Dear Kathi,

I would like some tips on organizing my kitchen. I’ve just moved in and am basically starting with a clean slate. I can put my items anywhere you feel it makes sense. Are their any common guidelines I can use to decide where to store my spices and kitchen gadgets?

James, San Diego


Congratulations on your new space! You are really smart to plan where you will store things before you begin unpacking your kitchen items.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the word “organize” as follows: To form into a coherent unity or functioning whole; to arrange by systematic planning and united effort. This sounds exactly like your intention!

Define the space you will use for each major kitchen task: Prep, Cook, and Cleanup

Assess the storage space available in and surrounding each area. The ideal kitchen will have enough cabinets and/or counter area to house the tools required for each task.
Position the spices/oils, pots/pans, and other cooking tools (spatulas, hotpads, etc) in the Cook Zone. You can find stacked Lazy Susans built specifically for spices that really optimize your cabinet space and keep spices within easy reach.

The Prep Zone

This zone is ideally located by the sink, should contain cutting boards, knives, vegetable scrubbers/ peelers, spatulas, spoons and mixing bowls. If counter space is an issue in this zone, donate your knife block and install a large magnet strip on the backboard above the cutting board.

The Cleanup Zone

This zone is fairly self-explanatory. It encompasses the sink and dishwasher as well as the garbage container. The Prep and Clean Zones are generally adjacent to each other and share the use of the sink and garbage.

These are the best options for each zone:

Your main Prep Zone should be on the side of the sink closest to your stove and oven. Your Clean Zone is best located on the side of the sink area that is directly above the dishwasher and away from the Cook Zone.

Dishes should be housed above the Clean Zone.

Serving platters and bowls can be housed above the Prep Zone.

If possible, also create a breakfast area in your kitchen

This area would contain the toaster, coffee/teapots and mugs, honey, jams, fruit basket and assorted cereals.

The ultimate pantry locations

The best pantry location will be by or near the kitchen entrance.

Pantry Zones

Your pantry can also be organized into different zones. Separate snacks, meals, beverages, condiments, paper goods, etc into their own spaces.

Stacked/tiered shelves work well for storing canned goods and extra condiments. Plastic or rubber covered wire shelves can now be found in almost every superstore.

When purchasing storage containers always buy square or rectangular shapes. They typically hold more volume and take up less space than their round counterparts. They stack neatly and store flush against each other.

Store extra tea bags, spice mixes, and baking packets in their own baskets or boxes without lids. Your packets will be neatly contained and easily accessed.

Consider the vertical space available between each shelf, in every cabinet. Typically, there is a major amount of unused space within each cabinet. Riser racks will double your square footage. Top shelves and coffee cup shelves usually benefit greatly with these riser shelves.

Plastic containers

If you are lucky enough to have deep drawers in your kitchen, you have a marvelous space to store your plastic containers. Your containers will stay neat in a deep drawer and won’t fall out when you try to access them. Consider it serendipitous if this drawer also happens to be located in your Prep Zone!

If you have a second deep drawer, consider placing your pots, pans and lids in this one. If you are using a hanging rack for your cookware, store your lids in a drawer by the stove.
You have a clean slate, so enjoy your new creative ideas and have fun getting settled.


Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to: [email protected]