Parental Wisdom: 3 Tips for Organizing Your Kitchen Cabinets from My Mom & Dad

published Oct 2, 2014
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Marcia Prentice)

This week marks the start of a new chapter for my mom and dad. After four pleasant years spent in Northern Virginia they’re loading up the car and, along with the dogs, hitting the road for their new home in Atlanta. This isn’t the first, or even the fifth home they’ll be moving into during their thirty-one year marriage, and they’ve become quite adept at quickly and efficiently organizing a new space. The first, most important space to be tackled is always the kitchen cabinets. Here are some tips gleaned from the many, many kitchens of my mom and dad on how to organize those dishes and glasses.

The top three things I’ve learned from my parents over the years (this is their ninth home in the ninth city in the seventh state, so they’re definitely experts) when it comes to organizing kitchen cabinets:

  1. Like Items with Like Items. This can take on many forms. Cereal bowls can go with all the other cereal bowls and wine glasses can go with all the other wine glasses, or items can be grouped in sets, such as the Fiestaware bowls going with the Fiestaware plates and the matching mugs. Grouping like items means they can stack inside one another or form tidy, uniform rows, and eliminate questions about where a particular item might be hiding. I had personally always preferred organizing by item type, but I recently reorganized my cabinets so that each of my sets of dishes has its own space (I have two sets, a vintage Corelle set that belonged to both of my grandmothers and a new, classic white set that was a wedding gift) and I find that I’m actually rotating my use of dishes more than when they were all housed in one space.
  2. Except. . . When Grouping Items by Function. Yes, it seems the like items rule was just made to be broken. If you only use your mugs and cereal bowls in the morning, you’re better off storing them together near your coffee maker than letting them clutter the area reserved for the rest of your dishes. My parents’ always set up a coffee and tea area in one of their cabinets, with mugs, sugar, honey, and stirring spoons, with the coffee maker and a magically always full basket of pastries on the counter below. Or if you don’t have a coffee habit, but have a collection of bar glasses like I do that are only used for cocktails and parties, by all means give them a separate area to call home and let them take their cocktail shaker and pitcher friends with them.
  3. Get Things Out Where You Can See Them. There’s been a huge uptick in the popularity of open kitchen shelving in recent years. We’ve even recently discussed how open shelving keeps you honest when it comes to keeping a tidy, organized kitchen. While open shelving is certainly the extreme version of getting things out where you can see them, the trick I’ve learned from my parents is to simply keep out and use all of those serving platters and cake stands that tend to get relegated to the tops of closets or similar hiding spots, only to make an occasional appearance around the holidays. I do keep some serving pieces out on open shelving, but I also use serving bowls to corral produce on my counter, or I grab a pitcher from the shelf above my drinkware to use as a vase, and I stash a few lightweight platters upright behind my dinnerware for casual hummus and veggie plate dinners with my husband. Like so much in the kitchen, I use these things because they’re there, where I can see and reach them, instead of hidden away somewhere.

Have you learned anything from your parents’ organizing styles? Do you find yourself emulating them when it comes to organization?