Some people can live with a messy home office or bedroom closet. But we all have to eat. If the kitchen is a mess, it can affect your lifestyle.
If you can't easily find the tools you need, or you don't have ample space to prepare a meal, your emotional and physical health will be affected, and the endless takeout can kill your budget.
Katherine DiGiovanni of Refine Home Concepts, a specialist in kitchen organization and "kitchen coaching," helped develop recommendations to maximize storage space and make your kitchen work for you.
1. Cull the clutter
Pull everything out of the cabinets and drawers, and put back only the items you need and use. Every kitchen needs certain tools, but too many gadgets and dishes crowding cabinets and drawers makes accessing them difficult. It's better to stick with the basics and store things so they're easy to access.
Instead of having a dozen wine glasses, 18 water glasses, four martini glasses, six champagne flutes and 10 mugs crammed into one cabinet, pare down your glassware. Store items you use daily within reach of the sink and dishwasher, and donate the extras or store them elsewhere. Likewise, you probably don't need one drawer dedicated to dish towels and another for potholders. Six dish towels and two hot pads are probably sufficient and can fit into one drawer.
2. Kitchen helpers
Several MVP products organize any kitchen, and they can make a big difference in small kitchens.
Cabinets: To make spices, cooking oils or baking decorations easy to see and grab in upper cabinets, use a riser or lazy Susan. Adjust shelves to make things easier to reach. Install pullout drawers in cabinets to maximize space for things such as storage containers or dish towels. They also work well on deep shelves so food stored in the back isn't forgotten. Clear bins help corral items and are great to keep bags of rice, pasta, chips and cookies upright.
When storage is very tight, consider a hanging pot rack for your most frequently used pots and pans. Pot racks come in two varieties, wall-mounted and ceiling-mounted, and can free up a lot of real estate in your lower cabinets. Whenever you need space in a kitchen, look up. Are there places up high for shelving or hooks?
Pantry and refrigerator: Look for versatile organizers such as Mason jars, which are easy to clean, or stacking clear plastic containers. And if you're tight on pantry or cabinet storage for dry goods, large Mason jars filled with red lentils or spinach pasta can double as decor.
Drawers: Dividers can be used in shallow drawers to make measuring spoons, a meat thermometer, a can opener, a corkscrew, tongs and knives easy to find and put away.
3. Saving counter space
Countertops, free of clutter, are utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing. Don't store rarely used appliances on the counter. Items that stay out should be those used frequently, such as a toaster or coffeemaker. So unless you're a die-hard baker, don't waste valuable space with a stand mixer. A hand mixer will do just fine and be much easier to store.
If you're short on drawer space, use one countertop canister for the six utensils you use most often when cooking.
And be sure to use wall space. Knife blocks take up countertop space; knives can be stored more efficiently in a drawer or on a magnetic strip attached to the wall. And you don't need 12 knives. Splurge on three or four good knives - a chef's knife, a serrated paring knife and a serrated bread knife. That's all you need. Magnetic strips also can hold small spice containers, saving valuable cabinet or drawer space.
If your upper cabinets are mounted high enough above your countertops, you can even store stemmed wine glasses underneath.
As for those large cutting boards? You might be able to lean it upright against the backsplash. The wood can create a little warmth in an otherwise stark kitchen and will be easy to access. You also can place it on top of the refrigerator, where it's out of sight but easy to grab. If you opt for a collection of smaller, plastic cutting boards, most can be hung on a hook for a fun splash of color or slid underneath dish towels or potholders in a drawer.
You don't need a large, elaborate kitchen to cook healthy, tasty meals. A small but well-organized kitchen can be just as functional. Bonus: It requires less cleaning.