8 Forgotten Things You Should Declutter in Your Kitchen ASAP (for Way More Space)

published Jan 21, 2024
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kitchen with open shelving, white tile wall, and blue cabinets/drawers
Credit: Tony Anderson/Getty Images

I recently moved to a new apartment complex just across the street from my current apartment. As I packed, I was surprised to see how many boxes were filled with kitchen items compared to the contents of any other room — even after I decluttered and donated. The reality is that kitchens come along with an abundance of stuff, most of which is bulky. Although I lost some square footage in this move, I luckily have a larger kitchen.

But it wasn’t too long ago that I lived in a much smaller space where you couldn’t even fit more than one person in the kitchen. I was also organizing a lot of similarly sized kitchens as a professional organizer. During this time, I got pretty good at neatly (and creatively) arranging awkward-shaped appliances, gadgets, and tools into tiny spaces.

That’s just half the battle. The other half is the overlooked clutter in kitchens that rarely gets used. Instead, it takes up precious real estate that could otherwise serve as storage for the things utilized regularly. If you’re struggling to stay organized in a small kitchen, I encourage you to start by looking for and decluttering the following often-forgotten items.

Serving Pieces

Servingware generally comes out a handful of times per year for holidays or dinner parties. The rest of the time, they’re just hanging out in hard-to-reach cabinets above the appliances or pushed to the back of lower cabinets. Get up, or down, there and dig out the chip and dip bowls, trays, pitchers, or anything else you could (but don’t) use to host. Then, gift them to a friend who’s repeatedly extending invites to come for happy hour.

Baking Ingredients

Unless you’re a routine baker, I can guarantee you have expired flours, sugars, and sprinkles sitting somewhere in your kitchen. Go through all of your baking ingredients, toss what’s past its prime, and donate anything unopened but still within the best-by date. The next time you get a hankering for homemade cookies, resist the urge to buy ingredients in bulk if you know they’ll go bad before you bake again. Or, just do what I do and settle for the break-and-bake kind.

One-Off Cooking Tools

Maybe you were supporting a friend during her Pampered Chef phase or thought the As Seen on TV veggie spiralizer was a steal. Either way, there may be at least one kitchen gadget that, at one time or another, seemed like a good idea to own. Now? It just sits on a shelf or in a drawer, getting in the way. If you haven’t used it in the last six to 12 months, it’s safe to declutter.

Plastic and Paper Party Goods

This is one area where I see overflow and disorganization, which often leads to stocking up on more items than what’s needed because you thought you were low (or out) of things. Pull out all the paper plates, plastic utensils, and napkins and toss anything unusable (think: cracked Solo cups). If you still have an unopened Barbie tablecloth left over from your now-15-year-old’s fifth birthday party, pass it along to someone with little ones. Alternatively, you can break it out next family pizza night for fun — just as long as you use it or lose it.

Cups

I get it — it feels silly to declutter a perfectly good working cup. But my question is how do you know it’s still working perfectly if you haven’t drank out of it in years? To-go cups, glasses, and bottles (not to mention travel mugs!) come in so many shapes and sizes and can be really difficult to keep organized when there’s an overabundance of them. Obtain and keep only the ones that you’ll actively use or are meaningful to you (and that you’ll also use).

Food Storage Containers

Almost every kitchen has a cabinet that contains food storage containers that are bound to come tumbling down. It’s time to get a grip on these items so you can keep up with your resolution to meal prep more often. Declutter mismatched bottoms and lids along with any pieces that are cracked, warped, or have a stubborn smell.

Fabrics (Dish Towels, Oven Mitts, and Pot Holders) 

I refer to these as the forgotten fabrics of the kitchen because they tend to linger for decades, many without seeing much action. If you use the ones you have, great. Keep them. But if you’re holding onto ratty tea towels or those quilted mitts littered with burn holes (when your new silicone set is all you ever reach for) in case you might need them “one” day? It’s time to let them, along with any stress over a cluttered kitchen, go.

Cookbooks

Unless you earnestly love, cherish, and frequently refer to your cookbook collection, there’s no reason to carve out room in the kitchen for them. The space can be better used for snacks, after all. It’s officially 2024, so feel free to fully embrace digital recipes and donate the physical versions. If your kitchen is still cluttered but you want to hold onto some, especially sentimental books like the one you inherited from your grandmother, find a spot just outside the kitchen to store them instead.