Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Tiny Kitchen That Screams "Used" (In a Good Way!)


The 28-Day Organizing Challenge at I'm an Organizing Junkie officially ends today. Although I didn't accomplish everything I had hoped to this month, I'm quite proud of what I was able to do — and in only 28 days! Public accountability sure does wonders for your motivation, huh?

The Organizing Junkie has asked each challenge participant to answer a few basic questions about their experience.
1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?

I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that TIME was my biggest challenge. I'm a mom, a wife and a part-time worker. Finding enough hours in the day to go above and beyond regular maintenance cleaning is tough. I ended up doing much of my work on weekends or on my Tuesday off.

My small space was another big challenge. I looked to the Internet for resources from other tiny kitchen cooks. That's how I learned about the wonder of pegboard!

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?

Because I have such a small kitchen, I had to think through my work "zones" to make the best use of my limited space. As you can see in the picture below, I now have clearly defined areas for prep/cooking, plating, cleaning and various storage needs (appliances, entertaining, baking, etc.). The areas are logically placed and organized well (with only the bare essentials).

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?

I rid my kitchen of many gadgets, small appliances and utensils (how many wooden spoons does one woman need?!). I plan to sell the items in a garage sale benefitting my mom's Breast Cancer 3-Day team. I'm proud to say that she's a 4-year survivor! Items that don't sell will be donated to Good Will.

4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?

We are very low on cabinet, drawer and counter space in our 1936 kitchen. As a result, I had to think outside the box (or, in this case, the cabinets). Using two empty wall spaces, I built a pegboard pot rack and installed two utensil racks. (Before and after pictures follow.) Both solutions were inexpensive and made a significant improvement in how my kitchen looks and works!

I also found that inexpensive wire racks helped to better define the spaces within my cabinets. Another cheap solution that produced great results. (Before and after pictures follow.)

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?

If there is one word to describe my space, it is: REAL! I live in the real world, with a real budget, real space constraints and a realistic view of what my home can and cannot be. I will never be in Better Homes and Gardens, but my kitchen can serve as a great example for people working with less-than-perfect spaces (and less-than-huge budgets).

Too often, people believe that home cooking requires MORE (more gadgets, more storage, more ingredients, more space, more STUFF). But the truth is that a small, well-organized kitchen can produce meals that are as good (if not better) than a kitchen with space and gizmos galore. Just ask your grandmother! She probably worked in a kitchen very similar to mine. (And she probably had more kids, too!) If she could do it (and if I can do it), so can you!

Before and After Pictures

The west wall of my kitchen used to look like this:

  • An ugly stove, pulled forward to protect the recently repaired walls (man that beast kicked out a lot of heat!)
  • A toaster oven on the counter to make up for the larger oven's serious shortcomings
  • Utensils taking up counter space in an overcrowded stainless steel canister
  • Drawer and door pulls that blended into the cabinetry
  • Random junk strewn about.

And now the west wall looks like this:

  • A perfectly functional stove and oven, making the toaster oven redundant
  • Two inexpensive Ikea racks to hang utensils on the wall
  • Black drawer and door pulls to coordinate with the black stove
  • Oven mitts hung on wall hooks near the oven
  • A vent hood, finally hung on the wall
  • CLEAR counters!

Our east wall used to look like this:

  • Chipping paint and spackle
  • A pendant light hung over...nothing
  • Wasted wall space

And now our east wall looks like this:

  • A pegboard pot rack mounted on formerly wasted wall space
  • An Ikea kitchen cart (not only to make the pendant look less ridiculous, but also to serve as a prep or entertaining counter, when needed)
  • Fully repaired, brighter walls
  • Curtains

Our wall of cabinetry used to look like this:

  • Boring drawer and door pulls that blended in with the cabinetry
  • Wasted wall space

And now our wall of cabinetry looks like this:

  • (Once again) Black drawer and door pulls to coordinate with black appliances
  • Counters that are even more clear
  • Creative use of wall space
Our dishes cabinet used to look like this:


  • Too much stacking and blocking
  • Entertaining pieces infiltrating the regularly used items
  • Disproportionate ratio of food storage covers to containers

And now our dishes cabinet looks like this:

  • Inexpensive wire racks maximize vertical storage
  • Stacking is significantly minimized
  • Every storage container has a corresponding cover! (Stacked neatly above it!)
  • Only a few entertaining pieces remain
  • The rest went in the cabinet above (see below)

Our food prep cabinet used to look like this:

  • Tiny spice jars everywhere!
  • Infiltration of supplements and medicines
  • Generally untidy look

And now our food prep cabinet looks like this:

  • An inexpensive shelf elevates spices to keep them in sight and in reach
  • Only regularly used supplements and medicines remain
  • Very tidy appearance!

Our baking and appliance cabinet used to look like this:


  • Too much stacking (forcing us to rearrange piles every time we needed a pan)
  • An overabundance of small appliances
And now our baking and appliance cabinet looks like this:


  • Inexpensive racks organize the pans and racks vertically, keeping everything within easy reach
  • An edited array of small appliances

Our pots and pans cabinet used to look like this:

It wasn't very unorganized, but building a pegboard pot rack freed up the space for other items!

And now our pots and pans cabinet looks like this:

Now, it's not really a pots and pans cabinet. It contains our Dutch oven, larger baking dishes and the lids for our pots and pans.

Our tiny upper left cabinet used to look like this:

  • Odd assortment of party supplies, storage items and appliances
  • Too much stacking

And now our tiny upper left cabinet looks like this:

  • Everything in the cabinet belongs in the same category (lesser-used appliances)
  • NO stacking

Our tiny middle upper cabinet used to look like this:

This cabinet wasn't very unorganized, but I wanted to keep like items together. So I moved these lesser used appliances in with their neighbor, the crockpot.

And now our tiny upper middle cabinet looks like this:

All the party supplies (and a few entertaining pieces) are now together. Again, a handy wire rack improves vertical storage

Our pantry cabinet used to look like this:

This cabinet just needed a minor reorganization and purge.

And now our pantry cabinet looks like this:

(Uh, no. We do not have room to stockpile items when they are on sale!)

So that's it! Our 28-Day Organizing challenge has come to an end. But that doesn't mean our work is over. Our plans for next month include:
  • Buying a new refrigerator (I can't wait!)
  • Installing a DIY backsplash behind the stove
  • Installing shelves by the sink window to hold potted herbs

Stay tuned...

And before I end this post, I want to give a huge THANK YOU to I'm an Organizing Junkie for giving me much needed motivation to move this project along. THANK YOU!


Rana said...

You did a fabulous job. I love how you used your wall space for necessary items. We have a small kitchen too and you have given me some ideas on how to better use my space. Thanks!

Angie said...

Thanks Rana! I definitely realized that living with a tiny kitchen requires decorating with things that you USE!

Anonymous said...

Excellent work! I love the pots and pans on the wall - decorative and functional!

Anonymous said...

My kitchen is basically the same as your kitchen...small! I really like the idea of putting the utensils on the wall...I am definitely going to steal that one! The kitchen looks awesome!

Oonie said...

WOW! That is so inspiring. Congratulations on a superb rethinking of your kitchen and getting to all the repairs/upgrades to boot!

High On Craft said...

Fantastic job! Great organizing in the cupboards and the peg board storage is a brilliant idea.

Always Faith said...

Great job! that looks like a pretty big task you took on there! Good work!

Deanne said...

I love how much you were able to change with some inexpensive fixes for the organizing. I wish I enough free wall space (in the right places) to hang up my utensils and pots and pans. I love how it is all handy and accessible. And I am going to be checking my baking dish cupboard to see if I have enough room between the shelves to set my dishes up sideways like yours are. I really like that idea. I hate to stack and our kitchen actually has a lot of cupboards and cabinets, which I know that I am not using to the best of their (or my) ability.

All of that to say that I find your kitchen to be very inspirational! I think it looks fabulous and could totally be in a magazine!

Devon said...

I LOVE it!!!! I love the fact you used the walls for the pans--beautiful!!! And the color scheme is just eye popping. Love it!

Thanks for your comment on my blog...:)

ETsmommy said...

Looks amazing. We recently redid our kitchen as well (although, we went all out with new cabinets and countertops). However, before that, my kitchen was similar to yours, except, where you have wall space, we had windows and doors. So, our wall space was in between cabinets, and above our stove. Looks great!!

Kirsty said...

Wow, you did an amazing job!! It must be so satisfying and fun to cook in there now! Well done!

Erin K. said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Your makeover looks great and I LOVE the pegboard for pots and pans. I don't have wall space in my kitchen for that, but I am thinking about the garage - oh, what we could do in that space with some pegboard. I might be dragging my husband off to Home Depot this weekend to see what we can find. :)

Cindy said...

I don't think I get a vote, lol...but your kitchen is my favorite room that I've looked at so far! GREAT job with the purge and re-org!!! It looks fantastic!

I giggled every time you used the word *infiltrating*...hahahaha!

Angie said...

@Deanne: Thanks for the kind words. That is the trick with any cabinet organization pieces - they have to fit (and they often don't). Good luck!

@Rachel: Budget (and nostalgia) prevented us from tearing out the cabinets. I just hate to be the one that destroys the original kitchen! (I *think* I could get over it, though! ;)

@Erin: Pegboard truly is amazing! Good luck in your garage.

Threebusybs said...

{pretty girl whistle} can you hear it! love the pots on the wall. this is the type of project that gets sooooo much worse before it gets soooo much better.

good job

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, Wow! Your kitchen looks amazing and I am sure it feels amazing also. I actually have a fairly large sized kitchen, but you have inspired me to have a more creative use of that space. Thanks!

Eos Mom said...

You went above and beyond, venturing INSIDE your cabinets. Way to go!

Katie said...

This looks so great and I'm going to bookmark this for future reference. My kitchen needs some work and this will be part of the inspiration. :)

Monika said...

That looks phenomenal! Not all of us (including me) is lucky enough to have a state of the art new kitchen, so updating & optimizing your storage & work spaces is so important. Kudos to you on taking on the challenge & kicking butt!

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