Save counter space by storing knives on a magnetic strip, rather than in a knife block, and by leaning cutting boards against the backsplash, where the wood can create visual warmth. Photo for The Washington Post by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Washington - Some people can live with a messy home office or a disorganized bedroom closet, and it doesn't affect their lives in any fundamental way. But the kitchen is different. We all have to eat. If the kitchen is a mess, it can have a real impact on your lifestyle.

If you're not inspired to cook because you can't easily find the tools you need, or if you're convinced you don't have ample space to prepare a meal, not only will your emotional and physical health be affected, but the endless takeout can also kill your budget.

I consulted with Katherine DiGiovanni of Refine Home Concepts, who specializes in kitchen organization and what she calls "kitchen coaching," to develop these recommendations for maximizing your storage space and making your kitchen work for you.

1. Take stock and cull the clutter

First, take a complete inventory of your kitchen. Pull everything out of the cabinets and drawers and put back only the items you need and use. Less is more. Why? There are tools that every kitchen needs, but if you have too many gadgets and dishes crowding your cabinets and drawers, it makes accessing them difficult, which means you'll never use them. It's better to stick with the basics and store things so that they're easy to access.

2. Kitchen helpers

There are several MVP products for organizing any kitchen, but in small kitchens these items can make a big difference.

READ: 5 hacks for spring cleaning your home

Cabinets: To make things like spices, cooking oils and baking decorations easy to see and grab in your upper cabinets, use a riser or a lazy Susan. And don't be afraid to adjust shelves to make things easier to reach, if necessary. It's not as hard as it looks and can make a big difference. Installing pullout drawers in cabinets will help maximize space for things like storage containers or dish towels and will also work well on deep shelves so that food stored in the back isn't forgotten. Clear bins help corral like items and are great for keeping bags of rice, pasta, chips and cookies upright.

Pantry and refrigerator: Look for versatile organizational products such as Mason jars, which are easy to clean, or stacking clear plastic containers. And if you're tight on pantry or cabinet storage for dry goods, large Mason jars filled with red lentils or spinach pasta can double as decor.

In small kitchens, a pot rack can free up space in cabinets. Photo for The Washington Post by Stacy Zarin Goldberg


Drawers: Drawer dividers can be used in shallow drawers to make measuring spoons, a meat thermometer, a can opener, a corkscrew, tongs and knives easy to find and put away.

3. Saving counter space

Countertops, free of clutter, are utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing. Don't store rarely used appliances on the counter just because it seems difficult to put them away. The items that stay on your countertop should be those that you use frequently, such as a toaster or coffeemaker. So unless you're a die-hard baker, you probably shouldn't be wasting valuable real estate with a stand mixer. A hand mixer will do just fine - and be much easier to store away.

If you're short on drawer space, use one countertop canister for the six utensils you use most often when cooking.

And be sure to make use of wall space. Most knife blocks take up significant countertop space; knives can be stored more efficiently in a drawer or on a magnetic strip attached to the wall. 

And last but certainly not least, what to do with those large cutting boards? If you have a large wooden cutting board, you might be able to lean it upright against the backsplash. The wood can create a little warmth in an otherwise stark kitchen and will still be easy to access when you need it. You can also place it on top of the refrigerator, where it's out of sight but still easy to grab. 

A small but well-organized kitchen can be just as functional and - bonus - requires less cleaning.

The Washington Post