A stack of three stainless steel skillets from above

Decluttering Your Cookware: Life-Hacks to Keep Your Kitchen Organized 

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There’s lots to love about cooking, but after a long night of chopping, stirring, plating, and doing the dishes, it’s all too tempting to just toss your cookware in the cabinet, shut the door, and forget about them until the next time you cook. But before too long, you have a Leaning Tower of Pans so tall that you could practically sell tickets. If you set off a series of click-clacks and clatters every time you so much as get a pan out, take that as a sign to start decluttering your cookware.

With spring and all its cleaning right around the corner, there’s no better time than now to get going!

I’ll be the first to admit it’s an intimidating task, especially if you have a small kitchen. But let me tell you – it doesn’t have to be! Going in with a solid method, some basic guidelines, and a game face makes all the difference. 

How Do I Start Decluttering My Kitchen?

For me, the hardest part of any organizational project is starting on it.

You’re reading this post, though, which means you’re in the planning phase of decluttering, which means you’ve basically already started! Go you! 

Now, keep up that same momentum. You’ll need to take a couple of preliminary steps before you can really get into it.

Take Stock Of Your Storage Space

First things first, take a look at where you’re currently storing your cookware.

Take note of what isn’t working about the setup. Do you have too many things in a small space? Is the space big enough, but your cookware is arranged in a way that doesn’t utilize it fully? Is the space oddly shaped? 

All of this is important in determining the best way to move forward later on. 

You should also give your other kitchen storage spaces a gander. Are there any spaces that are being underutilized? Is there space that would better accommodate pots and pans than whatever it currently contains?

Here’s an example, just to show what I mean. Let’s say you’re storing pantry goods in a nice, wide, rectangular cabinet space. But your cookware is currently being stored in a corner cabinet. 

Think about swapping the placement of the two since the size and shape of pantry goods make it easier to maximize the space in a corner cabinet.

Take Everything Out…Yes, Everything!

It’s difficult to grasp just how much cookware you have (and what you can do without) if it’s stacked up and hidden away. I like to remove everything from my cabinets and lay it all out, literally and figuratively.

If it’s been a while since I’ve edited my collection, I usually discover that I have duplicates of the same type of pan in the exact same size.

And don’t even get me started on specialty pans that I bought with grand plans and only used once. (I’m fully looking at you, crepe pan.)

Sort the pans by type and size, and stack up the duplicates so you know which ones to edit down in the next step. 

With all of the cabinets clear, take a moment to wipe them down. Re-evaluate the space now that you can see it in all its glory. Maybe you decide once and for all that you need to move the pantry goods into this space, or maybe you ditch that idea altogether. 

It’s good to circle back to your plan at this step since you have a clear picture of what you have to work with.

Decide What Stays and What Goes

Editing can be tricky if you come from a “waste not, want not” family like I do, but consider it an exercise in letting go! And so long as what you decide to part with isn’t too damaged to use, you can pass it on to another person who needs help stocking their kitchen (more on that later).

Remember, it’s not doing ANYBODY any good collecting dust in your cabinets, yourself included. So don’t be scared to curate your kitchen (see what I did there?)

How Many Pots and Pans Should You Have?

Cookware needs vary slightly across cultures and family sizes, so don’t consider this list one-size-fits-all. Use your best judgment and feel free to make edits if you know for a fact something won’t work for you.

But speaking generally, this is what I consider a well-stocked, non-congested cookware collection:

  • A small Saucepan
  • A medium Saucepan
  • A large saucepan
  • A large pot or a Dutch Oven 
  • A medium pot
  • A 6-inch skillet or sauté pan, cast iron or stainless steel
  • An 8-inch skillet or sauté pan, cast iron or stainless steel
  • A 10-inch skillet or sauté pan (2 if cooking for a large family), cast iron or stainless steel
  • Specialty pots or pans that you regularly use (wok, stock pot, griddle, crepe pan, paella pan, mussel pot, etc.) The number will depend on your cooking habits.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed check out What type of cookware do I need? and What size cookware do I need? to help you determine what to keep.

Questions To Ask Yourself

Now you’ve got your favorite essentials sorted I sense another question coming: in the case of items not on that list or duplicates, how do you decide what to get rid of?

Believe it or not, the answer to that question is…more questions! When you’re deciding what to part with, reflect on the following:

  1. Is this item damaged? Warping, wonky handles, chipped enamel, flaky nonstick coating – any of these traits are a clear sign that it’s time to retire the piece – to the bin. 
  1. Do I love using this, or do I love the idea of owning it? Did you buy the piece based on a fantasy of being a gourmand who throws lavish, magazine-worthy dinner parties? (guilty!) Consumerism can have that effect on us all, my friend; it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t make cooking stressful in the here and now because you don’t want to part with something you might maybe use someday. If you don’t use it, there’s no need to hang on to it. Full stop.
  1. Do I have another piece that accomplishes this same task better or just as well? Even in the case of duplicates, you probably have one you gravitate to more than the other. Keep the one you find yourself reaching for time and time again, and let the others go.

To Toss Or To Donate?

If the item is damaged in a way that affects its performance, I always say toss it. I’m a firm believer in not pawning off useless or near-useless items onto someone else because then your clutter just becomes their clutter. 

But if the item is still in good shape, get it into the hands of someone who actually needs it! Almost every county and major metropolitan area has a “Buy Nothing” Facebook group; see if anyone needs pots and pans. You can help out someone in your community and declutter in one step, unlike donating to Goodwill where your items will be sold at a laughable markup.

The (Sort Of) Fun Part: Organizing

So, you’ve decided what you’re going to keep…..now, let’s make it look pretty!

Find a Space For Your Lids

Lids are maybe one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, culprits of a cluttered cookware collection. 

They don’t stack, they don’t stand up on their sides, and putting them on top of your pots can make them too tall to fit on a shelf. If you tackle the lid issue, then you’re practically halfway to being decluttered.

Consider putting them all in a bin or upside down in their pots, where they’ll add less height.

You can also get a rack to put them all in so you can see them all and don’t have to dig through a bin to find the one you’re looking for.

This one from Amazon is a safe bet for storing them in a cabinet if you have the room. This vertical rack  hooks on a cabinet or pantry door to save you some precious counter space and comes in several colors to match your kitchen.

Don’t Jam-Pack Your Cabinets

You shouldn’t need to take everything out of your cabinets to get to that one saute pan. That defeats the purpose of decluttering, and all your hard work organizing will be short-lived. 

Try to organize so that you can see and get to everything without much effort. 

If you really want to make it easy on your future self, try to keep from stacking anything if possible. Sometimes, that just isn’t doable, and that’s fine. Just try to keep your stacks short enough that you don’t have to remove the whole stack to get what you’re looking for.

Get Creative With Your Usable Space

Maybe you don’t have much cabinet space, and your pantry is nonexistent. Are there other ways you could store your pots and pans? 

It might take a little bit of work to install, but if you have wall space, something like this pot rack would go a long way to keeping your cookware neat and accessible – and make your space look like a professional kitchen.

If you rent and can’t drill holes in the wall, a free-standing tiered shelf like this one might be the answer. And it’s got a bonus: it would keep you pretty accountable for staying organized. You can’t just close a door and ignore a mess when it’s out in the open! 

The point is, when it comes to cookware organization, you shouldn’t feel confined to your cabinets. Taking the time to brainstorm some solutions that give your pots and pans more room to breathe will make the whole effort that much more worthwhile.

How To Organize Pots and Pans In A Small Cabinet

The key to organizing pots and pans in a small cabinet is maximizing every square inch of space you have while keeping everything accessible.

It’s tempting to fill them front to back with cookware and stack them up as high as it’ll go. But as we touched on already, that just leads to more clutter and frustration. The solution is to give yourself a more easily accessible surface area.

If you have a tall but narrow cabinet, a tiered organizer like this one will give you double the surface space, and it’s on a track so it’s easy to get to everything. You could even pair it with this pull-out lid rack! Imagine sliding out two racks to reach everything you need without fighting for your life to get to a saucepan.

If you only have enough room for one row of pots and pans, you could add a single-tiered slide-out organizer like this one. It won’t give you more surface space, per se, but it will make it so you can access all the space without unpacking the whole cabinet. 

Of course, make sure to take measurements of your space before you buy anything. It’s also good to measure your pots and pans to make sure they’ll fit, and take into account the space taken up by the bottom and sides of the organizer. It’ll save you an Amazon return drop-off trip to the UPS store. 

A stack of stainless steel pots and pans showing the bare minimum

How To Organize Pots and Pans In A Corner Cabinet

Corner cabinets are tricky, not because they don’t give you a lot of space to work with, but because most of that space is depth. That means if you organize your cookware in a way that you can see and get to everything easily, you’ll lose a lot of surface area. 

To organize pots and pans in a corner cabinet, you’ll want some kind of revolving organizer, like this 2 tiered lazy susan.  Since you can spin it, you utilize all the space – and your cabinet won’t look like a tornado blew through it every time you cook.

Keeping Up The Good Work

Congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of a decluttered, stress-free, mess-free cookware collection. You should be proud, gold stars all around!

But don’t get too comfortable just yet! Getting organized is only half the battle. Now you have to keep it that way. Luckily, it’s pretty simple, so long as you follow a few rules.

Swap, Don’t Add

You have all this newfound space for cookware after organizing, and that super cute heart-shaped Dutch oven catches your eye. Now that you have so much room in your cabinet, you should probably just buy it, right?

Not so fast! It’s adorable, I’ll give you that…but set a boundary for yourself: if I get a new piece of cookware, I have to pick one to get rid of. 

The road to messy cabinets is paved with impulse purchases. Don’t slip back into old habits!

5 Minutes A Day Keeps The Clutter Away

No matter how much organizing you do, the temptation to just stuff everything haphazardly behind your cabinet doors will always be there. Don’t give in! 

Taking 5 extra minutes to put those pots and pans back where they belong will keep your cookware collection from descending back into chaos. 

My grandma always used to say, “clutter breeds clutter,” and cookware is the last thing from an exception. If you need a little motivation, just think of how nice it was to get out your pans without having to strategize. 

You owe your future self that same luxury.

A stack of three stainless steel skillets from above


There’s no way around it – decluttering your cookware is, by definition, a chore. But that doesn’t mean it has to be arduous! There are heaps of easy steps you can take to keep the process painless and make cooking a joy again. 

About Author

Tia Goodnight

Hey! I'm Tia, and I started this site to bring you the best information on all things kitchen so you can enjoy and elevate your everyday life.

I love trying new techniques and tools, living for the thrill of pulling off a new skill. On weekends you'll find me at the local farmer's markets or hosting friends and family for an evening of yard or card games and delicious food.

If you're looking for honest, real-world advice on all things kitchen and cooking, you're in the right place!