Tips for Organizing Awkward and Hard-to-Reach Places in Your Kitchen | From Overwhelmed to Organized: Tips for Organizing Awkward and Hard-to-Reach Places in Your Kitchen

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tips for Organizing Awkward and Hard-to-Reach Places in Your Kitchen

What do you store in your "hard-to-reach" cabinets?  You know those awkward cabinets like the one above your fridge that you can hardly reach?  Or cabinets with vents in them?  What about the shallow drawer under your stove? 

I've shown you most of my kitchen cabinets now and I've shared LOTS of tips already.  Today I want to show you my over-the-fridge cabinet, my over-the-microwave cabinet, and the drawer under my stove, and give a couple more tips to help you organize those awkward and hard-to-reach places in your kitchen. 

Kitchen Organizing Tips

First, as a refresher, or in case you missed any, here's a list of all the tips I've shared already (with links to the corresponding post).

  1. Use drawer dividers
  2. Measure before you buy
  3. Determine the purpose of each drawer
  4. Purge before organizing
  5. Store like with like
  6. Keep items where you use them
  7. Store items you don't regularly use in "out-of-the-way" spots
  8. Maximize the vertical space in deep drawers
  9. Create zones in your kitchen
  10. Use boxes and baskets to contain like items
  11. Use clear containers for baking ingredients
  12. Label your containers
  13. Done is better than perfect
  14. Store dishes in a cupboard you can easily reach when you empty the dishwasher
  15. Maximize the vertical space in cabinets using wire shelves 
  16. Store all your hot beverage supplies together
  17. Use under-the-shelf baskets to maximize vertical space in cabinets 
  18. Store all your breakfast supplies together
  19. Use the top shelf of a food cabinet to store extra foods
  20. Hang paper towels on the back of a cabinet door to keep them off your counters
  21. Keep as many items in drawers or cabinets as possible, instead of on counters
  22. Rearrange or relocate items on counters for a less cluttered look
  23. Wash dishes frequently and put them away quickly  
  24. Relocate items that you rarely use so they don't clutter your kitchen
  25. Use narrow spaces under the sink for tall, narrow items
  26. Use plastic bins to contain cleaning supplies under the sink

This is turning into quite a long list!  Maybe I should have saved this for a 31 Days series!  Nope... I already have an idea for October's series :) 

I mentioned in tip #7 to store items you don't regularly use in "out-of-the-way" spots.  Today I want to show you my 2 cupboards that I use for this purpose.

Here's the before picture of my over-the-microwave cabinet.

There's an awkward cord from the microwave that comes up into this cabinet so we have to work around that when we store anything in this cupboard.  And I can reach items in the front of it without a stool, but not the back.

Those glass pots are HEAVY and I always hated having to take the whole stack down to be able to use one of them.  But they were making our deep drawer bounce off the track because they were so heavy, so we stored them in here, along with our cooling racks, some tall bottles, oils, sprays, and our stove-top cleaner.

And those lovely orange Tupperware bowls.  We pretty much only use them when we eat popcorn, so storing them above the microwave makes sense.  But I can't reach them on top of all those pots.  I needed to change a few things!

Here it is after organizing other cabinets and drawers in my kitchen.

It's not a lot different but it's much more functional now (and so are other parts of my kitchen!).

Kitchen Organizing Tip #27:  Use short stacks as much as possible so you don't have to move items to access others.

One of the things that often makes kitchens messy and unorganized is having big stacks of pots, pans or trays.  It looks nice initially, but the reality is that it's annoying to have to lift things off the stack to get at the one we need, and often we're lazy in a hurry when we put things back so we don't stack them as neatly as before.  We dump things or pile big things on top of smaller ones and cupboards or drawers quickly look messy. 

You can see before I had a big stack in my over-the-microwave cupboard.  When I reorganized it, one of the first things I did was gather the bottles on the right closer together so I could have 2 shorter stacks on the left.  This is good anyway, but especially when a cabinet is hard to reach.

{I would normally recommend putting all those bottles in a basket, but where the cord from the microwave comes up makes it difficult to do that in this case.}

So think about where you have big stacks or chaotic piles in your kitchen (or anywhere in your house) and figure out ways to make those stacks shorter so it's easier to get what you need and simpler to put things back in an organized way.

Back to my over-the-microwave cupboard... I made a point of storing items here that we use often enough that I want them in my kitchen but not often enough that I want them taking up a spot in an easier-to-reach cabinet or drawer. 

You may remember from my deep drawers post that I moved those glass pots into one of them.  I just couldn't take the reaching up and down with those heavy pots any more!  The drawer is much better.  It still bounces off the track sometimes, but we've learned to live with that.

But, as I've been living with my reorganized deep drawers for a few months now, I've decided to move one of the glass pots back to this cupboard.  The set is actually a double boiler, but we never use it that way.  And we don't use the top pot as often as we use the bottom one, but I had to move it every single time I wanted to use the bottom one.  Even a small stack isn't good if the items on the top are used less frequently than the items on the bottom!  I stopped the madness and moved this less-used pot back to the cupboard above the microwave.  Much better.

Isn't it great how organizing is never really "done"?!

I moved my salad spinner to this cupboard because I don't use it as frequently as the rest of the things in my deep drawers.  And initially I kept my colinder in my deep drawers, but just recently I moved it up here to make room in my drawer for some glass dishes I just got.

Overall, this cupboard functions better than before, and serves it's purpose of storing less-used and tall items. 

OK, moving on to the cupboard above my fridge.  I don't even have a before picture to show you.  Because the top of my fridge was SO cluttered that I couldn't get in there to take one.

This picture is from several months ago, but I'm embarrassed to say that it's a pretty good representation of what it looked like for the better part of a year.  {You may recognize that watering from when I organized under my sink... it must have been moved there at some point... but now that I've organized under the sink, it's found a new home in my basement storage room.}

So before I could tackle that cupboard above the fridge, I had to deal with the very cluttered surface in front of it.  Last month I dove in.  I gave almost everything away that was on top of there!  {See my January update for the 365 in 365 Challenge for details}.

And do you remember when I mentioned having empty space on the top shelf of my dishes and glasses cupboard?  Since I wanted to keep a few tools handy in the kitchen, but I didn't want them cluttering up the top of my fridge anymore, I decided to keep them on the top shelf in my dishes cupboard.  Nothing to do with dishes I know... but it's a handy shelf to use for them. 

And now the top of my fridge looks like this!

Yay!  I can actually open the cupboard doors now!  In fact, a few of the items that were on top of the fridge before belonged inside that cupboard but there was so much clutter in the way that they were just added to the pile.  No more!  The flat surface on the top of my fridge will remain clear!  Because I love how much more open my kitchen feels when there's nothing up there.  And because I know that if I put even one thing up there then we'll be tempted to put more.  And it will become a mess again.

And... here's what the inside of the cupboard looks like now.

Just a few items that we don't use very often.  But now with a clear fridge-top I can get at them easier when I do need them.  I'm still thinking about what else I want to put in this cabinet.  But honestly, it's hard for me to reach in here, even on a step stool, so I don't know if I'll add anything.  I know some people store their jars of leftover paint in their cupboard above the fridge, but I'm happy with mine where they are in my basement.  You could also use your over-the-fridge cabinet to store some of your serving dishes that you only use on special occasions.  Or seasonal items that you only use once a year.  If you're designing a kitchen, I'd suggest putting in a deeper cupboard above the fridge, so you can reach the items (at least at the front) easier. 

Lastly, I want to show you the drawer under my stove.  Most of you probably store baking pans under yours and I do too.  The challenge with under-the-stove drawers is they are wide and go far back, but they are shallow in height.  So you can't store too many things in them or they get all jumbled up and things fall behind the drawer and then the drawer gets stuck.  Don't ask me how I know this :)

Here's what mine typically looked like before I organized it.

What a mess.  And yes, that is dust on some of the pans.  Clearly not ones we use very often!  Or maybe I just need to clean under my stove more frequently.  Have I mentioned I much prefer organizing to cleaning?!

I simplified things under the stove.  I purged a few items, and relocated a few others.  What's left are just my big shallow pans.  Doesn't this look better?

OK, so I hid my really old, rusty muffin pan underneath the shiny muffin top pan.  Which already makes a huge difference in how this drawer looks!  But, beyond that, here are some of the practical things I did to make this drawer more functional.

Kitchen Organizing Tip #28:  Only store shallow pans in a shallow drawer (like the one under your oven)

When you have mix of shallow and deep pans in a shallow drawer, you usually end up with a disorganized and cluttered mess.  Like what I had.  But by only keeping my shallow baking pans in this drawer, it's easier to keep organized and there's less risk of pans falling behind the drawer :)

You can see in the picture above, on the right I have all our large round flat things (2 pizza pans, and 2 lids/splatter shields).  And on the left I have our muffin tins (2 regular ones and 1 muffin top pan on top).  You can't really see the ones underneath, but by having the muffin top pan on the top, they take up less space.  {For all the Seinfeld lovers out there... this pan does not create the same effect as baking muffins and taking the top off, but it's fun anyway and we use it nearly every week!}

When I organized my deep drawer, I moved and grouped all our smaller and deeper baking pans there, which makes this drawer under the stove much simpler now.  The stacks are short too so it's easy to remove a pan when needed, or put them back after using them.  I love simple :)  And see how I incorporated both organizing tips into one drawer?!

So that's how I organize my 3 awkward cupboards and drawers.  They are less cluttered and more practical now.

You can find more kitchen organizing ideas on my Kitchen Organizing board on Pinterest. 

And stay tuned the next few weeks as I continue to show you my kitchen and share tips to help you organize yours. 

How do you organize your awkward or hard-to-reach cupboards?  What do you keep in your drawer under the oven?  And do you eat muffin tops? 

Happy organizing!

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Here are all the posts from the kitchen organizing tips series: