How to organize a small kitchen without a pantry

If you’re an organized person keeping your small kitchen clean and tidy should be a doddle. For the rest of us, the struggle is real. My kitchen doesn’t stay clean long with two kids, two cats, and a very messy spouse! In this post, I will show you how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry, to enable you to prepare food safely and quickly and help you make your kitchen the perfect place to relax and eat.

This post will discuss how to simplify and organize your kitchen for good, using my simple-to-follow rules for decluttering and organizing the kitchen. We will discuss storage solutions, organization ideas, and ways to create more storage space in your kitchen cabinets.

Getting motivated to declutter and clean is not always easy, especially in high-volume areas like the kitchen. Knowing how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry, and create a clean, clutter-free counter space, is more important than it is in other home areas.

how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry

Why it is so important to keep your small kitchen organized.

The kitchen is the most important place in the house to keep clean, organized, and clutter-free.

  • To prevent cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria such as Ecoli and Salmonella.
  • The kitchen is a high traffic area which needs to run smoothly and efficiently to prevent chaos and disruption.
  • There is potentially dangerous equipment, chemicals and tools in a kitchen, so safety and good kitchen organisation are hugely important to prevent scalds, burns, trips and falls.
  • The kitchen is often the hub of the house, where people gather to eat and socialise,  therefore it needs to be a calm, organised environment where people feel at home and relaxed.

I have an incredibly tiny kitchen; there is barely any room to swing a mouse, let alone a cat! Cabinet space is poor, with four cupboards, three drawers, and one small countertop. Kitchen storage is non-existent! Coupled with the fact that I am a kitchen gadget fan, this can be pretty taxing.

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How I Organize My Small Kitchen

The only way to keep my kitchen organized is to use the kitchen cabinets as a pantry. How do I do this ? By keeping my kitchen gadgets, cutlery, utensils, and crockery to an absolute minimum. I do not have duplicates and everything in my kitchen is multi-purpose.

  • Ninja Foodi : used for slow cooking , airfrying , steaming , pressure cooking, grilling , sauteing and much more!
  • Blender: used for smoothies , milkshakes , soups , baking.
  • Toaster: used for breakfasts lunches and dinners
  • Two steak knives
  • Wooden spoon
  • Pizza cutter
  • Garlic press
  • Multipurpose knife
  • Eight knives, forks, spoons and three teaspoons, (the other five were thrown in the bin by my 5yr old each time he’d finished his yoghurt!)
  • Measuring spoons: which double up as serving spoons
  • Tin opener: doubles as a bottle opener
  • Scissors
  • Fish slice
  • Potato and vegetable peeler
  • Spatular
  • Four pans: Doubles as a stemer
  • Oven tray
  • Casserole dish: doubles as a pie dish
  • Lasagne tray: Doubles as an oven dish
  • Frying pan
  • Muffin tray
  • 1 cake tin
  • Drinking bottles (stainless steel)
  • Cats dishes (stainless steel)
  • Glasses: six
  • Six mugs
  • Eight plates, side plates, bowls
  • Cleaning products (my weakness)
  • 1 mixing bowl
  • 1 salad bowl: doubles as a fruit bowl
  • 1 colander

As you can see most of these items are multi-purpose which allows me to get rid of quite a few other gadgets which solely have one purpose and are a waste of space and money.

Even though I have a few gadgets and limited storage, everything is neat, tidy, and is easy to find. The kitchen counters are clutter-free.

Knowing how to organize a small kitchen with no pantry can be quite a daunting experience if you are downsizing from a larger home or if you are a beginner.

If you look through my list of kitchen utensils, you will notice that I don’t have hundreds of things I don’t use. Most of my belongings are multi-functional.

So, for instance, if you are struggling with kitchen storage, you don’t want to buy a pineapple slicer that has only one use. Other examples would be:

  • Strawberry hullers
  • Cherry pip removers
  • Avocado keepers
  • Mango slicers
  • Potato ricers
  • Waffle makers
  • Pie makers
  • Cupcake makers
  • Omelet makers
  • Popcorn makers

Having multifunction items is the key to staying organized in a small kitchen with no pantry.

When I open my kitchen drawer, I only have one knife to choose from, and I know exactly where it is. I don’t need to rummage through a drawer full of unused stuff to find my favorite knife.

How to organize a small kitchen without a pantry

Once you have got your kitchen organized, clean and tidy, you need to find a system that helps you keep it that way. If you follow these rules, you should find that your kitchen stays organized, tidy, and cleaning it will be a doddle.

  1. Get rid of: 

    ✔️ Duplicates
    ✔️ Unused gadgets/ utensils /baking trays
    ✔️ Broken items
    ✔️ Out of date food
    ✔️ Unused food (food bought on a whim which is very unlikely to be eaten)
    ✔️ Decorations and nic-nacs
    ✔️ Cookery books (unless used frequently, then please store on the bookcase with other books) to discover how to declutter cookery books read this post

    baking sheets

  2. Clean the kitchen thoroughly.

    ✔️ Look at your space and decide what you need to store in each area for convenience. For instance, put the pans near the cooker, keep the cups near the kettle.
    ✔️ Items used infrequently go at the back of the cupboards or on high, more challenging to reach shelves.
    ✔️ Keep plates, glasses, and cutlery near the dishwasher as these are washed more often than other items, so it makes it easier to put them away when emptying the dishwasher.
    ✔️ Store washing powder next to the washing machine.
    ✔️ Keep everything off countertops and windowsills.
    ✔️ Do not over stack shelves, as it makes it harder to keep them clean and organized.
    ✔️ Decorative items are not for the kitchen as they get greasy and dusty,  it makes it harder to keep the kitchen clean and tidy. Save the decor for somewhere else if you must!

  3. Organize and declutter food 

    Food is something we need to keep on top of and is one of my struggles. Things can quickly go out of date and be forgotten at the back of the fridge and cupboards.

    ✔️ Don’t overstock and hoard food. If you’ve not got loads of stuff in your cupboards it is easier to see what you need to buy next time you shop.
    ✔️ Use a grocery list like this one when you shop, to help combat food wastage.
    ✔️ Get rid of any food you don’t use regularly.
    ✔️ Put lesser-used food toward the back of the cupboards.
    ✔️ Ensure everything is sealed and labeled (I use a label maker like this one) after opening to prevent spillage and avoid attracting ants and other pests.
    ✔️ Bring stock forward and place new items behind the older ones when you unpack the groceries.
    ✔️ Wipe the bottom of jars after use before putting them away as it will keep your cupboards cleaner for longer.
    ✔️ The less items you keep in your cupboards, the easier it is to see what you’re running out of, don’t be tempted to hoard food you don’t ever use, avoid impulse food shopping.

    decanted food in stackable containers

  4. Get rid of the junk drawer

    Having a junk drawer attracts clutter and takes up much-needed kitchen storage. Read how I got rid of my junk drawer here. Once you’ve got rid of your catch-it drawer and put everything where it belongs, you will now have an empty drawer that you can use as pantry storage for spices, dry goods containers, or other pantry items.

    pantry storage for dry goods

  5. Store utensils and baking trays vertically

    Storing utensils and trays vertically rather than horizontally means that you always have easy access to the items. They also take up less cupboard space or drawer space.

    organizing a small kitchen

  6. Make use of wall space

    To free up some space in your kitchen cabinets, you may want to display some of your prettier kitchen crockery on shelving. Bear this in mind next time you shop for crockery and only buy pretty, useful items. White items always look great on display and never make a kitchen look cluttered.

    bowls on a shelf

  7. Use the tops of cabinets.

    Knowing how to organize a kitchen without shelves can be tricky. I usually advise my clients to make use of the small spaces in between and ontop of cabinets. Line the surface of the cabinet with newspaper before putting anything ontop to prevent a greasy build up and to make it easier to keep clean. Items you use infrequently can be stored ontop of the kitchen cabinets in white plastic boxes to minimise the look of cluttered space.

  8. Use gaps in between cabinets and appliances

    One solution for creating a pantry in a small kitchen is to use slim storage solutions like this one which fits snugly into any gaps you may have that are redundant. They are great for storing spices, tins, pet food and cleaning products.

  9. Use the back of the doors

    Another popular small kitchen organization idea is to use a door storage system like this one it’s sturdy enough to hold pantry items such as dried goods, tins and cleaning products.

  10. Use a corner pantry

    If you have an unused corner in your kitchen you could use a corner pantry like this one.

  11. Use a free standing pantry alternatives.

    make use of any space you may have in a dining room or even in your living room with a discrete free standing kitchen pantry like this one which can hold all your tins and dried goods without looking like a pantry .

  12. Get rid of all the books in your kitchen,

    It’s hard to clean around them and makes it harder to keep a clean home. They attract dust and grease and take up valuable space. To find out how to declutter your recipe books read more here 

  13. Deal with the dishes after every meal

    Do not leave dirty dishes in the sink clean them as soon as you can to make your kitchen feel less cluttered.

  14. Keep paperwork out the kitchen.

    Unless you have a workstation in the kitchen, keep all paperwork out of the kitchen. Paperwork leads to paper clutter.
    Set up a desk in another room to deal with all your paperwork and go through it each week. Read how to organize school paperwork here. 

  15. Don’t stick things to the outside of the fridge.

    Keeping the fridge clutter-free makes it easier to clean. The bane of my life as a professional cleaner is fridge magnets. If you’re using them to hold paperwork, then find a system like the one in the above link to deal with it. If you’re using them for decoration, find somewhere else to stick them where they won’t get greasy or hinder cleaning! Make it easy for yourself to keep a clean decluttered home! 

  16. Empty the bin daily

    Even if it’s not full, empty the bin daily. This prevents the less house proud family members from stacking stuff on top or even next to a full bin! It also prevents flies and nasty smells!

  17. Try to establish a solid daily routine

    To keep on top of all the daily chores. Get your easy to follow cleaning routine here.

  18. Keep the surfaces clutter-free at all times

    it’s quicker and effortless to clear up immediately after every meal when the surfaces are clutter-free. The bonus is that your kitchen will always look immaculate if you follow this rule! It would be best to store toasters, utensils, and kitchen gadgets in the cupboards and out of sight. This tip helps me keep my house clean in super-fast time! 

  19. Keep the fridge organized.

    ✔️ Always shop the day after you clean your fridge. This makes it easier to use up leftovers and unpack fresh food.
    ✔️ Use your blender to use up any fruit and vegetables; this can then be frozen and added to stews, casseroles, pasta or curry sauces as you need it.
    ✔️ Keep a basket in the fridge for food specifically for packed lunches, such as yogurt tubes, fruit, cheese, spreads ( portioned in easy-to-grab bags for speed in the mornings.)
    ✔️ Use a chalkboard to write down the use by / best before dates of fresh food going into the fridge, so when meal planning, you can use shorter-dated food first at the beginning of the week.

If you try to introduce a few of these steps, you should notice a difference almost immediately, and your kitchen should stay neat and clean with minimal effort.

 Starting a kitchen cleaning schedule

Once you’ve decluttered your kitchen, got rid of everything you don’t need, and learned how to organize your small kitchen, you will need to keep on top of the cleaning to stay organized and prepare food safely.

I’ve created a kitchen cleaning schedule you can follow to keep your kitchen looking nice and tidy, and effortlessly spotless. Spending five minutes each day will help you keep your kitchen clean and tidy. For the printable version click here.

kitchen cleaning schedule

Congratulations, you’ve taken the first steps to organize your home! For further reading on cleaning, read my post  How To Get Motivated To Clean When You Are Overwhelmed By Housework. 

If you’ve got any questions about how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry or have any tips to share, let us know in the comments!


Do I need a pantry in my kitchen?

you do not necessarily need a pantry in your kitchen but you do need somewhere to store your dried, tinned and canned goods so whether that is a free standing pantry like this one in another room or just using your kitchen cupboards you do need some form of kitchen organization .