How to declutter a kitchen: 9 steps to an organised cooking space

Bring order to your cupboards, worktops and drawers

Is your kitchen shrinking? It can feel that way if you’re cooking and eating in a space that’s become cluttered. As well as being our dumping ground for the whirlwind of everyday life – thanks to their cupboards and drawers – kitchens swallow up things that don’t need to be there any more: kitchenware that’s past its best, expired products, unloved cookbooks and multiple tools that rarely get used. That’s where our guide to how to declutter a kitchen comes in.

When it comes to addressing the mess, it’s easy to become overwhelmed or not know where to start. In fact, it can be tempting once you’ve started pulling things out to just stuff them all back in again. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Tackled section by section with a realistic approach, it’s easy to reclaim your space.

Contemporary white and wood kitchen with islandCredit: Husk Kitchens

Even better, once you start to organise the kitchen, you’ll quickly reap the rewards: being able to find what you want easily, avoid buying doubles of items you already have and more worksurface space than you’ll know what to do with. You may even rediscover a love of cooking or baking. All for just a few hours’ effort. Let the decluttering begin…

1. Edit your cutlery drawer

Get organised and ditch underused gadgets

Storage compartments for cutlery in a drawerCredit: ProCook
Keep cutlery organised with individual compartments, and don’t overfill them.

Many kitchens have more than enough cutlery, most of which rarely gets used. Be realistic about the items you use on a day-to-day basis – do you really need 20 teaspoons to hand?  You can either box up the spares to see how much you miss them, or donate them. Then, invest in a cutlery drawer organiser with separate sections for each piece.

Next, tackle the kitchen gadgets, especially the single-function ones, such as garlic crushers, strawberry hullers and apple corers. Most of these can be easily replaced by a single item such as a good-quality chef’s knife. Finally, make sure your utensils are all in the right place.

“You don’t want to have to go digging around for the right utensils when you’re in the middle of making dinner,” says Sarah Savery-Smith, brand director of ProCook. “Try organising your drawers by how frequently you use certain items, then you’ll always have what you need close to hand. In your prep area, place your kitchen knives in an in-drawer knife block. Not only will this protect your knives from getting damaged, it also keeps them safely away from little ones.”

2. Clear the floor

It makes a room feel instantly bigger

In built pull out bins in a deep drawerCredit: Franke
Keep rubbish off the floor and out of site with a system that lets you sort your recycling.

The more visible floor area your kitchen has, the bigger it’ll feel and the easier it’ll be to move around. Look around the room and see what’s on the floor that could be elsewhere or what could work better. For example, swap bar stools that don’t tuck below a worktop when not in use for ones that door get rid of freestanding storage such as fruit and veg racks.

Other floor hogs include your kitchen bin and recycling bins, so make it your mission to free up a cupboard for waste sorting bins and a compost bin instead. The best place is the area where you do most of your food prep, ideally near the sink. This means you can peel and chop without having to walk across the kitchen to dispose of the waste.

“Drawer storage is perfect for hiding recycling,” explains Dave Young, founder of Husk. “By installing in-drawer kitchen bins for rubbish and recycling, discarded food and wrappings can easily be swept away, keeping surfaces clear and clean for speedy food preparation. Plus, they keep more floor visible, which helps to maintain a feeling of space.”

3. Get rid of expired products

And create a better system to stop food waste

Transparent containers in kitchen cupboardCredit: OXO
Is there anything more satisfying than an organised larder?

We all have a guilty secret lurking at the back of our larders. Whether it’s out-of-date flour or spices that are approaching heirloom status, purging your cupboards of products past their best will help you get on top of your food storage.

However, prevention is better than cure, so the next step is to make sure you use the oldest stuff first.. This can be as simple as arranging tins so they’re facing towards the front and always putting new ones away at the back. In-cupboard risers can also be handy. Being able to see what you have will mean you won’t be constantly buying things you already have in stock. You can also try taking the ‘store cupboard challenge’ – where each week you select a food item you’ve had for a while and use it to make a new dish or meal.

If your pantry problem is leaky packets, buy a few small baskets and label them up. Then each time you need pasta, rice or spices, you can pull out the basket that you need – no mess, no fuss. Alternatively, decant dry goods into containers that can be stacked – instead of pretty jars that can’t – for an easy way to free up space. Just pop on a sticker with the expiry date on the top. The best advice here  is not to implement any system that you don’t think you can commit to continuing, otherwise you’ll find yourself decluttering the larder cupboard again sooner rather than later.

Get in the decluttering zone

If the idea of a neat and organised kitchen hasn’t motivated you yet, here’s an easy way to get into decluttering mode. Turn on your favourite music (so you can have a dance while decluttering) and grab your kitchen timer. Set it for as long as you think you can handle – 60 minutes is ideal – and see how much you accomplish in an hour. If you feel like carrying on afterwards, that’s fine too, but there’s nothing like a deadline to help you make decisions about what stays and what goes.

4. Liberate your worktops

Identify the ‘worktop hogs’

Pantry cupboard filled with small appliancesCredit: Naked Kitchens
Hide away small appliances in a pantry cupboard for a more streamlined worktop.

Small appliances can be huge timesavers but they can also be worktop hogs, taking up valuable food prep space. If you don’t use an appliance every day, think about finding it a new home in a cupboard. “Pantry cupboards are particularly useful for concealing small electrical items that would often be left on your worktop, such as a microwave, kettle and toaster,” says Adrian Stoneham, managing director at Stoneham Kitchens. “By concealing these items, you can free up more space on your worktop. You could also fit a hot water tap to take the place of a kettle.”

For infrequently used and seasonal items, such as stand mixers and ice-cream makers, think about finding them a home outside  the kitchen. This is particularly useful if you have a compact kitchen with no free cupboards for appliances. Then just bring them in when necessary.

5. Organise your drawers and cupboards

Make sure that most-used items are the easiest to access

Pegs support plates in a drawerCredit: John Lewis of Hungerford
Pegs keep crockery from sliding across the drawer.

The chances are there’s plenty of free space in your kitchen cabinets but you’re just not able to use every inch of it. Make the space work harder by adding some internal storage solutions. This can be as simple as filing-style dividers in drawers – great for preventing plastic containers and lids from becoming a jumbled mess – to adding pegboard-style inserts to prevent bowls and plates from sliding around and becoming chipped.

Tupperware and food containers on their side organised neatly in a drawer with internal sectionsCredit: Inhouse Inspired Room Design
Internal baskets can make more of the storage space available.

Tubs and racks hung on the back of cupboard doors will also help keep the contents organised and more easily accessible. Adding an extra shelf or simply bumping one up to free up space below can make cupboards function more efficiently or help make the contents visible.

“Invest in storage that will allow you to do the most with what you have,” suggests Chris Dance, head designer and director at InHouse Inspired Room Design. “For example, you could reconfigure a tall shelving unit so it has space for your broom and vacuum cleaner, or pull-out baskets for cupboard shelves, so you can access difficult-to-reach items at the back.”

6. Sort out your pan storage

Drawers trump standard cupboards

Le Mans pull out cupboard fittingsCredit: Crown Kitchens
These Le Mans pull-out cupboard fittings make pans easier to access.

When it comes to cookware, it’s time to get ruthless and only keep the ones you use regularly. If you’re not sure, try the tape test – pop a bit of tape on the handle, and when you use the pan, take it off. Revisit in a month’s time, and any pans still with their tape on should go.

If you’re still struggling for space as you declutter your kitchen, think about rehoming your pan lids to a rack on the inside door of a cupboard, or a dedicated wall-mounted rack. An overhead hanging rack for your pans is also a good option if you have the space. Or you could try buying a stackable saucepan set, which often only takes up slightly more space than one pan.

“Deep drawers or corner units with Le Mans pull-outs are the best solution for storing pans,” says Josie Medved, design project manager at Symphony Group. “The pans are easily visible when you open the unit and easy to remove and replace.”

7. Donate unloved items

Do your bit for charity

Cookery books stacked neatly in internal shelf on sideboardCredit: Husk Kitchens
Only keep the cookery books you use on a regular basis. Otherwise, photograph recipes you love, then give the books away to charity.

If you’re still hanging on to something in your kitchen because it was a gift or you have high hopes of one day using it, it might be time to pass it on to someone else. Donate anything that’s still in good condition to charity – such as cookbooks, unused bakeware or crockery. Of course, you don’t have to get rid of everything, but it can help to have treasured items out on display rather than hidden away in a cupboard. Give them the home they deserve on an open shelf with plenty of room to breathe.

“Open shelving allows for easy access and convenient storage,” explains Jaye Tidbury, kitchen design manager at The Myers Touch. “It also adds character and offers the opportunity of displaying beautiful plants, crockery, artwork and ceramics. However, avoid open shelving close to the hob as displayed items can become greasy and cause dust to stick to the surface. Fluted/ribbed glass shelving is also becoming more popular as it adds great texture to a kitchen and interest to a kitchen space, especially when backlit.”

8. Rethink where things go

Seasonal items could live elsewhere

Pans in a drawerCredit: Kitchen Makers
Too many pans? Do the tape test.

“Decluttering a kitchen is more than a question of throwing things away,” says Chris Dance, head designer and director at InHouse Inspired Room Design. “It’s equally important to consider where your ingredients, utensils, and everything else will return to. During the decluttering process, section objects into their different uses. Then work out how they will fit into your kitchen and/or utility spaces.”

It’s also a good idea to make sure heavy items, such as appliances and casserole dishes, are stored low down – this way you won’t put off getting them out because it’s difficult. Likewise, not everything needs to be stored in the kitchen.

Cutlery you only use for entertaining, large platters, Christmas-ware and picnicware will only need to be accessible at certain times of the year and for certain occasions, so pop in a clearly labelled box and rehome to a cupboard or a loft. By removing the non-everyday stuff, you’ll free up more space for the items you use regularly. Just make a note of what you have and where it’s stored.

A final point is to make sure that everything has a home. Clutter breeds clutter so without a dedicated place for everyday items, your kitchen will slowly start to fill up again.

9. Use wall space

It’s often wasted

Wall mounted metallic knife holderCredit: B&Q
Make better use of your walls to keep countertop clutter at bay.

Don’t forget about your walls – they can be more useful than you think. “Utilising every part of the room is key,” says Alex Main, director at The Main Company. “To save cupboard and drawer space, add rails with hooks as an easy way to access and display everyday items. They’re perfect for hanging utensils, pans and other kitchen accessories. A rail can be positioned above a cooker or under an open shelf for convenient storage.”

Alternatively, try a wall-mounted solution – many have magnetic strips for knives and can be customised with holders for spices and additional utensils.

Further listening

Need a little more help to declutter a kitchen? Give The Declutter Hub Podcast a listen. Each episode, professional declutterers Ingrid and Lesley share their tips and advice on everything from hiring a professional organiser to small-space decluttering.

Written by Rachel Ogden she/her