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Maximize Your Kitchen Cabinet Space With These Time-Tested Organization Ideas

You don't have to live with messy cabinets. Here's what to do.

organized cabinet with food in jars
You don't have to live with messy cabinets forever.
Getty/Crispin la valiente

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

An organized kitchen can be what makes or breaks how much you cook. If half your cooking time is spent digging out that one forsaken pan or the food processor, chances are you're not going to cook as often as you might like simply due to the hassle of finding what you need. 

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Organizing your kitchen cabinets can make planning to cook, making the meal and cleaning up infinitely easier -- and there are certain ways to go about it to get the best results. Here are some top tips and tricks for how to organize your cabinets. For more organization tips, check out our guides on how to organize your fridge and how to declutter your closet

Read more: Best Cookware Sets of 2022

Check those expiration dates

Contrary to popular belief, baking soda does expire. Throw it away. Have those cans of soup been sitting in the same spot for years? It might be time to donate or toss them. If it's smelly, sticky or super old, consider getting rid of it. Ask yourself if you really need the Tupperware with a missing lid. 

Take inventory

If there's extra space in your pots and pans cabinet while your utensil drawer overflows, consider rearranging to maximize cabinet space. Take a hard look at everything in your cabinets and get a general idea of how items are used in the kitchen and where the most intuitive spot is for them to be. Functionality is the name of the game when it comes to kitchen organization.

Use the pantry 'golden rule'

The pantry golden rule states that you must be able to see everything that's inside. This is a good rule for the rest of your kitchen, especially the inside of your cabinets and drawers. This will make cleaning items out and putting them away much easier. Consider organizing utensils with drawer trays.

Consider taking items out of cabinets

A nice set of pans, colorful kitchen utensils or even a cutting board can be used for decoration. Get a hanging rack or put up hooks along an unused wall to use all the space in your kitchen and declutter the cabinet.

pans hanging from a shelf

Consider hanging your pans instead of throwing them in a cabinet.

Getty/Sebastian Schollmeyer/EyeEm

Store similar items together

Divide the kitchen between food (and other edibles) and dishware and cooking supplies. Continue dividing from there. Store items like spices, dishes and flatware in the upper cabinets for easy access, and put larger items like baking sheets and large appliances in the lower cabinets. Avoid stacking too much, so it doesn't all come crashing down when you reach for one bowl. Resist the urge to throw everything in and deal with it later. 

Organize by activity

Another good way to organize the kitchen is based on function. Take some time to think about your routine, and try grouping the kitchen into areas based on what you use it for. For example, putting breakfast items such as the coffee maker and mugs near each other can fast-track your mornings.

Label everything

Sit and get comfy with a marker and some masking tape; they're going to be your new best friends. Label any buckets, bins or Tupperware, even if they're clear. Not only will you easily know what the contents are, but it will also help you stick with the system long-term. 

labels on spice jars in kitchen

Who doesn't love a good label?

Getty/Jonathan Kitchen

Use vertical space

Consider storing baking sheets, serving plates and cutting boards vertically. You can add space with pop-up shelves, plastic caddies, hooks, magnetic boards and cork boards.

Keep the things you don't use every week in one place

Rarely use your juicer or stand mixer? Put them in the furthest kitchen cabinet along with anything else you use less than once a week. Cookbooks you only use once a year at Christmas can be stored here too. Better yet, toss them all and just write them down somewhere digitally.

Doing a first pass at organizing is the biggest step, but keeping your kitchen that way is the hardest part. Try your best to stay consistent with your system, and make sure anyone else using the space does too. Now go forth and bask in the glory of your newly organized, aesthetic and functional kitchen.

Make sure you check out our tips on how to clean your kitchen in under 15 minutes, how to clean your dishwasher and how often you should be cleaning your fridge