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Declutter Your Small Kitchen in 5 Easy Steps

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If you live in a small house or an apartment, chances are you have a small kitchen. Cupboards and counter space is a precious commodity, so you really need just the essentials. The kitchen is the epicenter of many homes. So, you’re not only making breakfast, packing lunches, and cooking dinner; your kitchen is most likely your mail drop off point, the kids’ homework area, and the first room people see as they come into your home. Learn how to declutter your small kitchen to make it more functional for your everyday life in just 5 easy steps.

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Step 1 to Declutter Your Small Kitchen: Clear the Countertops

declutter your small kitchen
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The Paper Problem

I have a small table and kitchen “peninsula” (as my husband calls it) in my kitchen, and they are always the first things to be covered with junk. The mail comes in, and I say “oh just set it there on the counter, and I’ll look at it later.” A week goes by and now there’s a pile of mail I need to go through.

Let’s start the declutter process at eye level. First, go through any paper and throw away anything that is absolute garbage. If it’s mail, separate it into garbage or bills. (That’s probably the only relevant categories in most households.) Paper is the hardest thing to deal with, as there is always a constant flow. So going forward, you’re not going to put any paper on those counters. Deal with the mail when it comes in the door (trash or bill pile).

Other papers I find sneaking onto my counters are kid-related. At the moment, it’s mostly doctor information. Those progress papers they give you at every checkup. Set up a filing system, and file them as soon as you get home. In the future, I’m sure it will be report cards and parent signature forms.

For now, we just want all the paper out of the kitchen, so sort it and put it in a folder marked TO DO. We don’t want to get sidetracked from decluttering the kitchen with another project.

Small Appliances

Some appliances need to remain on the counter if you use them everyday: coffee pot (you need your daily caffeine fix), microwave, toaster, mixer. But those sometimes appliances don’t need to be there, if you need more space. My blender rarely gets used and yet it takes up prime counter space. The only reason it doesn’t get hid away in the cupboard is that it is too tall.

If you don’t have enough room for all of your most used appliances, dedicate a cupboard and switch out appliances, as needed. Broken appliances or ones you never use need to go. If you have something that’s still in good condition, either make a plan to try to sell it or offer it up to someone on your street or someone in a mom group.

Knick Knacks

I love pictures! I have picture frames all over my house, including my kitchen counter. You may be wondering if we’re decluttering, why are you putting things on your counter? Well there’s this one section of my counter that I can’t reach, so I can’t put anything useful there.

If you have a place like that, then I allow you the freedom to choose your favorite knick knacks, and give yourself a little piece of happy in your kitchen. However, if your home offers no additional space, the knick knacks must go. One, you need all the space you can get, and two, those knick knacks can make a small room look even smaller. And that is not our goal today!

Step 2 to Declutter Your Small Kitchen: Say No to Junk Drawers

declutter your small kitchen
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The Junk Drawer

Growing up, we had a junk drawer. It was right by the door and held all the random things you could ever need: tools (screw drivers, hammers, tape measure), tape (scotch, duct, electric), thermometers, scissors (not the sewing scissors!). There were times when we couldn’t even get the drawer open. I always assumed everyone had a drawer like this. But when I moved into my small kitchen, there was no room for a junk drawer. I decided I need one tape measure, and I would put it in this empty drawer. Well guess what? That drawer has held pens, notepads, calendars, coupons, chop sticks, and yes, the tape measure.

Well I say no more junk drawers! If you have one (or more), empty it! Find a home for everything in there. If it’s tools, buy a toolbox and keep it in your garage, basement or under the sink. If it’s pens or stationary, find a nice cup or a special box. If it’s not kitchen-related, it no longer belongs in the kitchen!

All Other Drawers

Are the other drawers created equal? Absolutely not! But we’re decluttering, not organizing our small kitchen. So for the purpose of decluttering, I need you to go through each of the other drawers: silverware drawer, towel drawer, measuring cups and cooking utensil drawer, etc.

Silverware drawer. Get rid of any rusted or broken pieces of silverware. If that doesn’t leave you with much silverware left, it may be time to get a new set. Or if you have sets that don’t match, let them go, and get something you really love. If there’s anything else lurking in that drawer that belongs somewhere else, move it or throw it out.

Towel drawer. My towel drawer is always on the brink of explosion. I have towel sets from before I was married, even after people gifted us with new towels as wedding gifts. If anything in there has holes or are threadbare, it’s time to get rid of them. I usually try to switch out old towels and dish cloths with my cleaning rags, then toss the old cleaning rags.

Cooking utensil drawer. I don’t know if everyone has a drawer like this, or if you’re using those utensil containers on your counter. I personally don’t like the container because I feel the utensils are never clean. (Maybe I just don’t cook enough.) But if you happen to have the drawer, get rid of any broken measuring cups or spoons. Go through the utensils. Are there broken pieces? Check the spatulas; sometimes the get sticky and need replaced. Check wooden utensils. If they are cracked, bacteria or mold can grow in those cracks.

For any other drawers you may have, dedicate a use for that drawer. Be it cutlery, cling wrap/sandwich bags, food storage containers/lids. Whatever you decide what that drawer is for, that is the only thing allowed in that drawer. Find a home outside of the kitchen for anything that doesn’t belong.

Need to find time to declutter your small kitchen? Get the 7 Secrets to Time Management

Step 3 to Declutter Your Small Kitchen: Clear Out the Cupboards

declutter your small kitchen
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Small Appliances

So those small appliances that were taking up counter space that I said to move to a cupboard now may need to be relocated. If it’s an appliance you use regularly, it gets to stay. I have a waffle maker I used a few times that was taking up precious cupboard space. Once my son started into solid foods, I really needed that cupboard to store his food and dishes. If you’re storing a sometimes appliance in your kitchen cupboards, it’s time to make a decision. Is it time to get rid of it? Or could you store it somewhere else, out of the way? (Garage, attic, basement)

Another thing to think about when going through your appliances is if you have any duplicates. I’ve had two mixers, two toasters, two crock pots, and three blenders. You need to keep your favorite or the one in the best condition, and let the others go. If they still work, you could sell them, donate them, or swap with a friend or other mom who may need what you have and have what you need.

Pots and Pans

Pull everything out and first match up lids to pans. If you have extra lids, get rid of them. (You don’t have space for I might need it someday.) If any pans are dented or rusting, they need to go. And if you have non-stick cookware that is start to pit or peel, get rid of them, as the coating can start to come off in your food. If you don’t have much cookware left after the purge, I suggest getting a new set of cookware.


If you’re dishes are chipped, they need to be thrown out. You’re risking a microwave catastrophe. If you still have a mixed match set from college or when you joined houses with your husband, consider upgrading to a brand new set. When upgrading (or scaling back your current selection), take into consider just how many plates, bowls, and glasses you actually use. If you’re hosting people once or twice a month, it’s going to be more than if you host the occasional holiday meal. You could always rent dishware for that once a year gathering.

declutter your small kitchen: kitchen counter and cupboards


Go through your canned goods, pastas, cereals, snacks, spices, etc. Now’s the time to throw out all the expired food. Reorder the space by date, so you’re not throwing as much away in the future and so you know what you have. This should now be on your weekly to do list. While you’re getting rid of all the expired food, it is a good time to make a grocery list, as some of the items you thought you had may need replaced.

Food Storage

We all know the joke about having no lids to our food storage containers or vice versa. Well it’s not funny when you have no space for items you can’t use. If it’s an actual Tupperware item, and if the lid or container is not lost, but broken, Tupperware should replace it for you. For anything else that doesn’t match up, throw out the mismatched pieces. Get this nested set of storage containers with lids that attach, so you never lose another piece.

Under the Sink

I believe the space under the sink should only be for sink-related items. Dish soap, kitchen cleaning items, scouring pads, and it’s a good place to store your dish drying rack (if you have the space). This also clears your counter by the sink, so your already small kitchen looks less hectic.

Related: Organize Your Small Kitchen in 6 Easy Steps

Step 4 to Declutter Your Small Kitchen: Tackle the Refrigerator and Freezer

declutter your small kitchen
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On the Outside

I collect magnets. Mostly from trips I’ve been on, like a mini postcard collection. They take up most of my fridge, and I love looking at them, remembering all the fun times. But under some of the magnets are papers. Sometimes it’s Christmas cards or wedding invitations or drawings or the grocery list.

The more stuff that is attached to your fridge, the harder it is for your eyes (and mind) to rest. And with kids, the space of honor is the refrigerator. So for now, remove everything. Only put back the things a) you absolutely need or b) absolutely love.

As for those kid art projects and A+ papers, going forward every kid gets to have one thing on the refrigerator for one week. I suggest switching out on Fridays. If you have school-age kids, they can pick their favorite thing from the week, and hang it up. Every Friday, it’s a new showcase! (Keep the prior week’s showcase filed away.)

Don’t forget the top of the fridge. I use mine as a place to showcase decorative cups and some pictures. Remember, don’t overdo it with the knick knacks. But if you need this space for actual storage, it can be great for tall cereal boxes.

Now to the Inside

We’re going to declutter the refrigerator and freezer in one fell swoop. First, if you need to, defrost your freezer to make more room. Then start with the food. Expired food must go, but wait to get rid of it until trash day, so it’s not stinking up your kitchen. Also, any containers (I’m talking to you condiments) that have just a squeeze or two left should be thrown out. Any leftovers from a week plus need to go.

And the freezer is the biggest hoarder of food. Sometimes it’s something you tried once and didn’t really like, but never got rid of. If nobody is eating it, there’s no reason to store it. Give yourself props for trying something new, but don’t let it hold you back from making room for other new things.

Step 5 to Declutter Your Small Kitchen: Use the Drawer Under the Stove Wisely

declutter your small kitchen
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Honestly when I was making my list I almost forgot about this drawer, so I wanted to give it its own space, so you didn’t forget it too. It doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t use this drawer for storage (even though that’s not what it’s intended for). I say use it however you feel suits your household. But if you choose to use it for storage, make sure it’s for items you actually use.

I keep my baking pans, cupcake tins, cake pans, and a pizza baking pan in mine. Don’t put things down there you don’t use, or don’t use very often. It’s gets dusty under there quickly if the items aren’t being used. You’ll spend more time washing and rewashing those items than actually using them.

One Last Tip

So there you have it. The five easy steps to declutter you small kitchen: countertops, drawers, cupboards, refrigerator and stove. Just remember to take it one step at a time to not get overwhelmed.

The hardest part of decluttering for me is getting rid of things I no longer use or need, so the trick I use to stay motivated is buying something to make the space more functional or more pleasant. However, you only get to buy something new once you’ve decluttered. It becomes impossible to declutter any room, if you keep adding new items to an already cluttered space. Good luck in your journey!

Were you able to successfully declutter your small kitchen? Let us know in the comments what worked best for you.

declutter your small kitchen: counter with cutting board and spices

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