organized spices on a spice rack

Clever Small Kitchen Storage Ideas from Organizing Experts

Are you cooking at home more often these days? We talked to experts for their top small-kitchen storage ideas that can help you add more space to your place and make cooking faster and easier.

Who can argue with that! Whether it is finding space in drawers or shelf risers, our organizing mavens focused on things you can do easily today that can make a difference by dinnertime.

“One thing I always tell my clients is ‘look up and down and all around for the best solutions,’” said Virtual Organizer and Productivity Consultant Pam Holland, of Mindful Decluttering & Organizing.

Measure It out First

Whether you’ve just recently moved into a home with a small kitchen or currently have a cozy cooking area, Holland suggests you do this one thing first. Measure out all your drawers.

“I’m guilty of being at Target and seeing something and thinking ‘that looks like it will work.’” Holland said with a chuckle. “If you do see that storage thing at Target and haven’t measured it, then be prepared to take it back.”

Measure all your cabinets and drawers and add the dimensions to a notepad in your smartphone. Then, wherever you are you can determine whether the storage item will fit in your home.

“Measuring it out is really important to maximizing any storage space,” Holland said.

Declutter Kitchen Utensils and Gadgets

Increasing storage also means evaluating your items and where they belong in a kitchen.

“You can make any kitchen very functional if you focus on that goal,” said Monica Friel, president of the organizing firm Chaos to Order. “The real estate in your home is valuable, so you want to make sure you’re using items and prioritizing things. Having a bunch of stuff that you don’t use is costing you in clutter and real estate space.”

Friel moved from a big open concept kitchen in the Chicago area into a tiny one about two years ago, but she hasn’t missed her former space at all.

“I’m a small-space person. You just have less and have to manage less, which is kind of nice,” she explained.

How did she make the most of her storage space?

“I eliminated whatever was not essential,” Friel said. “If it was essential I kept it and if it was something I used very infrequently then I tossed out. I tossed out so much prior to moving that when I did move into my kitchen I had a whole extra cabinet that was empty. Of course I’ve since filled it.”

Friel has advice for how you can start. Think about the cherry pitter or avocado slicer that you’ve only used once – a good, old-fashioned knife will do the trick. And decluttering these infrequently used items will add more storage space to your drawers when you declutter these infrequently used items.

“That’s the beauty of working with a professional organizer,” Friel said. “We kind of make you go through every item and not just what’s in the drawer.”

For example, if you have a cute little tea set but you haven’t used it in a decade, and it takes up the whole top shelf space.

“Maybe you can put that with your keepsakes in the attic or basement rather than taking up the whole space in your kitchen,” Friel said.

Holland refers to that space as secondary storage.

“If everything won’t fit in your kitchen then that doesn’t mean all is lost,” Holland said. “We never kept our canned goods in the kitchen; they went downstairs in the pantry.”

If you don’t have the luxury of an attic or basement, consider using Public Storage. We have a variety of unit sizes, such as locker space that can serve as your kitchen storage for those seasonal napkins, tablecloths, or tea sets that you don’t use on a daily basis to make more space in your cabinets and drawers.

Organize Kitchen Drawers

We all have it: a junk drawer in the kitchen that seems to have too many things and not enough space at the same time. Friel says you can maximize your drawer storage simply by adding dividers or organizing containers.

But don’t feel like you have to go online and buy new storage bins. Simply reuse plastic containers or jewelry boxes to help organize drawers.

“I love drawer organizers. Not necessarily in every drawer but if you have a drawer that has a lot of little things in it then use dividers or old jewelry boxes — if you’re on a tight budget,” Friel said. “You can find old things around the house that can be used to help organize your drawer.”

Holland agrees; just about any box can be repurposed to help you organize items and oftentimes give you more storage space. She likes to use bamboo containers to fit more in her drawers.

Consider Cabinet Shelf Organization and Cabinet Shelf Risers

coffee mugs on cabinet shelf risers

Both Holland and Friel offer some caution when evaluating storage options in cabinets: be sure not to miss hidden storage opportunities behind your cabinet doors!

First, Holland typically inspects the cabinets to see if the shelves can be adjusted. If so, she likes to bring down the shelves so there isn’t too much wasted space between each level. For example, if the coffee cups are at the bottom, it makes no sense to leave a ton of space above. Bringing down the shelves ultimately makes it easier to reach items on the top shelf, she said.

“People don’t even think about the fact that the shelves can often actually be moved,” Holland said. “I would start with that. In our pantry if you cannot move shelves, that’s when you can use risers and shoeboxes.”

Use Vertical Storage Space

Look at your kitchen and visualize the valuable vertical space that can be used for storage. For example, the area between a refrigerator or other appliance and a side wall can be converted into a firm pull-out organizers for cans or other small items, such as spices.

Organizer Friel converted the inside of her pantry door into vertical storage space with the addition of an over-the-door organizer nearly the size of the door and four inches deep.

“It’s just wonderful because you can hold so much and it provides great access for all kinds of things,” she said. “It adds storage to my tiny kitchen. It’s valuable space. ”

Don’t forget the potential of the ceiling space, says Holland.

“I had one client in a very small apartment in Washington DC, and they had racks hanging from the top and middle of the ceiling for their pots and pans,” she said. “They used the space very effectively.”

Use Open Wall Space

pots and pans and colander hanging on vertical space in kitchen wall

Who could forget Julia Child’s and the iconic blue pegboard wall in her kitchen where she stored all of her pots and pans.

You can also try adding wall shelves above the sink or stove or in other areas, Holland said. These floating shelves can be found online and at large superstores.

“Try to think outside the box -- you don’t have to put things where the experts say you have to put things,” advises Holland.

In her last home in DC, Holland said she had a green plastic colander that she used a lot but didn’t have good space for. Her solution was to add a hook to the side of a cabinet and store it there. Holland not only took advantage of underutilized storage space, but had easy access to the colander.

Holland adds any storage accessory that has mesh wiring can be hung on a wall to create more storage space. One of her clients used a wire magazine organizer to hold cookbooks and miscellaneous papers.

Utilize Clear Storage Containers

This option might just be preference. Organize items by taking cereal boxes and other dry foods and transfer them into clear and stackable containers. It makes it easier to be able to see all your contents.

Holland likes to use clear shoe box containers from the Container Store to organize and store canned items in her pantry. By putting the canned goods in labeled containers, Holland said she and the rest of her family are able to easily find items.

The plastic containers are labeled using sticky notes which Holland said is an affordable and quick solution. You can decide to buy a label maker for your bins, although it is more costly.

Bring in Portable Storage

Think like Kelly Clarkson (in that Wayfair commercial) and shop online for some portable kitchen islands or carts to add much-needed storage.

Some kitchen islands come equipped with a cutting board countertop and open shelving underneath. Holland said she found it useful to have an island on wheels in her previous home.

“Having something that’s moveable could be really handy. Especially if you entertain, it can go into the dining room if you need extra space.”

Transform Your Counter Space

Who says there's too many cooks in the kitchen? Those with a small kitchen. Adding counter space isn’t an easy feat but it can be done if you use a cutting board in an unconventional way.

Look for a cutting board that can either fit on one side of your stove, or over your sink. A firm search on Amazon reveals endless options of plastic and wood boards ranging in size and prices.

This gives you the opportunity to add counter space while making your life a little easy to have two people in the kitchen cooking and preparing meals at the same time.

It’s not just about adding counter space, but also using it wisely. If your drawers are too full, consider adding a jar with your cooking utensils next to the stove.

“Sometimes in a smaller kitchen you do need to make use of some of that type of counter space. Everything can’t be put in a drawer,” Friel explained.