This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.
There’s nothing as comforting as a kitchen.
It’s where we gather, where we feed our families, where we sit with a loved one, nursing a cup of coffee and working through problems.
There’s also nothing as messy as a kitchen.
We have appliances, pots and pans, dishes, cutlery, cooking tools, pantry items, storage containers, baking pans, serving trays, and more!
When your kitchen is messy and disorganized, cooking becomes stressful as you hunt for the tools and ingredients you need and it becomes an unpleasant place to be.
Decluttering your kitchen will not only restore order to the things you use every day to prepare meals. It will also give you a space you know is waiting for you. To cook, to laugh, to listen.
Begin by clearing everything off the counters
1. Use your kitchen table to store everything for now, but get those counters totally cleared off!
Kitchen counters are the repository for mail, school projects, small appliances, cleaning sprays and sponges, and countless forgotten glasses. By emptying the counters completely, you can see immediate improvement. Think of this as redecorating the space.
2. Decide 2-3 things that deserve to live on that precious wide-open real estate.
For me that’s my coffee maker, toaster, and paper towel dispenser. They get used daily and there’s no logical alternative space for them.
3. Put everything else away.
Quickly go through paperwork and trash or move it to where it should be, your desk or file cabinet.
Cleaning supplies go under the sink or where you keep those items. Other appliances go into a cabinet or pantry.
Don’t worry about sorting through it right now. You’re in it for a quick accomplishment and you’ll be revisiting those items when you clean and declutter those spaces.
The goal is to have clean and spacious counter space. That can be done in a half hour or less as long as you don’t give in to trying to organize everything because you’re adding to the clutter in other areas. You’ll get there.
Refer to your Declutter Plan and divide the kitchen into zones
You’ll want a separate zone for each of these areas. Don’t worry if they overlap somewhat. Not every kitchen can afford completely separate zones.
This is where your pots, pans and cooking utensils should be stored. Use a crock for large wooden spoons and spatulas if you have no drawer space available. This zone is the nearest to the stove.
Mine is contained in an upper cabinet. I keep measuring cups, whisks and small tools there. I keep my mixer in the pantry because I don’t bake regularly.
This is where you would keep aluminum foil and storage containers. Some people prefer to keep their containers with bowls. You should organize your kitchen zones in a way that makes sense to you and your way of cooking.
Bowls & Serving Dishes zone
Every kitchen needs a few bowls of varying sizes and you also need serving dishes when dinner is more than a one-pot affair. Because these are not used daily, a cabinet or shelf away from the main cooking area is fine.
Plan to work in one zone until it’s complete
If you are creating new zones or doing cooking zones for the first time, working in one area will make it easier to visualize what will live there.
When you encounter items that don’t belong there (and that you are keeping), just put them in the correct zone to be organized later. If you’ve already done that zone, look at it carefully before adding new items. Ask yourself the decluttering questions below. Zones that are completely done need to be guarded against new clutter!
As you go through your tools and small appliances, ask yourself the same question you would with clothing or other household items.
“Have I used this in the last year?”
A few years ago, I took a culinary course. I bought a spaetzle board and other pasta tools for one brief unit and never used them again. My pasta machine gets used more regularly so I kept it but all the other specialty items? Bye Bye!
Ice cream makers are one of those appliances that many people own. But do you actually use it? Sure, it’s a novelty to get the kids involved in a project to make their own ice cream, but are you using it to make your family’s ice cream year-round? Send that ice cream maker on its way to a better home and take your family out for ice cream (or bring it home from the store). It will be more fun, cheaper and you’ll all appreciate it.
“Can this appliance do more than one thing?”
I used to own a rice cooker and it saw quite a lot of use. Then came the hot pot and cooking rice is one of its many functions. It’s a pretty versatile appliance. Out went the rice cooker. If one of your tools or appliances has several functions, get rid of the single-use items you don’t need.
Do you own one of these?
Shredder claws (to pull apart BBQ meat)?
Two forks will do the job just as well.
Here’s a quick video on using a knife and spoon to get the same effect (https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/preparation/slice-dice-avocado) You also don’t need a chef’s knife. A regular steak knife works just as well.
Put the garlic clove on a cutting board and lay your chef’s knife (yes, every kitchen actually needs one) on top of it. Pound down on the flat surface of the knife (be careful not to get near the blade, ok?) and your clove is flat and easy to dice. You can also use the flat side of a meat tenderizer for this. If you want it to be pureed, use your Microplane (yes, go out and buy one of these if you don’t have one and learn how to use it to add flavor to your food).
When you are decluttering your kitchen, have a box handy to gather the things you don’t want to keep. When it’s full, put it in your car and deliver it to your favorite charity collection box.
Problematic areas in most kitchens
When was the last time you counted your plastic storage containers? You always think you need more, yet they seem to be mating and reproducing (and in the process, losing their tops) in their cabinet.
Take them all out and make sure every container has a lid. If they don’t, set them aside for now.
Stack the containers by size and stack the lids. This is one time when I recommend buying (or you can use shoe boxes if you have some) buying small storage bins. Put the containers in a bin neatly and the lids in another bin and store them side by side in the cabinet.
There’s something about having a specific container for the storage boxes that makes it easier and logical to put them back in their proper place after washing.
Bowls are a lot like storage containers in that we tend to accumulate them. They live in different cupboards according to some organizational system that used to make sense to us. Salad bowls in one place, baking mixing bowls in another, etc. They end up stacked willy-nilly and land on our feet when we open a door. Ouch!
All the bowls, no matter their function, live together, so first bring them all out on your newly-pristine counter. Arrange them by size and get rid of duplicates. You don’t need two of the same size and I’ll tell you why in a second.
Don’t worry about the color or design of the bowls. Just separate the ones you tend to use over and over again. Some people like metal, some like glass, and others prefer plastic.
Stack the bowls neatly by size and arrange on the designated cabinet shelf. Don’t they look pretty?
Put the discard bowls in your car for donation.
When you have a limited set of bowls (or dishes, or mugs), you know that they can’t sit in the sink and wait for the dishwasher if you’ll need to use it again for the meal you’re preparing. So here’s how to save time and clutter.
Get into the habit of washing up after yourself as you go.
Lay a dish towel on the counter. Put the dirty bowl in the sink, squirt a little dishwashing liquid in it and fill it with hot water. As soon as you can, come back to do a quick scrub (if you soak the dirtiest bowl or pan as soon as you use it, the soaking will have done most of your work for you), rinse and put on the dish towel.
It’s old school but our mothers did it that way for a reason. Their kitchens were smaller, their tools were fewer and they still produced great meals every day. A minute spent washing up not only lets you have less clutter, but it also makes for quicker cleanup at the end of cooking.
Pots & Pans
I have fewer pots and pans than most people and I’d say I still have more than I really need. I regularly replace non-stick pans because my kids forget and use metal spatulas that scrape off the coating.
It’s rare that you would be using 3 or 4 saucepans at the same time, so why keep extra?
It’s rare that you’d be using all your stove burners when cooking but let’s say you’re prepping for a week’s worth of meals.
Just like bowls, wash as you go. At the very least, soap and soak your pans to make quick work of it when you can get back to the sink.
Keep no more than 2 of each type of pots and pans. You don’t need every size but you know what you use the most often. If you’re not sure if you can do without something, give it a temporary home in the garage or storage area and see if you ever get back to it. You’ll find that you’ll naturally work with what you have and never miss the hidden things.
What about the things you only use once a year?
I’m not going to ask you to get rid of your special Spode Christmas dishes that you only use for the season. Even if you only remember to take them out for a day or two.
And if you host the holidays every year, you need those large platters and serving dishes.
But stop and ask yourself if some of these things could be borrowed when you need them instead of taking up valuable kitchen real estate.
My mother has huge pots she’s been using since we were kids. If I need a pot to turn 10 lbs of potatoes into buttery creamy goodness for Thanksgiving dinner, I don’t need to own that pot. I just need to borrow it. She’s coming over for dinner at my house anyway!
If you’re going to keep seasonal dishes and tools, use that hard to reach corner cabinet, or top shelf you need a ladder for, to store them.
Would you like some quick wins? Download my free 50 Quick Decluttering Projects You Can Do In A Half Hour Or Less and see results beginning today!
Check out ALL the posts in the Decluttering For Busy Moms series: