Getting a small kitchen organized is no small task. When space is limited, every available inch matters. Quick fixes like the ones mentioned in Part 1 of this series are a good way to make better use of unused space, but today I want to look at ways to make ordinary storage spaces work smarter, too. Even in the smallest kitchen, your cabinets should provide all the storage you need. The problem is, most kitchen cabinets are designed very, very poorly – they have lots of space inside, but most of it isn’t useable. Adding simple pull out shelves or more complicated kitchen organizers not only makes it possible to fit more stuff in the same sized cabinet, but also keeps everything in the cabinet more accessible.
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For someone with a pretty small kitchen, I have quite a large collection of pots and pans, all of them different sizes and shapes, and all of them with lids. In a traditional lower kitchen cabinet with one shelf per cabinet, it can be really easy for pots and pans to pile up and get disorganized, making it hard to find the pot (or lid) you need when you need it. A basic pull out organizer like the one above not only allows you to use the entire cabinet front to back and top to bottom, but makes it easy to access everything inside the cabinet, too – no more lids or infrequently used pots getting lost or trapped in the far back corner.
Of course, you want to match the design of the organizer to the size and shape of the items you need to store – one for frying pans is going to be slightly different from one for pots or lids – but even a totally flat pull out shelf can work great. What really matters is that the shelf, organizer, or rack should be mounted to full extension glides, so that you can pull it ALL the way out of the cabinet. Being able to essentially remove everything from your cabinet without having to disturb any of it is what makes the cabinet more usable; it lets you bring things all the way in the back of the cabinet out to where you can see them without having to dig through everything sitting in front.
Most of these full extension pull out shelves are more or less like dishwasher racks: shaped metal or wire contraptions designed to make it easy to stack items of more or less similar size and shape, that can be pulled out and replaced like drawers. But you can also find more complex gadgets designed for unusually shaped cabinets – particularly corner cabinets, which have a greater inside area but fewer or smaller doors, which makes it even more difficult to access the items inside. The rack above is a great example (though by no means the only one), because once again it allows you to fill up the entire cabinet without delegating anything to the void. Items up front are easiest to access, but the unique folding design allows you to bring shelved items out of the back and pull them out as well for full access.
Pull out shelves aren’t just good for pots and pans, either – they can also be a real lifesaver when it comes to pantry space, too. Especially when you have a lot of small items packed closely together (like cans in a pantry or cleaning products under the sink), full extension pull out shelves make it easy to find the items you need at a glance, without having to shuffle everything around to get what you’re looking for. This also makes it possible to pack more items into the same amount of space, since you won’t need extra room to move things around when you’re trying to retrieve items, and nothing will be out of reach.
These storage racks can be used for larger, heavier items, too, like medium-sized appliances. Unlike most other applications, this doesn’t really do anything to improve the amount of storage space in your cabinets – either way, something like a large stand mixer, bread maker, or ice cream machine is probably still going to take up a pretty big chunk of your cabinet. But what it does do is make these items easier to access, particularly to pick up, since you only have to lift them straight up rather than dragging them out of the cabinet. Having a convenient place to stow your larger appliances can help encourage you not to leave them out on your counter top, too, which is a good way to reduce visible clutter.
Most pull out shelves are built into traditional cabinets, with rails mounted either at the base of the cabinet or about half height/just above the center shelf. But others incorporate the cabinet door itself into the design as well, turning it into something like a drawer front rather than a hinged door. This type of design is mostly used for pull out drawers that contain large bins – like a trash can, recycle bin, or compost container, so you can simply pull the handle on the door front, pull out the bin, dump your waste, and push it shut without ever having to touch the trashcan or lid. This is not only a great way to keep your garbage containers out of sight, but also really useful for quickly cleaning up kitchen waste, and easily keeping your recyclables sorted.
The one main drawback to all types of pull out storage is that they require a little bit of installation. At the very least, you’ll need to install the rails into the sides of your cabinet, as well as the shelves themselves, and at most you might need to remove (or even replace) one or more of your cabinet doors. But if you have a lot of wasted space in your cabinets, or if they’re so full you have trouble finding what you’re looking for, full extension drawers, shelves, and racks are a great way to streamline the way you use your cabinets. Let me know what you think of these storage solutions in the comments below!