How to Organize Kitchen Chaos 15 Minutes at a Time

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Kitchens tend to get more mileage than any room in the house. And it’s no surprise why!

Vertical image of open drawers with organized utensils, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

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!

How to Organize Kitchen Chaos 15 Minutes at a Time


Are there pots and pans scattered around and messily stacked? Are all your bowls, plates, and cups in disarray?

Horizontal image of open cabinets and drawers containing neatly put away items.

Over time, your beautifully stacked skillet sets and your neatly aligned glassware will start to get more and more messy after each recipe you cook and each meal you eat.

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!

After you pull everything out of one cupboard, you can reorganize and restack it all in a way that makes the most sense to you when you are removing and replacing items from that particular section.Image of pans and pan protectors from Sur La Table.

Pan Protectors, set of 3, available from Sur La Table

If you are stacking pans on top of one another, guard the exposed surfaces of your nonstick skillets with protectors, like this set of 3 from Sur La Table, or this All-Clad set of 3 one from Wayfair.

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.

Horizontal image of piles of clothes to keep, donate, an discard on a table.

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!

Horizontal image of neatly arranged drawers.

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.

Relocate important things like appliance manuals, unpaid bills, checkbooks, and important paperwork to one centralized location where they won’t accidentally be thrown away.Image of a bamboo cutlery set from Joseph Joseph.

Joseph Joseph DrawerStore Compact Cutlery Organizer, bamboo, available from Wayfair

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 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?

Horizontal image of labeled jars full of dry food on shelves.

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!

Horizontal image of an open refrigerator full of full on each shelf.

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?

Horizontal image of multiple open drawers containing neatly arranged items, with a stovetop and prepped food on top.

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:

© 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.

35 thoughts on “How to Organize Kitchen Chaos 15 Minutes at a Time”

  1. I could laugh the part that says keeping fridge from smelling like feet! But its true. I used to clean or defrost our fridge the moment I see spills on it. I used to wash all the surfaces and walls then dry it. Also, I make sure that I only put wrap foods on it as it releases moisture when uncovered producing stinky odor.

  2. My kitchen draw is the main headache in my kitchen. Having several people in the house, trying to keep it in order is an endless task. I think i need one of the draw organizer as you shown above, I have the old style that has 4 sections of different sizes, it doesn’t really sort everything.

  3. The sub-topic organizing kitchen drawers has me remembering all those times i ‘d get cuts because the sharp knife just like a venomous snake hidden in the bulrushes could be like a pin in a haystack and once found, it’d be a yelp, a howl, an ouch and am seeing red…is that blood?!!! Our kitchen was overly chaotic and an accident after accident awaiting/lurking nearby…awesome tips on how to organize the kitchen…will definitely come in handy.

  4. I definitely don’t want any Chia Pets in my refrigerator :). I want to thank you for this article because I had never thought of cutting down an organization project into 15 minute chunks. Usually, I decide to organize a room, and I get overwhelmed. I get frustrated, and I give up. I am going to use this 15 minute technique not only in the kitchen but in every room in the house.

  5. Thank you for the post, Lynn. I sometimes put off large projects because they are, well, large. I never really consider breaking it down into easier little sub-tasks. That is an incredibly useful strategy. Working on something 15 minutes is worlds better than working on it 0 minutes and it just getting worse daily. Thanks for the friendly reminder 🙂

  6. I really like your 15 minute per day idea. I typically try to tackle organization in a weekend, but then I am burnt out before I ever finish. The worst are my kitchen cabinets. My kitchen is OLD (1942 original cabinetry), resulting in deep, dark, and hard to access cabinets, particularly in the corners. I haven’t made it to those in a while, so the amount of dishware, baking items, and cookbooks has for sure piled up. It takes a lot to motivate me to get into those corner cabinets (I like pretending they don’t exist) but perhaps with setting a timer and sticking to only a few minutes a day it won’t be so overwhelming and I can get them sorted out before the holiday season.

  7. These are some neat suggestions. While you are checking for freshness make sure you replace the baking soda container or purchase a new one to help maintain freshness. Your idea is great because it’s only when you remove everything in the refridgerator that you notice little messy spots and whatnot.

    There are so many solutions you can buy to aid in keeping your kitchen clutter-free such as the racks you posted, but if you make no effort to maintain your eating areas clean, no amount of racks will do anything for you.

    Just think, this is what you are putting into your body. So, clean up!

  8. I look at my kitchen drawers with horror because it is always really hard to find anything in there. I spend way more time organizing my food than I do preparing my kitchen utensils. I very much need a tray that I can use to organize my drawer. I would save quite a lot of time while cooking if I knew where I could find the things needed to cook my meals.

  9. My main trick is the same as cleaning the rest of the house. For leftovers, if I haven’t wanted it in the last week, it’s gone! For canned food, if I haven’t wanted it in six months, it goes to donation. For utensils, tupperware, etc, if I haven’t used it for awhile then I’ll put it in the pantry. Every year before my holiday baking, I’ll go through the pantry and get rid of what I don’t need, or it’s like shopping all over again and I find new things I want!

  10. It’s great advice to break down a task into small segments like this; as well as stopping you getting overwhelmed by the enormity of what needs doing, in a house as hectic as mine, 15 minutes can be all I’ve got, and at least then I feel like I’m making progress. Kitchens really do get used for pretty much anything, not just food storage, prep and eating, so a simple methodical approach like this is probably the only way to get it back under control.

    As for keeping it that way… well, until I’ve managed to train the kids and the husband to put things where they’re supposed to live and not on the first flat surface that comes to hand, I think that’ll remain a pipe dream!

  11. Loved reading these tips! Thank you! I have been looking at my kitchen for the past 2 weeks now looking at the junk and saying “I don’t even know where to begin!” This gives me a great guideline to follow and it sounds so stress free! Next weekend this will be my task! Thanks again!

  12. That basket organizer looks amazing! That would be the perfect way to divide a super tall shelf and the basket is a great place to put smaller items.

    I want to try labeling my shelves and drawers so that everyone in my house knows where to put everything. Maybe my organized kitchen will last this time!

  13. This is a timely post especially with the holidays on the way. Sometimes I feel my kitchen’s been hit by a hurricane! I think breaking it down to 15 minutes makes it less overwhelming. It certainly makes it sound a lot easier and more doable. I think I’ll give it a shot.

  14. Okay, well, I do have a drawer organizer and no, it does not look like the picture, lol. My fridge, well, it doesn’t smell at the moment, that’s a plus. I did see those cabinet organizers at the local Lowes and my husband said we need those. I agree with him, we need them. That’s a whole weekend of to do lists, honey do lists, though. But great ideas.

  15. This sounds for sure like a better idea than waiting for everything to rot and smell up to the bedroom! More than the 15 minutes aspect, I really like this “go to war, take no prisoners” aspect. I often get complacent, thinking ‘Well, I don’t use it now, but it’ll for sure come in handy later!’. And then it doesn’t, not until it’s too late to eat. :/ So, thanks for the no nonsense reminder! No pity in front of the chaos!

  16. I definitely need articles like this that explain how to go step by step, because when I try to organize a room at first I inevitably just find it TOO overwhelming. I love the idea of a can rack organizer- believe it or not, I never even knew they existed, and looking at it I actually think I or my partner could probably make our own. It would be so useful for me because my cans always get lost at the back of my pantry and it becomes hard to see what we have.

    I also love the tip about the kitchen closet- mine hasn’t been opened in months, there is definitely some stuff in there that should be given away. I’ll have to set aside some time to really go through it and make a dent. Thanks!

  17. These are great ideas. I wish out kitchen had more room it is hard sometimes figuring where things can go since its an apartment sized kitchen, it is quite tiny. I suppose it could be worse though. We do have a shelf near by so that helps.

  18. Organizing our kitchen has always been a battle. I recently cleaned it over the New Years break and a large chunk of my storage is now going to goodwill. Some things I stocked up on in the past such as paste I have really cut down on, so am looking to use these up over the next couple of weeks instead of buying new food.

  19. One thing that I have found that makes a huge difference in the fridge is to put down the press and seal wrap on your fridge shelves. That way when there are spills you just pull it up and put down a fresh piece. Saves a lot of fridge cleaning time with little ones in the house.

    • Lining the fridge shelves is a great idea. Those rubbery place mats work great as well. You can just pop them out and wipe them down. I’ve taken to using storage bins in the fridge as well.

      This article has some great advice that I will be using. I’m in the process of organizing my kitchen (slowly but surely), so this is helpful stuff.

      I feel like once it is really organized, it will be both easier to clean and easier to keep clean, thus the time invested now, will save me time later.

  20. My kitchen is a mess most of the time. I try to keep it clean but stuff always come up and bam, the sink is full again!
    I might try your tips, it’ll probably help a little bit but I might need to have some kind of a routine for it so my cleaning can be done properly.

  21. Nice tips, good for those of us who are astoundingly terrible at organizing things. I know I have this problem sometimes. It takes a considerable nudging from my wife to get anything done, but in the end, there are only a few things more beautiful than a well-organized home.

  22. I have a tiny kitchen, with my main entry leading into it, so this is definitely applicable. It’s a catch all, since I tend to put things on my counter or stool for the next time I leave the house, so I don’t forget. My pantry and fridge are fairly organized, but reading this is the push I need to tidy them up a bit, and when I have the energy, I’ll tackle the counters and cabinets. Thanks for the great tips!

  23. I love these ideas. Kitchens are definitely more functional when they are organized. I sometimes use to buy cans of things I already had just because I could not find where I put them.

    Also, I love the idea of organizing the drawers for your utensils. Do you know to make those custom wooden drawer dividers that are generally so costly at the department stores?

  24. Awesome post!
    I definitely had a run in when I was going about trying to figure out how to organize my space. I share a kitchen with the entire floor of my dorm, and the space they allot us makes me want to cry sometimes ( I have SO much cookware, and a lack of emotional stability to part with any of it )
    I finally was so fed up with my lack of space management that I sped over to Pinterest to look up some tips, then made a day trip to Walmart. Ended up purchasing a silverware organizer and some cute white temporary shelving to help stack my pots and pans. It’s beautiful now!
    Just had to tell you my whole life story: kitchen edition there. 😀 These are some great tips to decluttering for those who have a hard time just getting it done. Organization is a step-by-step process, and a lifetime commitment to keep it going. I will definitely use some of these tips for when I move in to my first house and have a bigger kitchen space to utilize.

  25. I’m going to be moving house soon, so I’ve come upon this post at just the right time. I’m not the tidiest person (and that’s an understatement) but I do love it when things actually are tidy and ordered and here you have split up common sense tasks into ‘doable’ chunks. Very helpful. Thank you. I shall stop sitting here with my coffee imagining all the lovely things I’m going to cook using your recipes and go and make a start!

  26. I had often tried to organize my tasks in 20 minute “do able” tasks. I did this mainly because when I was in the kitchen, waiting for a sauce, I wanted to stay productive. I would break down the cleaning into tasks of 20 minutes or less, to accommodate.
    Now I come to find that while my kitchen was in need of organizing, and I was doing things all the time OUTSIDE of the kitchen. Weird. Thank you for the article.

  27. When my fridge gets overfilled it gets really annoying! I end up ruining my work of organizing it every time I make something, because in the rush of things I randomly leave things and shuffle around. For some reason I buy something and put it in there, forget that it’s there, and then I buy like 3 more of the same.

  28. This is something I badly need to do. I keep my apartment spotless, but if you open a cabinet or drawer, it’s not going to be pretty. I always know where everything is, but I know I’d be so happy with myself if I just did these tips. It looks so much better. I love the idea of setting a 15 minute timer and then taking a break. I have so much organizing I need to do, I’ll definitely need a break so I don’t get burnt out haha. Thanks for the links showing where we can buy the items!

  29. My kitchen and fridge are a complete mess :-p, I can use some of these tips! There is always leftover food in the fridge that seems to hide until it has mold on it. And more than once a knife just fell out of the kitchen cabinets ready to fall into my eye! The idea of doing 15 minutes at a time is good, but I might get discouraged if I don’t see a difference after the first 15 minutes. I love the idea of these rack organizers.

  30. AT first as I read the article, I wondered how timing myself while cleaning would be useful, but then I thought about it, and realized that the timer would help me realize a goal in smaller time increments. This is useful because you don’t have to post-pone a small job due to time constraints and you also don’t keep putting it off , thinking the job will take forever to accomplish. Not a bad idea, actually.

  31. This has some great tips! I am fairly organized in each room of my house, with the exception of my kitchen. I have been dreading organizing the drawers and the fridge. Tomorrow, I think I will have more motivation after reading this!

  32. These tips worked out great for me. Having the cans organized has made such a difference too. Now I can get to everything easily, and I can see everything at a glance.

    Not only does all this help keep things neater and make cooking easier, but it also helps when making the grocery list. I just peek into the fridge and cupboards and I know what I have and what I need. Saves me lots of time and trouble.

  33. The points you mention in the blog like organize refrigerator mess, kitchen closet and kitchen drawers are very helpful in our daily life. Thanks for sharing this amazing information about how to organize the kitchen very easily. Once again thank you so much.

  34. My kitchen closet is always a mess because I am a working mom and on top of that I have three very carefree kids who love to make their meals themselves together. I never stop them from fixing their favorite sausages or burgers, but when they are done and gone, I have to organize everything and put everything back in order. I wish I had a big kitchen but we live in a two bedroom apartment and this is what we can afford right now. Love your post.


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