We occasionally link to goods offered by vendors to help the reader find relevant products. Some of these may be affiliate based, meaning we earn small commissions (at no additional cost to you) if items are purchased. Here is more about what we do.
Kitchens tend to get more mileage than any room in the house. And it’s no surprise why!
They can serve as a combination dining room, office, study, storage unit, meeting area, therapy room, party center, coat depository, and filing cabinet, among many other uses outside of just being a place to prep your food and cook it.
But this multipurpose use takes a toll when chaos and clutter start to overpower your meticulous sense of organization.
The crazy junk drawer that you can no longer get to close completely, the icky fridge filled with mystery containers, the overstocked pantry…
It makes your blood boil just thinking about all the different messes, doesn’t it?
Don’t stress yourself out by thinking you have to tackle everything all at once!
Instead, learn how to organize kitchen chaos 15 minutes at a time as part of your overall time management regime.
Below are some examples of what you can accomplish in a short amount of time. Set your watch, and let’s do some light cleaning – sooner than you think, the whole kitchen will be tidy!
Are there pots and pans scattered around and messily stacked? Are all your bowls, plates, and cups in disarray?
Every time you open that cabinet drawer, something will be shifted from its original place.
But the mess can be easily remedied with a quick reset, simply by reorganizing just one cabinet at a time!
Pan Protectors, set of 3, available from Sur La Table
Still have some time? Reorganize one more cupboard!
Don’t worry about not getting to all of the cabinets in one day – you can spread out this cleaning responsibility throughout the next couple weeks, focusing on a new cabinet every few days.
With this strategy in mind, you’ll start to develop a pattern of cycling through each cabinet’s reorganization.
Kitchen closets are often stuffed with mismatched mittens, school papers, miscellaneous household tools, and outgrown shoes and boots.
In one or two 15-minute sessions, you can trim that clutter down to manageable proportions.
To organize these closets, take two boxes or empty laundry baskets, and designate one for giveaways and one for relocation. Relocation items might include things like a hammer that belongs in the garage, or gardening gloves that should be out in the shed.
Outgrown or unloved coats and shoes can go in the other basket, and should be taken to your local charity shop or drop-off location as soon as possible, so they don’t end up back in the closet again.
What should remain in the kitchen closet?
For starters, a pair of comfortable non-slip shoes for the cooks in the house, to protect their feet and alleviate back pain. And you might as well hang a few aprons in there. This might also be the right spot for essential kitchen backups, like extra boxes of garbage bags, a sweeper and dustpan, and cleaning supplies.
You may be surprised by the new storage space you create going about this task. You can find more tips on how to extend your kitchen storage space in this helpful article.
Kitchen drawers are notorious clutter magnets, especially the so-called “junk” drawer, so you should have a big garbage bag ready when you tackle these!
Be prepared to give away or toss things like old takeout menus, random office supplies, or specialty prep utensils you haven’t touched in months that you can’t name or even figure out how to use.
Joseph Joseph DrawerStore Compact Cutlery Organizer, bamboo, available from Sur La Table
And don’t neglect your silverware! Ensure that your forks, spoons, and knives are sorted in their separate groups in structured compartments – this Joseph and Joseph bamboo cutlery organizer will do the trick, available from Sur La Table or Wayfair.
After everything is cleared out of a drawer, don’t forget to clean out those crumbs.
With determination, and perhaps a few new organizers, even the messiest of junk drawers can be tamed in 15 minutes.
Do you have cans of peaches from 1982 tumbling off of your cluttered pantry shelves every time you open the doors to try to find what you need?
Organize your pantry shelves with the same methodical, take-no-prisoners approach as the kitchen cabinets and drawers.
Set your timer and focus on one shelf at a time, throwing away expired or unwanted food, and restacking all items neatly.
Make sure you have all labels facing out towards you when you open the doors, so you can quickly identify each item. And apply the “First In, First Out” rotation method, meaning that you place and use older or soon-to-be expired food items in the front, and newer items in the back.
And if you have kids, relocate items like Legos and Hotwheels cars that don’t require pantry storage. Have the kiddos bring them back to the playroom!
Joseph Joseph Expandable Tiered Organizer, available on Amazon
To keep your canned goods organized and properly rotated in the future, consider using a can organizer. This Joseph and Joseph expandable organizer from Sur La Table or Amazon will be of great assistance.
You can probably clean your whole refrigerator in under 15 minutes, especially if you’ve already read our article on reorganizing your fridge and freezer in the past and have maintained stark discipline with keeping this appliance clean and tidy ever since!
But I know we can get a little lax with this responsibility…
If your fridge is currently a large petri dish of assorted molds, yeasts, and bacteria, you’ll need to structure your cleaning in a few 15-minute increments.
Just like with the other areas of the kitchen, focus on one section at a time, removing everything from one shelf and cleaning only that area.
Scrub away the dried ketchup spots and crusty milk rings from the shelf and surrounding walls. Before you put anything back in the refrigerator, check for freshness.
Empty leftover dishes and send them straight to the kitchen sink or dishwasher.
After a few 15-minute cleaning segments, your formerly toxic refrigerator will be sparkling clean!
Timing Is Everything
Still not convinced that 15-minute increments of cleaning will help when your kitchen is a certifiable disaster area?
Give it a shot anyway!
Set a timer, work until it goes off, and take a break afterward. You can go about your day with no additional cleaning, or you can move on to the next section if you are feeling determined to tackle a few chores in one day.
You’ll stop junk drawers from overflowing, save kitchen cabinets from catastrophic clutter, and keep your fridge from smelling awful.
And that’s all without becoming exhausted from one huge cleaning bender that will just have to be repeated in a few months! This might be necessary for spring cleaning, but you shouldn’t neglect your cooking area through the rest of the year.
It’s all about timing – if you dedicate just 15 minutes to cleaning and organizing every few days, you can seamlessly fit that into any kind of schedule throughout a busy week, a crazy month, or a hectic year.
What do you think of this incremental method? Do you have any of your own kitchen cleaning tips to share for those of us with busy schedules? Let’s chat in the comment section below!
Believe it or not, spending time in the kitchen can actually be fun! And you can get the whole household crew involved. Be inspired by our other articles to gain even more kitchen-related knowledge and ideas:
- How Cooking with Your Spouse Can Strengthen Your Relationship
- How to Exercise in the Kitchen and Burn Calories
- How to Get a Picky Child to Eat Healthy
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by on March 8, 2017. Last updated on March 30, 2023. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. Product photos: Sur La Table and Amazon.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.