How to Organize Kitchen Chaos 15 Minutes at a Time

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Kitchens usually get more mileage than any room in the house. They can be a combination dining room, office, study, storage unit, meeting room, coat depository and filing cabinet, and it shows when chaos and clutter set in.

A very disorganized kitchen drawer crammed full of utensils and silverware

Don’t stress yourself out by tackling it all at once! Instead, learn how to organize kitchen chaos in 15 minutes as part of your overall kitchen time management regime.

Below are some examples of what you can accomplish in 15 minutes:

Organize Refrigerator Mess

You can probably clean your whole fridge in 15 minutes, if it’s not that bad to begin with. But if you’re working on developing the next penicillin or growing a Chia Pet on last Thanksgiving’s stuffing, it’s best to take things slowly.

Fill up your sink with hot, soapy water, grab a bucket and scrub brush, and get a trash bag ready. Remove everything from one shelf and set it on your kitchen floor.

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 leftovers dishes and send them straight to the kitchen sink to be washed. In a few days, your formerly toxic refrigerator will be sparkly-clean.

Organize Kitchen Closets

Kitchen closets are often stuffed full of mismatched mittens, school papers, miscellaneous household tools, and outgrown shoes and boots. In one or two 15 minute sessions, you can pare that clutter down to manageable proportions.

To organize kitchen closets, take two boxes or empty laundry baskets, and designate one for giveaways and one for relocation. Relocation items might include things the hammer that belongs in the garage or the gardening gloves that should be out in the potting shed.

Outgrown or unloved coats and shoes go in the other basket, and should be taken to a charity shop or sent off with a Freecycler 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 kitchen shoes for the cooks in the house, to protect their feet and alleviate back pain.

You may be surprised by the new storage space you create going about this. You can find similar tips on how to extend your kitchen storage space here.

Organize Kitchen Drawers

An organized kitchen drawer with utensils properly placed and clutter minimized.

Kitchen drawers are notorious clutter magnets, so have a big garbage bag ready when you tackle these. Be prepared to give away or toss things like six month-old fast food fliers and kitchen utensils that you can’t name or, for the life of you, figure out how to use.

Relocate important things like manuals, bills, car titles, and wills to one centralized location where they can’t be accidentally thrown out, like a flat Rubbermaid box that slides under your bed.

With determination, even the messiest junk drawer can be tamed in 15 minutes. For the best in drawer organization consider a in drawer organizer such as the one shown below.

Madesmart Expandable Utensil Tray

Madesmart 2 by 16 by 13-1/4 to 21-1/4-Inch Expandable Utensil Tray, Granite

Organize Kitchen Cabinets

Do you have cans of peaches from 1982 tumbling out of your cluttered cupboards every time you open the doors? Fill your sink or a bucket with hot, soapy water and get your trash can ready. Set your timer for 15 minutes and pull everything out of one cupboard. Wipe down the inside, the outside and the doorknobs. Take a look at each item, checking the expiration date and the probability of you actually eating it, and then put it back neatly or toss it, depending on your verdict.

Do another cupboard if you have time left.

To keep your can goods organized and properly rotated in the future, consider a can rack organizer.

DecoBros Supreme Stackable Can Rack Organizer, Chrome Finish

Don’t worry about not organizing kitchen cabinets quickly – it takes them a while to get into that condition and the first cabinet should still be clean by time you finish the last one a few days later.

Organize Pantry Shelves

Organize pantry shelves with the same methodical, take-no-prisoners approach as the kitchen cabinets. Set your timer and do one shelf at a time, throwing away expired or unwanted food, stacking cooking dishes and utensils neatly, cleaning shelves, and if you have kids, relocating items like Legos that don’t require pantry storage.

Consider adding some wire basket and shelf combinations to improve the overall organization of your stock and supplies.

Seville Classics Single Basket Organizer, 11.5 x 17.5 x 10-Inch

If you’re still not convinced that 15 minutes increments of cleaning will help when your kitchen is already a certifiable disaster area, give it a shot anyway. Set a timer, work until it goes off, and take a break afterward or move on to something else, and you’ll stop junk drawers from to overflowing, save kitchen cabinets from catastrophic clutter, and keep your fridge from smelling like feet… all without getting burned out on a big cleaning bender that will just have to be repeated in a few months.

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About Lynne Jaques

Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!

33 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.

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