Maximizing Vertical Space in a Small Kitchen | From Overwhelmed to Organized: Maximizing Vertical Space in a Small Kitchen

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Maximizing Vertical Space in a Small Kitchen

Do you have a small kitchen?  Or does your kitchen feel small because you have too many items collecting on your surfaces (or stored there regularly)?

A couple of months ago I shared tips for decluttering your counters to make your kitchen feel bigger.  If you haven't read it yet, you really should.  It kind of sets the stage for today's post.

The key to organizing a small kitchen is to maximize vertical space.  I've already mentioned this tip for deep drawers and cupboards (using wire shelves and under-the-shelf racks). 

Today I want to talk about how I used a small bookshelf unit to maximize vertical space in my kitchen and clear clutter off my counters and tables.

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 
  27. Use short stacks as much as possible so you don't have to move items to access others
  28. Only store shallow pans in a shallow drawer
  29. Only keep as many food storage containers as you actually need and use regularly 
  30. Only use matching food storage containers
  31. Remove frozen foods from boxes to conserve space in the freezer
  32. Use a small container in the freezer door to hold small items
  33. Use tall bins in the fridge to maximize vertical space when grouping like items
  34. Store raw meat in a plastic container or at the bottom of your fridge
  35. For a less cluttered kitchen, reduce or eliminate items on the front or sides of your fridge 

See how many times I've mentioned maximizing vertical space?  Definitely key to organizing your kitchen!  Especially if it's small. 

Kitchen Organizing Tip #36: Use a tall and thin shelf unit to maximize vertical space in your kitchen and keep clutter off of flat surfaces

I don't have a before picture of this shelf unit.  I'm not sure why I didn't take one, but I've been decluttering this unit off and on for months now.  There was really only 1 shelf that we used regularly and that was the shelf with a few Bibles and family discussion activities.  The rest of this unit used to be full of books that we rarely read and cookbooks we hardly ever used.  And a few dust-collectors decorative pieces as well as a few items we didn't know where else to put. 

Good description right?  Just picture a bunch of cluttered, dusty shelves.  Got that image in your mind?  OK!  Here's what they look like now.

This little space is between our main kitchen and our breakfast nook, which is where our kitchen table is.  These shelves fit perfectly here and there's a bit of space for some trays between the stove and the shelves. 

I decluttered a lot.  Those 2 shelves on the bottom with books used to be 4 shelves.  And I relocated or purged some candles and knick knacks.  That left me with 3 empty shelves!

The top shelf is for our napkins and a few commonly used condiments/seasonings.

The salt, pepper, and vinegar used to be in one of the kitchen cupboards, but it was the farthest cupboard from our table, and it made no sense to have these items so far away.  Moving them here makes it easy to grab them when we need them.  And it freed up space in my other cupboard for my hubby's water bottles so those are no longer cluttering up my counters!  Win - win :)

The napkins used to be in a basket on our counter with some potholders and oven mitts.  Part way through this organizing process, I moved that basket off the counters and onto a shelf.

You may recognize this picture from my decluttering kitchen counters post.  It worked having this basket here for awhile, but then I got a cute magnetic potholders hook from my mom when she was downsizing and it's hanging on the side of the stove with our oven mitts (more use of vertical space!).

I tossed the other set of oven mitts because they were getting worn through (nearly burned my fingers one night!)  So that didn't leave much in the basket anymore except napkins and a few hot pads.  I relocated the hotpads and put the napkins in the napkin holder.  Much better.  The napkin holder even matches the tray I use for my hot beverage station, but it had been sitting in a drawer for quite awhile.  I'm so happy we get to use it again.

That freed up this basket for what it was originally intended for... fruit!

Now we have a space for the bananas which were always floating around on the counter somewhere.  And my goal for April is to eat more fruit, so I wanted to have more of it out in the open instead of in a drawer in the fridge.  I tried this basket on our kitchen table, but it's not a big table and I found I had to move it a lot.  Plus I'd kind of gotten used to having that table mostly clear :)

This shelf unit is a good compromise.  I see the fruit as I pass through the kitchen many times a day, it's at eye level for the kids (hoping that will encourage them to ask for fruit more!), but it's not cluttering up my counters or my table.

The next shelf is for homework supplies.

Even though we keep plenty of supplies in the desk in our dining room, as well as the activity drawers in the dining room, and even though our dining room is right beside our kitchen, somehow pencils, erasers, rulers, glue, pencil crayons, and other school supplies seem to remain on surfaces in the kitchen after homework time.

The kids usually work on their homework at the kitchen table so having these supplies on this shelf is really handy. I just put some of the most commonly used school supplies here (the ones they usually left lying around).  Extras and less used supplies are still in the dining room.  Which is still only a few steps away.  Sometimes it's easier to organize based on where stuff lands, rather than where you think it should go.  This was one of those times. 

Next is our Bibles and discussion activities shelf.  It's pretty much as it was before, but I moved it down lower and combined it with a few other commemorative magazines (we don't have another bookshelf on the main floor, and we flip through these fairly often, so this is a good place to store them - much better than the living room table!).

And the bottom shelf is what's left of our cookbooks and recipes.

I purged a LOT!  Like 2 shelves of cookbooks!  I never used them anymore.  My daughter likes to flip through the kids' cookbooks and pick out recipes though (she's only 7 so she's not on Pinterest LOL!).  So I've kept those ones.  And my hubby uses the BBQ books sometimes so we're hanging on to them (he's not on Pinterest either!).  The only other books I kept are the Gifts in a Jar books that we use when we're making jars for teacher and Christmas gifts.  All the rest of the cookbooks are gone.  Added them to my total for the 365 Items in 365 Days challenge :)

I really like how these turned out.  I was going to try to make them stylish with decorative items, but really I want them to be practical.  Their main purpose is to help keep clutter off the surfaces in my kitchen.  So far it's working :)

So are you ready to clear your counters and maximize the vertical space in your kitchen? 

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


How do you maximize the vertical space in your kitchen?  What's cluttering up your counters and how can you use vertical space to help keep them clear?

Happy organizing!

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