Whether you are just moving in or your current arrangement does not flow quite as smoothly as it could, organizing your kitchen can streamline your activities and keep your kitchen looking neat and tidy.
Toss anything you don't use. Pass it along to a friend or relative, add it to a neighborhood garage sale, or donate it to charity. Be honest! When did you last use that melon baller, meatball scoop, or cookie press? Do you even know what the gizmos do? Do you really need two? Could a more general tool do the job? If you get rid of it, you will not have to hunt past it for things you do use or find a space to store it.
Replace things that don't work. If the handle on a pot rattles, the spout always gets clogged up, or the pan always scorches the food, fix or replace it! If you can't afford a replacement now, put it on a list and save your pennies, or request one for a birthday or holiday.
A utensil jar by the stove keeps tools close at hand.
Store frequently-used objects in easy-to-reach locations. Notice what you use most often. Figure out where you will use them most. Infrequently used items, like the roasting pan that you only haul out during the holidays, can go on high shelves or in the back of cabinets. They can even be stored outside the kitchen in the garage, attic, basement, guest room closet, or a box under a bed.
Make sure every item in your kitchen has earned its right to take up your valuable space! Remember: if you use it infrequently enough, it should go out altogether. Just because it is large or expensive, it doesn't mean you should keep it. If you made pasta twice ten years ago, please pitch the pasta machine.
Store the knives near the cutting board in your food prep area.
Create centers of activity and store related utensils near where they will be used. Here are some common centers of activity, in the order that food will travel through the kitchen:
Storage or pantry. Consider your freezer an extension of this area. Whether you store foods in a true pantry, a cabinet, a closet, or someplace else entirely, don't forget to go through periodically and clear out items that are hopelessly old or will never be used.
Cooking. The stove and oven plus the utensils that go with them. This area should include pots and pans, pot holders, spoons and spatulas (a utensil jar works well for these).
Baking. If you love to bake, you might find it handy to store your flour, sugar, baking powder, a set of measuring cups and spoons, your favorite mixing bowl, etc. together in one convenient spot.
Serving. The table, plus tableware, serving dishes, napkins, trivets, and anything else you need to sit down and eat. Soy sauce? Salt and pepper shakers? Sugar bowl? Ask yourself whether it would be more convenient to store your dishes and silverware near the table or the dishwasher.
Cleaning. The sink, dishwasher and surroundings. Soap, gloves, dish pan, drying rack, cleansers, towels, etc.
Waste disposal. Keep a trash can handy, plus recycling and compost bins, too. Locate them as centrally as possible without being in the way. They should go near the cleaning and food preparation areas.
Clear the counter. Pay particular attention to reducing the number of objects stored permanently on the counter. The counter needs frequent cleaning and it is your primary workspace. Find another place for knickknacks and anything else that doesn't absolutely need to live there.
Make a list. Tattered dishcloths? Out of soap? As you go, write down supplies you find lacking or worn out. Also write down side projects that you find as you go (such as fixing a wobbly table leg). Writing them down allows you to tackle distractions later without missing things.
Give paper another home. Create a paper-sorting center, ideally between the mailbox and the kitchen, with bins for sorting paper, a recycling bin and trash can, space to write, and other necessary supplies.
Make a proper space for paper in the kitchen. Admit that it's going to land there and have a tidy place to put it and a system for clearing it out regularly.
Clean as you go. When you clear one drawer or shelf, wipe out the crumbs before replacing the contents. Cleaning a little at a time makes it less of a chore.
Organize according to how traffic and activities do flow, not necessarily according to how they should flow.
No organizational system is set in stone. Experiment with different arrangements. Notice what works and what doesn't. If you use something differently than you anticipated, or if your habits change, move it.
If you choose to put spices near the stove, make sure they will stay cool and dry. Heat and moisture will spoil the flavor, and you will have to replace them much more often.
Find drawer trays that fit your drawers to keep things tidy and in order within drawers.
Do you have a "junk drawer" or other catch-all area in your kitchen? If so, why? Take a good, critical look at its contents. Consider giving it a specific purpose and definitely throw out any junk that's not needed!
Entire stores exist that specialize in junk storage devices. Do not start organizing your kitchen by heading to such a store with wallet in hand. If you have thoroughly decluttered an area and established an organization system, and still think that a shelf, rack, tray, or bin will help you make better use of space, then go and get just the item you need. Otherwise those "handy" items are just more clutter.
Try sorting small hand utensils according to size/length. Keeping the small and the large separated will speed your search for the correct utensil.
Knives need a special place all their own. Typically knives don't get dull from being used. Instead they get dull from being banged around in a drawer with other knives, utensils or dishes.
Liquid hand soap is a must in any kitchen. It's more hygienic than bar soap and there's no slimy soap dish.
Pace yourself. Unless you're just moving in, don't try to organize an entire kitchen all at once. You'll just scatter stuff all over and get frustrated. Instead, go one drawer, shelf, or cabinet at a time.