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Out of sight, out of mind—when it comes to your cabinets, this old adage is especially applicable. But when you know how to organize a small kitchen, you can make your space neat and harmonious—even behind closed doors.

A lack of ample cabinet space and shelving admittedly make storing all your pantry goods, dinnerware, and cooking tools a challenge, but that’s why organizing experts have come up with their own strategies to capitalize on every square inch. A few tools and some flexibility go a long way, even if you don’t have a full pantry, too. Here, three pros give their best advice on how to organize a small kitchen. 

Edit Your Tools

The first step to most organizing projects is the same: Get rid of the things you realistically don’t need. “You don’t need 10 wooden spoons,” says Nialya Suarez, founder of Organized Simplicity. “Realistically, you only use one or two at a time.” Ask yourself which tools you actually use and then donate the ones that are just sitting there; you’ll free up plenty of space that was previously cluttered. 

Add Shelves Inside—And Under—Cabinets

Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Vertical space is often underutilized, which is why shelf risers are one of Gilat Tunit’s go-tos in smaller spaces. The founder of Project Neat uses them to fit more into every cabinet, while keeping everything accessible and not in danger of falling out. She also recommends hanging shelves, which can be affixed to the bottom of upper cabinets. “It’s all about creating space,” she says.

Consider the Rolling Cart

If your space is especially small—city apartments come to mind—realistically you won’t be able to fit all your pantry essentials in your cabinets along with glassware, dinnerware, and the like. This is why Tunit recommends a rolling cart, which can hold any overflow that you don’t always need right on hand when you’re cooking. Think: baking tools, snack stash, and supplements. Tuck it out of the way and pull it out only when necessary. 

Make the Most of High Surfaces

Photography by Aaron Bengochea

The top of your refrigerator or cabinets is also fair game for storage, according to Louisa Roberts, owner of Neat Method New York. “We add something functional, like a pretty basket that can easily be taken down,” she says. Here, you can place things like paper towels, pantry excess, and cleaning supplies. 

Move Lesser-Used Items to Another Space

Ultimately, sometimes the space available in your small kitchen just isn’t enough. So Suarez advises putting up metal shelving in a garage as a makeshift pantry or as storage for the cooking tools you don’t use that often—and after a few weeks ask yourself if you really do need that panini press or juicer after all.

If that’s not an option, you can also find extra storage in your living room. Roberts recommends putting up a bookshelf where you can display glassware and cookbooks—things that might otherwise go in the kitchen but don’t necessarily have to. Then you’ll free up extra cabinet space for other essentials. 

Your small kitchen organization tool kit:

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