I Hired a Pro Organizer and This One Trick Changed the Way I Use My Whole Kitchen

You could even call it life-changing.

A small, comfortable kitchen with a wood kitchen island in the center

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I’ve had a lot of different kitchens in my adult life—from cramped spaces with basically no storage to larger ones equipped with a full pantry and plenty of cupboards. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned using 10+ kitchens, it’s that organizing works best when it’s bespoke. Certain tools, techniques, and hacks may be perfect for one kitchen, but useless in another. When I move to a new kitchen, I always re-evaluate my strategy. 

My husband, kids, and I moved to a larger home last year, but the kitchen presented a challenge. It’s not tiny, but it’s laid out oddly, with the fridge and oven situated in corners that block drawers from fully opening. There are quite a few cabinets, but they’re shallow and weirdly shaped, and they don’t go all the way up to the ceiling like the ones in the old house. In other words: My old systems wouldn’t work. 

The Best Advice I Received for Organizing My Kitchen

I decided to enlist the help of an expert: Abby Frank, a Milwaukee-based professional organizer who happens to be a close friend of mine. I asked her to come over the day we moved in, so she could basically help me unpack my kitchen stuff and decide where to put it. I explained to her I was discouraged by the layout of my new space and worried everything wouldn’t fit, and she gave me some excellent advice: If your kitchen is small or has limited storage, don’t waste premium space on stuff you don’t use all that often

As an example, I started putting away my boxes of tea bags in a cabinet above our espresso maker, thinking it would make sense to create a hot beverage area. Abby asked me right away how often I drank tea, and I told her probably only a few times a month. “Then it doesn’t make sense to use up some of the best storage space in your kitchen,” she said. 

I ended up relocating the tea to one of the awkward corner cabinets (after Abby told me to take them out of the cardboard boxes and put them in a small basket to save space). Because I don’t drink tea all that much, I don’t frequently experience the frustration of dealing with the awkward cabinet. On the flipside, my husband uses the coffee machine every day, so I decided to store the mugs and other accessories in the adjacent cabinet. 

Abby and I followed that advice as we unpacked and organized the rest of the kitchen, thinking strategically about our daily routines. I keep my most-used appliances, for example—the air fryer, toaster, and coffee maker—on the counters, and the lesser-used stuff goes in another weird cabinet (with seasonal or holiday items going down to the basement). 

In a dream world, I’d love to renovate our kitchen to have a better layout (and look prettier). But in the meantime, Abby’s simple-but-genius function-first approach helps me focus on the positive parts of my less-than-ideal kitchen—encountering fewer snags when I’m making dinner or putting away groceries.