Organizing @ Home the Kitchen Lower Cabinets
Today we will discuss:
– Sort & Purge
– How Long Will It Take?
hello! it’s time to Assess your cabinets. 🙂
Kitchens come in alot of different sizes and styles. Some are huge with a ton of upper cabinets, some have more lower cabinets, some have a lot of both, some have only a few cabinets. Regardless of all that, the kitchen cabinets I have seen have pretty much the same contents. For the most part, the things normally found in lower cabinets are:
– mixing bowls, colanders
– pots and pans, soup pots
– pyrex dishes
– extra appliances
– cutting boards
– cookie sheets, cupcake tins, cake tins, cooling racks
– pitchers, vases
If you have something in your lower cabinets that I’ve missed, please be sure to let me know!
Most of the time the problems we typically find in lower cabinets are:
– things not grouped together by like kind
– space inefficiently used (wasted space)
– not utilizing cabinet organizers to maximize the space
– too much stuff!
Take a look in your cabinet to determine what is it’s current condition without judging yourself. If it’s a bit of a disaster and you are feeling judgy, stop and try this trick I have found useful. I want you to pretend it’s NOT your home but the home of someone else who asked you to help them out. If it were a friend, you wouldn’t scold or berate them, instead you would be kind and compassionate (at least I hope you would!). You would look at the cabinets with a different pair of eyes; problem solving eyes. Those are the eyes you should look through now. There is no room for judgement on this journey! Judgement only makes you feel crappy, it doesn’t help solve problems! ♥ ♥
Begin Your Assessment
Open all of the lower cabinet doors at once so you can take inventory. Darting your eyes from one cabinet to the next, look for items that should go or could go together, for instance there may be mixing bowls stashed in every cabinet. I also want you to notice how much empty vertical space there is – look for empty space above and around what is in there already. That is where the potential lies – in the empty spaces.
No empty spaces? Then your potential lies in the unwanted and unused.
Be sure to take a peek in the upper cabinets so you are aware of what’s there. It’s best to know all the parts of a puzzle before putting it together. There may be parts in the upper that belong with items in the lower, and the solution may not be to bring them down but to move those items up. Shifting items from lower to upper is another way to free up space where you need it most.
It isn’t necessary to pull everything out of the cabinets to organize them, in fact I discourage it.You will just move things strategically.
Sort & Purge
If your cabinets are too cluttered to make any sense and grouping items together seems too difficult, another way to get started is by pulling out what you know you DO NOT WANT and put it in a GO AWAY or TRASH box. Removing items makes it easier to see what you really need and want. Avoid pulling everything out, I think that is too overwhelming. Removing items strategically is the way to go.
Things you no longer need but still has life, can be donated. Anyting that is is broken or is missing important parts can be thrown away or recycled unless replacement parts can be ordered and you are willing to make the repair.
Use these reflective questions to help make decisions about what to keep, get rid of, or relocate to an upper cabinet.
– Is this pot / pan / appliance still used?
– Do I like using it?
– Does it do the same job as something else I like to use more?
– Does it have all it’s parts?
– Is it in good working order?
– If it needs a new part, how likely you are to go through the steps to fix it, even if you find the part is it easy enough to make the repair?
– Is it narrow enough to fit in the upper cabinet?
– Is it light enough to comfortably raise above my head to put into an upper cabinet?
– If I move into an upper cabinet, will I remember that it is there? Sometimes we have the room to do it, but because it is so far off of what we would normally do, it’d be easy to forget you had it.
How to avoid getting overwhelmed
It’s no doubt that organizing a kitchen is a big task, which is why it is broken into 4 parts – pantry, lower cabinets, upper cabinets and drawers. Trying to organize the entire kitchen in one sitting is a tall order, even for me, unless it is a small kitchen in a small house and your cabinets are not bursting at the seams.
If your kitchen is bursting at the seams, or you have what I would consider a larger kitchen (in a house over 2700 sq. ft.) you schedule the project over several days. Be sure to assess the upper cabinets when you assess the lower cabinets, but that doesn’t mean you will sort, purge and organize them at the same time.
Approach with a Plan
Spending a few minutes answering these questions will save you frustration later.
Will you be able to get your lower kitche cabinets organized in one afternoon (4 – 6 hours)? YES or NO.
YES Great! Do you have 4 -6 hours in a row that you can dedicate to complete the project? Y/N
Yes. Fabulous! Do you have any supplies pre-purchased ready to utilize? Y/N
Yes. Wonderful. Sounds like you are in an ideal position to get started.
NO If you are not able to completly organize your lower cabinets in 4-6 hours (sort/purge and organize), don’t worry. You can break it up into more manageable segments by slightly adjusting your strategy.
Your assessment may be more challenging because it is likely you have a very crowded cabinet, but take the time to really study what you have. Just LOOK with searching eyes. Work the Assess and Sort/Purge phases in the first day (or two), then work the Organizing phase over the next day (or two).
Working within your budgeted time, work one cabinet at a time. Using the mixing bowl example once again, as you are working in your first cabinet and you find a mixing bowl, take a look through the other cabinets to find any additional mixing bowls, then decide which among them you need to keep or can be purged. Put the loser in the GO AWAY box. Continue with the original first cabinet (it will take discipline to stay focused on the first cabinet, but stick with it!) purging items and taking the time to see if you have any others of the same category elsewhere.
As you progress, keep grouped items together in the cabinet or on the counter, being careful not to get too much out at one time. THAT IS WHEN IT BECOMES OVERWHELMING. You will need to pull things out of the cabinets to find their companions or like-kinds, but do so skillfully as to not make a crazy mess; you will need to clean up at the end and it does take time. This is not the time to go crazy and pull it ALL out!
Plan Time to Clean Up
Work for about 3/4 of the amount of time you have planned saving the last 1/4 to clean up. So if you have planned to work for 4 hours, plan to stop sorting, grouping and purging after 3 hours. If you aren’t finished you will still need to function in your home in the mean time, and it will take time to strategically put items back in your cabinets.
Let’s say after 2 or 3 hours you sorted through 3 cabinets, chances are you have purged enough to create some wiggle room. Yay! Condense the non-sorted and non-categorized items into the cabinets you haven’t officially worked in yet (even though you have touched every cabinet by now you should be methodically going from cabinet to cabinet attempting to “finish” sorting and purging one before moving on to the next). Store the grouped and items together in a “sorted/purged” cabinet making sure it is clear to you so at your next work session you will be able to get right back at it with minimal confusion.
How to Organize it?
Nesting is a HUGE Space Saver
Let’s organize an imaginary kitchen together beginning with the imaginary mixing bowls we found scattered in all the cabinets in the example above.
Now that they are gathered together I want you to nest them one inside another. You may discover that not all fit well together, so take a few minutes to figure out which ones do. (If you haven’t already purged, do that now.) You will want your go-to favorite easily accessible, but how does that work with the nesting? If your go-to favorite when nesting lands in a position that you are willing and/or it is easy to access it then that’s a winner! If your go-to favorite when nesting lands in a position that is difficult to access, don’t leave it there. It may end up resting on top of all the others, or on a shelf in an upper cabinet, or even on a wire cabinet shelf if that is the best option. Remember ease of access is important, but easily put away is more important. If you really want to use it, you will make the effort but the same can’t be said for putting it away.
Do the same thing with pots, frying pans, Pyrex dishes, cookie sheets; pretty much anything that can stack and nest should be investigated and tested. Always assessing accessibility vs frequency of use.
Not All Lower Cabinets are Easy to Work With
Newer homes have lower cabinets that are much more open, spacious making it easy to see what you need. Older homes, and thus their cabinets, have more cramped, crowded and dark spaces. If you are in this situation, it’s really important to be realistic about your space and to use it wisely.
In this situation, you may want to add a light into your cabinet. Inexpensive battery operated led lights can illuminate your dark cabinet making it much easier to see what you have, because as I say all the time, if you can’t see it – it doesn’t exist!
Lower cabinets are usually about 20″-24″ deep, so it seems obvious to say put your often used items in the front and your least often used items in the back, but be smart about it. Consider the weight and how difficult (or easy) it will be to bring that item out when you are ready to use it. That’s why I always play around with the arrangement. I will slide things around, testing it out until I am sure the position it takes is the best one.
Speaking of sliding. If you have grippy shelf liner in your cabinet, you won’t be able to slide. I say get rid of it. Having the ability to slide things around is important no matter what kind of cabinet your have. I’m sure there are circumstances that need it, but I haven’t found one that neeeeds it. For me, being able to slide things is sometimes a crucial component of the organizing process.
Labeling your shelf either on the shelf or on the door will help you keep track of what’s back there. You might even take a picture of each item and post them on the cabinet door. A little unconventional yes, but when the door is shut no one but you will know. Not everyone needs directions to their kitchen but the other people in your home will have no excuse when it comes time to put things away. Lol! 😀
Deep, dark and cramped cabinets warrant a good purge, or at the very least a serious examination and justification for all it’s contents. Get real with yourself. Do you really need it all? Take the time to legitimately assess each thing. If even after parting with a few select items you still have “too much” there is still hope for organization. Positioning, lighting, and labeling all are important components of organizing. I will discuss organizing supplies in the section below and discuss posibilities for how they can be used.
Some important organizing reminders:
– Frequency of use: The more often you use something, the easier it should be to retrieve.
– Quantity in category: Pots and pans are a large category; observe the size of other categories and how much space they’ll need and put everything in that category together as much as is possible.
– Items infrequently used can be stored in the back.
– Right handed people tend to want to have all their important cooking items to the right of the stove and from there radiating outwards.
– Assign a cabinet to hold appliances.
– Practice pulling items out of the cabinet to see how easy or difficult it is.
– If there are too many items in one cabinet, they run the risk of never being used UNLESS it is something that is worth the effort.
Example: The Margarita Machine that is the highlight of your annual party can be stored in the back of the cabinet because you’d be willing to dig it out each year.
However, if that Margarita machine is only used randomly, you might skip using it if a blender were easier to retrieve, posing the question: Do you really need the Margarita machine?
Stack pots inside of pots large to small, do the same with pans.Nesting is a huge space saver!
Put things in place and practice interacting with them.
– Are things easy to retrieve?
– How many steps in the process does it take to get what you want? Strive for 1-2 for important every day items and 3-4 at the most for less often used items. Sometimes it’s not possible, but it’s something to strive for.
NOT working? Keep trying. Turn things 1/4 and re-position them until it works for you. Need help? I’m here for you! Join me on a ZOOM call and get your questions answered!
Not all Lower Cabinets are going to need organizing supplies, but many will. If you didn’t know these were options before then how could you have used them?! If you already use these items in this or another way, let me know. I’d love to hear what you do (I love learning of new ways to use organizing supplies.)
Here are my favorites for Lower Cabinets.
and here are some real-life applications…
Kitchens aren’t stagnant and need regular adjustments and maintenance to continue to function properly. Anytime a new product is added, thoughtfully consider the best place to store it. After spending all this time re-organizing your kitchen, keep it functioning with regular maintenance.
How Long Will It Take?
If you work exclusively on the lower cabinets and you stay totally focused by not allowing yourself to get sidetracked, it will take about 3 – 4 hours for a thorough organizing job in a moderate sized home. If your home is over 2700 sq. ft or has a large volume of things it will take up to 6 hours. Decisiveness it the KEY to your progress, that and preparedness.
If you have a lot of stuff, refer to the section on Approaching with a Plan.
You could also ask a friend to help you. I know sometimes we get embarrased and we don’t want even our closest friends to see our imperfections. Many of my clients have felt this way, and I totally understand, but what are friends for – TO HELP US! I’m sure your friends are just like mine, when I ask for help they are happy to have been asked. I know working out a troublesome situation on the phone is different than getting on your hands and knees and digging around in your kitchen cabinets, but again, that’s what friends are for! Just be sure to pick a friend who will help you make progress and won’t judge you and make you feel bad in the process.
If your cabinets are especially tangled up and over flowing, it can take a long time to untangle it. BUT DON’T PANIC! It might seem like an eternity to get it organized, but it isn’t and you can do it! Just think about how awesome your kitchen will function when you are finished! You will be so proud of yourself! And totally relieved.
– Open your cabinets and dig in!
– Make a plan, review the Tips for a Productive Work Session in the Process
– If you think you need it here’s the Action Plan Worksheet
– Have FUN! Life is meant for fun. Plan to have a good time!
If you have any questions, comments or thoughts, reach out on Facebook or join us on our bi-weekly ZOOM video conference calls! Join the Clutter to Clarity Club here!
Until next time…