Consider a kitchen cabinet assigned to pots and pans. What’s the best way to use it?

It might feel efficient to get as many items in as possible. You’re getting more storage bang for the buck, right? But you don’t only have to store your kitchen equipment, you also have to use it. And when the equipment is packed in tightly, that becomes difficult.

Maybe you have a variety of pots, three or four inside a larger one, and some behind others. If so, you know how annoying it can be to get the ones on the bottom or in the back, because you have to shift things around or move things out to get the one you’re after. Over time, you may simply stop using some of the pots in the back or on the bottom. It’s too much trouble to retrieve them, or to put them back. You may even forget you have some of those items.

It will make your life easier if you can give your items some breathing room. Instead of fighting your collection of pots and pans, you will be able to quickly get (and later return) what you need.

In my own kitchen, I store my pots with the covers on. The covers are upside down, so I can put another pot on top—but only one. I don’t stack higher than that, because I find that once I make a pile, I’m reluctant to take the time to fish out things on the bottom.

Stacked Pans in Kitchen Cabinet

Stacked pots can make them more accessible.

It’s true that I am not using my cabinet’s storage capacity efficiently. But I’ve chosen to maximize accessibility rather than storage space. My cabinet could hold a lot more, but then it would be a lot more trouble to get the things I want. My way makes it so much easier to find, remove, and return my pots. I don’t need a lot of them; I find that just a couple of basic sizes serve my cooking needs well. I also use all my pots, since I don’t have a lot—just the ones I need.

You might counter that it’s really not that big a deal to move a few things around or un-nest a couple of pots. And you’d be right. It’s not hard at all. And yet…. many people just don’t do it. I certainly don’t. Even though those little steps add only a few seconds, they feel like too much for most of us, and we don’t bother. It’s just human nature to grab that easy-to-reach item, rather than to wrestle with the one underneath.

So why not embrace this tendency and arrange your storage spaces to reflect it? Your stuff will be easier to get to, and you’ll use all that you have, instead of leaving some lonely items on the bottom.

There are lots of other places where choosing accessibility over storage capacity can make your life easier. Do you have a shelf full of mugs stacked on top of each other? Try paring them down, and keeping only one layer. How about your food storage containers? Aby recommends storing them with their tops on.

Of course, this principle applies all over your house. For instance, how many T shirts are in your dresser drawer? Do you find that you wear and wash the same few that are always on top? Are there other areas of your house where you could choose accessibility over storage capacity? Let us know in the comments?


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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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