This week's challenge is all about kitchen drawer and kitchen cabinet organization, where you will both declutter and organize things in a way where you can easily access what you need, when and where you need it.
The key to this challenge is to break it up into smaller chunks if you begin to feel overwhelmed, so I've tried to do this in the action steps below.
It also helps to keep in mind the overall purpose of organizing your kitchen cabinets and drawers. It is not to make them beautiful, and ready for a magazine cover although if they are afterward that is great. Instead, the purpose of organizing this area of your home is to allow you to easily access what you need for cooking or other kitchen activities when you need those items. With that in mind you can make good decisions about functionality and organization to suit your family's needs without making more work for yourself than you need to.
Also, I know many of you have joined this challenge as part of a New Year's Resolution to "get organized." Around this time is when you may begin to lose some enthusiasm for these resolutions, because you get discouraged or lose steam. I've (tried) to make this easy for you, with just one task per week, so that you can feel this is doable, and keep motivated. However, if you're beginning to feel unmotivated skip down to see suggestions for keeping the momentum going, if you need some encouragement.
Are you new here? This Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is part of the 52 Weeks To An Organized Home Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren't already a regular reader).
Before you begin, keep the following guidelines and overall ideas in mind when doing the Kitchen Drawers and Cabinet Organization Challenge:
First, as great as it can feel to tackle the whole kitchen at once don't get more out at one time than you can deal with, including the time needed to put stuff away. You don't want to start the process, pull EVERYTHING out, and then run out of time to deal with and then have piles of clutter everywhere. That's why I want you to only work on one or two cabinets or drawers at a time.
Second, as you pull stuff out from little used drawers or cabinets you will most likely see some really dusty stuff during this Challenge. If you want, fill your sink with some warm soapy water so you can give things a quick clean up as you go along. (This is not mandatory, but I know some people can't stand dusty stuff once they see it.)
Third, as you completely empty a drawer or cabinet it is the perfect time to vacuum or sweep out the dust from inside the cabinet, or line (or reline) the shelves or drawers, if you wish. Again, this is not mandatory and if it will slow you down too much, don't do it. However, it is a great opportunity if you have the time and desire to do this task.
The first step of the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is to recall what you determined were the functions of your kitchen as part of last week's kitchen organization challenge. If you don't know or recall what I'm talking about, take a minute and re-read that portion of last week's challenge.
Keeping these functions in mind as you work on the subsequent steps below will help you know what to declutter completely, what to store in a different area of the house, and how to arrange the stuff you keep in your kitchen cabinets and drawers.
The second step in the Kitchen Drawers and Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is removing the excess stuff from your cabinets and drawers, so there is actually room in them for what you want to store.
The goal for your kitchen drawers should be to allow them to open and close smoothly, and for you to be able to retrieve what you need from them quickly without having to search around too long.
The goal for your kitchen cabinets and cupboards should be to retrieve things without having to unstack and restack too much, especially for those things used on a daily basis, and for nothing to fall out on us as we open the doors.
You may need to be ruthless, and remove more and more stuff until you can meet these goals. That might mean doing a couple rounds of purging, until you pare it down enough.
The first part of the kitchen cabinet organization challenge's decluttering phase is to remove all the stuff from your kitchen drawers and cabinets that should not be in your house anymore. These items should be thrown away or donated to charity.
Here are examples of these types of items:
The next step in the decluttering process of kitchen cabinet organization can also be be difficult, and that is removing things that should really go somewhere else in your home.
First, remove and put in a better place all the stuff that doesn't serve the functions of your kitchen. For example, if you've got lots of medicine in your kitchen cabinets, but you've decided that should go elsewhere instead, move it now. (We'll organize medicines in a later week of the challenge.)
For a detailed list of which of the 15 minute decluttering missions pertain to this room of the house check out the getting rid of kitchen clutter hall of fame, which also has inspiration of what others have accomplished with these challenges in their kitchen.
Then, everything that you have left, and that is related to a kitchen function, should be sorted in the next step.
Decluttering your drawers and cabinets can become very overwhelming if you do it all at once, and make quite a mess. Here's my article on how to declutter your kitchen cabinets, and also my article for decluttering kitchen drawers, both with step by step instructions for how to do this without getting your kitchen into a worse state during the process than you have to to get the job done.
The third step in the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is to sort the items you've decided to keep in your home, and will most likely stay in the kitchen, into one of three types.
Your kitchen drawers and cabinets only have so much "real estate," or space to place items. Some of that real esate is very easy to get to, such as a drawer right by the sink, and some may be difficult to get to, such as the cabinets requiring you to stand on a step stool to access them.
Gain more space in your cabinets by using shelf
organizers for dishes [Purchase on Amazon.com]
The rule for kitchen drawer and kitchen cabinet organization is that the more often you use something, the easier it should be to get to.
If you're still concerned that you don't have enough space in your cabinets and drawers for what you've got left after decluttering, take a hard look at the seldom used items and maybe do another round of purging. In addition, consider putting some of these items elsewhere if you are going to keep them, in another storage area in the house, so you aren't taking up prime real estate with the roasting pan you only use at Thanksgiving, for example.
Anything used seldomly, but that will stay in the kitchen, should go in the least accessible places. Be careful, however, with high storage areas, such as on top of your kitchen cabinets, or even in high cabinets. Only large things which are light should go up high, and not things which are very heavy, or need to be stacked or nested. Things that are heavy or need stacking, but are used seldomly, should go in the far back of the inaccessible lower cabinet, for example.
Now, in the next step you'll begin placing all the stuff you use daily or often in the rest of your kitchen drawers and cabinets. In that step of the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge you'll be giving priority first to the items you use every day, and then the often used items, giving stuff used often the most "prime" real estate in your kitchen.
This final step in the Kitchen Drawer And Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is where you actually organize the stuff you have left. The key to this step is to place stuff where it would most logically go, to make it easy for you to grab when you need it.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to think of your kitchen in terms of "zones" or areas of use. Then, make sure you keep the stuff close to where you'll use it. For example, pots and pans should be close to the stove, and the paring knife should be close to the kitchen sink and cutting board.
Here are some common kitchen zones you should consider using, and the items that should be in them. (Please note that there will be some overlap between zones so don't get too caught up in splitting zones up, versus what works for you. Further, your kitchen layout may not be ideal, so just do the best you can with what you've got. Just thinking it through can improve the space you've got to work in dramaticaly, even if it isn't "perfect" or doesn't exactly follow the rules below.)
Don't stack cutting boards and
cooking sheets for easier
access [Get on Amazon.com]
The food prep zone is the area where you cut, chop, clean, mix, stir, etc. the food you are preparing. This area needs some open counterspace, and most likely will be close to the sink.
You should keep items such as your knives, cutting board, mixing bowls, mixers and blenders, measuring cups and spoons in this zone.
The cooking zone is where you do your cooking, either on the stove or in the oven (or microwave). It should therefore be close to these appliances.
Simple Human sink caddy is an example of
keeping dishwashing zone organized
[Purchase on Amazon.com]
The dishes and dishwashing zone is the area where you keep your everyday dishes and eating utensils.
(Your good china and silver should most likely be stored elsewhere. Check out other portions of the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge for hints on storage for china, glassware and crystal and storing silver.)
This area should be close to the dishwasher and/or sink for ease of cleaning up and putting everything back away after use. You should also keep dishwashing supplies in this area, or in a sub-zone of this area, such as dish soap, sponges, dish cloths, etc.
Please note that if you've got children it is a good idea to have a special section, within their reach, for certain types of dishes, such as non-breakable cups or bowls so they can get themself a drink or water or a bowl of cereal for breakfast without your assistance. Trust me, it will save your sanity to have this easy access area for them, and will be worth the time invested in the whole Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge!
In addition, if you want your kids to set the table or put away dishes from the dishwasher, make sure they can reach these items without difficulty or you won't be able to assign them these chores.
Here's my tips for how to declutter dishes, because you only want to keep the stuff you need in your cabinet because otherwise they will be overloaded.
The eating zone should contain things you use on a regular basis for eating meals, such as tablecloths, napkins, salt and pepper shakers, serving bowls or platters, etc. It could also contain bibs for the baby.
Please note that the serving bowls and platters I'm referring to for this zone should be things you use regularly, not the ones you use only on special or holiday occassions.
Idealy the items for this zone should be stored close to the kitchen table, or dining room table, whichever you normally eat your meals at.
We will focus on the food storage zone in the next couple of weeks of the challenge, so don't start tackling it just yet during the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge this week. However, if you don't have a dedicated pantry, you may need to save some space in your cabinets or cupboards for some food storage so I mention it now just so you can keep it in mind.
Further, a non-food item that does belong near the food storage zone are the supplies you use for saving leftovers, such as aluminum foil, plastic baggies, and kitchen wrap, and you may wish to organize those types of items this week as well.
That concludes the main zones in the kitchen. Really think through where stuff should ideally go in your kitchen based on those zones and shift things around until they make sense, and fit in the space alotted. This step of the Kitchen Drawers and Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is what will make your kitchen feel functional, and end up saving you a lot of time, since things will be easier for you to use when needed.
I also thought I would give special attention to three common areas in our kitchens that can be organizational challenges, so you can think through how you'll handle them as part of the Kitchen Drawers And Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge.
Separate items in kitchen drawers with
dividers [Available on Amazon.com]
Every home seems to have a junk drawer, and most likely it's in the kitchen. There is nothing wrong with a junk drawer -- if it actually gets used to retrieve miscellaneous items often, like twist ties, rubber bands, etc.
If it is a waste land where stuff goes in, and never comes out though, get rid of that stuff and put it in a more permanent place or the trash can.
The key to a functional junk drawer is to clean it out periodically, such as once a month. That way it keeps its handy functions without being overrun and cluttered to the point that it's no longer useful.
You can check out the ideas for how to organize your junk drawer here, which features lots of before and after pictures from readers who've taken on this challenge.
I asked on the site's Facebook wall what people's problem was in the kitchen, and many people mentioned Tupperware and plastic food storage containers, along with reusable water bottles.
The most important step in dealing with this area of kitchen cabinet organization is to make sure you aren't trying to save too many of these containers. Do you really need that many water bottles, or plastic containers? You should start by paring down your food storage containers and water bottles.
Next, consider square containers that nest instead of round containers which take up lots of room. In addition, keep the lids of the containers in a separate drawer or basket, so they don't fall out when you open the cabinet door.
There are so many great ways to organize these containers, so I would love for you to share in the comments what works for you, to give other people ideas and suggestions. If you've got pictures to share, please do so in the creative storage solutions section of the site, and the best ones just might make it into the hall of fame.
Under sink shelf organizer to keep items
within easy reach [Purchase on Amazon.com]
Finally, under the sink can become a wasteland for cleaning supplies, sponges, etc. and become a mess quite quickly, so I wanted to address it as part of this week's Challenge.
Again, the key is really to declutter the area and think about how you want to use it, instead of it being a catch all area where you throw stuff. Here's my article on how to declutter under your kitchen sink for more guidance.
Once you've decluttered you can also use some of the kitchen storage solutions ideas below to containerize the area, and make it more functional.
Please remember too, that if you do keep anything toxic or dangerous to children or pets under your sink to childproof the area to make sure that no one in your family gets harmed, since this is an easily accessible area.
Make sure to check out these ideas for under kitchen sink cabinet organization shared by readers, including lots of pictures of what they did as part of this challenge.
When doing the Kitchen Drawers and Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge you may realize you need more storage space in your kitchen, to make it more functional. Here are some ideas for ways to maximize the space you have, to easily find what you need in your kitchen quickly.
6 piece kitchen cabinet organizer set
[Available on Amazon.com]
I would love to know how this week's kitchen cabinet organization challenge is going. You can tell me your progress or give me more ideas for how you've organized this area of your home below in the comments.
I also love before and after pictures of kitchen cabinet organization, and would love to see some of yours. Submit your pictures (up to four per submission) and get featured in the Creative Storage Solutions Hall of Fame. You've worked hard to get organized, so now here's your chance to show off!
Lots of people have written in showing me what they've done so far, and I'm busy trying to get everyone's pictures up in the hall of fame. Here's what I've got up so far:
We're working on our homes slowly, one area at a time, so don't get too distracted from the kitchen cabinet organization challenge, and focusing on your cabinets, drawers and under the sink this week. However, I want you to know that we're focusing on the kitchen for a couple of weeks, so you don't have to do it all this week.
Next week we'll begin focusing on organizing the food storage areas in the kitchen, first starting with organizing the pantry and then the next week after that moving on to the refrigerator and freezer. Since the kitchen needs so much organization and constant attention, because it is used so often, I've given us plenty of time to get it done.
I've had a lot of growth in the newsletter again, over the past week, so I again wanted to take the time to welcome everyone who has joined the challenges. There are over 200,000 who have signed up for email alerts for this challenge! Thanks so much, and I can't help but think how amazing it is.
I've heard from so many of you already, either here in the comments for this site, on the Facebook wall, or in the Declutter 365 Facebook group expressing your excitement to get started and make 2016 a great and organized year for yourself, your home and your family. I am honored that you'd let me help you with this goal, and I don't want to disappoint.
I just want you to remember not to get burned out by taking on too much too quickly! This week's challenge, and also the 52 week challenge and Declutter 365 missions, as a whole, are all about going slowly, and building habits as we go along. Your house doesn't have to get organized all at once. In addition, don't feel like if you've missed a challenge or two you can't even begin. Instead, just do what you can, when you can, and feel good about your accomplishments.
Let's not let the enthusiasm die down, and give up as can happen with many New Year's Resolutions. So many of you have shared how much clearing off your kitchen counters helped your everyday life. Making life easier is the reason you started this challenge, and if you continue I know you'll see positive results. The same thing will happen as you complete each challenge over the course of the year, so let's keep up the good work! If needed, get an accountability partner and do the challenges together (I know quite a few of you are already doing this!)
If you can't find a partner easily, you can use me as your accountability partner by sending me before and after pics as part of the Creative Storage Solutions and Home Organization Hall of Fame. I really do want you to succeed, so feel free to tell me your accomplishments. I love to hear what's going on, plus I think all the great pictures of what others have accomplished can be quite motivating. If you haven't checked out this section of the site yet, I encourage you to do so to get motivated, or to share your accomplishements to help others get motivated too.
In addition, join the Declutter 365 Facebook group where I post, daily, the day's declutter mission, following along directly with the calendar. This is an encouraging group, and provides a lot of motivation for participants.
Similarly, you can also see the daily missions now on Instagram, so follow me on Instagram here to join that growing community.
If you're enjoying these challenges, and feel like they're helping you I would appreciate you passing them along to someone else who may also benefit from them. Each of you has already really helped me spread the word with social media, and I would appreciate any additional support you can give. It really does make a HUGE difference.
Finally, remember I really would love to hear how it's going, so be sure to keep me updated on your kitchen cabinet organization progress!
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I would love to hear from you, sharing your thoughts, questions, or ideas about this topic, so leave me a comment below. I try to always respond back!