How to organize your pots, pans and other kitchen equipment. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

With so many different pots, pans and tools, the kitchen can very quickly become hotbeds of disorganization. It can be overwhelming and make it more difficult to find the tools you need when you need them. That’s why having an organized kitchen matters.

“[The kitchen is] used by all members of the family daily, usually must double as a command center for household functioning, a large amount of the implements are location specific, said Kim Corey, owner of Finely Sorted Organizing in Bangor.

Also, the design of kitchens can make organization challenging and require a little extra creativity.

“So often kitchens are not designed with pots and pans in mind,” said Melissa Keyser, professional organizer in Edgecomb. “That’s often part of the problem. We are making do with what we have.”

Organizing your kitchen will clear your mind and make your home cooking a little bit easier. Here are some tips for how to keep your kitchen’s pots, pans and other equipment in order.

Step 1: Declutter

The first step to organizing your pots, pans and other kitchen equipment is to take everything out, consider what you really need and get rid of anything you don’t by donating it to the thrift store or, if it is in poor condition, throwing it away.

“Put it on the kitchen table, pile it up and then pick up each item — do you use it, do you like it, do you want it,” said Nancy Karp, owner of Domestic Bliss Organizing in Portland. “Go through each thing individually. More often than not, it’s junk.”

Make sure your kitchen equipment has all of its necessary parts. For example, for things like storage containers, match up the lids to the containers.

“Just because you don’t have a lid doesn’t mean you have to toss it out,” Keyser said. “Just think about [it] is that practical for your home. But there’s no need to have a lid if you don’t have a container.”

Becca Beaulieu, owner of Perfectly Placed P.O in Lewiston, said to especially consider any trendy kitchen equipment that you may not use.

“Right now it’s the air fryers, it’s the Instapots,” Beaulieu said. “Since people have been home during quarantine they have been doing a lot of baking and trying new things and ordering things online. These big bulky items, it’s fine to have one or two, but when you have so many stacked together, then all that space is gone and it’s not like you can make those smaller.”

You may also want to clean out your pantry to clear up more storage space.

“You would be amazed at the amount of expired foods I find in people’s closets,” Beaulieu said. “They get cleaned out, wiped down and put back once every item has been physically touched and checked for an expiration date. Once you’ve been organized, rotate your stuff. When you go to the grocery store and buy new soup, pull old ones forward and put new ones in the back.

If this seems overwhelming, consider breaking down your kitchen organization by sections.

“I recommend doing it in sections at a time to avoid the overwhelm of emptying cabinets and drawers all over the kitchen counters,” said Dawna Hall, owner of Organize ME! in Portland. “Do it in categories like cookware, baking, small appliances, pantry.”

Step 2: Determine what you use most often

Once you have eliminated kitchen items that you don’t use, figure out what things you use most often. Make sure the things you use regularly are easily accessible.

For example, Beaulieu said to consider the stand mixer.

“People who do cook and bake, if they have space on the counter, they should keep it there because it is huge and heavy and [can be] hard to find,” Beaulieu said. “If somebody isn’t a constant cook and only [brings] out the KitchenAid [stand mixer] for holidays, maybe put it above the microwave [or the] refrigerator. It all depends.”

Specialty equipment that you use less often can be relegated to less accessible spots.

“How often do people make muffins?” Beaulieu said. “If you’re somebody who’s only going to do it every other year for a bake sale it doesn’t necessarily need to be in an accessible spot in the kitchen. If you have a deep enough drawer, try to put things in the drawer. Maybe in the pantry, you could have a basket of not frequently used items, [but] make sure it’s labeled [with] every item that’s in there so that you know so you don’t have to go digging.”

Corey said to put items in a spot that is near to where you generally use them.

“Plan where in the kitchen you would like to store them; closest to where they are used as possible,” Corey said. “Try to place everything so that it only takes one motion to retrieve it from the storage area, otherwise it is less likely to be used or put back making your system fall apart in short order.”

Step 3: Get creative with your space

If you have limited space, look for ways to get creative such as by utilizing vertical space.

“I always recommend people try to figure out a way to hang pots and pans,” Keyser said. “From a hanging rack mounted on the ceiling over an island or on the wall and then hanging the individual items with hooks.”

If you are struggling to see how your kitchen items will fit in the space they are alloted, Beaulieu said to stack similarly-shaped items together.

“Go back and think when you purchased them, how did they come in the box?” Beaulieu said. “They were probably stacked together in a certain way that made them as compact as possible. Stick with that theme.”

If you are able to make modifications to your kitchen, Keyser recommended adding some shelves that can pull out.

“Having your drawers or if it’s a cabinet having the shelves, the ones that pull out makes it a little bit easier,” Keyser said. “That way, you can pull things out and see exactly what’s in front of you instead of having to get on your hands and knees and have to crawl around in the back corner.”

Step 4: Go shopping

Once you have a general idea of where you want things to go, you may want to consider products that will make your kitchen organizing easier.

“Lids are always a pain,” Keyser said. “They make lid organizers in different styles so that your pot lid stands vertical and those can sit in a drawer if you have deep enough drawers or they can sit on a cabinet shelf. Those are fairly inexpensive and they are highly useful in the kitchen.”

Corey recommended products like wall-mounted magnets or knife blocks, lazy susans for corners, varied level spice racks for deep cupboards, shelf dividers

“[Those] are just some of the organizing accessories that are on the market for your choosing,” Corey said. “Drawer dividers, pan separators, clear plastic bins, labels all contribute to a good kitchen system so that everyone knows where things belong.”

You can also take a more DIY approach.

“I often will just use a shoebox and put the lids vertically in there and set that on the shelf next to the containers. I’m a big fan of organizing those things in drawers but it depends on the kitchen,” Keyser said.

Beaulieu recommended using tension rods to organize things vertically while keeping them tidy.

“Rather than hanging it horizontally like you would a window, you put them vertical in a cupboard,” Beaulieu said. “Create your own vertical shelving system. That’s one cheaper way to do it.”

Step 5: Put things in their ‘home,’ but be open to change

Once everything has a designated spot, make sure you are putting away your kitchen items in their “homes” after you use them in order to keep your space organized. Corey said that you may want to label each spot with the item that belongs there.

As you use your new kitchen organization system, though, be open to change. Who knows — you may get really into making bread and suddenly need your stand mixer in a more accessible spot.

“Reevaluate the system regularly to define what is working and what is not,” Corey said.