Organizing Kitchen Cupboards and Maximizing Storage

Get Organized

Spending an afternoon organizing kitchen cupboards makes your entire kitchen feel bigger and easier to use.

Disorganized and cluttered kitchen cupboards are a problem even if you don’t cook often. Unused gadgets waste space. Plus, when you can’t find what you need, you’re likely to buy unnecessary duplicates.

The more crowded your cupboards are, the more likely the excess will wind up on your countertops. Then, not only using the kitchen but trying to clean it becomes difficult.

Woman in modern kitchen looking looking at open cabinet as she gets ready to organize her kitchen cupboards
Woman organizing kitchen cupboard

How to Organize Your Kitchen Cupboards

Learn how to declutter your kitchen cupboards and then maximize hidden storage space to make them useful to you.
2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs


  • Boxes to hold clutter you're donating
  • Trash bags


  • Cleaning supplies


Prepare to Declutter Your Kitchen Cabinets

  • Find a spot for your empty donation box and trash bags.
  • Take everything out of your kitchen cupboards and drawers, setting things on your counters or table as you do. Go ahead and throw out things you know at first glance are trash.
    Then, look through the rest to find more stuff to toss as well as things you should donate or give away.
    Kitchenware spread out on a floor and open kitchen cupboard

These Things Don't Belong in Your Kitchen Cupboards

  • Expired canned goods. The date on a container doesn't really tell you when a food is no longer safe to eat. Brush up on what food expiration dates mean before you toss out stuff. But definitely get rid of any bulging or leaking cans.
  • Anything that's broken. We've all got broken things we plan to fix one day. Eventually, not finding time to fix something is a clear sign that you don't really need it. So, why not get rid of it?
    Please don't add broken items to your donation box, though: charity shops don't have the time or resources to fix things. If you don't want to throw it away, consider listing the item on eBay or Craigslist. Some people buy broken things so they can fix and resell them.
    Dried and cracked wooden spoon closeup
  • Worn out stuff. From cracked wooden spoons to chipped glasses and ratty teatowels, you probably avoid using things that are no longer in good shape. Don't let them take up room in your kitchen cupboards.
  • Stale or rancid foods. Herbs or spices that have lost their scent need to go. The same for cereal, crackers, or chips left in unsealed containers. Oils that smell "off" are rancid and will ruin any food you use them in, so don't keep them in your cupboard

More Kitchen Clutter to Get Rid Of

  • If it's hard for you to figure out what you should get rid of and what you should keep, see How to Decide What's Clutter and What's Not. Below are a few more examples to get you started.
  • Cookware, serving ware, or storage containers that are too big (or too small) for your family. For example, a 2-serving casserole dish might have been perfect when you first set up house, but it's too small to feed a family. Don't hold onto things that don't fit the stage of life you're living.
  • Cooking gadgets and utensils for foods you never (or rarely ever) make. Maybe you used to love throwing fondue parties but no longer do. Or you were going to grow alfalfa sprouts but decided it was too much hasse. Let go of things that aren't useful to the interests and lifestyle you have now.
  • Anything that didn't live up to its hype. From garlic peelers that didn't speed up the work to an indoor grill that you avoid using because it sets off your smoke alarm — if you hate using it, don't keep it.
  • Gifts and freebies you're only keeping due to guilt. Just because you didn't pay for something doesn't mean you have to keep it. If you don't love seeing or using it, don't give it space in your kitchen.
  • Excess items. Souvenir glasses and coffee mugs seem to multiply behind closed doors. You probably don't need all the ones in your cupboard. So, pick a few favorites and part with the rest. A good rule of thumb is to have one for everyone in your home who might use it, and two extra in case you have guests.
  • Canned or boxed foods your family will not eat. Did you buy a can of lima beans in the hope of eating healthier, but it's only gathered dust? It happens to us all. But please don't throw good food away. Take it to a local food bank or share it with a neighbor.
    A box full of canned goods for donation


  • The point of organizing your kitchen cupboards is to make your kitchen useful and efficient. But, what's "useful" and "efficient" is different for everyone.
    For someone who cooks, it's important to have easy access to pots and pans, kitchen utensils, and other such things. Someone who mostly dines out would want easy access to storage containers for leftovers.
  • So, before you start putting things away in your kitchen cupboards, give some real thought to how you use your kitchen.
    Where do you reach most often? You'll want to store frequently-used things there. What cupboards are challening to use? That's where stuff you rarely need belongs. (It's also a great place for the stash of candy you're hiding from the kids.)

Unbox Dry Goods

  • Paper packaging and open containers lead to infestations of pantry moths and other pests. Transfer your food to airtight containers, instead, to keep it fresh and pest-free.
    Unboxed dry goods in jars on a shelf
  • Clear containers let you see what's inside so you can skip labels. But, if you like the look of neatly labeled items, choose ones that can be wiped clean and reused. These chalkboard labels, for example, can be used several times and are big enough that you can write cooking instructions on the container, too

Group Like with Like

  • It's easier to find things grouped by function. So, think about what you do most often in your kitchen. Then, go through the things you've removed from your cupboards and group them by use.
  • For example, if you bake a lot, it makes sense to keep your little jars of sprinkles, frosting bag, and cupcake liners in the same cupboard as your muffin pan and cookie cutters.
    Or, if you're a tea lover, group your assorted teas with your sugar bowl, fancy cups and saucers, teapot and cozy.

Make More Space in Your Cupboards

  • Hang your pots and pans. If you've got a gap between cupboards above your kitchen sink, why not install a pot rack there? You'll free up an entire cupboard and make them easy to reach, too. Plus, they can drip dry!
    Pots and pans hanging in space above kitchen sink
  • Reclaim wasted space. Mostly, this is about looking for spots in your kitchen that could be more useful. For example, you can free up a shelf of spices by using magnetic containers to store them on the side of your fridge. (I use these and love them.)
    Or empty your kitchen utensil drawer by installing a magnetic knife bar on your backsplash to hold them. You don't even have to drill holes — Command Strips will keep the knife bar attached to your wall or tile without damaging it.
  • Add extra shelving. If you can't add additional shelves, a wire under-shelf basket is the next best thing. (I use these to hold small salad plates in the bare spot above our regular dinner plates, and in my food container cupboard to keep lids from going everywhere.)
  • Use tiered storage. Cupcake stands are a great way to maximize vertical storage space. Put one to work holding your potatoes, onions, or apples. Or hang a tiered wire basket from your ceiling.
  • Use tension rods. Adjustable tension rods, like those used to hang curtains, can help you maximize kitchen cupboard space.
    Installed horizontally under your kitchen sink, they're a great place to hang spray bottles of cleaning products. Just slip the bottle's trigger over the rod and, voila, you've got more room in the cabinet.
    Installed vertically in the cupboard where you keep baking sheets, they create dividers that keep things tidy.
    Installed lengthwise in a drawer, they can keep your gadgets, measuring cups, and other utensils neatly accessible.

Where Things Belong in Your Cupboards

  • Now that you've grouped similar items and found hidden storage, it's time to start putting things away.
    Coffee cups hanging from hooks under cabinet frees up storage space
  • Dishes and glassware: Storing these in a cupboard near the dishwasher or sink makes it easier to put away clean ones.
    Don't stash your special occasion dishes with your daily ones, though. Give them a spot in a less accessible cupboard, or move them to a box in the basement if you don't need them in the next few months.
  • Utensils and gadgets: If you cook a lot, you may want to keep your most-often used spoons and spatulas in a crock on the counter. More into take-out? Pick a drawer or cupboard, so they don't sit on your counter collecting dust.
  • Foods, seasonings, and other ingredients: Try to keep these near your stove. If you cook often, you'll want them at eye-level, so they're easy to find.
  • Food storage containers: Grabbing a food storage container isn't usually urgent, so don't give them prime real estate in your kitchen. Still, you don't want it to be a hassle to put away leftovers after a big meal, so try to find them an eye-level or knee-height spot if you can.

How Often Should You Do This?

  • Just as the way you use your kitchen changes over time, the way you store things in your cupboards should change, too. Don't be afraid to move things around to make it easier to get items out or put them away.
  • Finally, remember that all decluttering and home organization projects are ongoing. Even if you're good about tidying cupboards as you put things away, you may want to repeat these steps as part of your Spring Cleaning. That way, your kitchen cupboards will always remain clutter-free and useful to you.

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