Five Decluttering Projects to Clear Space in Your Kitchen from

Does your kitchen have what my friend calls a “scary cabinet,” stuffed with perilously stacked items? Or a drawer crammed so full that it’s hard to open—or to find anything inside?

It’s easy to accumulate kitchen items, often to the point of excess. But how many of those items do you regularly use? Are they taking up space that you need for something else? And how much time are they costing you: stacking and unstacking them, moving them out of the way to find the thing you really need, or maybe even dodging them as they tumble out of your cabinet?

The good news is that paring those collections down doesn’t need to be a big project. If you tackle one category at a time, you’ll only need a few minutes. Gather the items, spread them out on your kitchen table or counter, and decide what stays and what goes. Be honest with yourself about what you actually need, then donate, recycle, or toss the extras.

Here are some items that often become clutter problems in kitchens.

Plastic cups

Sporting events, company picnics, the state fair—if you go to a lot of events and buy a lot of drinks, you may find yourself with a huge collection of these cups. It’s nice to have a few unbreakable cups, but for the most part, these are items you can safely, and easily, let go.


I’ve seen entire cabinets devoted to mugs, often heaped in precarious towers. You may need to summon up more willpower to cull a mug collection, but give it a try. Choose a few favorites, then donate the rest. (While you’re at it, take a look at your cups and saucers. Are you housing an entire set for those few times a year you host the holidays? Then they don’t deserve the prime real estate in your kitchen cabinet. Consider putting them in storage, and use the space they free for your everyday items.) The next time you savor your coffee or tea, you can feel good about all cabinet space you’ve freed up.

Plastic bags

It’s amazing how these bags seem to multiply, preventing us from closing drawers or spilling out of the holders we try to stuff them into. Maybe you reuse some of them, to line your garbage pails, for instance. But many people have way more than they need, or keep sizes they rarely reuse. (Those flimsy produce bags are an example.) If you’re overrun by plastic bags, recycle the extras, keeping only enough to fit comfortably in their designated spaces. No cramming them in where they don’t fit! And think about where you’re keeping these bags. If you save them to clean up after a pet, it may make sense to store them outside your kitchen, perhaps near the door you use to leave the house, or where you keep the leash. And resolve to bring home fewer of these bags in future. You can get reusable versions of both grocery and produce bags.

Food storage containers

Maybe you buy these, or maybe you use leftover takeout containers. But however they enter your kitchen, it often seems that these items never leave, even if they’re warped or missing their covers. Pull them all out of their hiding places, match the bases to the tops, then toss anything that’s broken or missing a mate. But don’t stop yet! Take a moment to consider which ones you really use. The others belong in your recycling or donation pile. If you’ve done a lot of culling, and if space allows, consider storing these containers with their covers on; otherwise, make it easy on yourself by allocating bins to keep the containers together—one for the bottoms, another for the tops

And let’s not forget the food itself

I was recently chatting with another mom, and she complained about the many boxes of crackers that were always open in her pantry. At my house, cereal is the problem: I once realized there were four versions of the same cereal open at once, in addition to a couple of other types. In your case, it might be cookies, or pasta, or tea. But whatever the food, keeping multiple varieties on hand can quickly clutter up your cabinets. Let go of the idea that you need variety all the time, and instead spread the variety out over time. In other words, keep only one or two types of any given item open, then the next time, switch to a different type. I promise, your family will survive if they eat the same cereal a few days in a row! They’ll get a new kind next week.

What items tend to multiply in your kitchen? How have you reined them in?

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Nancy Vorsanger loves how her organized home makes her family’s life easier. She opened her own organizing business to help other families get—and stay—organized, with practical, no-fuss strategies tailored to their own needs and lifestyles. Nancy also loves coffee, word games, blogs, her husband, and her children—not in that order. She lives in central New Jersey.

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