drawers to move the furniture, I’m using the opportunity to weed and reorganize. I will check back with you as I work on my reorganization goal. Thanks! Annie

  4. I can’t stand having stuff on the kitchen counter tops. I think it was from repeatedly gettin my ass kicked when a kitchen hand from having clutter on the counter. I use a magnetic knife rail to get rid of the knive block and store all my appliances under the bench.

  5. Tricia:

    Love it! I have always wanted to look through someone else’s kitchen to see how they organize their things! Mine is organized very similar, but needs to be “cleaned” and straightened and I am sure some of my spices should “hit the road”. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Jan:

    Off to a good ‘start’? Your kitchen looks awesome! Great job and others would be jealous (like me-haha)…Keep up the good work!

  7. marci357:

    garage sales for mine….

  8. Brenda:

    Where did you get your gallon jars? I get mine from the Amish store, when I buy a gallon of honey, but they don’t always have them nor do I need a gallon of honey all that often. I priced buying them new but can’t really feel good about the expense. I use them for flour, beans, and when I am lucky, raw milk. (yours are glass, right?)

    • Lynnae:

      My big jars for the grains are plastic jars from Walmart. I bought them several years ago. Eventually I’d like to switch to glass, but I haven’t found any gallon sized glass jars yet.

      I wish we had an Amish store around here!

  9. AngelSong:

    Very nice job, and very well thought out. Should be very easy to maintain. Now get the kids to put things in their places when they help in the kitchen, and you’re all set.

  10. marci357:

    Looking great!
    I am blessed with plenty of cabinets – so I have them arranged much like yours. One thing I find very useful is grouping items according to use also…

    Like one lower cabinet has all my baking supplies – flour and sugar in huge old tupperwares, cookie cutters, decorating supplies, bread pans, anything to do with baking. Extra flour, sugar, salt, beans, go into 4 gallon ice cream plastic tubs 50cents each with lids from the Tillamook Cheese Factory store here. NICE tubs!

    Another old dresser drawer in the mudroom has all my canning supplies and food preserving supplies. The extra rings are in plastic sacks hanging from a rack so I can just grab a sack of large rings, or the sack of small rings and take it to the kitchen(the room next to the mudroom). I buy a case of lids at a time, so wide mouth lids are in one drawer, and small mouth in another. The vacuum sealer and the sealer bags are also in that dresser drawer – and the dehydrator as well as the canner set in their boxes on top of that dresser.

    My dry goods are much like yours – in big glass jars or in large free plastic jars – the kind that the Tillamook Smoker sells jerky in – so some are the large round pepperoni sales jars – great for spaghetti and lasagna, and some are the square jars (silver dollar jerky) with the big lids – great for other noodles and beans, barley, rice, etc. Like you, no mice so far and I’d like to keep it that way :)

    I converted the old broom closet part of the cabinets – 5 ft tall by about 14 inches wide and 12 inches deep- into a 5 shelf unit with shelving strips from the hardware store and some old thick plywood. Canned goods go in there – lots of room! And the broom goes in the space between that cabinet and the frig. Much more storage that way!

    It’s not as uncluttered as your photo, but it works for me :)

  11. Lori:

    Great input! I just tackled a similar home office organization project this weekend. Here’s my problem….I do this, it looks great, then “stuff happens” and somewhere along the line, little by little, the system falls apart and I have to do another big re-org weekend.
    So my question is……when is the last time you organized your kitchen? (or are you on a new organizational bent and this is the first time?) and how do you recognize and maintain problem organization along the way before it becomes a bigger ordeal?
    (tough questions, I know :)

    • Lynnae:

      Well, I organized my kitchen when I moved in two years ago. This is the first time I’ve reorganized since then, except for the pantry, which I’ve done a few times. This is the first time I pulled my bulk foods out of plastic bags, though.

      I haven’t figured out the upkeep part yet. I think it requires commitment from the entire family. Right now my plan is to have regular chore times throughout the day and make sure everything is put away before bed.

  12. That is awesome! My wife is very fastidious about the counters and such so those are always in ship shape. The pantry is what often falls apart though, and we’ve worked to employ several of the techniques you’ve used, specifically grouping items together and keeping the most commonly used items at eye level (kind of like the grocery store!). Great job. Now the trick is to keep it up, because as we all know, it only takes a couple of slip-ups and so begins the path back to disorganization.

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