Monday, September 10, 2012

Managing a Small Kitchen


      After having lived in and looked at many apartments, I've come to the conclusion that the designers must expect apartment dwellers to eat out instead of cook. The typical apartment kitchen is unreasonably small! My husband and I, however, spend a considerable amount of time in the kitchen preparing meals. For us, the first room we look at in a unit is the kitchen. Our requirements are that it must be open on at least two sides (closed on three results in a very hot environment with little ventilation) and enough counter top space to house our oversized stand mixer and microwave as well as provide adequate working space. As far as storage is concerned that is where we are more flexible by allowing creativity to make up for limitations. The following is a few ideas for how to manage in a small kitchen. If you're working with a larger space, then some of these ideas may not be appropriate for you.  As part of the Home Sweet Apartment Series, though, we're focusing solely on small kitchen solutions. 

1) Determine Your Most Necessary Tools
      There are an exaggerated number of kitchen gadgets and tools. Many of these items are single purpose and can be replace by a simple knife. When selecting kitchen tools, select items which will either be used a lot or can be used for multiple purposes. I recently determined that the inner basket of my salad spinner (an item we use weekly) doubles as a colander, thereby eliminating the need to have both of theses items. Another example is our mandolin that has multiple blades for multiple cutting purposes. I originally had a box grater and another smaller grater, but then decided that the mandolin could accomplish the same result. I now just have the one tool instead of three. Instead of a large drying rack, I simply spread a towel across the counter on which to set the clean dishes to dry.  As you work more and more in your kitchen you'll discover which tools are important for your cooking and which can be excluded. 
     Of the tools you do have, choose a collapsible option whenever possible. The ability of an item to collapse has become one of my favorite features. There are more and more items being produced with this space saving feature in mind. They may be a little pricier upfront, but not near as expensive as having to pay extra rent to have extra space just for storage. 
Collapsible Produce Keeper
                              Collapsible Cake Carrier

Collapsible Prep Bowl Set

     Large 3-Compartment Eco Silicone Collapsible Lunch Box


2) Create Counter Top Space By Simply Clearing It Off
        Counter top space is so valuable! Not only does items left sitting out decrease your working space, but it also creates visual clutter causing your kitchen to look even smaller. Chose the items that you cannot move easily to store elsewhere (stand mixer, microwave etc) to leave out. There are also items like spice racks, utensil holder, knife block and canister sets that are typically seen on the counter tops. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when displaying these items. For instance, spices will remain fresher longer in cooler, darker spaces. The kitchen environment can be a sticky, greasy place and so utensils are ideally best kept covered. As far as canister sets go, there is usually not so great a kitchen space that pulling them out of a cabinet is too inconveniencing.  Nonetheless, if you use it often, like it a lot, or the other cook in your home enjoys it's place on the counter then select a couple of your most used items and limit the display to those.

3) Maximize Freezer Space With Storage Systems
         You can read more on my organization system for maximizing freezer space in a previous post, but I will try to offer a small bit of that again. I really enjoy having a wide variety of items in my freezer. I also enjoy not having to dig for it when I need it. One way that we make a small freezer work is that we don't have bulky boxes of prepared food to store. I freeze everything flat in measured serving portions in pint bags. Since there is only two of us in our family, each pint bag contains only two servings of meat, vegetable, soup etc. Because the bags are flat once frozen, then stack upright nicely in the two-tiered sliding basket  system. I simply grab the item I need when I need it and have no worries about digging or thawing too much. Items that don't store flat are kept in the middle with a shelving rack. Lastly, I turned off the automatic ice maker and removed the bucket in preference for much smaller ice trays.                                                                                              
4) Get Creative With Storage
         Our home canned items are stored on top of the cabinets. They are up and out of the way while still fittingly displayed. The cabinets on the opposite side store our empty canning jars. A word of caution for this storage solution is that cabinets can fall so be careful with putting too much weight up there. 
          You can also use the space on top of the refrigerator for storage. Choose more attractive displays than cereal boxes, though. We keep one of our produce bowls there and a decorative basket that is used to house extra placemats, aprons, and pot holders. 
          Lastly, kitchen items don't have to be kept entirely in the kitchen. If you have a dining room, then it's perfectly appropriate to use that space as well. A cubed storage shelf or bookshelf nicely decorated with your extra napkins, drinks, dry goods etc. is a great addition to the room. Plus, the top surface can be used to sit coffee or tea pots or as a service area for guests (snack bar, desert bar etc). If you're really squeezed for pantry space in the kitchen itself, then use a full size bookshelf unit and clear, labeled jars for your dry goods. The key to keeping it from looking cluttered is to make it a decorative display in addition to storage, and maintain a cohesive look between the items. 
Take advantage of open spaces like above your sink. I have a piece of elastic that I can string across to clip bags to dry, a verse or word of encouragement to read over as I wash dishes, or a recipe card to reference while cooking. When not needed, I can simply slip the line off the hooks on each side and place it out of sight. 
5) Limit Your Pantry
        Our pantry looks rather bare in comparison to some, but we have everything we need to prepare two to three full meals each day. We do this by limiting our pantry to the basics: sugars, flours, oats, cornmeal, grits/polenta, cornstarch, pastas ect. We buy mostly fresh foods, and then create from scratch anything else we need. The result is our entire pantry cummulatively fitting on about five small shelves (including spices). Since we cook a lot from scratch we don't limit ourselves in having a large selection of spices. We have a three tier shelf and two swivel shelves for all our spices.  The swivel shelves are fabulous because they utilize vertical space and swing out so that I have easy access to everything. The larger packaged items are stored on the tiered shelf to the left. 
       While we're discussing the pantry, I have really enjoyed having labeled containers for items I keep on hand at all times. They are uniform in size and easily stack which are so valuable in small spaces. Setting up a pantry with containers can be expensive, however. Keep in mind that you don't have to go out and buy every container for every item at once. In fact, it's wiser to wait a bit to learn what you use enough to keep and how much of it you will want to keep. There are actually a handful of items in my pantry that are on the waiting list for containers. It's okay to organize piece by piece, and when you're working through establishing steady financial ground this is precisely what you want to do. Add a piece when you can and in the meanwhile enjoy what's already there.     

Read Other Posts in the Home Sweet Apartment Series:
*Homemaking While Apartment Living: Part 1Part 2
*Concepts For Small Space Living
*Floral Wreath Tutorial

Linked up at: A Mama's Story, The Alabaster Jar, Homestead Revival, The Better Mom, What Joy Is Mine, The Modes Mom Blog, Covered in Grace, Raising Arrows, Time-Warp Wife, Far Above Rubies, Thankful Homemaker, A Pause on the Path, Cornerstone Confessions, Women Living Well, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Deep Roots At Home, Raising Homemakers, We Are THAT Family

*Note:The product links and images above may contain affiliate links to Reviving Homemaking is an affiliate of, and as such receives compensation for each purchase made through the links.  



  1. Very neat and organized. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Certainly! Thank you for the compliments :)

    2. Gosh, You have such a nice kitchen, and am envious of your counter space! You have made a smaller space work for you, congratulations, and thank you for your ideas you have shared. Would like to ask you please, where did you find your cutting knives and block. Also wondered how you like them, and if they keep their edge. Have been looking at knives for some time,and your just look so neat and accessible. Gracie

    3. Gracie, our knife set was given to us so I have no idea where it came from. They work well for us currently, though at some point we'd love to invest in a nice set. Good knives certainly make a difference in the kitchen! Ideally, you'll want a set which has the blade extending all the way through the handle. As far as keeping them sharp, the set includes a tool with which we sharpen the blades before use. :)

  2. Love this! As a small apartment dweller myself, I use a lot of these tricks too. (I thought I was the only one who used a dish towel on the counter to dry dishes!) I've found hanging my spices on the wall in a spice rack saved me a lot of space. I converted our coat closet to be a pantry to hold both food and appliances (crock pot, stand mixer, etc.) And I'll hang a shelf or put cup hooks anywhere I can to take advantage of vertical storage. (Cup hooks hold my pot holders.) And I use a shower organizer to organize my kitchen sink area.

    I'm a first time visitor who found you through WFMW.

    1. Thanks Meghan! Glad to have you visiting. You're certainly not alone in using a plain towel to dry dishes. I typically have way too many dishes that are either too big for the dishwasher or are handwash only to fit into a standard dish rack. In our home, lots of cooking means lots of dishes. You've got some great ideas as well! Thank you for sharing! I really like the idea of using a shower caddy for sink items. I hadn't thought of that. :)

  3. Whitney,
    What a good idea to store the canning above the cabinets. You offer thoughts I never came up with when we lived in an apartment, but then again, I worked ALL the time. I wish I had had different priorities years earlier! I have visited before and enjoyed the practical advice you offer. I would love it if you would consider linking-up weekly on 'EOA' Wednesday. I do feature 4-5 of 'the picks' each week! I'm sure it would encourage many young women. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Jacqueline! I've linked up at your site this week :)

  4. Great advice! Here are my tips for a tiny kitchen. In our area a lot of townhouses and even single-family houses have small kitchens because they were built in the 1920s when modern appliances were making servants unnecessary, so the idea was that there would be just one person in the kitchen so "saving steps" was a priority. We sure don't save steps by having our pantry in the basement (since there's no room for it in the kitchen) but we do get exercise! :-)

  5. Great! I wrote a post not too long ago about trying to find a house with a big enough kitchen and dining room for our growing family, but had builders, a well are realtors say that it will be difficult, unless we buy an ultra-large house, simply because fewer families are preparing meals at home.

    So I love this post and will put some into practice in the next couple of weeks. :)

    I'm featuring your post, too, so be on the lookout. :)

    1. Thanks! Oh my, that's so sad that even kitchens in houses are getting smaller due to lack of use! I really like small houses for the closeness to family they offer, but would probably have to do a kitchen renovation because we're in that room together so much. I'm glad to hear you've found some ways to be of help to you. Thank you for featuring the post!!! :)


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