Kitchen Organization: Simple Ways to Declutter Your Under Sink Cabinet
In this post: The most effective kitchen organization begins in the most often used places. Here are simple ways to declutter your under sink storage.⇒
Hubby and I had another one of those conversations.
As the boxes of containers arrived and I began to unpack them, he looked on shaking his head, utterly convinced that I was about to make it way harder to access the things we needed.
You’d think he’d trust me by now.
It’s a simple conflict of perspectives, but I will never understand how someone can think it’s easier to find things that are all thrown in together than to separate them into neat compartments.
You can see the failure of such an amorphous storage system in the “before” picture below.
Under Sink Storage
This is, in fact, for me the essence of organization.
And so when it comes to a space as cavernously undefined as an under sink cabinet, it’s all about creating makeshift zones and then assigning them compartments.
There are no shelves or built in dividers which is what makes such a space so universally unkempt.
To win the war of under sink storage, you have to conquer the division of space.
And that’s what led me to the hammering-fest in our front hallway that day I unpacked the boxes. Perhaps this unabashed display of meager DIY prowess is what made him doubt the outcome.
But I had planned.
And I had measured.
And I was fairly certain it would work out exactly as I envisioned.
Except for that one potential foil that could throw the whole plan out the window. Which is why I was really eager to get the pieces put together. You see, the key unit I had purchased was a tight fit and it was entirely dependent on an open area falling exactly where a bulge in the under sink pipe protruded.
If this unit didn’t fit, I’d have to go back to square one with the plan.
It was tempting to start with the containers on the other side, just to achieve a win. But I really needed to know if the main unit fit, first. So I hammered away and with each strike of the hammer, I saw hubby’s expression go from complete disinterest to bemused doubt to full-on skepticism.
In fact, ultimately, he was the one who helped me overcome a spacial conundrum and with a little compromise, slipped it into place. But more on that later.
Now that you know the plan essentially worked, let’s look at the arrangement and the individual pieces that added up to a perfectly organized under sink cabinet.
As with our kitchen pantry refresh, I spent a lot of time designing the plan. The idea was to ensure that the containers organized the items we wanted to store, rather than buying containers that fit the space and then trying to fit our supplies into the available storage.
On the left side of the cabinet, I placed 2 pull-out plastic drawers. I could’ve fit a third stacked drawer, but I preferred to leave space on top to keep our dishwasher pods. I might still add a third drawer and decant the pods, much as I did the steel wool in the bottom drawer. Why we had 4 boxes of steel wool, I will never know!
The upper drawer holds our kitchen garbage trash bags, pulled out of their boxes and kept orderly in rolls.
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In the center section I placed often used cleaning supplies. A simple plastic container keeps them neatly corralled, and the handle is a bonus, allowing the entire unit to be removed and carried to clean another room. I’m pretty adamant about banishing loose items from the cabinet, but I do have a couple of large refill containers behind the bin. This is the area I will have to be vigilant about not letting it get out of hand.
Next we come to the prize unit, the one that required some hammering, along with agility and maneuvering to fit into our cabinet. I had measured carefully before ordering and I knew it would be tight. But my concern was the width and I hoped the protrusion of pipe would fall between the bars. In fact it did and I thought we were home free, until I realized the little “feet” on the bottom lifted it just enough to create an obstruction at the top that we needed to snake the unit under.
These are strong inflexible pieces that I was trying to accommodate, but I knew if we could just get it under the pipe, it would fit once straightened out. Hubby was able to ease it in, but I had to give up using the top piece that would create a clean finish and could function as a shelf. In a taller cabinet that would be a nice benefit, but we have no room to place anything on it anyway, so we were good to go.
The key to organization of a cabinet such as this is creating vertical storage to avoid wasted space and that’s exactly what this unit provided. Add to that convenient pull-out access and you have the perfect set-up. Depending on your needs, you could use several of the shallow trays, but I opted for only one on the top rung, and this is where I keep sponges and other little items like scrub brushes and the like.
I chose one deep bin for the bottom of the unit to store the melange of shopping bags I re-use over and over and you’ll notice, if you remember my aversion to plastic bags, that I keep only one giant one for those rare occasions when it might come in handy.
In addition to vertical storage, the other key factor to organizing such a large undefined space is being able to access things at the back of the cabinet. This is why pull out drawers are essential to ensure it’s easy to see and reach everything in the cabinet.
I think I finally convinced hubby that this system makes life easier. The containers are not there for show, but they actually make things simpler to get to. Instead of reaching over products and knocking everything over, you can see exactly what’s in the cabinet and access it with far less effort.
Not shaking his head so much anymore, huh?
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Lory, I adore your organizational posts. One dilemma I face is storing so many spray bottles of various cleaners. I’m looking at 5 bottles of different brands for cleaning stainless steel! You would think we live like wolves to need so many! But, I do not own a steel wool pad! I’m also wondering why I have a giant box of dish washing pods when I seldom run my dishwasher. Something to consider next time I buy at Sam’s! Thanks for the inspiration and helping me to get organizing under all my sinks!! XOXO
Thank you, Cecilia! Yes, we are funny creatures. I do try to consolidate when possible, which I was able to do with the steel wool. But I can’t help you on the different brands of stainless steel cleaner. Maybe clean the appliances every day!! 😉
Actually, I would say, if you bought any because you didn’t like the brand you already had, then toss the one you won’t use. Yes, it’s a waste, but it’s not being used anyway if you don’t like it. If you just have extra because you didn’t realize you already had some, then I’d keep them and maybe move a few to an upper shelf out of the way. I’d also toss any that are nearly empty.
I was just wondering where you keep your rubbish bin for daily rubbish. Here in Australia we tend to have a bin in the cupboard under the sink. It is convenient but does of course use some of that precious storage space.
Hi Denise! Here in the States, it’s very common to have a pullout drawer/cabinet with a built-in slot for the trash pail. That’s what we have, so it, too, takes up a full cabinet, but it’s not the under sink one. That said, I’ve seen many people here have the same set up you have. In that case, you’re already used to not keeping as much under your sink, so just organize the things you do have on the other side in similar containers. Maybe one stack of pullout drawers in which you can keep dishwasher pods in the top drawer, then a drawer for sponges and scouring pads and then a deeper drawer at the bottom for cleaning supplies. If it’s tall enough, you can then keep trash bags in the box on top. Something like that.
Hi Lory….I have become a crazy person re: under sink organization, and have basically tackled most in my home. One area that is severely lacking in my house is a way/place to keep those bags and it was a lightbulb moment for me when I saw what you did!!! I am so getting on that…pronto, lol!!! It is also such a great idea that when people do renovations to make sure under sink pipes are installed in such a way that they don’t become ‘in the way’ when attempting to get organizational units in place. That beings said, homeowners may want to hire a plumber to just tweak the placement of those pipes….just another option. On another note….what silver polish do you use? I just can’t seem to get my vintage silver looking as phenomenal as your pieces….
I’m so happy to see another like-minded person! And yes, I actually did think of calling the plumber, but we may want to replace the sink at some point, so that would be the time to do it… 😉 For silver polish I use Weiman’s.
You were wondering where to store your re-usable grocery bags – this is my solution. I have the insulated ones that are rectangle shaped with the 3-side zipper close top (bought at Kroger store). I keep mine in the car – after grocery shopping, I unload them at home and then return the to the car. Each zipper bag will hold 4 others, folded up (that is 5 bags in a less than 10″X15″ footprint). Two loaded zip = 10 bags. I started putting them back in the car after one too many times of getting to the grocers and realizing I’d left them at home! Works great for me and it is a cost-free solution.
I love this blog-especially the organization ideas. Even your “before” pictures look so much better than mine! Ha. I do not have a dedicated pantry, so I am struggling right now with sharing cabinets with dishes, glasses, pots/pans, baking sheets, as well as normal pantry food items. Finding the time to plan out the organization seems to be a giant hurdle, as well. I am so tired of taking five (or more) items out just to get to the one item I need! So your pantry, and under the sink blogs are such an inspiration to me. Thanks for all you do in showing your gorgeous home and great ideas!
What a lovely comment! I have to tell you, it’s comments like these that make my day… 🙂 I understand the hurdle of getting through the planning, as I had intended to do all the organizing I’m doing now a full year ago! Just take it slow and pick one small area. The good feeling you’ll get from completing it will inspire you to move on to the next project.
As for not having a pantry, I understand that too, as that was exactly my conundrum in our old house. You may be able to move dishes and less used items into furniture or a china cabinet, particularly in the dining room (although truth be told, I keep my linens in the living room because that’s where I had room.) If space is limited, I would try to reserve kitchen cabinets for only everyday dishes and then use as much space as you can gain for the pantry.
Also, be strict about not keeping things unless you really need or want them. I have an old coffee maker – the kind that makes enough coffee for a large party – and it’s so old that it’s that ugly mustard yellow color that used to be popular. I’ve kept it all these years because it’s the only large one I have. I recently realized, when we were having a large gathering, that there was no chance I was taking this ugly coffee maker out and putting it on my counter to serve my guests. That’s the day I decided to get rid of it. It’s doing me no good in the cabinet. (And these days, even when we have a large gathering, everyone uses the pods with the Keurig!) That’s a lot of cabinet space I just gained… 😉
Happy Friday eve, as we say around here!! Thank you for the great comments. It’s true-tackle one thing in small increments, before heading to other items. Isn’t it amazing how we all seem to accumulate so many items over the years? Ugh!! I actually did organize the catch-all drawer in the kitchen, and it is so much easier to open, let alone find items! Onward! Thanks so much Lory, for all you do to brighten my day! By the way, what did you decide about your entry floor? Do you go with white marble? Or am I thinking of your other home??
Your before is just like mine….a mess. I’ve made some strides in organizing that area, but it keeps reverting back to a mess. I really have to get drawers. It just make sense. Too many little things floating around down there.
Exactly! Sometimes it feels silly to buy so many containers until you realize just how much they help!!
I keep kitchen trash bags (removed from box) under the new bag being used. Always handy to get another and out of sight until needed.
Isn’t it amazing how something as simple as cleaning and organizing a cupboard can make us feel so good? For my under sink cabinet I purchased a mat which I cut to size to put down to protect the bottom of the cupboard. We have a smaller kitchen trash can placed under the sink – we take the trash out every night. Then I have 2 carrier tote things with handles that I can pull out to access cleaning products or to take the whole tote out and carry with me as I clean. I have all Method brand cleaning products – I have all the handles facing the same direction – I know it’s a bit anal, but I am a Virgo! For cleaning products that aren’t used on a daily basis like hardwood floor cleaner, kitchen cupboard polish, etc., I have them in a labeled box in the basement on storage shelves. I keep it simple and don’t buy a ton of products as I am pretty happy with what I presently use. I have the same system in our upstairs main bathroom.
Yes!! And lol… did you say that because you knew I was a Virgo too? Because I am!!
I am not getting the links to your products when I click on them. Can you tell me where the storage unit came from that you put your shopping bags and sponges in? Thank you!
I’m sorry to hear that. Try this link: https://rstyle.me/+198ui2wacrMJOd2mh_c7Ig
It’s working form my end, so I hope that helps.
I have a garbage disposal. It’s hard to work around that. Any ideas?
Oh, interesting, because I want to add one to my sink! Didn’t think about what it does to the under sink area. Still, in all cases, you just have to measure your space and figure out what storage fits there. Mine was tricky too, because of the way the pipes were configured and I had to take the top off the side unit to get it to fit. Basically, the more vertical storage you can utilize, the better you will be able to claim unused space. Take things out of their packages to use less space and only keep what’s essential there. Good luck!
What a great post! I love any and all things “organizational”. I used to be a research scientist, so one has to be organized! I have all my products in bins, but never had a way to go vertical. Just got up to inspect my situation…There is a honking big garbage disposal under there! Really enjoyed reading/seeing what you did.
We have a garbage disposal too. You just have to measure the space available and work around it. Take whatever space you do have and utilize it vertically. Also consider what containers you can put on the doors, because with garbage disposals, there’s often room in front of them.
If you add a disposal it will eat up your under sink storage and will necessitate a remeasure and redo of your space. It can be installed on either drain (left or right) and I’ve had them set up both ways. For convenience, it mainly matters which side of the sink your dishwasher is located on. I am right handed and like my DW to be on the right side of my sink. I have my dish drainer in the right hand sink bowl and use the left side bowl to scrape plates and rinse dishes (hence the garbage disposal is attached to this drain) before putting them in the dishwasher. If you are handwashing, it still works as you will scrape dishes before filling the sink to wash them, then placing them in the dish drainer to spray rinse and let dry. If your DW is on the right, this means that you will probably lose one of your plastic drawers but your ELFA pullout drawers will be safe.
Have really been enjoying your organizing posts and this one was excellent. As you pointed out, we often don’t realize how many duplicates of something we have until we start organizing them. Got a huge laugh at your full drawer of steel wool soapy pads! Your comment on vertical storage was right on point as well – this applies everywhere and is an often forgotten usable space. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your feedback, Jill! Actually, as it turns out, not sure if you saw our kitchen update, but we just finished a small kitchen update and got a new sink, with the disposal and to my amazement, I hardly had to move anything under the sink! Because I went with a single bowl sink and one drain, there was actually more room under the sink. Did some slight shifting but it’s pretty much set up the same as before… ? Here’s the kitchen update if you want to see it: https://designthusiasm.com/white-kitchen-remodel/
I just measured the area under my kitchen sink and discovered there is only about 7.25″ between the plumbing and the wall on one side and the garbage disposal totally blocks the other side. These look like such great options for somewhat more spacious cabinets.
Sorry, just seeing this comment now. That’s a tough one Teddee, but you might be surprised what you can do. You can use the pull out drawers that are 7″ wide and should just fit. You can stack them several high and fill with things like sponges, steel wool, extra kitchen garbage bags, even dish wash soap pods. Here’s the link: https://rstyle.me/+FGIYRyWyrW5o_0Z6GKM1Rw
We also installed a garbage disposal after I did this post and I was afraid it would change everything. I was surprised to realize that while it was tight, I still had room in front of the disposal for the cleaning supplies used most often. Those I put in the plastic carrier.
Sometimes you just have to accept the space you have and move the rest elsewhere… 🙂
Great ideas. Before i would order anything, I need to go through our attic where containers go when they don’t fit or aren’t used any more! My husband is a big on organizing so he mostly does it since retirement.
Definitely worth taking the time. Maybe a project you can work on together?
Wonderful ideas.. Amazing concept and decor tips. This is truly a great read for me!! Once again, thanks for the quality articles you post on your blog!! That is a very interesting & awesome post.
Lovely organization! I appreciate you linking the products, too. This is one of the best arrangements I’ve seen!
Also…doubting husbands are just the most annoying thing ever. So happy you were able to prove him wrong!
After lots of measuring, we bought Rev-A-Shelf pullouts for two under the sink areas, the kitchen and the laundry room. They are expensive but never tippy and they pull out ALLLL the way for full access. I’m happy every time I use them.
If you have too many cleaning supplies and a Re-Store in your area, they’ll take them, instead of throwing them away. They are fund raiser stores for Habitat for Humanity.
Thank you so much for the great tip!!! Sounds perfect!
It looks so good love it
I need to do this!
Your good at this!
Thank you so much! It definitely feels good to have a space like that organized… 🙂
This looks great, Lory! Thank you for sharing.
Thank you, Diane!!