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How to organise kitchen cupboards: savvy tips from Mumsnet users

Embrace spring cleaning season and tackle those chaotic kitchen cupboards with ease. Here are eight tried-and-tested tips from Mumsnet users to help you get organised and neat this year.

By Natasha Gregson | Last updated Apr 4, 2023

Kitchen setting

We all dream of a perfectly organised kitchen; one where you know exactly where that hidden jar of cumin is, and your plates and bowls are neatly stacked and presented as if ready for interior design photoshoot. Sadly, for many busy parents the reality is that kitchen cupboards can often resemble more of a messy nightmare.

But fear not, as we have plenty of savvy tips direct from those in the know: our trusty army of Mumsnet users. With a few simple changes and adjustments, you can transform your cluttered cupboards into a streamlined space, whatever your kitchen size.

Keeping a kitchen tidy goes beyond organising your cupboards, from investing in the best dishwasher to get your plates and glasses gleaming to giving your fridge freezer a clean, but we think cupboards are an excellent and easy way to get started on your spring cleaning journey.

How to tidy kitchen cupboards, according to Mumsnet users

Picture of a kitchen

1. Start with a clear out

"My top tip is to bin anything you don't need, don't use or are keeping 'just in case'. It's much easier to keep them tidy if the stuff isn't all rammed in so you can't actually see what you've got! I'm pretty ruthless with getting rid of stuff. I'd rather see 'space' than lots of things." MarsBarsAreShrinking

Before you start organising your kitchen cupboards, it's essential to have a proper clear out. Take everything out of your cupboards and sort through each item, deciding whether to keep, donate, or toss in the kitchen bin. For any food items that are still in date and unopened that you no longer wish to keep, it's worth checking to see if your local food bank will take them as donations.

Be ruthless and get rid of items that are outdated, broken, or that you no longer use. Chances are, you'll probably be surprised to discover a fair few ancient artefacts you forgot you had.

When your cupboards are clear, we'd recommend giving them a good clean with an anti-bac spray - don't miss our guide to the best cleaning products for the options Mumsnetters love.

2. Invest in storage baskets and shelves

"Since reading Marie Kondo's book, I have also arranged things like spices in plastic baskets. Then you can pull the whole basket out to get what you need, rather than scrabble around looking for the right one for ages. Also I use cupboard shelves from IKEA to arrange tins of food." BrutusMcDogface

Treating your cupboard space to some storage baskets and shelves is a small way to make a big difference. You can use small baskets to corral your spices or baking supplies, so they're easier to find and there's less chance of them getting lost in the back of the cupboard.

You can also use mini shelves like these from Amazon to maximise the vertical space in your cupboards, allowing you to store more items like tins of tomatoes and beans. If you're wondering how to organise a corner cupboard, you can also pick up shelves specifically designed for this layout from Amazon.

Related: Want to maximise your frozen food storage? We've got the lowdown on the best freezer and chest freezer for your home

3. Think about what items you use the most

"Store frequently used stuff where it's most convenient. Stuff used infrequently [goes] in top cupboards/out of the way." Chimichangaz

Your most-used food, herbs, spices, pots, pans, and utensils should be easily accessible, while the items you only use occasionally can be stored in the back of the cupboard.

Think about your daily cooking routine and what items you reach for most often. For example, if you have pasta frequently, you'll want that stored in front of other dried foods you don't go for as much. Similarly, if you bake a lot, you might want to keep your baking sheets and mixing bowls in a cupboard near your oven for easy access.

By contrast, the items you only use once in a while can be stored in less convenient places, such as high shelves or the back of a lower cupboard. This will free up space for the items you use every day and make your kitchen feel less cluttered overall.

Think about things you can store elsewhere too - for example, you can always pop ketchup in the fridge (the best American fridge freezer will offer ample storage space). Although, that said, the Mumsnet ketchup in the fridge vs cupboard debate rages on, so it really depends what camp you're in...

Related: Keep your kitchen sparkling clean with the best oven cleaner and glass cleaner, as recommended by Mumsnet users

4. Use a grading system

Cupboards in a kitchen

"Using the ABC concept to decide where to store things revolutionised my kitchen! Before, I had items that only get used once or twice a year in 'A' spaces and plates that were used daily on high shelf 'C' spaces." AmyAmoeba

It may seem OTT and time-consuming, but sitting down and labelling your food, pots and gadgets with a 'grade' can help you decide where to put things with more confidence and make your daily life easier. The Mumsnet member above uses the following method, but you can always make up your own grading system too:

  • A - items you use daily, or at least a few times a week

  • B - items you use on a weekly basis

  • C - items you use once a month or less

The idea is that 'A' items are placed within easy reach, whereas 'C' items can be stored in high places or the back of deep cupboards. So, for example, the dishwasher tablets you use every day will be stored at the front of a cupboard, whereas the dish rack you have just in case you need to hand wash after a large family gathering will be out of the way and harder to grab.

Related: Discover the best slimline dishwasher for more space-saving buys

5. Keep pasta, rice and dried foods in jars

"Pasta, rice, lentils etc decanted into jars as I can't stand it when the bag rips and spills everywhere." SnugglySnerd

As well-meaning as those sealing stickers are on the back of supermarket bags of pasta and rice, they very rarely keep their sticking power long-term. The solution? Keeping dried goods in jars not only looks stylish, but also avoids the mess as rice grains or pieces of penne escape as you're grabbing for something else.

Putting pasta, rice, and other dry food in jars also makes it easier to see what you have and how much you have left. Amazon has a good selection and, if your budget can stretch, Mumsnet users rave about the OXO Good Grips POP range.

Related: Keep your food fresher for longer with the best vacuum sealer

6. Tackle one drawer or cupboard at a time

"Start small - so one shelf or drawer at a time - it won't take as long as you think." Chimichangaz

This will depend on what type of declutterer you are. Some like to use a burst of motivation and tackle the whole kitchen in one go, others may be daunted by such a big task.

If you're dreading facing whatever is at the back of your cupboards, start small and work your way up. It may be that you start your endeavour with just the cutlery drawer and decide to power on, or you may make it a project you spend an hour on every week, but setting out with the intention of starting small makes the whole thing seem more manageable.

Related: Discover the best placemats for stylish table settings

7. Move rarely used items out of the kitchen completely

Stack of mugs

"Not that long ago I moved some of my rarely-used bits (a couple of pretty teapots, a fancy salad bowl, and my lovely spotty cake tin) from their spaces at the back of a cupboard, out into the living room where they now sit on our bookcases.

"We've got two vast walls of books and I've got a few ornaments and knick-knacks dotted around the shelves already to break it up, so these bits fit right in, and saved me enough space that I could start getting my food organised properly by type." FringeEvent

If your kitchen is on the small side, and you have an abundance of space elsewhere, one option is moving items you very rarely use out of the kitchen to make things neater and more organised for the things you do use. This can also be a cute design touch if you have an eclectic, country-cottage vibe in your house.

Think about other storage spaces too; are there other cupboards outside the kitchen you can make use of?

8. Be clever with other storage solutions

"If you have a shelf being used for mugs, get the shelf back by hanging hooks underneath cupboards." FriedSprout

One great idea is to use hooks to hang pans, mugs, and other items that take up too much space in your cupboards. Hanging items not only saves space but also makes them easier to access, so you don't have to dig through a pile of pots and pans to find the one you need.

You can use a variety of hooks, such as adhesive hooks or screw-in hooks, depending on the weight of the items you're hanging. Hang your pots and pans from a ceiling-mounted rack or a wall-mounted rack, and use hooks to hang mugs and other small items under your cupboards or on the sides of your cupboards.

Read next: Best tea towels to add to your kitchen