What are your best kitchen organization hacks?
November 2, 2014 3:10 PM   Subscribe

What are your best hacks for repurposing items or using them in an unusual way to help organize your kitchen?

I'm looking for ways to organize my kitchen by buying things that are relatively cheap and don't require permanent installation (we live in a rental).

As an example, I figured out that we could use gift wrap holders to hold the brooms so that they don't fall over all the time.

I'm looking for the ways you've repurposed or hacked stuff to help organize your kitchen.
posted by reenum to Home & Garden (51 answers total) 149 users marked this as a favorite
Ikea towel racks with S hooks for hanging things: containers of utensils, dishrags, measuring cups and spoons. If you can't drill holes in your wall, though... maybe you could try Command hooks, or put S hooks through a pegboard leaned against the wall.
posted by clavicle at 3:20 PM on November 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

I only have 1 drawer in my kitchen so all that's in the drawers is silverware and the few items that fit behind the tray.

I have magnetic hooks that I hang my pot holders on. Those can also be used for any utensils with a hole at the end.

I have a "coffee storage" type container (large ceramic thing with a sealable lid) that I put all my spatulas, whisks, etc in.
For my kitchen towels, since there's no built-in hooks, I have one of those things that is a rod attached to a thing that fits over a cabinet door and is handy but not permanent.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:25 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also to create more storage space, I found a kitchen cart on Craigslist for dirt cheap. It adds counter space plus 2 shelves, essentially.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:26 PM on November 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

(looks over into kitchen)

It's not a permanent shelving solution but I have milk crates turned sideways against a wall (so the contents are open, facing you) that I've stacked on each other for some of my smaller groceries.

I eat a lot of peanut butter that comes in 16oz clear glass jars, about 1-2 of them/week.
After washing each of them out, I put my grains [except pasta], dried legumes, and spices (cheaper to buy in bulk from the asian import store for me), in each of the jars and label the lids if necessary. This makes them a little nicer from a decor perspective since they're all standardized and clear.

the previous tenant left a few of the 3m wall hangers (they're not permanent and cost a few bucks each, but if you're at a premium for space) so I put my 3-4 most used pans on the hooks (one for each hook) so they take up less cupboard space and prevents the teflon/chemical non-stick coating) from scratching other pans/pans.
posted by fizzix at 3:26 PM on November 2, 2014

Salvation Army/Goodwill dishpans to keep cleaning supplies and whatall organized in those netherworlds under the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
posted by Elsie at 3:27 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

We use a cheap plastic magazine rack to store all of our Tupperware lids. I was skeptical when my wife first proposed this, but it is SO nice to not face the tidal wave of merrily escaping lids every time I open the cupboard.
posted by DingoMutt at 3:28 PM on November 2, 2014 [16 favorites]

We reuse Adams' Peanut Butter jars for spices and pantry stuff like rice and lentils. We use the small size for spices and the large size for rice etc. They are terrific jars and have straight sides. We put them all in a drawer, and then put labels on the lids so we can see what's in them all without having to pick the jar up.

Their peanut butter is great too ;)
posted by just_ducky at 3:29 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Cheap cutlery trays are great for keeping spice bottles organized. It's a real treat to have spices located just where they should be, and a planogram posted on the inside of the cabinet door shows me exactly where each jar is.

Rubberized shelf liners keep items in your cabinets from shifting around and also allow for some air flow underneath.

These IKEA containers are fabulous for storing dry goods that can't be left in their original containers.
posted by DrGail at 3:33 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like putting my dried peas, lentils and beans in Mason Jars in the pantry. They're pretty and useful and being glass, there's not plastic yukky to deal with.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:39 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I keep my (random assorted) silverware standing up in a pitcher on a convenient shelf. Long-handled utensils are in a couple tall stainless steel cylinders.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:16 PM on November 2, 2014

I have a magazine holder in the cabinet holding all of my foil and plastic wrap tubes.
I have all the Tupperware bottoms in one drawer right below a smaller drawer with all of the lids.
posted by artychoke at 4:21 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Organize Cleaning Bottles Under the Sink with a Tension Rod

It does help if you can secure the rod somehow. Otherwise it comes crashing down when the number of items hanging on it reaches critical mass.

Once I got the bottles lifted up, I use plastic baskets or tubs for things that don't hang well, and just slide the tub out when I need it.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:23 PM on November 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

A three-step ladder made me much more willing to use the tops of my cabinets.

I've also standardized on a 16oz round Redditainer as my small Tupperware. They nest, they're microwave and freezer safe, they're shatterproof, and they come free with takeout. This has completely eliminated my Tupperware-storage problem.

This is a bit more out there, but if you have a light fixture in the ceiling, it'll be sturdily mounted to a joist. You can often remove the cover and hang a bicycle wheel from the same threaded rod. A few S-hooks on the rim of the wheel then gets you a lazy Susan for pots and pans.

You can also use some screws and washers to mount milk crates to the wall, high up, for storing light goods like paper towels. I know you said non-permanent, but these screw holes spackle easily and are so high up most landlords never notice.
posted by d. z. wang at 4:25 PM on November 2, 2014

I use a little basket inside a cabinet door to keep a supply of coffee filters/spoons/sugar substitute all in one place while the larger original boxes are kept out of the way.

I repurposed some plastic office supply drawers to hold spices, although I'm over maximum capacity now. I write the name on top of the lid for easy ID.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:07 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

There are four rental apartments in the Bay Area that now have a pegboard in their kitchens because I like pegboards in my kitchen. They're not hard to take down - there's just a few screws and you could spackle over the holes, but I've always talked to the landlords and they've always been happy for me to leave them up when I move out. I've also talked to them beforehand, and several times they've given me some extra kitchen-colored-paint they had lying around, so the pegboard blends in nicely. If you're doing this, don't forget to put some spacers between the pegboard in the wall. Pegboards are great, because they can hold a bunch of things that normally go in the organizational disaster drawer, plus you can put those things away after washing them without drying them.
posted by aubilenon at 5:13 PM on November 2, 2014 [11 favorites]

The most useful thing I have is a re-purposed cabinet. It's meant to be part of a set with a counter-top, so I just added a piece of wood and some nice tile to the top. Depending on the set-up of your kitchen, this won't work, but it's really nicely extended the countertop and storage space in my last two rental units. It would be expensive to buy new, but I got it at a building materials re-use store. An island or cart would do roughly the same thing, but this fits our space really well.
posted by ohisee at 5:29 PM on November 2, 2014

I'm dying to buy an Ikea kitchen cart and do about half of these things to add some shelf space.
posted by honeybee413 at 5:33 PM on November 2, 2014 [18 favorites]

I use flowerpots to contain and corral utensils. To cut down lid litter from pans, I put the lid on the handle and then hang the pan from an S hook on a towel bar that I installed on the side of a cabinet. For container lids, I used old clementine orange crates and file round vs. four sided. The only other slick thing I do is to fold a paper towel and wrap it around my bottle of oil with a couple of strong rubber bands, which makes any oil drips from the bottle going to the towel and not my counter or hand. Oh yeah, I use the vertical pegged dish racks to hold baking tins and trays on shelves.
posted by jadepearl at 6:21 PM on November 2, 2014

I use a locker rack (like this but shorter) to maximize vertical space for storing cans and shorter jars. I also used to use an old IKEA desk drawer on wheels (sort of like this) in a kitchen where we couldn't fit a full kitchen cart, for storing baking tools, linens, utensils and other flatter kitchen goods.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:57 PM on November 2, 2014

Buy a box of binder clips at an office supply store. They are the perfect device to seal opened bags of chips, pretzels, dog treats and Goldfish crackers.
posted by workerant at 7:01 PM on November 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have all the long handled things like spatulas and whisks and turners and wooden spoons etc in a row of something like these by the stove, much more convenient than having them in a drawer.

My 14 million spice bottles are on two of these and it is awesome (I hate any spice thingy that involves forcing me into a single shape or size or type of jar.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:33 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

A low adjustable chrome/wire shelf works great for storing canned goods & a cutting board on top make it function like a mini kitchen island. Magnetic knife rack from Ikea mounted to the wall frees up a little drawer space. I use glass canning jars with wire bails for dry goods, nuts etc and keep them on a window sill. They are easy to find in all sizes at thrift stores. Screw in hooks that are "cup holders" can be used for measuring cups etc.
posted by pinkbungalow at 7:44 PM on November 2, 2014

My kitchen only has two super narrow drawers so I had to get creative storing utensils. I bought a cute plastic rectangular tray at Ross (you could find the same thing at Target, Ikea, etc., it looks like it's meant to be a small serving tray) and glued four mason jars on it with e6000 glue. It actually looks really cute on the counter.

This isn't really an organization hack as much as an accessibility one: I usually tear the top/flaps off of boxes for tea, oatmeal, and things like that. It only takes a second to do so and then it makes it way easier to just reach in and grab a packet.
posted by radioamy at 8:33 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I store plastic produce bags that I want to reuse in a boxed wine box such as Franzia
posted by z11s at 10:09 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

On the backsplash in an innocuous place: a magnetic knife strip for catch all things: keys, coins, key rings, any small metal boxes that can easily contain salts, other random crap that you know, you go ripping the house apart. This is also next to a small charging station where when not in use, the cords get wrapped in a binder clip and stuck to the rack.
posted by floweredfish at 3:27 AM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

1 - spices

Spices can take up a lot of space and cause a lot of clumsiness and visual clutter. For me, it's worth the extra trouble to a) get small, short 1-ounce jars like this (bonus - welcome to The Container Store), 2) buy bulk spices to put in them, and 3) possibly label them with my own labeler. This has several advantages:

- they all fit in one drawer (or a smaller space if you have fewer spices)
- the uniform appearance makes the whole space seem less cluttered
- they can stack neatly if necessary, eliminating the need to reach _behind_ several rows of jars to get the one I want (so many avalanches, before)
- my herbs/spices are generally _fresh_ when I use them (don't you have an ancient tall bottle of something? Do you even know what that's going to taste like now?), so my food actually tastes better
- I have a few herbs growing here, so I can just wash some, dry out in a bundle, and then put some in one of my own jars
- I'm not using/throwing away a sad procession of empty, or worse, half-used jars of spices

Keeping beans and rice in leftover glass jars confers similar benefits. The uniform appearance is surprisingly helpful in making the whole kitchen feel more organized, and letting me see easily what I have. It encourages me to cook more.

2 - grains and fatty foods in the freezer

Storing flour, nuts, and other things that could go rancid in the freezer is really helpful. I used to store cereal in the refrigerator too. Generally, a one- or two-person household doesn't need all that refrigerator space for genuine perishables -- cabinet space is often at more of a premium. If your refrigerator feels full, is it full of stuff that's going bad and condiments you don't really want anymore? Also, storing flour in the freezer really helps it keep better -- if you keep flour in a cabinet for many months, you won't get good baked goods. Nuts also can start to smell "off" after a surprisingly short time.
posted by amtho at 4:06 AM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

We have a bookshelf in my small kitchen to act as a pantry/food storage. Shelves are annoying and I like to be able to see my food.
posted by bbqturtle at 5:25 AM on November 3, 2014

Seconding binder clips for closing coffee bags/chips/whatever - you can get cute patterned ones at Target for pretty cheap.

This isn't really a hack, but you may not think of it: If you're short on drawer space you can bung all your flatware in one of these baskets [they're usually called "silverware caddy" if you're searching online - you can find them at Cost Plus, Target, Container Store (pricey), etc.] It works wonderfully in terms of convenience and even looks nice imho.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:17 AM on November 3, 2014

Before we moved into our new house, we measured our spices after culling the duplicates and ancient. We had roughly 11 linear feet of spice jars. In the old place, I made an under cabinet pull-out spice drawer, which is great if you have a typical collection (the jars, by the way, are breast milk collection jars from our first child - the hospital chucks them out. Fools!). The plans for this came from Woodsmith, June 1994.

Since we clearly collect spices like Imelda Marco collects shoes, I approached the problem differently and made pull-out drawers in the cabinets next to our stove. Each drawer has two pairs of bearing wheels on the sides to ride on the runners. This holds nearly everything we had and makes it both accessible and easy to keep organized.

Mrs. Plinth took paint stirrers, trimmed them to fit on the inside of cabinet doors and put them up with command strips. Each paint stirrer (and in retrospect, this should be about twice as thick) has four cup hooks screwed into it for holding measuring cups and measuring spoons. This is not ours, but you get the idea.

Another big helper in our under-counter cabinets are drawer trays that pull out for holding pans, leftover tubs, etc.
posted by plinth at 7:26 AM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you convert from plastic to silicone (cooking utensils, hot pads, bowls, lids) pick a color for silicone and stick to it. I've a friend who did this and its brilliant. If it's orange or green, it's silicone. If it isn't it is plastic.

Of course if you simply toss all the plastic your silicone can be any colors you like.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:35 AM on November 3, 2014

Since you're in a rental, here's how to build an IKEA GRUNDTAL wall shelf without fixing it to the wall.

posted by Kabanos at 7:35 AM on November 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have lid sorters up in that useless cabinet with the vent hood vent in it.

I haven't done this in my new place yet, but I really like Command hooks (particularly the one with the white base and the hinged metal hook) for hanging some utensils, and I also use a big heavy white ceramic flowerpot (IKEA) as my main utensil bucket.

I used to be in a place with a decent amount of kitchen floorspace but very few actual cabinets. I put a big old shelf in there (you can throw a nice sheet over it if you want it "closed", but if you leave it open you can festoon it with S hooks for mops/brooms, pots, towels, etc).

I use clear storage boxes (about shoebox size and slightly larger) as "drawers" in my pantry, cabinets (especially lower cabinets), and in the fridge.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:43 AM on November 3, 2014

Magnetic hooks and clips on the fridge. The neodymium ones will hold crazy amounts of weight. Right now I'm using them to hold up potholders, aprons, a yardstick, grocery bags, house keys, bike parts (my kitchen doubles as the bike garage...) and I don't know what else. Works best if your fridge is out in the open and you can use the sides, but even if you can only hang stuff from the door you can get a lot on there.
posted by mskyle at 7:56 AM on November 3, 2014

(1) I'm a big believer (largely from living in run down rentals) that if you live there for more than a year-long lease, if you can hide a hole with spackle, then it's fair game.

(2) Julia Child's pegboard for quick access storage space tip lives up to the hype.
posted by midmarch snowman at 8:08 AM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

This saucepan lid tip worked great for me, loved it.
posted by kev23f at 8:32 AM on November 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you have any small appliances with feet that like to suction onto the countertop, place them on a cork trivet. Then you can easily slide it forward to use it, and back against the wall/backsplash without the feet suctioning onto the countertop. My blender and coffee pot were driving me nuts, but this totally solved the problem!
posted by barnone at 11:55 AM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Because I'm low on cabinet space, I hung an over the door shoe organizer inside the door leading down the basement from the kitchen and use it to store our medications.

Even if I had more storage space, I think I would still use this method because it's so easy to organize visually. Row 1: Morning meds; Row 2: Evening meds. Row 3: Vitamins, minerals. Row 4: Pain meds, sinus meds, whatever meds. Etc.

I'm thinking you could also use the organizer for herbs and spices. Row 1: Italian; Row 2: Indian. Etc! :)
posted by BeBoth at 12:25 PM on November 3, 2014

For my birthday, I requested a new set of measuring cups and spoons. Mine were bloody annoying, falling out of the tupperware cupboard or clogging up the utensils drawer and then I couldn't never find the right sized one anyway.

My son bought me silicone measuring cups which squash flat so they can be chucked in the utensil drawer and take up barely any space at all. (The photo is at the end of the article, the brightly-coloured things next to the clear lunchbox. Leaving aside the fact that I cannot stand Michelle Bridges and her implants, her measuring cups are awesome.) And he also gave me a set of measuring spoons with magnets in the handles (maybe Masterchef brand or something like that?) so they hang on the side of the fridge.

I never knew such things existed, and I'm stuffed if I know how I lived without them. Utterly brilliant ideas.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:55 PM on November 3, 2014

I always use a hook rack in my kitchen to hang mugs off of. Here's a photo of mine. We're big tea drinkers in our house, and it adds a bit of color to the kitchen. We're also renters, and just plan to fill any nail holes with putty whenever we move out.
posted by mollywas at 9:58 PM on November 3, 2014

I love these spice drawers. They look neat, let you see the labels, and are easy to organize. They don't require uniform jars, and don't require you to buy custom jars to transfer spices into.

You can also creatively modify furniture, if you can't modify the apartment. Inspiration: this table/desk made out of an old door has storage built in on the underside.

IKEA makes some shoe storage that's 8 5/8" deep, and could easily be used for pantry items. Adds a little ledge for more horizontal space too.

Good luck!
posted by nadise at 10:45 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hang your most often used pots and pans, as well as cooking utensils like ladles, sieves, and colanders. Stand other utensils upright in a tall jar. Have all of these near your stove.

It really does make a big difference. You are much more likely to use the right tool for the task if its within reach. Putting them away is also much easier if you don't have to stack them in a cabinet somewhere. The hanging pans don't even have to be completely dry.
posted by cotterpin at 1:54 AM on November 4, 2014

Strong (NdFeB) Magnets.

It is amazing what you can stick to what with magnets. The giant splatter guard that wouldn't fit into any of the draws? Attached to the extractor hood with a magnet. The special wooden forky thing for pulling toast out of the toaster? Attached to the toaster with a magnet. Thing to stop bottle caps falling onto the floor after using the wall-mounted bottle opener? That's a magnet. Cupboard door that wouldn't stay closed? Stays closed with magnets. Keep the phone charger cable from falling on the floor? Wrapped a spring from inside a biro around in and stuck it to a magnet. ETC.

According to the little tub I bought they're 12mm × 2mm N42 magnets. 20 for about £8.
posted by alby at 9:17 AM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Speaking of magnets....

This seems almost too obvious to mention but people who see this seem genuinely surprised: The hood above my stove has a vertical "rim" in front and I use magnets to hold recipes while I'm cooking. (And probably obvious to everyone but me, don't the recipe hang down low enough to catch on fire.)
posted by Room 641-A at 10:25 AM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Instead of using a fruit bowl, I keep my fruit on a three-tiered cake stand. It takes up the same footprint on the bench, but allows me to keep the fruit in single layers. This stops the problem of one piece going bad at the bottom of the bowl and then spoiling everything else. It's also good for squishable fruit like nectarines, where piling them all on top of each other can cause bruising.

I have one shelf in my kitchen where I store glass jars of pasta, nuts etc on their sides, for space reasons. The jars have clear lids, so it's easy to see what's inside. Unfortunately this shelf proved irresistible to my cat, who decided it was a lark to jump onto the kitchen bench at night, roll the jars back and forth and occasionally send one crashing to the floor. After one too many nights of cleaning up broken glass and penne at 3am, I managed to thwart the little monster by taking some thin cord and making a sort of spider's web across the front of the shelf. It keeps the jars securely in place and safe from cat shenanigans, but when I want to reach them it's easy to push the cord aside.
posted by embrangled at 3:02 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

As an alternative to binder clips, with the added bonus of finding them at the grocery store, clothespins are stupid cheap and ubiquitous.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:23 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

1) Don’t have roommates.
posted by El Mariachi at 7:34 AM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I rid the pantry of all food storage miscellany except 8-oz. rectangular containers (and always get the same kind). They fit leftovers well enough, and are the perfect size for soups and stocks and sauces for the freezer. Once frozen, they line up nicely in Fridge Binz, meaning you can pull those bins out like little drawers and not have to rearrange everything in the freezer to get at the stuff in the back.

Larger leftovers, or pre-prepped vegetables, live in the fridge in the 2-quart polycarbonate boxes you can find at the local restaurant supply store.

Also +1 to pegboard. There's one for small, frequently-used tools by the stove, and one in the pantry for pots and pans. (Also a rack, due to space limitations.)
posted by mimi at 11:10 AM on November 5, 2014

I have 3 or 4 turntables in my kitchen that I use to access things that would normally be shoved to the back of the cabinet and therefore would be difficult to access or otherwise forgotten about. They are particularly useful on high shelves where I can reach the front of the shelves but would have to get a step stool to get to things in the back.

Back when we had much less storage space (1 drawer kitchen!) I put shelving in my garage and used that space for all of our non-perishables.
posted by vignettist at 12:02 PM on November 6, 2014

I use a small 1.89L ice cream container to keep compost in the freezer. It saves space while reducing fruit flies and odour. You just need to have a daily habit of emptying it. Plus, if it's your first time, you get to go buy some ice cream.

Also, not a direct repurposing hack, but whenever I get home from shopping I immediately remove as much food as I can from excess packaging. Even just taking a bag of oranges out of its clear plastic bag changes the way the fruit falls in the fridge bin and saves space.
posted by jangusm at 3:53 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I bought lockers off of craigslist that were supposed to be for the entryway but everyone was too lazy to actually open them and put their coats and skateboards in there, so I moved them to the narrow walk-through wall in my kitchen. They work perfectly there - they're shallow so nothing gets lost in the back like regular cabinets.
posted by headnsouth at 4:25 PM on November 7, 2014

- I have all my small appliances, such as the blender, the crockpot, the hand mixer, etc., in one cupboard. It makes it easy to find and access them when I want them. For that matter, although this is probably obvious, all my kitchen cupboards are organized by category: there's a dishes cupboard, a glasses/mugs/teapots cupboard, a pots and pans cupboard, a baking cupboard, a special occasion dishes cupboard, etc. If I don't know exactly where something is, I know where it must be.

- I purge stuff every once in awhile when a cupboard becomes too full, getting rid of whatever I don't use or need. The last time I edited my collection of dishes, cups and glasses, I hated to do it because I got rid of some nice things that didn't happen to go with anything else. But once it was done, I was so glad I had, because I enjoyed what was left so much more. My tableware worked together so much better and I could see and access it much more easily. If you've got overfull cabinets and drawers, the problem may not be "lack of space". Weed out what you don't use and you may just find you have ample cupboard space.

- I keep as little stuff as possible on open shelving or other kinds of open air storage. Unless you use and clean the items on a very regular basis, it makes for extra cleaning because dust, grease, and pet hair all settles on it.
posted by orange swan at 4:53 PM on December 13, 2014

« Older Need help with picking out a telescope for my dad.   |   A question about therapy Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.