How to Declutter Your Kitchen and Enjoy It More

Does your kitchen feel crowded, inefficient or just plain messy?  That’s no way to spend so much of your time.  But it only takes a little effort to start making it different today.  Decluttering can absolutely transform this room.  And wouldn’t it be a pleasure to enjoy being there for a change?  

Having specific action steps to follow takes the mystery out of how to declutter your kitchen.  Even if you’re very motivated and excited to “doing all the things”, believe me its worth it to have an organized approach.  You’ll see progress faster and make the job easier on yourself.

1. Take 5 minutes.

If you’re just starting the process (you don’t have to do this every time you declutter!), it’s important to define your goals.  Simply saying “I want to declutter my kitchen” won’t cut it.

Your goals will guide you as you go along and keep you on track.   And they’ve probably changed somewhat over time. So now’s the time to reflect on what you want to accomplish.

  • What functions does your kitchen need to play in daily life?   Preparing meals,  eating meals, homework space, family communication center,  entertaining space, office space, etc?
  • What about your kitchen works well for your family?  You probably want to keep these things intact. 
  • What is currently difficult or inconvenient to do in your kitchen?  Think about the frustrations that come up again and again, no matter how small. Maybe you have to walk across the room to get utensils as you cook, or it’s too cluttered for more than one person to be doing something in the room at the same time, or you’re constantly tripping over the dog bowls. 
  • How do you feel when you’re in the kitchen?  Be specific. Disorganized, crowded, overwhelmed, guilty, annoyed, just waiting until you can get out of there?
  • How would you like to feel?  Be specific. In control, less-stressed, able to do what you need to easily, like there’s a place for everything?

This can be enlightening and also fun as you start to catch the vision of what you’re working toward.

2. Pick your target.

Defining a specific target to work on will keep things manageable and help you avoid getting that sinking feeling of overwhelm.  Whether you only have enough time to finish one small drawer, or enough to declutter all the cabinets, you still need to divide the room up into smaller targets.

Here are two ways to declutter your kitchen:  by area and by type of item.   In most cases you’ll probably want to us both of these approaches, depending on your kitchen.

By area.
Targeting an area is simple because kitchens are naturally divided up into lots of smaller compartments.  With this approach you work your way through the entire room one space at a time.

Select a limited physical space to declutter, such as: 

  • Counters
  • Drawers
  • Cabinets
  • Pantry/Closet
  • Refrigerator
  • Walls

You can break it down as small as you like.  Maybe target just one drawer, or one shelf in a cabinet. 

Pros – Your work is contained, so you’re only disturbing one part of the kitchen at a time.  Plus its easy to do in small increments and fit into your schedule.

Cons – You’re not getting the big picture all at once.  It’s easy to forget similar items you have elsewhere in order to make the best decisions.  

By category of item.
When you have too many things in the kitchen, it’s easier to decide what should stay when you can see how many and what kind you have.  I’m talking about things like:

  • Glasses and Cups
  • Plates
  • Mugs
  • Baby accessories
  • Pots and Pans
  • Eating utensils
  • Serving pieces
  • Cooking utensils
  • Food containers
  • Small appliances
  • Baking supplies
  • Bakeware
  • Kitchen towels
  • Spices
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Food items

Pros – You’ll have a better command of what you own in each category.  And you may feel more confident in your decisions about what to keep and what to let go.

Cons – It’s easier to miss items altogether if you’re jumping around gathering items from different locations. You’ll have to be intentional about going through every item in the kitchen because you won’t be as methodical with the spaces.

Not sure?  I suggest starting with decluttering by area.  It’s a little simpler to do when you’re working a bit at a time.

Whatever you do, don’t let this prevent you from getting started!  You’ll win no matter which way you go.

3. Gather your supplies.

When you know what your target is, it will be more obvious which supplies you need.

One thing you should always have handy is trash bags.  Normal kitchen bags work up to a point, but for big jobs I love to use heavy duty contractor bags.

Strong cardboard or heavy duty plastic boxes work for items with some weight like small appliances or pots and pans.

Glasses, cups and mugs aren’t as heavy but will need something to buffer them from each other, even paper towels.

A shoebox can be good to hold utensils that are being donated or given away.

And you’ll definitely want to have cleaning supplies ready to wipe out cabinets and drawers, and wipe down counters and shelves.

4. Empty and sort.

Now the actual decluttering begins!

If you’re targeting a specific area …
Empty every item from that space onto an area where you can see and go through all of it at once.

If you’re targeting a specific category of item …
Pull every item in this category from wherever it is in the kitchen and put them all together where you can go through them.

Once you’ve got a group of items it’s time to sort!

Identify and place similar items together.

Go through them all and decide what you want to do with each one.  Will it be:

  • Disposed of in the trash, garbage or recycling 
  • Donated or given away
  • Sold
  • Kept

We all know this is where the rubber hits the road and things get real.

Deciding isn’t always easy.

So we’ve provided a list of good questions to ask (below) as you’re decluttering your kitchen.  Because asking the right questions makes all the difference.

5. Replace, remove and relocate.

Whew, the hardest part is over.  Now you just need to get everything to it’s new destination.

  • Put the items you will keep back in your kitchen space neatly.
  • Dispose of trash, garbage and recycling items.
  • Put the items you’re going to donate or give into boxes to be transported.  Separate them by destination so they’re ready to go.
  • Move any items you plan to sell to an area where you’ll get them ready to advertise.

Questions to Ask

Sometimes it’s obvious what you should do with an item.  But when it’s not, asking yourself questions quickly helps you get to the best decision.  As it becomes second nature, you’ll be able to make decisions faster and with more confidence.   

  • Is the item expired?  Expiration dates on food, spices and other edible items can sneak up on us.  It’s a good idea to give everything a quick check for freshness.
  • Is it almost empty?  Almost-empties are responsible for a lot of clutter. Can you combine it with another container of the same item?  If you’ll need more, put it on your shopping list now.  If not, consider getting rid of it. 
  • Is it in good condition?  Most of us tend to use things even after they’ve passed their usefulness or sometimes safety.  Scratched non-stick cookware, for example, needs to go.  But what about cracked food storage containers, threadbare towels, chipped drinkware, or appliances that barely work (or not at all), etc.
  • How regularly is it used?   If you rarely use an item, you’ll want to consider letting it go.  Though items you use rarely, but regularly, like seasonal bakeware, you may want to keep.
  • Does it multitask?  If an item does more than one job, it’s generally a better use of space than something that only has one function.    
  • Can I accomplish the same thing with another item?  What function does the item serve and would you realistically be okay with doing it another way?
  • Does it make working in the kitchen easier?  This is all about making your kitchen a pleasure to use. Does it look nice but create clutter that you need to work around?  Does it do its job well and consistently?  Is it simple to use or finicky? 
  • How many do I have?  There is a place for duplicate items in the kitchen (dinner plate, glassware, baking sheets, etc.), but there should also be limits.  How many do you actually need?  How many do you actually use?  How many do you really have room for?
  • Do I like it?  We don’t have to love every item in our kitchen, but it certainly helps to declutter if we really don’t like something.  Maybe it doesn’t look good.  Maybe it’s awkward to use.  Maybe it once served a purpose but no longer does.
  • Does it do it’s job well?  The right tools make a job easier, and so do tools that do what they’re supposed to.  For example, one really good knife is better than a drawer full of so-so knives.
  • Why do I want to keep it?  When you’ve gone through this list and still aren’t sure what to do, there may be something deeper causing you to hold on to things.  Be honest about the thoughts and feelings you have when you consider decluttering something.   They will provide a hint as to why.

Tips for Success

There are always little gems of wisdom that make a job easier.  The kind of things you gather by experience.  Here are some kitchen decluttering ideas to use on your own journey to reduce clutter in the kitchen. 

  • Declutter flat surfaces first. – Counters, table tops, and window sills are prime targets.  This will give you an immediate win because it will be so visible.   Plus it will open up more space to work with as you begin emptying cabinets and drawers.  What a difference a clear counter can make.  
  • Limit duplicates.  This is a *big* deal.  And there’s no hard and fast rule.  You’ll have to be the judge.  Duplicates can be an issue with all sorts of kitchen items, from mugs to cutting boards.  Aim for keeping what you need but not more.  It might be fine to have 12 dinner plates, but you probably don’t need 3 crock pots.
  • Clear space to sort.  Whether it’s a counter or table top or even an area in the next room, give yourself the space to spread out a little and work one batch of things at a time.
  • Designate an area for kitchen overflow. If there are things you need to keep but really don’t have space for, is there another area of the house that you could store some overflow?  Maybe a bin kept in the basement with items that are used regularly but not very often, like holiday baking supplies.
  • Don’t forget your walls and the outside of your refrigerator. Visual clutter on these spaces affects the whole room.  And these areas are easy to become clutter blind to.  So remember to declutter them as well.
  • Empty is okay! Is there a shelf or drawer or counter that is now empty?  Resist the impulse to fill it up right away.  You may need to get used to living in a space with fewer things.  

Wrap Up

The kitchen is the heart of the home, so the whole family will benefit from an easier to use, less cluttered space.  When you’re asking yourself “How do I declutter my kitchen?”, start at Step 1.  Working methodically though areas or categories of items will help you see progress faster.  And asking our list of questions will simplify the process of deciding what should stay and what should go.  In the end, you’ll love how your kitchen feels.

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