Today, we’re sharing our secret on how to organize your kitchen into work-friendly zones for maximum efficiency!
We’ve lived in this cottage for about 9 years now and the kitchen was one of those spaces we just couldn’t quite get right until a few years ago. Given we use the space multiple times a day, you can imagine it drove us (read: me) totally bananas.
It was not uncommon for me to be cross-legged on the floor surrounded by pots and pans with all the cabinet doors wide open “getting a plan together.” I literally moved things around from one cabinet to another nearly every week trying to make the kitchen more efficient until I made one simple change….
I divided the entire kitchen into work-friendly zones.
While this may seem like a small change, I can’t even tell you what a huge difference it made in how our kitchen functions. The kitchen is now organized into five work-friendly zones: a cooking zone, a baking zone, a drink station zone, a lunch prep zone and a cleaning zone.
Zone #1 – The Cooking Zone:
The cooking zone is basically everything you need to make a meal save for the food which is kept in the pantry.
Pots and Pans– For the longest time we struggled to keep the pots and pans organized. We used to keep them in the cabinet next to the stove and almost every night they would come tumbling out of the cabinet no matter if we were grabbing a sauce pan or a skillet.
One day, I decided to separate the pots and pans by function and move them to the upper cabinets. It’s been three years since we made that small change and we haven’t looked back. It’s so much easier to find a specific pot or pan while cooking now.
We store all the pot lids in a separate basket, so we don’t have to spend any extra time looking for them. Bonus, it’s a space saver since all the lids are corralled together.
Cooking Utensil Drawer– Most of the large utensils we use for cooking are kept together and organized in a drawer next to the stove. We purchased bamboo drawer divider (see below) but they were the wrong size so I’ll update you on these drawers as soon as they come in!
If you don’t have a drawer you can designate specifically to cooking utensils, set a pretty ironstone pitcher, champagne bucket or crock on the side of your stove and fill it with your cooking utensils.
Spice Drawer– Spices are labeled and located in the drawer next to the stove for easy access while cooking. We use glass jars, so we can see if we’re running low on specific spices. We bought these jars at Dollar General and made all the labels using PicMonkey.
Everyday Dishes– Our everyday dishes are organized and stacked together by category (dinner plate, salad plate, bowls) and are also stored in the cabinet next to the stove. They’re easy to grab when we’re plating up dinner and easy to put away when we’re unloading the dishwasher. Talk about a time saver!
Everyday Flatware Drawer– This is another drawer close to the dishwasher and the oven to make meal time prep and cleaning a breeze. We keep our everyday forks, spoons and knives together in a bamboo organizer.
In order to keep our countertops clutter free though, we plan to use an in drawer knife organizer. It’s another piece that didn’t arrive in time for this post (see below) so I’ll update everything as soon as it arrives.
As always, use caution and care when you’re deciding how to store knives appropriately. Especially if you have small children, elderly adults or mischievous pets that could access the knives as sharp objects can cause harm and injury.
Kitchen Linens Drawer– Everything from oven mitts to flour sack towels to dishcloths are kept together in our kitchen linens drawer for quick access while we’re cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. Having these items readily available helps to cut down on our paper towel consumption.
Small Appliances Cabinet– If at all possible, consider keeping your small appliances together in one cabinet, it’s another game changer.
At one time, we had a small blender, a food processor, a large blender, a Magic Bullet and an emersion blender in the kitchen. It’s sounds crazy to have so many small appliances that virtually do the same thing but since they were all kept in different cabinets, we had no idea we actually had that many!
Consider donating gently used small appliances you no longer use or those appliances that have similar functions in lieu of one appliance that is multifunctional.
Zone #2 – The Baking Zone:
The baking zone in our kitchen island houses everything from cookie sheets and cake pans to baking supplies, cookie cutters and mixing bowls.
Kitchen Island– The kitchen island sits parallel from the oven which makes it the perfect location for our baking station. We keep mixing bowls, cake decorating utensils, cookie cutters, baking pans, rolling pins and silicone mats in the baking zone. Each category is organized in a variety of different containers from glass jars to metal vintage refrigerator baskets.
The top of the island is a food prep area and the stand mixer is one of the few appliances we leave out year-round. The kitchen island is close to the sink for easy clean up when there are messes and close to the oven when it’s time to bake.
If you don’t have a kitchen island, consider using a small mobile work station that can serve as an island or use a set of cabinets to create a baking station of your own.
Deep Dish Baking Items Cabinet– Just under the spice cabinet and next to the oven is a smaller cabinet we house all of our casserole and deep dish baking items. It was another spot that was tough to maintain because the dishes were not the same size.
We finally decided to only keep the baking dishes we consistently used and those pieces that had matching lids. Needless to say, it made a big difference.
Baking Station Utensil Drawer– We keep all the utensils related to the baking zone from measuring spoons to spatulas in this drawer. Using utensil trays or drawer dividers is another easy way to help keep various sized baking and miscellaneous kitchen utensils organized. We plan to use bamboo boxes as we slowly begin to phase out our use of plastic.
Zone #3 – The Drink Zone
The drink zone is between the refrigerator and the coffee bar which makes grabbing a glass of juice in the morning, creating a smoothie for lunch or grabbing a to-go mug filled with iced coffee in the late afternoons easy breezy.
Drinking Glasses and Mugs Cabinet – All the glassware we use from champagne flutes to sweet tea glasses are kept in these two cabinets. The proximity to the refrigerator, freezer and coffee bar makes it convenient to fill empty glasses of ice for dinner or for guests to help themselves to a generous mug of coffee at the coffee bar.
Smoothie Station Cabinet – Adding the smoothie station basket to this drink zone last year was another game changer. We have a smoothie almost every day and it’s nice to have everything you need from the blender to the protein powder easily accessible and at the ready in one basket.
Coffee Station Drawers– Since our coffee bar also sits next to this set of cabinets, we keep all our hot drink supplies in the two drawers below the drinking/mug cabinet and above the smoothie station. This makes it super convenient to prep the coffee pot each night before going to bed and to grab a cup from the cabinet and the creamer from the refrigerator the next morning.
Zone #4 – The Lunch Prep Zone:
Just across from the drink zone is the lunch prep zone because it’s the closest to the refrigerator. Everything from food storage containers, to napkins and to-go flatware is housed in the drawers and the cabinet. This was another area that was difficult at times to keep up with due to the variety of sizes of food storage containers we use.
Phasing out the containers we no longer used, keeping all the food storage container lids in a basket together and nesting the food storage containers inside one another really helped to save space.
Zone #5 – The Cleaning Zone:
Paper Goods/Meal Prep Drawer– This drawer holds most of the meal prep goods from wax paper to aluminum foil. We used to keep all these items in the pantry, but this has worked out so much better given they’re easily accessible when cooking and cleaning up the kitchen.
Kitchen Cleaning Supply Cabinet– This cabinet is going to get a bit of an overhaul in the coming weeks, but I wanted to at least show you where it’s located. Everything from gloves to various cleaning supplies for almost every space in the house save for the bathrooms is kept in this cabinet. We also keep the bigger boxes of trash bags in here too.
Keep in mind, if you have littles, or mischievous pets you need to make sure cabinets like these are locked or kept out of their reach. It goes without saying chemicals can cause harm and injury so use caution and care if you chose to create a cleaning supply cabinet.
Recycling and Trash Cabinet – Just under the sink is where we house the trash and recycling receptacles. Again, it’s mostly for the convenience of being close to the sink and cooking zone which makes cleaning up kitchen messes really easy.
I struggled for years to have a functional kitchen, you guys! This system has really helped us though which is why I wanted to be as detailed as possible about how dividing your kitchen into work-friendly zones can make the space more functional and efficient.
Even if you don’t have a kitchen this size, implementing some of these small changes can make a big difference in how you organize each drawer, zone or cabinet.
The Best Ways to Organize the Kitchen into Work-Friendly Zones Take Aways:
- Evaluate how you use your kitchen
- Declutter beforeorganizing the kitchen into zones so you’ll have less to move
- Place items you want to donate in bins or boxes next to the front door so carrying items to your car will be easier
- Create a zone for only what is necessary based on your current lifestyle
- Use your kitchen or dining room table as a staging area for items you want to transfer
- Wipe out/clean zones before placing items you want to transition into their new spaces
- Maximize the cabinet and drawer spaces you have
- Use baskets, containers and drawer dividers to help corral supplies
- Pair similar items together in drawers and cabinets
- Use second a shelving system (a lot of cabinets have them built in but you can also buy them to increase storage options in your kitchen
The Best Work-Friendly Kitchen Zone Tools:(Affiliate links have been provided for your convenience. You can read our full disclosure policy here)
This project is best tackled when you have a few uninterrupted hours or even a day to complete. It takes time to get a solid game plan together, declutter, transition items from one cabinet to the next, then organize each work-friendly kitchen zone. That being said, the kitchen is one of the most used spaces in the house so making it functional and efficient is worth every minute!
I’ll see you guys back here tomorrow with a look at our 2019 Home Goals. I was this close to not making any home goals this year given our current circumstances but after thinking about it, I decided to choose faith over fear and dream big instead.