How to Maximize Storage in a Small Kitchen

Woah, is it Thursday already?!! Oh wait, no, it’s Wednesday–holiday week’s got me like ?????. In any case, where did this week (or month for that matter) go? I swear I am SO done with winter!! My whole family has been sick again for what feels like the 3,000th time since Christmas and I’m just D.O.N.E. Who else is with me? Let’s have a protest. Anyway, enough complaining, the sky is blue today, the sun is shining, and it’s like 50 degrees outside (practically shorts weather here in Utah), so it appears Mother Nature has taken my complaints under consideration. Woo hoo!!!

I’m excited about what I have to share with you today because it’s where that real life stuff sort of meets the pretty, decorating stuff. So let’s talk Small Kitchens. Specifically: How to Maximize Storage in a Small Kitchen.

How to Maximize Storage in a Small Kitchen 2

I think all of us have that one room in our house that every time we look at it, the wheels start turning and the next thing you know, you’ve made a mental blueprint for a full renovation of the space. Husbands love it, amiright? Seriously though, since the day we looked at our house, the kitchen has been the room I’ve probably had the most hold-ups about. It’s small. In fact, if it had a wall on both sides, it would be a galley kitchen–you know, the hallway-style kitchen that tends to be a deal-breaker on like 95% of House Hunters episodes. Luckily, due to our ridiculously open floor plan, the galley-effect is disguised, but the open plan creates its own bag of issues for our kitchen. If the kitchen were tucked away, I would still want it pretty, because that’s how I roll, but I don’t think that I would be quite as concerned about making sure that everything was so neat and tidy. But our ridiculously open plan means that anything that is out in the kitchen is basically visible from anywhere else in the house, and the older I get, the more having to look at clutter just makes me stabby.

Small Kitchen

So, having a tiny kitchen that’s out there for the world to see, has brought it’s fair share of challenges for this organizationally challenged, dish-loving girl–cute dishes are my weakness. But, after eight years of living with our small kitchen, and a lot of trial and error, I’ve found things that work for making the most of our seriously minimal storage space. Oh, did I mention that I don’t have a pantry? #ThingsIWouldKillFor. So today, let me walk you through some of the tricks that I’ve found for maximizing the minimal space in our small kitchen.

1. Pare it down! What is it that makes us think that we need 300 different wood spoons and like 40 different casserole dishes? I mean, most days, I only cook one meal (if my family is lucky), and a few dishes are all I need. SO, I keep only what I use on a very regular basis in my kitchen. That means one casserole dish in each size (square and rectangular), a couple of different baking pans, and a very minimal number of plastic containers, and a handful of cooking spoons, spatulas and utensils–to name a few. I have more for when I have people over or cook large meals, and I have random stuff like a spring form pan for when I cook a cheesecake once every six years, but if it’s not something that I use regularly, it’s neatly tucked in a bin in my storage room in the basement. There’s no reason for it to take up valuable cupboard space when it’s not something that I use regularly. My favorite method for paring down goes like this.

1. Choose a day where you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed by clutter. For me, that happens about once a month–infer what you will friends ;)
2. Put everything out there on the counter. Pull your cupboards apart, take stock of what’s there, and set aside only what you use on a regular basis. Like this picture below–it can be a scary process.
3. Your general annoyance with clutter and irritable attitude on that particular day combined with an overwhelming mess is PURE MOTIVATIONAL GOLD to purge what you don’t need.
That’s my method anyway. I throw stuff away before I even have time to regret it. Basically, take stock, clear out the excess ;)


Paring down goes for all of those plastic containers and plastic “collector” cutesy cups and plates for the kids. I am a SUCKER for the cutesy kids stuff, especially those adorable Holiday endcaps at Target, but I finally had sort of a reckoning with all of the plastic cups. Why does my child need 300 different cups to choose from? She really doesn’t. So one day, I did what every mean mom does, I threw them all away while she was at school, aside from maybe the few she would notice. Guess what? She never even knew any of them went missing and I cleared up valuable space. I bought a three pack of these at Costco and it’s the greatest $15 I’ve ever spent. You can find them on Amazon (affiliate link), but they’re like half the price at Costco.

contigo cups

Paring things down has had another great, unexpected perk too. When you have less dishes, you have to do them more often because you need to use them, so the sink stays clear and dishes are kept to a minimum. That’s been the case at our house anyway.

2.  Think outside the cupboard (and drawer). Once everything is pared down, and you’re left with the essentials, figure out what can live outside of cupboards and drawers. There are things we use every day that traditionally go in a cupboard. Things like plates, silverware, measuring cups, etc. Cupboards are valuable real estate around here, and drawers are even more valuable (because I have exactly 7–one being a dedicated junk drawer, because let’s be real, not having a junk drawer would be a silly fantasy in my life), so those things we use every day actually sit out on the counters and they sort of just fit right in with our decor. Keeping functional things on the counters is probably my biggest weapon for keeping space available, so we’re going to spend a minute on that one.

I bought this little metal plate holder thing (technical terminology) at Hobby Lobby for about $10, and it houses our plates and pasta bowls. I purposely buy most of my dishes in white so that they can be left out as sort of a “functional display,” which means that they work even if my decor changes. The oils I use for cooking, salt, pepper, measuring cups, and wood spoons are all collected in a basket by the stove. Which leads to another tip: baskets are a great way to group things together and keep things from looking cluttered.

Small Kitchen Organization

On our bar/island/peninsula/other side of the counter–what do you even call this space? I don’t know. It’s connected to the rest of the counter, but it’s also where the barstools reside, so we call it the bar. Anyway, in this spot, I have a huge boot tray that I bought at Target to sort of use as a centerpiece on the counter, but it holds all of our silverware, my recipe box, and just a few little decorative things. Again, grouping in baskets and trays for the win.

Kitchen Counter Top Organization

Small Kitchen Storage and Organization

Basically, if I can find a pretty way to store stuff on the counters, without cluttering it up, that’s what I do.

Small Kitchen Organization Ideas

And that includes the coffee supplies, tucked in what else? A basket.

It may not seem like a lot, but all of that stuff adds up to clear up a lot of cupboard space that can be used to store the uglier, more unsightly things. Food, small appliances, all of that stuff.

How to Organize a Small Kitchen
3. Add furniture that creates storage. It’s one of my favorite tricks for adding storage everywhere in our house, and the kitchen, or I guess more accurately, the dining room, was no exception. If I had my choice, I’d probably actually have some sort of armoire or hutch in here that would mimic a pantry, but I have a buffet that was my great-grandma’s and it was a MUST to find it a home when we bought our house, so this is the home it found. It stores dishes, my stand mixer, and food and we would literally be lost without the extra storage it provides.

Farmhouse Dining Room

Like everything else, most of what sits on top looks nice but is also functional. More dishes mostly, mixing bowls, every day bowls, and a little “bar” corner. Oh, what’s that? Another basket? Did I mention that there is no such thing as too many baskets? The little bar corner also helps me look cool, because let’s be honest, I chose that bottle of Vodka purley based on the label and that bottle of Vodka will last me like a year. The wine doesn’t last quite as long ;)

Buffet Bar Cart
Even the centerpiece on the table does double-duty. Those are real apples, and that bowl gets filled back up every two weeks when I go grocery shopping. In the summer time, when there’s more fresh fruit and veggies around, I usually put a bowl on the tray on the counter and store them there too.

Kitchen Storage Tips

4. Baskets, baskets, and more baskets. I’ve mentioned them enough times now, they might as well have their own category. Any time I need to group something together, or even hide something out in the open, a basket is usually the answer. My husband is a “put it on top of the fridge” kind of guy. Like random whatever, especially whatever we’re hiding from the child, seems to go on top of the fridge and I got sick of the clutter, so I threw a basket up there to hide it all. I go through it every couple of weeks and clear it out, and we rarely use anything in the hard to reach cupboard up there, so it’s been an awesome solution.

Small Kitchen Organization Ideas

I have them tucked in corners to hold things like root vegetables, one for my cookbooks that I use regularly…I could go on about baskets, but I think I’ve more than demonstrated my undying love ;)

Later this week (or early next week), I have the much less pretty part of the kitchen storage for you: the inside of the cupboards. I’m by no means an organized person, but I figured I’d show you what we do on the inside to maximize the storage too and maybe you can even get a good laugh at my attempt to organize, or an idea or two.

How to maximize storage in a small kitchen |



  1. Carol says

    That is exactly our kitchen!!!!!!! Same everything (including only 7 drawers and no pantry). Alas ours is not your pretty white, dark cabinets here. Thanks for the great tips!

  2. says

    Hi there! I’m new to your site. I saw it mentioned in Good Housekeeping and had to come check it out. Love this post! I’m becoming tray and basket obsessed also. Great tips here! And it’s funny how you notice what others have. Your pantry-less kitchen with your long counters looks fabulous when I compare it to my walk-in pantry kitchen with a shockingly small amount of counter space. :) What do they say about the grass?

  3. Nancy Carr says

    What a blessing to receive this great inspiration. I need to organize so many places. I love your ideas and am going to get busy on my kitchen now. Thank you so much. Blessings

  4. says

    Remember the trick of using bright natural light to make a room seem bigger? The same trick essentially works by making the walls a light, solid color. It creates a slight mental illusion of distance and openness, which makes everything feel bigger than before.

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