First, the kitchen in the photograph isn't mine, I just really hate my counter tops and can't bear to share at this point. Organizing a small kitchen is incredibly rewarding.
When I moved from a two-bedroom California Bungalow with a large beautiful 1930’s kitchen and into a one-bedroom condo with a small 1960’s kitchen I needed to re-access. It was time to come up with a good plan to move from a large kitchen to a small one.
One of those reassessments was what to do about all my cookware and utensils that wouldn’t fit into my 1960’s small kitchen! Moving from a large kitchen into a smaller one was not going to be easy because of all the memories, I could tell you a story for almost every item in my kitchen. It was time to make some difficult choices.
I had lived in my rented bungalow for 18 years and collected a lot of vintage kitchen utensils and small appliances. My affection for 1950’s blenders, mixers and toasters was evident as you looked around my kitchen. My finds adorned my kitchen as beautiful ornaments to inspire the frugal gourmet inside me.
I’ll confess, I am drawn to all thing’s food-related including cooking, strolling farmers markets, and dining out at funky little roadhouse cafes and shopping online for vintage bowls. It's pure relaxing joy when the Williams and Sonoma catalog arrives in my mailbox. For years, my Sunday morning consisted of watching Martha Stewart Living, a scone and cup of coffee as I retreated into foodie heaven and dreamed of being master chef and gardener. Those Sundays inspired me to try and turn my kitchen into a gourmet retreat, alas it did not exactly work out as I had hoped.
Packing up my kitchen and making the hard decisions
The hardest part of moving was packing up my kitchen; my cabinets were like Mary Poppins’ purse! Moving in How in the world could all that stuff ever fit into my new home and more importantly how would it fit into my new smaller kitchen?
The complicated process of deciding what would be worthy of moving into my new home and what to donate had begun. Out went the 1950’s Sunbeam Mixer, out went the vintage toasters, out with the portable toaster oven, out with the over sized microwave, and out went half my cookbooks. I still regret tossing my old stand mixer.
Unpacking into my Small Kitchen
I had made a pretty good dent in the larger items, but three full sets of dishes, all my pots and pans, vintage potato masher and a dozen wooden spoons moved with me. My little condo kitchen was now cluttered, and every cabinet was stuffed to the maximum, it was hard to find anything in my 24-inch deep pantry shelves!!
My original plan to only move the selected perfect and usable items had failed. I set out to remove the clutter and reorganize before it got any worse.
5 Steps to Remove Clutter from a Small Kitchen
Step 1: Create a list of meals you prepare.
The first step in organizing my small kitchen was to create a list of all the meals I prepared; including holiday meals and special occasion meals. I suggest using a spreadsheet as it makes the following steps much easier.
Example meal: pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy and sweet peas.
Step 2: List all the pots, pans, and utensils used in the preparation of each item.
This is where the spreadsheet comes in handy. It’s important to think about the process of preparation and every item used. Using the example meal above I might use the following;
10-inch skillet to cook the chops and make the gravy
- medium size cutting board to slice onions and potatoes and other ingredients
- peeler to peel the potatoes
- chef knife to slice
- 4-quart saucepan for boiling the potatoes
- potato masher to mash the potatoes
- 2-quart saucepan to heat up the peas
Once completed, you might have a long list of duplicated items..
Step 3: Now you’re ready to sort the list and remove duplicated items.
Sort your list and remove the duplicates and you will end up with a short list of what you truly need and use in the kitchen. At this point review the list for single purpose items and determine if you can use one of the other items on your list or if you REALLY want to keep the single use item.
Step 4: Remove all pots, pans, skillets, baking pans, etc. from the cabinets and drawers.
Empty the cabinets and give everything a nice cleaning and fresh layer of shelf paper. Once everything is outside of the cabinets, you get a more realistic idea of how much stuff you truly have. Going through the process, and looking at the huge mound of items on my dining room floor, I was amazed at how much fit into my tiny kitchen. I had unintentionally created another Mary Poppins kitchen. I had 6 crock pots, different sizes and shapes, yikes!
Step 5: Reintroduce the items on your list.
Return only the items on your list back into your kitchen. Everything else goes into a box or plastic tub with a lid. Over the next month or so if you find your need of an item in the tub, just go pull it out, use it and find a home for it in your kitchen.
I completed this exercise over the holidays, so I wouldn’t toss anything I might need to prepare my holiday dinner. Hey, I’m talking about you, Mr. Vintage Bundt Pan that only gets used at Thanksgiving.
Now you have the five steps for minimizing your pots, pans and utensils in your kitchen. My personal experience uncovered that I have an addiction to bowls! I have small bowls, large bowl, vintage bowls and I love them all, I confess I kept most of them. Remember the Vintage Sunbeam Stand Mixer I mentioned before, I kept the bowls it came with.
If you're moving from a large kitchen into a smaller one, I hope you take something from my post that will help make your move easier.
Keep Your Pantry Organized
Is your pantry unorganized and making it difficult to easily find what you need? If you don’t have an abundance of time for a complete pantry reorganization but desperately need to organize your pantry, try these tips to whip your space into shape in under an hour. You can get your pantry into shape quickly no matter if your pantry is a walk-in closet style or a small shelf.
Turn items with the labels facing out
By facing the labels out, you can see what you have at a glance and less chance of buying something you already have. Stack multiples of the same item to keep it organized.
Group similar items and flavors together
Group items by food type; vegetable, canned tomato section, soups, beans, condiments, marinades, etc. This will make it easy to see what you might be running low on. Make use of expandable tiered shelves to make things easier to find.
Check expiration dates
Check the expiration dates and put the items with the closest expiration date in the front. Anything that’s almost expired, pull it out and try to use it in a recipe before the use-by date.
Use baskets to group quick pantry meal items together
Keep at least one non-perishable pantry meal on hand. My favorites are rice, canned tuna, and canned peas, and tuna casserole made with cream of mushroom soup, tuna, and egg noodles. Pantry meals are perfect for those nights you come home and want something quick and easy for dinner.
Keep shelves clean
Use a damp rag to clean up dust and debris that accumulate on the pantry shelves. A clean pantry looks more organized.
Consider organizing your pantry using clear containers
Throw out bulky packaging and use clear containers. Bags of dried beans can be stored in clear glass jars, pasta can be taken out of the box and transferred to a tall container. Transfer foods like crackers and cookies into airtight containers. I use mason jars for brown sugar, cocoa powder, and a dried bean mix.
Make use of door space
Try using a small shower caddy hung on the inside of the pantry door for onions and potatoes. I also store these items inside sheer organza drawstring bags, so I see what I have, and so they don’t fall on the floor when I open the pantry door.
Another idea is to use an over-the-door shoe organizer to store single items or something as simple as a wire spice rack.
Maximize corner shelves
If you have an awkward corner shelf organizing can be tricky, try placing a Lazy Susan in the corner to make items more easily accessible.
More small kitchen organizing tips for you
Have a few tips to share? Leave a comment.