After living in 7 NYC apartments, and now a 750sf mid-century house in the Los Angeles nabe of Glassell Park, I've kinda earned my black belt in tiny kitchen organizing. And the truth is: it really is it's own animal.
All of you lucky giant kitchen owners have crazy things like pantries, wine refrigerators, and so many extra cabinets you have room for things like recycling bins. But for those of us in the itty bitty kitchen club, we're lucky if we have all of the simple basics. You know, like DRAWERS.
But good news: I've learned loads of tricks and hacks over years of trial and error, and now I want to share my best organizing tips with my fellow small kitchen brothers and sistas. Good things come in small packages, amirite? And your tiny kitchens deserve to be organized too.
1. Get Rid of the Crap
This first todo might feel like a daunting task, but it's time to stop being polite and to start getting real: If you have a tiny kitchen, you've GOT to do a major clean out before you try to tackle any organizing.
I know you were 100% sincere when you committed to making beet juice every morn with your juicer, but when was the last time you actually juiced anything? (squeezing a lime into your Diet Coke doesn't count, loves). I'm guessing you have approximately one billion utensils in your utensil drawer, but do you actually use them all?
I'm not going to tell you that everything in your kitchen needs to "spark joy," but I am going to tell you that there can ONLY be crap in there that you actually use.
BONUS: when you go to drop everything off at Goodwill you've decided to purge, you can buy crap you don't need for OTHER areas of your house.
2. Use Everrrrry Available Space
Chances are: your tiny kitchen is not maximizing every single nook and cranny that it could be. Oftentimes these spaces have weird corners, bizarro under-utilized spaces and just general space challenges. Well it's time to think outside the box, bbs.
Find those spots in your kitchen where you could potentially add open shelving, or even another cabinet. Kitchen renos are crazy expensive, but adding one cabinet (or an additional row of cabinets) might cost a lot less than you would think.
This also means looking at the existing space and making sure you are using every square inch of it. Do you have an odd space between the top of your cabinet and your ceiling? You could stack baskets up there and store items that you don't use very frequently. Do you have room on top of your fridge for a wine rack? I mean, you *gotta* find room for a wine rack.
3. Consider a Banquette with Storage
This is one of my favorite favorite-y tiny kitchen tricks of all time: using a banquette with storage in the bench.
This banquette in the pic happens to have drawer storage, but I have some fab babies from Ballard Designs that have a bench seat that lifts up to reveal storage underneath. And you can fit a surprising amount of stuff in there, dudez.
They also fit great around smaller tables, can be easily jammed into a corner, and just generally will rule your face in a small kitchen. I have a crazy amount of banquette inspo pics on my Dining Room Pinterest board if you're looking for some more ideas (also, let's be Pinterest besties!)
4. Put a Closet In Your Kitchen...or a Bookcase
This one will also depend on how much space you have, but if you have a bit of extra room either in your kitchen or NEAR your kitchen, you might want to think about some non-traditional storage choices.
I use an Ikea Pax closet that's located right outside my kitchen for all sorts of pantry storage. The pic above shows off some Ikea Billy bookshelves. But you can even use pieces like a vintage armoire or dresser. I know you normally think of putting these things in a bedroom, but FREE YOUR MIND, and the rest will follow.
If you like to entertain, you could store napkins and extra plates and serving pieces in an armoire or dresser. Copy the setup above and use baskets and bins to tame the clutter on some bookshelves with doors. Or go for the ultimate set-up in your "kitchen closet" like I did, to keep larger items such as a vacuum cleaner, or crazy stuff you need to store like creating your own candle drawer. Yes, that's a thing and yes, I have one.
5. Clear Your Counter Off...Like the Whole Thing
I wish this step were optional, cause trust me: I'd MUCH rather be watching a Vanderpump Rules marathon than clearing off my damn kitchen counters. But this one is a non-negotiable.
Take a long hard look at this pic above. Notice how you don't see a rotisserie oven, a toaster, a vitamix, a hot dog warmer and a Ninja blender? That's not an accident.
With a tiny kitchen you've got to make some choices, and most of those choices will involve shit you will and will not keep on your counter. Mostly "will not." My tiny kitchen rule is this: unless you use an appliance at least 5 days a week, get it off of your counter. And yes: I know you probably don't have a lot of cabinet space either, but too many appliances create a crazy amount of visual clutter and I want your tiny kitchen to look strictly dope ass.
Also, always try to look for smaller versions of appliances. For example, microwaves come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so if you have a choice, pick out the most petite version you can find of all of your appliances and kitchen tools.
This doesn't mean that your kitchen countertops need to be *completely* bare--in fact they shouldn't be. But I just don't want them looking so cluttered that you can't see what's what.
6. Lazy Susans are your BFF
I admit I have an odd obsession with lazy susans...in fact, I have one on my coffee table. I wonder who this Susan actually was, and why she was so lazy? Was she always just drunk, and twirling around like Kenya from The Real Housewives of Atlanta? I guess I need to wikipedia that shit.
You likely have a few cabinets that you could use a lazy susan in. I find these particularly helpful in a spice cabinet, but they also work great in lower cabinets for pots and pans, to help bring some order to your plastic containers, or even for cleaning supplies underneath a sink. If you want to get real fancy, you can even customize your cabinet with a built-in lazy susan like the one above.
These lazy susans will get you started:
- Double stainless steel turntable, Container Store, $24.99
- Tabletop lazy susan, Lowe's, $11.99
- 2 Tier wood lazy susan, Wayfair, $10.99
7. And Tension Rods Too
There are a plethora of organizing supplies you will soon be buying (see #8), but I've found that tension rods are a surprising must have in a tiny kitchen. You can get crazy creative with these mofos, but their specialty is helping you make use of every square inch of your cabinets.
The hack above is genius, and would work great in a generously sized cabinet to organize your cutting boards, baking sheets and serving platters.
The cool thing about the tension rods is that you can make them fit in almost any sized space (as long as you can clear your vertical dimensions. So make sure to measure the cabinet first before purchasing any rods). You can also use the rods to store lids for your pots, covers for plastic containers, or even boxes of cereal (#cinammontoastcrunchaddict).
Here are a few great rods you could snap up:
- Umbra bronze drapery tension rod, Bed, Bath & Beyond, $24.99
- Cupboard bars 3 pack, Amazon, $8.88
- White cafe rods 2 pack, Amazon $6.99
8. Hit Bed, Bath & Beyond for Some Organizing Tools
I'm not gonna lie: this step could cost you some serious bank...but not *really*. There is a method to my madness.
Basically, I want you to go Bed, Bath & Beyond and pick out a shitload of organizing supplies. I'm talking drawer dividers, cabinet shelves, under the sink bins and everything in between. Try to stick to the same family: so if you are finding stuff you dig that is clear, buy all clear items. If it's white, stick to snow white. DO NOT try to buy only exactly what you *think* you need in your kitchen. Cause trust me...you will be wrong.
You will spend way more than you think is possible on organizing supplies, but it's only temporary.
Once you get home, the real fun begins. This is when you start taking stuff out of your 17 bags, and try to make it fit into your cabinets and drawers. You will likely end up not needing the vast majority of the stuff you bought...and so you will just return it. But unless you're an architect who created a CAD drawing, it's literally impossible to figure out every organizing tool you will need to get your kitchen feeling like you're not actually auditioning for an episode of Hoarders.
9. An island unto itself (or...uhm...a cart)
Now this trick won't work for everyone depending on the size of your space, but if you can swing it, a faux kitchen island, or even a cart can do wonders for your storage sitch.
What can you store on a cart or on an island? Things like: cookbooks, less used appliances, pretty glassware or serving pieces, your goto herbs, oils and vinegars, baking supplies, turtles, coffee mugs and supplies. Ok, kidding about the turtles. Mostly.
Even if you do have a bit of room, you likely won't be able to fit a traditional kitchen island. But here's where you need to get creative and look for things like a narrow table, a console or a standing desk. When looking for options, just make sure they are "counter height" so that they are high enough to work in the kitchen.
Here are a few of my faves: