Organizing your kitchen cabinets is like organizing your closet. You put it off and put it off and then, when it’s done, you wonder why you waited so long. You’ve seen all the tools and hardware available these days to get your kitchen ship-shape, so it’s time to make it happen. This is absolutely a simple one-day affair, but if you take the weekend and include a little time for experimenting, you’ll end up with a kitchen that really works like you do.

Give Your Gear the Once-Over

dish organizer

Just like that annual closet cleanse, pull everything out where you can see it and get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year. Now, take a minute: Where is your prep space? What do you really need on the counter? Where are the dark corners you would use more if they were more accessible? How do you really use the space?

For most of my clients—and for me—dividing the kitchen into zones makes the whole project come together. Most people need a prep zone, a cooking zone, a cleaning zone and a storage zone.

Prep Zone

This is where the mess begins, and containing the clutter here makes it easier to clean as you go. Consider a space that’s near the fridge and the pantry. Think about how you can consolidate the items you use each day into the close vicinity of your primary prep area. Now, you’re within arm’s reach of anything you need—and anything you need to put away.

Drawer organizers now come in every imaginable configuration, including organizers you can customize for your particular space.

slide-out cabinet drawer

Don’t let the organization be governed by utensils. Instead, choose organizational tools that fit the way you prep. Tired of wrestling with ladles, whisks and tongs in the drawer? That’s what countertop utensil holders are for.

Save counter space by installing a magnetic knife holder to the backsplash for the knives you use most often, and check out backsplash utensil rails if you’re really tight on counter space. Consider converting a cabinet into a baking sheet and cutting board rack. Use the rest of your upper cabinets in this area as your pantry. You can make that space much more accessible with a pull-down shelf kit that lets you pull top shelves out and then down into view.

Cooking Zone

If the prep zone is about customizing your drawers, the cooking zone is about customizing those cabinets. Now that I have them, I’ll never be able to live without slide-out drawers for my lower cabinets—and I’ll never have to. Slide-out drawer kits are a surprisingly affordable and manageable do-it-yourself project.

Lid racks are a must, too. Those that attach to the inside of the cabinet doors are ideal, but if you need to give up cabinet real estate, it’s well worth it-especially with those slide-out drawers. Meanwhile, Lazy Susans will bring those dark corner cabinets to light, or try a corner cabinet shelf optimizer to make the best use of the space.

kitchen cabinet

Cleaning Zone

That space under the sink is crucial real estate, but you have to take control. Use simple wire racks of different sizes and a plastic pocket organizer on the inside of that door to maximize visibility and accessibility. Consider giving up a little more cabinet space to dedicate a cabinet near the sink for waste disposal. A slide-out shelf with a rack to hold a waste-and-recycling container will make keeping clean much more efficient.

Storage Zone

Finally, finish off the project with a zone dedicated to wrapping it all up. Use customizable drawer organizers to make cubbies for the ever-evolving sizes and styles of plasticware we collect—containers in one cubby and lids in another. Use the same theory with plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and food and freezer bags. It’s mind-boggling that a drawer filled with tidy little boxes can get so out of control, but we all know it can. Dividing by types or sizes helps you keep the chaos under control.

What are your best kitchen cabinet organization tips? Leave them in the comments section below!

Kerrie Kelly is an interior designer who writes on kitchen spaces and organization for The Home Depot. Kelly is an award-winning designer who has authored the book “Home Decor: A Sunset Design Guide.” A selection of kitchen cabinet and design ideas can be found at www.homedepot.com.

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