How to Utilize Your Kitchen Cabinets: A Guide to Beat Clutter & Stay Organized

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One of the unexpected results of the pandemic was a dramatic rise in the number of people who regularly prepare meals at home instead of eating out. Even now that life is getting back to normal, over 70% of Americans say they plan to continue cooking and baking frequently. However, while this practice is a great way to save money, eat healthier, and spend more time with family, it makes maintaining a clean, organized kitchen more challenging. This is particularly true when it comes to finding enough cabinet space for all the extra dishes, kitchen appliances, and pantry items that make home cooking possible.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to organize your kitchen cabinets properly. Utilizing your cabinets fully helps to control clutter elsewhere in the kitchen, making it easier to clean countertops and appliances after cooking. Having a tidy kitchen also makes meal prep more efficient by ensuring you can quickly find everything you need.

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Start By Decluttering and Cleaning Your Cabinets

Before you can decide where to store kitchen items, you’ll need to take inventory of what you own – and what you actually use. Depending on your

schedule and the size of your kitchen, you can complete this process in stages (i.e., decluttering a few cupboards at a time) or all at once.

First, set aside a large box for items you’ll want to discard or donate to goodwill. Then, remove everything from your kitchen cabinets and decide what’s worth keeping and what you should part with. As a general rule, any dishes, utensils, or small appliances you haven’t used in over a year should be considered for donation. Similarly, if you have a lot of duplicate items, donating the extras – or storing them in a bin elsewhere in your home – can free up a lot of cabinet space.

As you sort everything into piles, check the expiry dates on your pantry items and cleaning products. Throw away anything that’s no longer usable.

While your cabinets are empty, take the opportunity to clean them thoroughly: Using your vacuum’s upholstery attachment, remove crumbs and dust from the shelves. Then, moisten a cleaning rag with a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar and wipe everything down. Leave the cabinet doors open for an hour to allow the interior to thoroughly air-dry.

Organize Items by Type and Plan Your Layout

Group appliances, dishes, utensils, and pantry items by type. Then, establish different cabinet zones for each type of item, with the goal of keeping items near the area where you’re most likely to use them. (For example, keep cleaning supplies in the cabinet below the kitchen sink, plates and bowls near the dishwasher, and cookware and pantry items close to the stove.) Put seldom-used items towards the top and back of each cabinet, so you can keep things you use frequently within easy reach.

Unless you have a very large kitchen, you’ll probably have to make a few exceptions to this rule, but it’s a useful guideline to begin planning your cabinet layout. Some of the major kitchen zones to consider include:

– Where you prepare and cook food.

– Where you wash the dishes.

– Where you prefer to keep your essential cleaning supplies.

– Where you bake.

– Your beverage area (i.e., where you prepare coffee, tea, and other beverages).

You should also consider the weight of items when deciding where you’ll put them. Don’t store heavy appliances, dishes, or pots and pans on the upper levels of cabinets, where they could potentially fall and injure someone. Store them on the lowest shelves of your cabinets, so you can reach down and pick them up.

Another good question to ask is whether you really need to store something in the kitchen or not. If you have seasonal dishes that you only use once a year, for instance, storing them in a cabinet in the dining room might make more sense. The same goes for cookbooks that you don’t reference very often.

Sort Pantry Items into Clear Plastic Bins

Between stacks of cans, pasta containers, bags of flour, and baking supplies, it’s easy for pantry areas to become crowded and disorganized. Prevent this from happening by grouping shelf-stable foods together by type, then place each type in a separate clear plastic bin. This way, when you need a particular item, you can just remove the bin that contains it and locate it – without disturbing everything else in your pantry.

Install Shelf Liners

Before you start putting items back on the shelf, you can take the optional step of protecting your shelves with removable liners. Not only do shelf liners make cabinet cleaning easier (because you can just remove the liners and wash them, rather than standing on a chair to wipe down each shelf), but they can also protect your shelves from scuffs and scratches. You may wonder how to shelf liners , but it is very easy. Simply press the liners down into place on each shelf, then begin putting items back on the shelves in accordance with your planned layout.

Explain Your New Cabinet Layout to Your Family

For your cabinets to stay organized over the long term, you’ll need to make sure everyone in your household understands where items should go. Once you’ve put everything away, take a moment to show your family your new layout. Or you can create a diagram of the layout and hang it on the fridge for easy reference.

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