One of the things I always tell prospective clients is that I am not a product person. I don’t sell products, and I finish most jobs using just the products the client already owns. I admire beautiful spaces, but I’m not a designer. My business is about function, not form – although I do think a more functional space is easier on the eyes!
So while I cannot advise you on how to decorate with bins or baskets, know that the right containers and other storage products can help make your tiny kitchen easier to live in. The key is to know what specific problem you are solving before shopping. Once you know this, any right-sized product that is in your budget will do – whether you’re shopping the recycling bin or a store.
Here are nine common kitchen scenarios where an organizing product might make your tiny kitchen easier to use.
Tiny items – like the three drink mixes in this photo – tend to get lost when stored with larger items or in larger spaces. Group small items in a larger container to make them easier to find. Repurposed boxes or lids work well here.
Some packaging is floppy, which makes it awkward to store. Other foods need to be resealed after opening, and the original packaging is not helpful. If you regularly stock a food like this, a rigid, air-tight container will make it easier to use.
Because a cereal box may not be a box of cereal… If your household hates to run out of something (but often does), decant it to a clear container as soon as you buy it. Next grocery run, you will know at a glance if you are running low. Also, sometimes decanting lets you store more food in the same footprint.
If your shelving is deep, know that a basket on a shelf is practically a drawer. Use open bins to subdivide the shelf into two or more sections. These bins can go back to front or side by side. Now you can move items into the light in groups to find just what you need.
Storing food up high? A turn-table will let you reach the item you want without climbing on a ladder. This is an item I think is worth buying rather than improvising. They are not expensive and come in a variety of diameters. Converting deep storage into fingertip storage is worth the money!
Fill your cabinets from the bottom up, moving shelves down to minimize unused vertical space. You only need an inch or two of clearance above the tallest object on the self. You can even have an extra shelf cut. If your shelves don’t adjust, use cabinet risers or seldom used cookie sheets to recapture this space.
Whether you buy dividers or repurpose lids, splitting your drawer into subsections will make finding tools easier. You can use the negative space around bins too. In this client’s drawer the space between two bins is designated for can openers.
If you can, store taller items in deep drawers. Otherwise, use deep stacking trays to create a bottom layer and top layer without adding fussy lids. Store less frequently used items in the bottom layer.
If you routinely use a group of foods or items together, hunting down each individual item might be tiresome. Storing them together in a “kit” will make your food prep easier. Think popcorn kits, s’mores kits, cake decorating kits, or sandwich kits.
Before You Shop
If any of these scenarios apply to you, I recommend you make a list on your phone. Note what you are storing – quantity of product or how much volume the container must hold – and the measurements of where you will store it. I always advocate starting with products you already you own. Best case scenario, your problem is solved with no additional cost. Worst case scenario, you have a better sense of exactly what dimensions and features will be ideal for the job before you shop.
When you are shopping, sometimes a quick online search will do the trick, but most sites do not make it easy to search by dimensions. Taking your list and measuring tape next time you are at a store might actually save you time and trouble in the long run. Pay attention to materials too:
- In a kitchen, I do not recommend cloth containers, simply because kitchens are messy and cloth baskets are hard to clean.
- Thumbs up to repurposed cardboard boxes (Hello, Aldi!), as these are easy to recycle and replace when needed.
- If you are using a container that will be moved – such as from a high cabinet to the counter – make sure it is rigid. Flexible containers are great for drawer dividers, but they will be precarious to move around when full.
- If you are storing unpackaged food in a container, make sure the container is food safe.
- If you are using a product in your fridge or freezer, make sure it will withstand swings in temperature and moisture. Some materials may become brittle or grow mold in these conditions.
You’ll probably find most of what you need at a big box or home goods store, but may also strike gold at the dollar store, thrift store, grocery store, craft store, or hardware store. Keeping your list and measuring tape handy will help you choose just the right tool for the job. Happy hunting!
Kaloumi Small Home Organizing is based in Edgewater, Chicago. If you live on the northside of Chicago or in the near north suburbs and would like my help in person, please contact me today!