How to Declutter & Simplify Your Kitchen

Before we get into it, here's an overview of just 8 steps you can take to completely declutter and set up your kitchen for optimal functionality and happiness. 

  1. Get rid of plastic.

  2. Cut down on paper.

  3. Purge your cabinets.

  4. Put things where you use them.

  5. Organize the pantry.

  6. Clean out the fridge and freezer.

  7. Clean off the counters.

  8. Decorate simply.

The kitchen really is the heart of the home, so it's important to make it work really well for you. If your kitchen functions properly and make you happy to be in it more, your health and wellbeing is positively affected. 

But if it's cluttered and frustrating and impractical, it will have the opposite effect. 

It's time to take a hard look at your kitchen and make time to declutter it and set it up properly. It doesn't cost anything but a little time and effort to make sure that your kitchen is working for you and not against you. 

How to Declutter and Organize Your Kitchen in 8 Steps

8 steps to a clutter-free kitchen makeover

Don't get overwhelmed with these steps- it can take a while to complete them if you have a big kitchen and/or a big family. Put aside a weekend to crank your favourite tunes and get into it. Or break it up by doing one step/day or even 15 minutes a day.  Just make sure to schedule time to do the work and get the results! 

1. Get rid of plastic.

Right away, get rid of any plastic containers without lids or that you don't use because the sizes just don't work. Toss any that are scratched, as they can more readily leach harmful substances into your food. Then, take a look as see if any of the ones you still have can be replaced with glass containers instead. There are many inexpensive options in glass food containers now, found everywhere from IKEA to the Dollar Store. Go get some and only keep the heavy plastic ones that you absolutely can't part with. That goes for water bottles as well. It's time to switch to metal or glass.

I find the easiest method of storing food containers is in either a deep pull-out cabinet drawer or the bottom drawer of the oven. I like stacking all of the same size together and sitting them on the corresponding stack of lids. That way I don't have to search for the right lid size each time. 

Consider also ditching your plastic wrap and bags. Most are laden with chemical additives that can leach into food, and when we eat foods that have been stored in them, the chemicals migrate into our bodies. Not good. Plus they take up so much awkward space in drawers! The answer to how to go without plastic wrap and bags is to simplify: put leftovers in a glass or ceramic bowl with a plate on top; use waxed/fabric reusable sandwich bags or even glass containers to pack lunches.

Glass containers make life so much easier and less cluttered - they go from fridge to freezer to microwave to dishwasher. Make the switch and enjoy! 

baskets in kitchen to hold napkins

2. Cut down on paper. 

Switch from paper napkins to linen or cotton ones. They're so beautiful and it prevents having to constantly buy paper ones you run out of. They look great stacked in a basket on an open shelf or hutch.

Also, dedicate a drawer or basket under your sink for rags and cleaning cloths so you can ditch paper towel (and the hassle of storing it). Go through your cleaning cloths, dishcloths and dishtowels to relegate any stained or torn ones to the rag pile. 

Cutting down on paper towel and paper napkins is a no-brainer way to declutter your kitchen. 

3. Purge your cabinets. 

Here's the fun part. Pull out all of your dishes, small appliances, cutlery, etc. and put them on the table.

  • If you haven't used something in the last three months, donate it.

  • If you have seasonal-only items, see if you can find storage for them in another spot in the house, or if you have room in the kitchen, put them in a high or deep cupboard that you don't access regularly.

  • Are there any duplicates like bowls or serving platters or even slow cookers? Pick the ones that are the most multi-purpose (ex. a bowl that can be a mixing bowl and a serving bowl) to keep, and donate the rest.

  • Any broken appliances or dishes go to the curb (or recycled if possible).

Really get critical here - you only want to keep things that are truly useful and not simply taking up space.

kitchen organization and coffee station

 4. Put things back where you use them. 

Now, rethink where you put everything back. Examine your daily habits and place your stuff close to where you use it, instead of blindly storing them where convention dictates.

how to organize your kitchen for maximum functionality
  • Glasses could go either next to the fridge or the sink.

  • Mugs close to the coffee maker and tea station.

  • Maybe a coffee/drink station on the counter or in one cabinet would be convenient?

  • Cutlery and dishes go near the dishwasher. Maybe it would be easier for the whole family to grab the plates and bowls they need if they were in a lower deep drawer or on open shelving instead of upper cabinets?

  • Cutting boards and knives close to the prep counter.

  • Perhaps a magnetic knife strip on the backsplash would come in handy?

  • Pots and pans next to the stove. Use a simple divider to maximize space for cookie sheets and muffin tins, as well as for pot lids.

  • Make sure to have somewhere handy to grab hand and dish towels - maybe a drawer or a basket on a shelf or hooks to hang them on.

  • The toaster and the blender could go in the cabinet directly under where you pull them out and plug them in. That way they're easy to take in and out right where you need them.

Seems like common sense but sometimes over the years we've changed our habits yet our organizing hasn't changed with them. 

5. Organize your pantry.

Whether you have a full food pantry or a simply a cupboard dedicated to food storage, go through it with a fine-tooth comb.

  • Go through all labels and toss any that are out of date.

  • Get rid of boxes by storing dry goods in glass air-tight jars.

  • Keep labels and a pen handy so you can mark them with the product name and best-before date.

  • Sort like with like - for example baking, cooking, breakfasts, snacks, etc.

pantry organization and food in glass jars

6. Clean and organize the refrigerator and freezer. 

Remove each item and check the expiration date so you can throw those that are bad (and do the smell test if in doubt). Mark any frozen home-made goods with labels. Make a list as you go of anything that gets tossed that you need to replenish.

Then clean top to bottom with a cloth and good ol' hot soapy water. I like Castille soap or Green Works detergent. Sprinkle a bit of baking soda on stuck-on bits and scrub. Dry with a clean cloth.

Then load everything back in, keeping like with like, where they are easiest to find. Move your shelves around to meet your needs. Consider adding baskets or trays to group things together like lunch supplies or table condiments or smoothie ingredients so you can grab the whole caddie each time you need it. 

7. Clean off your counters.

Decluttering your counters is a personal process. Some people like them almost completely bare, others like to keep small appliances on them for easy use instead of having to pull them out of storage every time. Personally, I like to keep a coffee/tea station on my counter, as well as cutting boards, and oils and spices in a tray next to the stovetop. I think these things are pretty as well as functional so they work for me. The rest of the counter is kept bare for working on. I don't have small appliances (other than the coffee maker) out cluttering up my counters. 

The key to a decluttered kitchen is not having visual clutter on your counters. Get ruthless here and see what a difference clean, sparse counters can make. 

organizing and clearing kitchen counters
  • Get rid of piles of paper that shouldn't be there.

  • No more paper towel holder since you've switched to cloths stored a drawer.

  • Dish detergent goes under the sink.

  • Seldom-used appliances are gone or stored.

  • Absolutely no keys or phones or change. Keys and change get dropped in an organized entryway and phones should go to a dedicated charging station!

how to simply decorate your kitchen

8. Decorate simply.  

You should continue the look and feel of your home in the kitchen, but you also want to make sure that it remains simple and clean. A good general rule is to use no more than a couple different colours and materials in the kitchen. For example, don't have two different counter materials plus a busy backsplash.

Your decor in the kitchen can do double duty - being both practical and beautiful. Perhaps it's a chalkboard wall where you can plan out your week's menu. You could lean cutting boards against a backsplash for interest and ease of use.  Hang utensils or cute measuring spoons under your upper shelving. Or you might install a small piece of art that makes you smile.

Make the kitchen a happy and functional space and your days will be brighter.