I’ll be the first to admit that my kitchen cupboards and pantry areas always seem to be a cluttered mess. Part of the problem is a shortage of space which means that everything from food to glassware, and even my pots and pans have to be stacked. The other part of the problem is simply how I live. I’m not what you’d call an organized cook that has a neat tidy place for everything. My method of organizing the kitchen cupboards is to stuff as many food items into a cabinet as possible, and then bang away at the door with the heel of my hand until it latches shut.
When the cupboard doors no longer latch, only then do I clean and organize the shelves.
Cleaning and organizing cluttered kitchen cupboards is an all day task that takes some patience and a willingness to part with things that are no longer needed. These instructions will help get you started:
1. Clear off a work area first. Kitchen cupboards can’t be cleaned and organized with being emptied. Finding a place to put these items means creating some kind of work area, such as a kitchen counter or kitchen table. Since my cabinets are always so jammed, I’ll use both the kitchen table and two card tables to hold cupboard items while they are being cleaned.
2. Empty one cabinet at a time. Instead of hauling everything off the shelves, it’s best to empty out and clean one cabinet at a time. This prevents overcrowding your work space, plus makes it much easier to reorganize the cabinets when it’s time to return the items back to their shelves.
3. Scrub out the cabinet, shelves, and inner door. Once a cabinet has been emptied, it can be cleaned. My favorite cleaning solution for cupboards is a mix of 1/4 cup ammonia, a few drops of liquid dish washing soap, and 1/2 gallon hot water mixed up in a cleaning bucket. This solution helps loosen built up gunk and grease particulates which will accumulate on kitchen shelves over time.
4. Line with shelf paper. Grandma loved shelf paper, which I’ll admit does have it’s good points. Shelf paper helps keeps your cabinets clean, provided cushioning for delicate glassware, and is an nice way to hide unsightly stains which are common in old kitchens.
5. Sort before returning items back to the cupboard. This is the toughest part of cleaning and organizing a set of kitchen cabinets. A few strategies I use which may help you include the following:
* Throw out food that is well past the expiration date, or looks “old”
* Combine half filled containers
* Donate food you won’t eat but purchased because it sounded good at the time
* Toss broken or chipped dishes, glasses, and serveware
* Donate teflon-less pans, rusty skillets, dented trays or pots, broken toasters, logo mugs and other kitchen items you’ll never use but hang on to because “someday you may need them”
* Relocate rarely used items to the garage or basement such as seasonal dishes, canning supplies, and buffet equipment
* Move items that don’t belong back to their proper locations (tools, vases, empty canning jars etc.)
6. Organizing your kitchen cupboards. How to return all these items back to the cupboards in some organized manner is totally up to you. Most homemakers find it most convenient to organizing our cabinets by grouping similar items together (dishes in one cabinet, glassware in a second, pots & pans on the lazy susan, silverware all in one drawer etc.)
As far as food items, one system that works is to group food items based on your cooking patterns. In my kitchen for example, I’ll keep baking staples together on one shelf where they are easy to find. Canned goods and boxed items are kept on their own shelf, condiments have their own corner, and bulk items are repackaged and stored in stackable containers.
7. How to maintain organized cabinets. Once the cabinets are clean and arranged in a way that works for you, keeping it clean means not falling it back in the trap of jamming items on top of each other. Taking an extra minute or two to put away things in their proper location is all it takes to keep a clean and organized kitchen staying organized.
For more tips about cleaning and organizing your kitchen, these articles by C. Jeanne Heida can help:
A Cleaning Checklist for the Kitchen
How to Cleanup and Shine Your Kitchen Cabinet Hardware
Guide to Deep Cleaning Kitchen Walls, Floors, and Cabinets