Monday, February 10, 2020

How to Organize Your Kitchen Cabinets Into Zones to Maximize Functionality

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I've had many people ask how we organize our kitchen cabinets, so today I'm sharing how I divided ours into zones to maximize the functionality of the entire room.  By creating zones, this allows you to keep everything you need for each process in one designated spot which streamlines everything.  Now, this is one of my famous super-long organization posts, so settle in for every single detail about what we store in all of our cabinets and drawers and why we store them where we do.    

One of the main tasks on my to-do list for 2019 was to maximize functionality in every single space in our house.  The main room I wanted to focus on was obviously the kitchen as kitchens hold a lot of stuff.  We had our kitchen cabinets painted white inside and out at the beginning of last year and it’s literally my favorite thing that we did in 2019.  Going from super dark cabinets to light, bright, and white ones has been incredible because I can actually see everything in them now!!  It’s truly amazing what a little bit of paint will do.

Because we had to pull every single item out of the cabinets while they were being painted, that gave me the perfect opportunity to assess our arrangement, decide what was working and what wasn’t, and rearrange some things to enable our kitchen cabinets to function at their maximum potential.  I ended up cleaning out and donating lots of items and rearranging several things, and we now have a perfectly organized kitchen.  In fact, it’s been almost one year since we made the changes and everything is still perfectly organized all these months later… I attribute that to the fact that every single item has its own logical place to call home.  

As a matter of fact, when I photographed the insides of the cabinets and drawers for the this post, I literally just opened each of them and snapped the pictures... I didn't have to rearrange anything to make them look more presentable or anything like that.  They are just always this organized now that everything has its own place to call home.

I did purchase a few accessories to help maximize our space and aid with the organization process:

White Storage Trays (rectangle)
White Storage Trays (slim)
White Storage Trays (square)
3-Tier Spice Cabinet Organizer
Drawer Dividers
Cabinet Shelf Rack   
Shelf Paper (similar)

Before I get into the organization details, I’m going to define the three sections of cabinets in our kitchen so you know which ones I’m referring to when I talk about them:

Main Unit – this is the big L-shaped set of cabinets in the heart of the kitchen.  This is where we store all of the items that we use the most.

Unit Left of the Refrigerator – this is the section of cabinets between the entry to our garage and our refrigerator.  Since it’s so far from my primary food prep area, we use that section of cabinets to store lesser-used items, and we also use part of it to store items that we need as we’re walking out the door since they are right next to the door that leads to our garage. 

Unit in the Island – this is the small section of cabinets in the island in the middle of the kitchen. 

Now that you understand the general layout, I’m going to share each of the different zones and discuss why I chose to put everything where I did.  I’ll discuss each set of cabinets starting with the Main Unit (cabinets then drawers) and then I’ll move on to the Unit to Left of the Refrigerator and then the Unit in the Island.  Y’all with me?  Let’s do it!

Main Unit – Cabinets

Cabinet 1 – Paper Towel Zone and Dog Zone

The cabinet above the dishwasher is a bit awkward because it’s all alone and it’s not near my primary cooking area.  Because of this, I knew it didn’t make sense to put dishes or glasses or anything like that over there, and instead we needed some kind of miscellaneous items that don’t otherwise have a logical place to go.

We buy paper towels in bulk at Sam’s to save money which means that we have a lot on hand at any given time, and therefore, they need their own cabinet space.  Since the paper towel holder is located on the counter just under that cabinet, I thought it made perfect sense to make the top two shelves the “Paper Towel Zone.”  I can reach the bottom shelf of paper towels without assistance, and then B just moves more down for me as we use them.  That allows us to utilize that upper shelf, but we don’t have to worry about constantly struggling to get things down from there.  #Winning

Since we had a couple of extra shelves remaining in that cabinet, I made the bottom two shelves the “Dog Zone.”  We use Maui’s (our dog) items frequently so it made sense to have them on the shelves that are the easiest to reach.  We store all of her little sweaters and extra collars on the top of her two shelves, and the bottom shelf is where we keep her food, treats, and medication.  That cabinet is also the closest to her food bowls so we don’t have to walk far to fill up her bowls each day.

Cabinet 2 – Food Storage Container Zone

One of my biggest pet peeves in life is not being able to find matching bottoms and lids for food storage.  Because of this, I keep all of our food storage containers together in this one cabinet and they are organized to the max.  The top shelf houses the lesser used ones, the second shelf holds the extra large ones + a few old Cool Whip containers that I can send home with people, and then the two bottom shelves hold my commonly used storage containers + their lids.  These are kept in this cabinet because it’s right near where we box up leftovers after dinner.  Easy peasy.

Cabinet 3 – Lunchbox Zone and Miscellaneous Cookware Zone

The bottom two shelves of cabinet 3 contain everything I need for lunch-making – lunchboxes, lunchbox containers, thermoses, napkins, plastic utensils, a notepad and pen for writing lunchbox notes, and I even have a list of lunchbox ideas hanging on the inside of the cabinet.  I dedicated an entire post to this cabinet and you can see it here if you’d like more details.  All of this stuff is kept in this prime spot because it’s right next to the spot on the counter where I make the kids’ lunches each morning. 

The two upper shelves in this cabinet are used to store all of the miscellaneous items that don’t fit into any of the other categories – large measuring cups, microwave bacon cover, popsicle molds, etc.  These are all items that I don’t use very often, so they don’t need to be in an easy-to-reach spot.

Cabinet 4 – Spices and Baking Staples Zone

I dedicated this entire cabinet to all of my spices and common baking/cooking supplies like olive oil, baking powder, etc.  Prior to this, I stored everything in the pantry, but it just didn’t make sense storing them on the other side of the room when I use them all so frequently.  Now all of my frequently used items are right at my fingertips.

Cabinets 5 & 6 – Dinnerware Zone

These two cabinets hold all of our plates, saucers, bowls, and mugs.  There is so much extra room that I’m able to store all of my holiday mugs in different zones as well.  These are stored just above the counter where I typically dish our food each evening.  We typically eat in the kitchen and our table is pretty small so there’s not room to have a giant spread of food in the middle.  Therefore, we just dish our plates at the counter and keep the extra food warm on the stove while we eat. 

Cabinets 7 & 8 – Extra Plastic Storage Bags Zone

We buy plastic storage bags (Ziplocs) in bulk to save money, and we store all of the extra boxes in the cabinets above the stove.  The empty space inside those two cabinets is awkward since the stove vent runs up the middle so there’s not much else we could put there anyway.  That cabinet also happens to be right across from where we store the open boxes of plastic bags (in the drawer in the island – more on that later) so the extra boxes are right at our fingertips when we need to replenish. 

Cabinets 9 & 10 – Everyday Drinkware Zone

These two cabinets house all of the everyday plastic cups, glasses, and water bottles that Brian and I use.  We do not store the kids’ cups here, though, as they can’t reach.  I’ll share more about the kids’ zone shortly.

Cabinets 11 & 12 – Cleaning Supplies Zone

Right under that pull-out tray are the two cabinets under the sink.  The left cabinet houses all of our extra hand soaps and dish soaps for the kitchen.  Again, I like to buy in bulk when things are on sale, so we typically have a lot on hand.  The right cabinet houses all of our household cleaners (which I rarely use anymore thanks to my clean Young Living products) and it also houses my non-fancy glass vases and watering can.  I think it goes without saying why we store those things in those particular cabinets.

Cabinets 13 & 14 - Small Appliances Zone

The two cabinets to the right of the sink are very spacious so they are the perfect place to store all of our small appliances that we don’t use daily – slow cooker, food processor, waffle iron, mixer, blender, etc.  I prepare food on the counter space just next to these cabinets, so the appliances are right at my fingertips when I need them.  In the left cabinet, I also store our dish drying mat when it’s not in use.  That way it’s right next to the sink so I can grab it easily when I need it but it doesn’t have to be on the counter all the time.  I love that it has a home. 

Cabinets 15 & 16 – Pots and Pans Zone

These cabinets house all of our pots and pans, cutting boards, and colanders.  These cabinets are right under the counter space where I do all of the cooking and they are right next to the stove, so they’re perfectly placed. 

Cabinets 17 & 18 – Bakeware Zone

These cabinets house all of our baking dishes, cake pans, cheesecake pans, muffin tins, etc.  I chose to put these on the other side of the oven away from my main cooking space because I don’t use them as much as I do the pots and pans.  And just a side note, all of our baking (cookie) sheets are stored in the drawer under the oven.

Main Unit – Drawers

Drawer 1 – Cleaning Sponges Zone

All of our cleaning sponges are stored in the pull-out tray under the sink.  I love our builder every single day for utilizing that space!  The tray is lined with plastic cups so we can store things in there while they’re wet and we don’t have to worry about the wood getting ruined.  We keep our cleaning wand/sponge, bottle brushes, and straw brushes in there so they are all right at our fingertips while we’re washing dishes.  The drain stopper is stored in there as well.

Drawer 2 – Dish Rags & Towels Zone

A couple of years ago we had oodles and oodles of dish towels but I found that we pretty much used the same four or five over and over and never touched the others.  So I simplified and we now only keep about 3-4 dish rags and 3-4 dish towels on hand.  Therefore, they can all fit in one small drawer.  They are stored in this particular drawer because it’s right next to the sink which is obviously where we use them the most!

Drawer 3 – Cookie Cutter Zone

Yes, I know it seems a little excessive to have an entire drawer dedicated just to cookie cutters, but we have so many of them that they do, indeed, take up an entire drawer.  We don’t need the drawer for anything else, so we might as well utilize it for something, right?  Our cookie cutters are typically not even used for cookies, and instead, are mostly used for cutting out sandwiches in fun shapes.  Therefore, these are stored in the drawer just under the lunchbox zone as they’re typically used for lunch-making.  On the left – everyday cutters, on the right – holiday/themed cutters.

Drawer 4 – Cooking Gadgets Zone

This drawer holds all of our kitchen gadgets like the handheld can opener, bottle opener, measuring spoons, small measuring cups, cheese grater, potato peeler, mixer tongs, etc.  This drawer is right by the main area of the counter where I prepare all of our food so everything is within reach.

Drawer 5 – Dinnerware Utensils Zone

This drawer houses our forks, spoons, knives, and serving utensils.  This drawer is directly below the Dinnerware Zone (plates, bowls, etc.) so everything is together which makes setting the table a breeze. 

Drawer 6 – Potholders Zone

This drawer houses all of our pot holders as well as my oven mitts.  This drawer is right next to the oven so that just makes sense!  ;o)

Drawer 7 – Grilling Zone

This drawer houses all of our grilling utensils as well as matches and lighters and skewers and other random grilling tools.  We obviously grill outside, so we don’t use these items in the house, and that’s why they’re in the drawer furthest from my cooking space… because they don’t need to be within arm’s reach.

Unit Left of the Refrigerator – Cabinets

Cabinets 19 & 20 – Barware Zone, Medical Zone, and Cookbook Zone

B and I are drinkers and we also love to host parties and get-togethers, so we have an extensive barware collection.  These two cabinets hold all of our bar glasses on the top three shelves – wine glasses, beer steins, margarita glasses, champagne glasses, martini glasses, copper mugs, shot glasses – we have them all!

We had some extra space in those cabinets, so I used the bottom left shelf to store a few commonly used medical items (Ibuprofen, Band-aids, etc.) so we don’t have to run upstairs to the medicine cabinet every time we need them.  We also keep the kids’ vitamins there since we usually remember to take them right as we’re walking out the door.

The bottom right shelf holds my cookbooks as well as my recipe box, but eventually these may be moved. 

Cabinet 21 – Liquor Zone

This cabinet houses all of our liquor as well as a basket for all of the koozies that we keep on hand for parties and such.  And the liquor zone is right next to the barware zone so it’s all together!  And most importantly, all of these items are stored up high where the kids can’t get to them.

Cabinets 22 & 23 – Bulk Products Overflow Zone

As I stated previously, we buy lots of items in bulk – paper towels, napkins, paper plates, plastic storage bags, etc.  Most of these items fit in their designated cabinets, but every once in a while we’ll have something that doesn’t.  In those instances, B just tosses them in these two cabinets over the fridge.  They’re impossible to get to, so we can’t keep anything in there that we use on a daily basis, but it’s nice to have them for times when we need them for overflow items.

Cabinets 24, 25, & 26 – Party and Hosting Zone

As I stated before, we tend to host big family get-togethers and we’ve thrown many parties over the years.  As a result of this, we have lots of leftover disposable plates and cups in every pattern and color of the rainbow.  The top shelf holds all of the disposable plates and cups as well as a box of disposable utensils. 

The bottom shelf is organized into boxes.  I have boxes to keep all of the smaller loose items organized and each box is labeled by category – holiday napkins, miscellaneous decorative napkins, straws, birthday cake toppers and candles, decorative items (such as balloons), bar cart accessories not in use, etc.  I also store our everyday napkins, tablecloths, place mats, and a couple of decorative items that we use outside on the patio in those cabinets.   

Unit Left of the Refrigerator – Drawers

Drawers 8 & 9 – “Leaving the House” Zone

There are many items that we reach for as we’re walking out the door – sunglasses, Chap Sticks, sunscreen, etc. so I thought it would be best to designate a couple of drawers specifically for these things.  In the left drawer, each person has their own little basket that stores their sunglasses and Chap Sticks.  Maui’s basket holds her leash.  And I also have a basket that holds our church envelopes since I usually don’t think about those until we’re walking out the door.  B doesn’t have a basket in this drawer because he just keeps everything in his office since it’s right there by the garage door.

The second drawer has three baskets – one that holds restaurant and store coupons, one that holds sunscreen, and one that holds bug repellent – all stuff that we reach for as we’re leaving the house. 

Both of these drawers are located right as you walk out the door that goes to our garage, so we can easily grab things on our way out. 

Drawer 10 – Office Supplies Zone

While we don’t technically have a junk drawer, this is about as close as we come to it.  This drawer houses notepads for making lists, pens and pencils, paperclips, stamps, envelopes, a stapler, staple remover, and tape… that way I don’t have to run all the way upstairs to my office if we need something.

Unit in the Island – Cabinets

Cabinets 27 & 28 – Kids Zone

There are only two cabinets in the kitchen island as it’s pretty small, so we decided to deem that the kids cabinet.  It’s low to the ground so they can reach everything easily, and it’s not near any other cabinets that house anything dangerous like household cleaners or sharp objects. 

The left cabinet holds all of their cups and thermoses and the right cabinet holds all of their special plates, bowls, and snack cups.  We also store their candy buckets on the bottom right shelf so they can get to them easily.

Unit in the Island – Drawers

Drawers 11 & 12 – Disposable Paper Storage Zone

The left drawer houses one box of each size of Ziploc bags – snack, sandwich, freezer quart, and gallon.  The right drawer houses aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and parchment paper.  It’s all close to where I do most of my food prep and clean-up!

Miscellaneous Notes

With regard to serving platters, I created a Serving Zone in the cabinets in the buffet table in our dining room.  All of our nice serving trays, platters, cake stands, punch bowls, and those kinds of things are stored there.  I don’t use those very often at all, so it didn’t make sense to have them taking up valuable kitchen cabinet space.  Plus, when I do use them, I almost always use them in that dining room, so it makes perfect sense to have them in there anyway. 

In addition to all of the cabinets, I’ve already mentioned that we have a pantry where we keep all of the non-perishable foods like cereal, bread, canned goods, and snacks. 

Then we also have a storage closet under the staircase where we keep batteries, flashlights, candles, a broom, a mop, a duster, the vacuum, and our trash can.  I like that the trash can is behind a closed door so we don’t ever have to worry about it smelling in the kitchen.   

Closing Advice

And that’s our kitchen cabinet organization!  Every single thing is right where I need it to be and cooking and emptying the dishwasher and putting things away have all been so much faster/easier since I’ve rearranged everything.  The very best part is that everything has stayed organized.  Every item has its own home so we know exactly where and how to put things back when we’re done with them. 

If I can give you three pieces of advice for organizing your own kitchen, the first would be to store items near where you're going to be using them... this will make your life so much easier because everything you need will always be at your fingertips and you won't waste time running all over and gathering supplies.  Second, don't overstuff your cabinets... simplify and only keep necessary items.  When your cabinets and drawers are too full, you'll be less likely to put items back where they belong and then your whole kitchen will eventually end up in a mess again.  And finally, MAKE SURE EVERY SINGLE ITEM HAS A DESIGNATED SPOT.  This is so important to ensure that your kitchen stays organized.

And all the mommas said AMEN!  Be sure to pin the image below my signature to bookmark this for when you decide to organize your kitchen!

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  1. WOW! Everything is very organized! I did a similar system not to long ago but I have the SMALLEST cabinets and drawers ever!

  2. I wish I had more cabinets! A lot of the things you keep in yours I have to have in the closet or laundry room.

  3. OK, I’m not kidding when I say you need to have your own organizational television show! Get organized with Lindsay!

  4. I love organization and when everything has it's own little place. I need to get more containers to put cereal and stuff in so it doesn't go stale! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  5. This is amazing! I never thought to keep the items I use most in the main prep area <3

    Green Fashionista

  6. Keeping items where I need to use them makes it more efficient for me, too. I have a few areas that I could do better at organizing. Thanks for the ideas!

  7. WOW!! I loved this post! thank you for labeling each cabinet! I am jealous of how many cabinets you have, but you gave me some good ideas!!!

  8. This is such a genius idea! I love the idea of having different zones, it makes tackling the kitchen so much more manageable xo

    Makeup Muddle

    1. Thank you! Yes it does! It has made life much easier, that's for sure. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Wow, I love seeing how people are organizing their spaces. Love that you have an out the door zone...and sunglasses and sunscreen, perfection! Great job organzing.

  10. I think I'm most impressed with Maui's sweater collection! haha It was such a change for me when I started keeping the ziplocs and tin foil and such in a drawer. I don't know why it had never occurred to me until I saw someone else do it.

  11. I am SO JEALOUS of all your cabinet/drawer space! You have it organized to the max (I would expect no less!), and it really makes so much sense. You know when things are done well when things look this darn good so long after your major clean out! Here's to hoping you have some more organization posts up your sleeve this year, because I love them!

  12. Keeping the tupperware organized is so key! I organized my kitchen very similarly, except I have way less space, so no bulk buying for me!

  13. This is amazing. On my checklist now...organize the kitchen cabinets. I love how you grouped everything together in zones!!

  14. Lindsay, nice organizing of your kitchen cabinets. I like your selection of accessories. I'm using the white storage trays the rectangle one. These trays are plain plastic: rather thin but serve their purpose to organize household items. I sorted out my yard sprinkler risers and stream heads in them for a quick retrieval.

    Regards |

    1. That's awesome! It just makes life so much easier to have things organized!


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