Cheat Sheet! 6 Tips to Help Set Up an Organized Kitchen

Reusable Grocery Bag Iron-on Printable - Free! A set of six, each with a different tip.

By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie for Design Mom. This post was brought to you by Wolf.

Let’s all pretend we’re just moving in and setting up our kitchen for the first time. Maybe it’s our new house in a new town. Maybe it’s our first college apartment. Maybe we’re newlyweds setting up a home together. Or maybe we’re none of those things and it’s just time to reorganize our existing kitchen. We want to set it up right, so that the kitchen works. When the mood to cook strikes, we find the pantry stocked. When we reach for a spatula, it’s exactly where it should be. A kitchen that’s efficient and hard-working and inviting. A kitchen that inspires us to cook!

Doesn’t that sound lovely? I think so too. That’s why I’m delighted to be working with Wolf on their Reclaim The Kitchen initiative. They’ve done all the homework so would-be cooks don’t have to. They know the basic tools and ingredients to have on hand, the basic techniques to know, and they’ve got some no-brainer recipes to get you going. Everything necessary to help people get back to cooking in their kitchen.

6 Tips to set up a Kitchen Efficiently so you'll Want to Cook

This post is about how to organize a kitchen for maximum efficiency. In other words: It’s great to have essential kitchen items, but how you keep and store them is just as important to having your best kitchen! Right? And to be extra-helpful, I’ve included the tips below in a handy cheat sheet you can print out and post on your fridge — or even iron on to your grocery tote!

Let’s get right to the tips.

Tip 1: Keep the things you use most, close at hand. Find 5 other tips to help you organize your kitchen when you click through!

Tip #1: Keep the things you use most, close at hand.
There are certain kitchen items you use every day. They vary for everyone — a juicer for one person, a French press for another — but whatever your daily use items are, they should be the closest, most accessible items in your kitchen.

See all those wooden spoons? When I’m cooking, they get used a lot. So they live right by the stove within easy one-hand reach. My go-t0 pot? It’s at the front of the deep drawer next to the stove — the first one I see when I pull open the drawer. Oven mitts? They go next to the oven, so they’re right where they’ll be needed most.

Related: Anything you use more than once per week shouldn’t need a step stool to get to.

Tip 2: A place for everything, and everything in it's place. Find 5 other tips to help you organize your kitchen when you click through!

Tip #2: A place for everything and everything in its place. 
The goal is to designate a shelf or drawer or cupboard for everything, so you know just where to find them. Keep the pickles in the same spot in the fridge. Keep the rice in the same spot in the pantry. That way, when you’re running low, you’ll notice it and be more likely to add rice to the grocery list. You also want the contents of the shelf or drawer or cupboard to make sense. For example, you could keep your spices near the stove so that you’ll be able to reach them quickly while cooking.

In a new kitchen, this step often takes me some time to figure out. After a week or so of using a kitchen, I might find myself switching the cutlery drawer and the dishtowel drawer, or moving the drinking glasses to the other side of the sink. It’s okay to take a minute to figure out how you move around in a new space before you designate an official spot for everything.

Tip 3: If you can't see it, you won't use it. Find 5 other tips to help you organize your kitchen when you click through!

Tip #3: If you can’t see it, you won’t use it (or eat it).
This might be my favorite tip. I love it because it keeps me from wasting food (one of my pet peeves). When you’re stocking your pantry remember this: if you buy a can of black beans and put it at the back of your cupboard, and then put a container of corn meal or a box of pasta in front of it, there is a 100% chance that can of beans will never be seen again and will eventually be thrown out when you move.

If you can’t see it, you won’t use it! It’s true for food, and it’s true for kitchen tools too. If you have an awesome waffle iron that lives in the back of a cupboard behind the crock pot, you will probably never use it. Out of sight, out of mind.

To make sure you can see everything, don’t overstuff your cupboard or pantry shelves. And don’t overfill your drawers. If you do, you won’t use anything that’s at the bottom, and it will make getting anything out of the drawer, or putting anything into the drawer unpleasant. Better to get rid of things than overstuff. Donate items you don’t really need, or if you have a rarely used item that you must keep (say a favorite tool that you only use on Thanksgiving), go ahead and store it in the most inconvenient spot in the kitchen so it doesn’t get in your way, but it’s there when you need it. You can also try open shelving!

Tip 4: Keep the Sink Cleared. Find 5 other tips to help you organize your kitchen when you click through!

Tip #4: Keep the sink cleared.
Really, keep the sink cleared and dishwasher empty or running. If you have to clean before you start cooking, it will put you behind, or prevent you from getting started at all.

Related: solve ongoing issues. Is there a cooking task that you dread? Solve it. Never a clean cutting board? Try several small cutting boards, instead of one big one. Can’t find your favorite knife in a drawer full of tools? Try a wall-mounted magnet strip. Stinky kitchen rags (another one of my pet peeves)? Prevent them by hanging washrags to dry on hooks inside the cupboard door.

Tip 5: An empty countertop is the best invitation to get cooking. Find 5 other tips to help you organize your kitchen when you click through!

Tip #5: An empty countertop is the best invitation.
This is a fact. If you used to love baking and find you avoid it now, it might be because your countertops have become too cluttered. Cooking and baking take up space! So store as little as possible on the counter and keep your countertops as empty as possible when not in use. Then, when a recipe catches your eye and walk into the kitchen inspired, the countertop will be waiting for you, ready to receive your creativity, and everything you pull out of the pantry and cupboard and fridge.

Tip 6: Beautiful tools make hard tasks easier. Find 5 other tips to help you organize your kitchen when you click through!

Tip #6: Beautiful tools make hard tasks easier.
This is sort of a bonus tip, because it’s not necessarily about efficiency. The reality is, cooking and baking make a mess. Dirty dishes, baked on pots and pans, sticky countertops, messy floors. Part of creating in the kitchen is cleaning up. And I recommend making the whole process much more palatable by choosing beautiful tools.

Pretty soap, a gorgeous wood scrub brush, a fresh dishtowel, a happy dustpan. They all help make your kitchen a pleasant place to work in. Good-looking tools make dishwashing and clean up more appealing. Plus, if they’re beautiful, you won’t mind keeping them out in the open, which makes cleaning even easier. And I should note: good-looking doesn’t have to mean expensive. No need to break the bank to make your space look pretty.

Here are all six tips in a handy cheat sheet. (If you’d like to print it, download the file here.)

Six Tips for an Efficient Kitchen. Set you kitchen up right and you'll actually want to cook! Free printable.

For the DIYers out there, you can even print each tip out on a piece of iron-on paper, and make yourself a set of reusable canvas grocery bags! Download the printable tips (one per page) here.

6 Kitchen Tips! Free Iron-on Printables to make a set of reusable grocery bags.

Tell me, Friends, do you have a favorite among the tips I listed? And what would you add to my list? How do you keep your kitchen efficient, inviting and organized? I’d love to hear!

P.S. —  Remember the gorgeous video me and my sisters made with Wolf last year? The Reclaim The Kitchen initiative is the best!

21 thoughts on “Cheat Sheet! 6 Tips to Help Set Up an Organized Kitchen”

    1. I hear you. Any flat surface in our house has huge potential to become a place-to-pile-all-of-the-things. But my oh my, when the counter is clear, it’s like I can smell the cookies baking already.

  1. Ok I’m glad you mentioned stinky dish cloths because it’s also a pet peeve of mine, but I can’t seem to avoid it. I hang my dish cloths after every use and throw them in with the next wash, but they always come out stinking. Am I doing something wrong??

    1. Oh my goodness. Yes. Totally my pet peeve. In my experience, it can be worse depending on the humidity, and the material the rag is made out of.

      My best kitchen washcloths are from Trader Joe’s (I mention them here if you’d like to see what I’m referring to). They rinse out really well and they’re easy to squeeze the water out of. (It seem like the faster the rag dries, the less chance it gets stinky.)

      I usually use a new one every two days, and then throw them in the wash (hot!). And if I do that, I’ve mostly been able to avoid stinky rags. But if I don’t change rags frequently, or I don’t rinse them well, they will still get stinky.

    2. Try soaking them in a solution of white vinegar and water before washing them in warm-hot. This also works well with stinky work-out clothes. :)

  2. I have a lot of spices, and this might sound a bit obsessive, but I like to keep the bottles in alphabetical order. Even if one bottle gets hidden behind another, I at least know the general area where I need to look.

      1. i have an obsessive amount of spices as well. I keep the savory ones in the cupboard to the left of the stove on turn tables no less, and the sweet ones on the right with my baking supplies . I know spices can cross sides, i put cocoa powder in my chili. This has been helpful. I also label the turn tables as to what spices go on each- but they rarely get put back on the correct ones.

        1. Oh my gosh. I do this too! I keep savory spices by the stove, but baking spices are in a different cupboard with other baking supplies. And yes, sometimes there is crossover.

  3. I LOVE THIS POST!!!! (Sorry for yelling!) My favorite tip is always keeping the sink cleared. Makes such a difference in my mood in the morning when I start the day.

    The other thing I like to do (thought admittedly, I’m not as organized as I wish I was), is to once a month or so, go through my cupboards and slightly rearrange things. Not an overhaul, but just straighten things up a bit. I also take stock of what I need or have used up, or if something needs to be tossed. (I hate wasting food too.) I just did this as we’re getting into baking season, and it makes me so happy to open up my cupboards. The tip about not overfilling them is a really good one. I’m so guilty of that and it drives me crazy. :)

  4. I am amazed how much room our tea and spices take up. This post was a reminder to come up with a better solution for them.

    I have switched to using small cloth napkins to wipe up in the kitchen rather than the wipes from Trader Joe’s you mentioned, which I have had forever. Now they are delegated to bigger clean up jobs and go straight to the laundry, rather than me trying to hang them for reuse. The cotton napkins get thrown into the laundry basket right away too and clean up really well. I use a vinegar water solution to clean and that probably helps, as the vinegar neutralizes the odors.

  5. Ah, someday I’ll have the luxury. For now, when I have a total of 3 kitchen drawers in odd sizes it’s less about putting things where they are most useful and simply putting things where they fit.
    One thing I’ve done to avoid stinky rags (It’s pretty humid here) Is I actually bought a scrubbing brush for dishwashing that I can hang on a hook by my sink. (We don’t have a dishwasher). It’s one little thing that makes me more motivated to keep my dishes done because it feels easier. It dries quickly so I haven’t had stinky issues with it. Plus it scrubs pots like a champ!

  6. But wait! Did I somehow miss your remolded kitchen unveiling? Last I knew it was torn up. I’m enjoyed the post but those photos had me questioning if I missed it…now digging in your archives…

    1. You didn’t miss anything! We haven’t redone our kitchen. Still the same as always. I’m still finishing up details on the Master Bedroom remodel. Then I need a break from house projects for a minute. : )

  7. I am always trying to get our kitchen organized – with kids, that is sometimes easier said than done. But I do strive to keep the sink and counters clean so I’m ready for anything. Great tips!

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