How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets in 5 Hours

You Can Organize Your Kitchen Cabinets Quickly

I love looking at beautifully organized kitchens on Pinterest. Going down the rabbit hole of how to organize your kitchen cabinets is a great way to spend some downtime. Who is with me there?

The biggest problem, however, is that all this inspiration never makes it past getting pinned to my “Kitchen Dreams” board. Why not? We know decluttering will make our lives easier and more enjoyable. So why don’t we just do it?

For myself it comes down to two reasons:

  1. With all the focus on paying off debt, we simply don’t have the funds to drop on baskets, organizers, or beautiful containers.
  2. A full-time job, home renovations, school, and much coveted family time, it doesn’t leave much time outside the rare day off to do a complete overhaul on kitchen organization.

So, where does that leave us, my friend?

In the need of a quick and budget-friendly hack for how to organize your kitchen cabinets. That’s where. Not only have I tried these hacks on my own kitchen cabinets, but my friend Holly let me come do her cabinets as well and it worked amazing once again (and she has more snacks with her two little boys)!

I highly recommend reading through the entire post prior to starting and making a list of needed supplies for your specific cabinets. That way you only have to make a single trip for what you need!

Follow along with the allotted time frame for each section and within 5 hours you’ll have completely organized kitchen cabinets you can maintain!



The Tupperware Cabinet (1.5 Hour)

organize tupperware cabinet

Yup, we’re tackling this one first. This might be the one cabinet you’re most afraid to organize, or maybe even to open due to the Tupperware avalanche. Mine was that way too.

I used the shove-it-in-and-close-the-door-quickly technique.

It didn’t work.

Perhaps you’ve “organized” this cabinet/drawer before, but if it’s back in chaos you most likely just did a great job of making it look neat. Not actually organize it.

Step 1 | Pull Everything Out & Clean (15 mins)

Like all good things, let’s start with a clean slate. Remove everything from your cabinet and place it on the counter above, island, or kitchen table to work from later.

This will become your designated work station.

And since it’s empty, now is the perfect time to clean it! You might have to take the vacuum out to get some debris. Most definitely you’ll want to wipe it out with soapy water or something a little stronger.

Step 2 | Combine Like Items (20 mins)

Now, head over to your work station and start sorting. Try to divide items into as many piles as you can. Here are some ways to separate those puppies out:

  • Size
  • Make
  • Type
  • Plastic or Glass
  • Purpose

It only has to make sense in your brain. Try to do this as quickly as you can. Also, don’t forget to match lids to containers as you’re going along. This will make step 3 a breeze.

Speaking of which… on to Step 3.

Step 3 | Toss or Donate (30 min)

Before you start making excuses (like you use it all, or use it to send leftovers home with people), there are 3 criteria I highly recommend following that dictate if you should keep or toss that Tupperware.

  1. Missing lid or container.
  2. Stained, broken, scratched, or bacteria breeding zone.
  3. Specific size you hardly ever use but have a ton of.

As you’re purging, if you think you have too much of a certain size or wonder where on earth you even got that random Ziplock container, toss it.

You can always replace some containers later that will match and stack nicely. You might be surprised how few containers you actually use at one time.

Step 4 | Arrange It Smartly (25 min)

At this point, it can be tempting to just put your keepers back in the cabinet, but spend some time thinking through what was ineffective about your last system. Were your lids laying to the side with no home? Were you trying to stack different sizes too high? Was the perfect Tupperware the one stored in the back?

If you need some inspiration, visit your kitchen board on Pinterest. Just make sure to set a timer! We don’t have time for that wormhole right now.

Personally, I really enjoy having a basket (shown in the picture) to hold the lids for my most used containers. That way they’re easy to find, get to, and put away. A storage basket like this can be found at any home improvement store or online here for around $10.00 each!

Once you’ve finished arranging, step back and visualize the system you created. Make sure its easy to get to the containers you need. It needs to be just as simple to put them away after washing, as it is to get them out. If things need adjusting, do so right now before calling it done and moving on to the next cabinet!


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Small Kitchen Appliances (1 Hour)

organize small kitchen appliances

Do you have counter space envy? That was something I always noticed in those beautiful kitchen Pins. They never seem to have unsightly small appliances shoved into the corner. I’ve even had the thought before, “yeah, that looks pretty but I actually have a toaster, so mine won’t look like that.” Guess what!

Spoiler Alert: They have a toaster, too.

Only theirs is hidden away in its home, or as my dad calls it the “appliance garage” So, now it’s time to give your hard-worked appliances a home away from the kitchen counter.

Step 1 | Pull Everything Out & Clean (20 min)

While it may not be hard to locate all your small appliances (seeing as they most likely are sitting right on your counter), choosing which cabinet, drawer, or pantry shelf that will house them might take some time. I look for one of the following when choosing my appliance garage:

  • Tall enough for the mixer or blender.
  • Far away from the dishwasher (not handy for dishes, but useful for these).
  • Somewhere clutter lives or a completely undefined space.

Once you’ve chosen, you guessed it… time to empty and clean it. Move all small appliances to your same workstation.

Step 2 | Organize & Toss (20 min)

Appliances are a little trickier to organize. First, separate them out into three piles:

  • “I use this every day.”
  • “I used this last week.”
  • “Was this used once for that one thing?”

Hopefully, your last pile will be one you can put in your toss or donate box. Remember we aren’t just trying to tidy up our junk, but learning how to organize your kitchen cabinets. Sometimes that means a good purge is in order.

Next, arrange each pile by size so you know what you’re working with.

Step 3 | Arrange It Smartly (20 min)

Those piles you made in Step 2 should help make this part quick. It really is like a big adult puzzle. Between the variety in size and use, finding the perfect layout will take some thinking.

Here are some ideas to consider. If you have shelving in your cabinet, can it adjust to benefit the sizes better? Do you have a shelf that makes your space too small for your Kitchen Aid Mixer, can you make the shelf a half-shelf?

I know once you get your appliance garage situated, it will make your counter space feel HUGE. Just look at all those appliances that were once taking up precious counter real estate!


The Pots & Pans Cabinet (30 mins)

organize pots and pans

On to the quickest cabinet we’ll tackle today: pots & pans.

Why is it so quick? Chances are you already have a designated space, unlike your appliance cabinet. And, you have some sort of organizing system, unlike your tupperware cabinet.

Don’t worry if your lids are a hot mess. Mine were too, stick with me and they won’t be for long.

Isn’t it awesome that optimizing your pots and pans will help you to organize your kitchen cabinets in just 30 mins!

Step 1 | Pull Everything Out & Clean (10 min)

We’re pulling everything out of this cabinet once again. Since pots and pans take up so much space, you should make quick work of this. Just be sure to get everything!

Check under your oven drawer. Or in your oven if you’re like my sister.

And move it all to your well-used work station.

Next, get out your vacuum for debris and cleaner to sanitize. And seriously sanitize. The bottom of your pots might not be as clean as you think.

Step 2 | Donate or Sell (5 min)

Back at your workstation, quickly sort out like sized pots and pans. Do you have quite the collection of tiny skillets? Are you holding on to three giant pots you received as wedding gifts, but only use one? Maybe you’ve gotten rid of a certain brand but kept your beloved most used pan?

Why? Do you actually use and need them?

We’re all guilty of being pan-hoarders. But, try to limit yourself to pans that make sense to be in your kitchen. Think of this when choosing:

  • Do you need two of that same size?
  • Is there only a single survivor of a past set?
  • Does it have a fitting lid or need one?
  • Is it time to retire the poor old thing?
  • Do you hate using it because everything sticks to it?

Try your best to answer those questions honestly. I know pots and pans can be expensive and getting rid of them can be hard. If this is your hang up, try posting on Craigslist, Facebook market place, or other platforms. You just might get enough cash to purchase yourself a brand new set!

Step 3 | Arrange It Smartly (15 min)

Remember, we want to avoid just stacking it nicely and making it look tidy without being functional. Once again, think through how you use your pots and pans. Also, how to put them away easily after washing.

I recommend spending time at any home store in their kitchen storage section. You can find metal dividers specifically for pots and pans organization (like these) or lid storage (like this). With either of these products you can lay them vertical or horizontal, depending on the space you’re working with!

The best part is these dividers range from $10 – $25 depending on style. If you’re wanting to get fancy with a pull-out drawer, look into building your own custom product. Ready-made drawers can run $50 – $150 each!


The Pantry (1.5 Hours)

organize pantry

Woohoo! It’s finally time to attack the pantry! This is seriously my favorite part when I organize kitchen cabinets. The reveal is so exciting, and I guarantee you’ll be giddy to show your spouse, kids, friends, mom, mailman… I don’t know whoever you’re close to.

But before we can get to the celebration, there is more work to be done.

This is the biggest section we’ll tackle today. The tip to get through this: don’t get overwhelmed and just keep moving. Set your timer if you feel like you’re falling behind.

Step 1 | Pull Everything Out & Clean (15 min)

Let’s start with a clean slate once more. Pull out all your food onto your workplace. If you have food in a pantry and snacks in a cabinet, I recommend doing both at the same time. It’s always good to see everything you have in one place.

If you have a separate baking cabinet, don’t forget to include that as well!

Once completed, wipe out the pantry or cabinets completely with soapy water or cleaner.

Step 2 | Combine Like Items (15 min)

Next, combine like items into designated categories. Some categories to choose from are:

  • Baking
  • Spices
  • Oils
  • Canned Goods
  • Snacks
  • Pasta
  • Dinners
  • Sides
  • Bread
  • Desserts

You may have others outside these categories too. Just make sure you know your clearly defined sections.

Now is a great time to check expiration dates. Toss that old junk out!

Step 3 | Containerize Things (15 min)

You know… I’m not really sure “containerize” is a real word. But, anyway…

Now is the time to put staple foods into beautiful containers. I’m talking those super functional clear stackable ones! Use your Pinterest and Instagram accounts to inspire that gorgeous organization.

To keep prices down, the trick is to look in the right spots. Clearance aisles in Marshalls or TJ Maxx are great places to start. Another great place is your dollar store.

You can even shop online beforehand and find some amazing deals. We found containers averaging $5.50 each in this set compared to $20 each at Target!

That’ll cut down on costs quickly.

You’ll also want to make sure the container still functions properly. For instance, you wouldn’t want to store your sugar in a tall and slender container, since you’ll most likely be scooping and that would restrict motion.

And if you’re struggling to know what to put in a container and what to keep in its original packaging, try this: if there is no great way to seal it once opened… containerize it.

When you’re ready to label them, I just downloaded this free super cute pantry label printable from Angela Marie Made. They’re absolutely adorable!

Remember you’re not only working to organize your kitchen cabinets but also add beauty while you’re at it. So, have fun with this part!

Step 4 | Arrange It Smartly (45 min)

We made it this far, don’t give up just yet. You’ve been organizing and planning for over 4 hours and you can see the end.

Keep at it!

It could be easy to put things back where you habitually keep them. Before you do that, try once more thinking through what makes sense to go where. If you’re running low on brain power, use my sticky note hack and write notes from categories used in step 2 to play with where things could go. Give that a try first, or maybe eat a quick snack for a power up!

No hangry people allowed!

Think back to those inspiration photos, they probably had some baskets or tubs keeping the categories separated. Round up any extra baskets you have or grab some from the store for $5 – 10 per basket.

Quick tip: I like to get plastic baskets I can quickly wipe out if anything spills. These are similar to what we used in the pantry above.

Keeping items separated in categories is a massive time saver. It gives everything in your pantry a home, and everyone knows where that home is. Putting away the groceries? Super simple. Telling the kids where their snacks are? A breeze.


Organize Your Kitchen Cabinets and Enjoy!

Take a quick moment to step back and admire your hardwork. Seriously, you just busted your booty.

Five hours ago, you might have been like me and afraid to face the avalanche of Tupperware. But not now. Now, you have optimized and organized Tupperware cabinet, small appliances, pots & pans, and pantry!

That is worth celebrating.

Along the way did you find any useful hacks to keep organized on a budget? How about creating a system to make organizing faster?

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Please share your kitchen organization before and afters on Instagram with the hashtag #theoptimistprimeorganizes, I’d love to see them!

Also be sure to share the love and share this article. Help others organize their kitchen cabinets like you!

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