Photography by Aaron Bengochea

There’s more to kitchen organization than stowing items away behind closed cabinet doors, clearing the countertop of bulky appliances, or divvying up your utensils into little dividers. As much as we love magnetic knife racks, labeled spice jars, and lazy Susans, these products aren’t necessarily a guarantee that your kitchen will be hardworking.

If you really want to set your space up for success, you’ll have to look beyond the cupboards into all the nooks and crannies where clutter tends to gather: the pantry shelves, the back of the sink base cabinet, the corner of the island. Keeping this holistic view in mind, we gathered 12 ideas that make for a truly clutter-free kitchen. 

Customize the Pantry Shelves to a T

There is a designated spot for every single item in Sarah Sherman Samuel’s walk-in pantry. The designer set the dimensions of the shelves according to the items she wanted to store there, from cereal boxes to paper towels. She even squeezed one in for her coffee mug collection (the measurements came out to exactly 6.125 inches high). 

Hook Up Your Accessories 

Anything that doesn’t conveniently fit in a drawer or on an open shelf can live on a mounted rod over the cooktop. Baker Ashley Illchuck displays cups, scissors, and bags of dried goods from S-hooks on her brass rail. 

Carve Out a “Junk” Nook 

Mail, keys, sunglasses—all these things tend to end up in one big pile on the kitchen counter. But in this Los Angeles home designed by Frances Merill of Reath Design, those items are out of the way, thanks to a small drop-off ledge that’s conveniently located next to the door. Now nothing important gets lost to the sink drain. 

Think Vertically 

Keep your ducks—um, dishware—in a row with a basic wood plate rack. Not only does it allow you to get to your favorite plates more easily, but it also protects them from chipping. Have an extensive collection of cutting boards? You can use it for that, too. 

Stop the Plate Mess Before It Starts 

Alternatively you can stow away your plates in deep drawers (a great solution if your space lacks upper cabinets). A built-in peg system ensures your bowls and platters will stay firmly put when the compartment slides open. 

Take Advantage of the Ceiling 

Free up your cabinets by not stacking your bulkiest pieces (i.e., all your pots and pans) on top of one another. Instead hang them somewhere that’s way, way out of the way, like over the sink. Mary Salas dangles her staples from two plain pieces of wood. 

Corral Produce in Clever Bins

Flimsy wire fruit baskets don’t hold too much, but these smart Target containers do (and they’re only $12). They’re made to stack so you can create tiers within your pantry without actually having to install more shelves. 

Raise Your Cabinet Dimensions 

Tall kitchen cabinets (also called broom or utility cabinets) are on the rise. Typically measuring up to 8 feet in height and generally mounted on the floor, these hardworking nooks can hold oddly shaped or abnormally large items thanks to their vertical nature. 

Show Off Your Most Utilitarian Finds 

Where is it written that strainers are an eyesore? Julia Child was always proud to display her cookware on a pegboard wall—and you should be, too. Make it a more graphic element by painting it a bold color (the one in this Australian home is dark green to match the backsplash tile). 

Play Your Best Cards Under the Sink 

In Velinda Hellen’s kitchen, necessities are tucked away in an enviably neat manner. Her dustpan hangs on the side of the cabinet; she’s decanted bleach into glass containers; and she stores extra dishrags under a small shelf. The over-cabinet paper towel–roll holder is by far the most clever trick under there, though. That’s one way to reclaim counter space. 

Disguise Unsightly Countertop Appliances 

This isn’t your average toaster garage. First of all, there’s no cheesy pull-down door in sight. In this space a stand mixer can be accessed through a pocket door system that, when closed, hides everything, including the puzzle-like cupboard up above that also features pull-outs. 

Categorize the Fridge for Your Lifestyle (and Longevity) 

Color-coding your drinks and veggies is aesthetically pleasing, yes, but arranging your goods by hue isn’t necessarily an effective way to organize this space. Instead be strategic. Leftovers should live in prime real estate so that you know what needs to be eaten first. Items like milk, meat, pasteurized juices, and yogurt should be on the bottom shelf where it’s the coldest, while fruits and vegetables, which stay fresh longer in low-humidity areas, can go in the bottom drawers. 

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