How to Organize a Kitchen: Tips and Tricks

by Jennifer Chan


To organize a kitchen, start by understanding your work zones. Photo: Next Stage Design + Build ©2018

Do you make avocado toast in Tiburon? Do you cook mac-and-kale in Cupertino? Maybe you read nutrition panels in Pinole, prepare recipes from Pinterest in Palo Alto or pickle in Petaluma. Whatever you cook and wherever you do it, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you probably use your kitchen a lot. So, this year, it’s time to make that kitchen work for you and your family. Whether you’re ready for an entire kitchen remodel or just need some helpful hacks, we have some suggestions about how to organize a kitchen. Read on!

Kitchen Work Zones

Start by understanding your kitchen work zones. Most kitchens have three core zones:

  • Cooking
  • Food preparation
  • Cleaning

In addition, many kitchens include zones for eating/socializing, a family command center (mail, keys, phone chargers) and even laundry.

If you’re remodeling your kitchen, knowing your zones in the design period will allow you to customize cabinetry (see below). If you’re simply reorganizing, your zones will tell you where to put things. Either way, plan to store items close to where you’ll use them. For example, spices go near the prep or cooking zone. Utensils such as spatulas go next to the stove, whereas knives go in the prep zone. Store your everyday dishes, cutlery and glassware close to the dishwasher. Keep everything you don’t use at least once a week out of the core zones. If you have a small kitchen, consider storing your grandmother’s china under the bed.

Create counter space

What’s more valuable than a cottage in Atherton? (No, it’s not a parking space in downtown San Francisco.) When it comes to kitchens, your most important (and often hardest to find) asset is counter space. Cleared countertops facilitate all aspects of cooking; without them, you’ll spend more time rearranging than actually making a meal. So, how do you create counter space (especially in a small kitchen)?

Add an island. If you don’t want to install a permanent island, retailers offer moveable “furniture-style” islands at nearly every price point.

Lift your kitchen essentials. Don’t store your salt, olive oil and sugar canister on the counters. Instead, install shelves on your backsplash or the side of your refrigerator. You can even lift your microwave and coffeemaker.

Hack your counters. The Internet is full of ideas on how to maximize your countertops. From hanging utensils to over-the-stove cutting boards to fold-out tables, a quick search will turn up something that meets your particular needs.

Customize Your Cabinets

When you remodel a kitchen, take advantage of the many custom features semi-custom and even modular cabinet lines offer. Some of the most popular of these features include blind corner cabinets, trash/recycling pullouts and deep drawers. Even if you’re not remodeling at this time, there are many features that can be installed into existing cabinets.

Keeping it Clean

Cleaning up may be the least glamorous part of cooking, but someone has to do it. Make that someone’s life easier by organizing your cleaning zone:

  • Maximize your under-sink storage with roll-out drawers, tiered shelving or a basket for cleaning supplies.
  • Install a tip-out tray to hold sponges.
  • If you’re replacing your countertop, consider installing a built-in soap dispenser.
  • Use an over-the-sink drying rack.

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