Words By Lindsey Mather
The junk drawer is the quintessential organizing project, and while it’s definitely helpful to get all that random crap under control, there’s another space that gives us way more anxiety: the kitchen cabinet under the sink. First of all, we find ourselves having to dig around in there way more often than any junk drawer. One day we’re in search of a fresh sponge, the next it’s the bottle of Windex. Second, the square footage is much larger, and therefore the mess is much larger. “The main reason it gets gross under the kitchen sink is because it is both a deep and high space. That’s a perfect storm, organizationally speaking,” says Ann Lightfoot, founding partner of professional organizing company Done & Done Home. So, how can we whip the space into shape and get back to living our lives? Ann and pro organizer Laura Cattano broke it down for us.
Step 1: Empty the cabinet entirely
“Pull everything out and give the space a thorough cleaning, including the insides of the doors and the sides of the cabinet,” says Laura. Next, “sort into ‘like with like’ groups, meaning all sponges and scrubbers together, all detergents and soaps together, et cetera,” says Ann. As you do this, “get ruthless,” she adds. “Don’t keep what you don’t need, want, or use. It doesn’t do you any good even if you feel badly about wasting the money. It’s already wasted because you don’t use that product anymore.” Be especially hard on your accumulation of old grocery bags. “How many do you really need?” says Laura. “Recycle them anywhere they give you those bags.” If you find duplicates of things, put those elsewhere. “Since space under the sink is limited, only store currently used kitchen products here,” Laura notes.
Step 2: Add a pull-out drawer
“Why crawl on the floor to access the back of the cabinet when you can easily install a pull-out drawer for small things like cleaning supplies, dish soap, and garbage bags?” says Laura. She recommends this two-tier option, while Ann likes this sliding shelf by Simplehuman. Measure the space to see what will fit best. (Pssst: If a sliding drawer isn’t workable, Laura says, modular stacking bins are a great alternative. “Do like the pros do and buy an assortment to see which work best, then return the rest.”)
Step 3: Bring in smaller containers
Don’t just pack things into your new drawer willy-nilly. Ann suggests sticking a tall plastic bin like this 10×6 one inside to corral easily misplaced items like sponges and rags. “The height means less surface area in the sliding drawer is used, leaving space for detergent, silver polish, soap, and other cleaning supplies,” she says.
Step 4: Pimp out the door
The inside of the cabinet door is forgotten storage space just waiting to be used. Hang adhesive clear bins or an over-the-cabinet shelf to keep the everyday essentials like a sponge, a small dish soap, and dishwasher pods handy, according to both Ann and Laura. “Position them high so you don’t have to bend down,” Laura adds. If you still have a little room, Ann suggests sticking a few 3M Command hooks on the door for small cleaning tools or dish towels.
Step 5: Organize the misfits
“If you don’t have a discreet place for a freestanding trash can, try a small pull-out trash-and-recycling bin,” says Laura. “If you have a freestanding trash can and just need a small area for recycling, try these open-front stackable bins that can just sit on the floor.” Then there are the clouds of grocery bags you decided you couldn’t part with in step one. “If you insist on keeping grocery bags, limit the amount and store them in a small shopping bag—I know you found one down there,” Laura says.
Featured Image: Al Kawasa, Unsplash