Have you ever walked into someone's kitchen and been immediately struck by how tidy it is? Like, it's not just clean—who knew floors could sparkle? Where are the dirty breakfast dishes?—but it's also so logically organized that when you go to grab a water glass, you somehow guess right on the first try.
Believe it or not, these people aren't magical unicorns from a realm of perfection; most of them have just picked up and stuck to some key life hacks for ensuring the bustling center of their home remains manageable and orderly. That's great news because all you need to do is adopt these tricks, and you'll be just like them!
The key to staying organized and keeping everything running smoothly is making plans. If you regularly think ahead and write down any of your shopping needs or kitchen to-dos ahead of time, you won’t be scrambling at the grocery store only to come home and realize you forgot bread.
You can make do with notepads or little written notes, but keeping a whiteboard in the kitchen makes it easy to just jot down your needs when they pop into your head and quickly transfer them to your phone before you head to the store.
Chances are, if you make grocery lists, you’re just throwing the items on there as you think of them. Before heading into the store, take some time to look at your list and group them into categories—all the baking goods go together, all the dairy, and so on.
This will not only make sure you don’t leave anything off, but it will save you time and money. If you’re not darting back and forth across the store, you’ll have fewer chances to grab those impulse snacks and other goods. Level up by sorting your categories so you can just make one smooth sweep across the store!
After a long shopping trip, most people just want to throw their groceries in the kitchen and then go about their day. Unfortunately, the time you save doing that will only cost you in the future. Take the little bit of extra time you need to organize and prep things now to make your life easier later. This can be anything from separating and freezing perishable goods like meat, to chopping up veggies, to doing full meal prep for the week as you put things up.
It is so easy to grab something from the fridge and then just place it back wherever you want. But, do this a dozen times a day, and suddenly your fridge is a realm of chaos where finding anything requires the sharp senses of a detective. Toss out old food, keep similar items together, and try to avoid the temptation to just place items wherever there’s room.
Pantries are both an incredible gift and a curse for kitchens. The extra room they provide is a key part of staying organized, but they often end up as catch-all storage for anything that doesn’t belong in the fridge.
Find ways to keep things grouped to save you both time and space. Storage containers for baking ingredients and pasta are great, and turntables for canned goods are a lifesaver. Consider dating everything and always pulling older goods to the front.
Have you ever found some leftovers in the fridge and had to do the math to see when you cooked them? Or worse, couldn’t even recognize what it was? Keep some handy labels and pens close by so you can eliminate these issues entirely. No more confusing your all-purpose flour for your cake flour or Monday’s meatloaf for last February’s.
Plus, you can even label your shelves and storage spaces so you—and guests—remember what should go there. Reusable labels and dry-erase markers are popular choices for many kitchens.
Nothing is worse than trying to prep a meal and having to work around dirty dishes, kitchen gadgets, a purse, the mail, and random loaves of bread. Try to give each appliance a home, preferably in a cabinet close to the spot you normally use it. Doing dishes after a meal may not seem appealing, but your future self will thank you when you’re not competing for counter space with stained soup bowls.
Additionally, look at everything on your counters and ask, does this really need to be here? If not, find a new location.
Some people think of all food-related utensils as the same and just toss them into the same drawer. Then, when it comes time to hunt down the whisk or that one larger spoon, it takes rifling through dozens of pieces of silverware to find them. Keep silverware in a drawer separate from the rest of the utensils, preferably with a divider that allows you to keep them organized, as well.
When separating all of your tools and utensils, think about which ones you use the most. For the typical kitchen, this will include knives, wooden spoons, spatulas, and similar objects. Place these in easily accessible areas, so you’re not having to dig through drawers while cooking. Knife blocks or magnetic hangers are great for knife collections, and a classic utensil pot will always be helpful.
Not all of us are blessed with massive kitchens and endless cabinet space, so we have to make do with the available room. This means finding ways to maximize the storage spaces. Turntables are easy ways to fit more objects into a small area. Vertical storage options for stackable items like pans and plates are also far better than horizontal ones. Shelf risers are super useful for this purpose.
While some people have the disposition to make cleaning fun and do a great job keeping stuff spotless, they are like unicorns. Many people tend to do some surface-level cleaning and leave it at that. The best way to make sure everything stays clean while avoiding massive cleaning days is to just set a routine.
Set days where you clean specific parts of your kitchen, and make sure to schedule repeats for high-use areas, including door knobs, light switches, handles, and counter spaces.
Beyond categorizing a single cabinet or shelf, try doing it for your entire kitchen. Create separate “storage zones” for different classes of items. Keep objects you use daily in the areas that you can most easily access.
Holiday stuff should get its own space, further away from your main cooking areas. Assign some shelves or cabinet space to items you’ll need when entertaining guests, whether that’s the nice glasses and dishes or plastic cups and disposable plates.
Every year there are a few holidays that completely take over the kitchen for weeks before and after their arrival. Start planning for the holidays ahead of time and create some room for seasonal items. This could mean clearing out your freezer and refrigerator to house a massive turkey or finding some shelves for that lovely holiday wine.
You know your family and their get-togethers best, so predict what will create the most clutter and nip it in the bud.
Most of us have at least a couple of cookbooks we reference once in a while, but highly organized people don't keep things they aren't using anymore. If you have stacks of splattered cookbooks that haven't been cracked since your Julia Child phase 10 years ago, it's time for a purge.
Go through and choose the recipes you actually feel excited about trying. Cut them out or type them up and keep this stack in a three-ring binder with clear protector sheers. Organize everything by category, and you'll never be flipping through yellowed pages with sticky fingers again!
The absolute biggest part of keeping your kitchen neat and tidy is to clean it as you go. Wipe down counters after you do your meal prep. Give the stovetop a quick scrub before the spills harden. Do the dishes right after you eat, so they don’t accumulate.
Doing small bits of work regularly will dramatically reduce your overall frustration in the kitchen. Plus, you’ll start building good habits. Eventually, these tasks will become so ingrained you won't even roll your eyes when you have to wring out the sponge yet again.