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31 Days of Autumn Bliss: Kitchen and Pantry Organization

Autumn is the perfect time to get organized in the kitchen.

Don’t panic, but the holidays ARE coming!


31 Days of Autumn Bliss: Kitchen and Pantry Organization

My old kitchen.

My last kitchen was much more to my liking than the one I have now. My old kitchen was designed by me, so of course I liked it. The kitchen I have now is just as a builder designed it. Builders are not always the most sensitive to charming details. I have a fine kitchen and I’m blessed to have it. It just isn’t my DREAM.

Even though my kitchen is not (yet?!) as charming as I’d like it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be functional right now. And really, that is what matters. I don’t have to wallow in sorrow for what I don’t have (subway tile?, crystal knobs?, hammered pulls? stainless hood? fancy appliances? glass doors? Who needs them. Whatever).

My last kitchen was not designed with fancy divided drawers, pull out bins, or spice cabinets. It was pretty to look at, but still a basic kitchen without a lot of bells and whistles. Keeping things basic rather than fully customized saved us tons of money! Wish I could go back and show you the insides of all the drawers in that kitchen but too late, it isn’t my house any more!

I love organization because I don’t like to waste time looking for things, but not so much in that “every drawer MUST be a work of art” sort of way. I don’t obsess too much about stuff like that, I have other things to do. If something is in the right drawer, that is good enough for me.

I divide my kitchen into zones whenever possible. I have the cooking zone, the baking zone, the dish zones, pots & pans zone — it goes on and on! And when something doesn’t quite fit into it’s designated zone, I do the best I can to keep items as close to “the zone” it belongs in as I can.

31 Days of Autumn Bliss: Kitchen and Pantry Organization

Stainless and wood stirring items go in a simple crock near the stove.

31 Days of Autumn Bliss: Kitchen and Pantry Organization

Baking supplies. No fancy dividers or detailed organization, but it takes me 5 seconds to see what I need.

31 Days of Autumn Bliss: Kitchen and Pantry Organization

Cutting, stirring and other ugly randomness all go in a drawer.

31 Days of Autumn Bliss: Kitchen and Pantry Organization

Top shelf is overflow baking supplies, bottom shelf are spices. Clearly we don’t have a fancy spice rack. I don’t even turn my spices straight and line them up by size or type. My daughter would probably do that for me if I wanted to be perfect, but I just don’t take the time to keep up with it because they are in a closed cabinet. I can handle a little disarray in a cabinet.

Simply by grouping things TOGETHER with like things, I can almost always find what I am looking for in a matter of seconds. It may not look fancy, but it works!

I had another kitchen, the one prior to my “dream kitchen,” that was tiny. TEENSY TINY. We hardly had any cabinets or counter space. But I still could find everything in a matter of moments because I used the “zone” method. I hung racks on the back of a basement door for pantry items, put shelving in my basement for bulky items, put a metal rack for mixers and small appliances in a back hall, hung attractive items on the wall, utilized the inside of cabinet doors, and didn’t have excess of anything.

That kitchen felt charming and eclectic, but it was also far from a dream kitchen!

31 Days of Autumn Bliss: Kitchen and Pantry Organizationc

Kitchen & Bath Ideas

It doesn’t matter whether your kitchen is big or small, or pretty or fancy, dreamy or basic, whether or not you have a dedicated pantry, customized drawers or fancy bins and baskets, you can still have a fairly organized kitchen that you actually enjoy working in. Just keep only what you really need, get creative with how you store things, and use zones as your organization method.

If you can make your kitchen prettier while you are organizing, that is a bonus!

31 Days of Autumn Bliss: Kitchen and Pantry Organization

I haven’t quite mastered pretty in my pantry. Wish I had a better picture of the whole pantry, but I’m away from home and can’t take a new one.  This photo is from last year but I assure you it looks about the same. Eh hem. You can see enough to know, it isn’t perfect or pretty. And I have issues with paper overflowing out of baskets. By the way, I did frame the owl art my son made in school, it didn’t stay on the back of the pantry door.

31 Days of Autumn Bliss: Kitchen and Pantry Organization
House Beautiful

That kitchen, above, is what I’d consider someone’s dream kitchen. But notice that even though it has beautiful features, it is actually quite simply organized. You might not have built-in basket drawers (who really has that many onions all at once?), but it has some very simple doable ideas such as racks on the back of doors and open shelves for pantry items.

Function can be pretty!

Tell me about YOUR kitchen!

Is it your dream kitchen?
Is it organized?

For the entire series links, click the 31 Days Button below!

31 Days of Autumn Bliss: Kitchen and Pantry Organization

Find the rest of the 31 Day girls here.


  1. Carin

    I love zoning (and not just in kitchens)! It’s what makes my gally kitchen really work for me. We redesigned it a few years ago, and while I’m still a bit peeved we couldn’t afford the materials and finishes I really wanted, I looove the new layout because it’s so us. The “prettifying” will come with time, one small decision (or purchase) at a time.

  2. The Nester

    Oh my gosh, you have a PUMP for your coffee flavor stuff! Must get a pump.

    Now going back and reading the rest of your post…

  3. Jamie

    My little apartment kitchen is far from a dream kitchen, but it is organized! I am blessed to have a small pantry as well that is currently stuffed to the gills. That question about who has that many onions at a time… that would be crazy people like me! It’s a lot cheaper and better quality to stock up on the big bags of things like potatoes and onions when I hit the farmers’ market, so I’ve always got lots! :0)

    • Melissa

      Ha, ok, so I buy stuff in bulk too but the onions get all moldy or grow green stuff out of them! Maybe my kitchen is not the right temperature. Or actually, I probably don’t cook with enough onions.

  4. Kathy

    My current kitchen is not really my dream kitchen, but it is functional, pretty and I don’t hate being in it. My dream kitchen would come with a cook! : ) Kidding! I think my dream kitchen would need to be laid out differently as I would love an island and I would love a dedicated pantry. Right now I have a cabinet that is my pantry and for bulk items we use shelves in the garage. I don’t have an island, but when we redid our kitchen many years ago, we added a piece of counter/cabinet so that side looks like an “L” now. Not enough to put stools at or use as a counter, especially as the table and chairs are right there. We are looking to down-size next year, so I’m hoping to incorporate some of my “dream” items into whatever we move to.

  5. Sarah

    I have a smallish kitchen, and it’s a builder kitchen as well! I have had to really focus on adding charm! Right now, we have a pantry cabinet, and I can’t wait to have an actual pantry closet someday. That, and a gas range, would pretty much make up my dream kitchen.

    We do have those pull-out drawers, which I LOVE!

    I’m really glad to see that someone else out there doesn’t have everything beautifully organized, with each utensil in a pretty basket. If it worlds well, and you can find it quickly, then it is organized!!

  6. Tara

    had my dream kitchen back in Georgia…..

    waiting on someone else to call it their dream kitchen and BUY it!!!!

    {sorry…long 2 1/2 years!}

    We don’t own this home so this isn’t my dream kitchen..but it does just fine for now….growing a little antsy…so probably need to have a little “come to Jesus meeting” with Jesus himself so that my priorities are back in check. :) just being honest.

    • Melissa

      You go, Tara! Notice when I talk about my dream kitchen it is usually followed by the words “on a budget” because I just have to get real about my dreams sometimes! Priorities are more important!

  7. Tiffany

    Yes and no. My kitchen is a dream because I love the big island, great fridge and many cabinets. It’s not a dream because I would have chosen different cabinet finish and different counters. But I like them. It functions. And I love the island. Did I mention the island?

  8. Abbie

    Because this is the first kitchen that is actually *mine* it is my dream! And because I painted it cheery yellow (instead of mauve wallpaper) I love being in it. The rest is fine, livable, likeable and doable.

  9. Becky K.

    Oh dear, my kitchen is quite the mess right now. In the middle of candle season it gets overrun by jars, wax, wicks and more. I was amazed that even in that mess I was still able to function to make two large casseroles yesterday. One for the boys’ birthday bash and one for a friend who just had a baby. That is what matters most to me. Keeping it functional. One day, the business will be moved out of my kitchen and then we will make many changes to improve the look and function….but for now….we punt!

  10. nanci

    When we built our “dream” home, I had a large kitchen which I loved, but then we decided we lived too far away from everything and everyone so we sold and bought an older home. The kitchen was remodeled fortunately but much smaller. At first I cried when I was unpacking, missing my former dream kitchen. Now I love my smaller kitchen. The economy of movement makes it more functional. I have since changed out the Corian for granite and the backsplash tile is different. Made it my own and love it. Now for the onions and potatoes in the posted pics….I read once to never store them next to each other like that because it hastens spoilage of each. Something about the gasses that the onions put off…ruin the potatoes faster. ummm *food for though*….. :)

  11. Diane

    Oh my gosh girl, you’re speaking my language! Did you get inside my head last night while I slept!! LOL!! The zone thing really works and keeps me sane! Oh how I *WISH* I had a pantry (place to store food stuffs)….but then I remember…how blessed I am to have what I have….and it can be jam-packed behind 2 cupboard doors. The grocery store is my pantry now – HeeHee…..gotta love Wegman’s….they have everything!!

  12. Johanna

    My kitchen is nice, nothing more. It’s on the smaller side and I’m short on pantry space, but I do have one. It’s a narrow closet with wire racks which I don’t like at all – the small stuff is always falling over because it can’t balance between the wires. I try hard to keep it organized and zoned, but I often run out of space and stuff gets jammed in placed it doesn’t belong. I’ve always tried to zone my kitchen, but it’s just not big enough and definitely not my dream. But for now it’s nice (did I say that already) and does the job. I’m assuming you aren’t Italian – we like to buy bags of onions and make big pots of sauce with them!

  13. Leslie

    Melissa, I don’t think I’ve ever commented before, but I want you to know how much I love your blog/philosophy/style! It really is all about balance, isn’t it? I love nesting and fluffing, but try to hold “things” loosely and pour my heart into people! I’m in the midst of freshening my 18-year-old kitchen and I’m loving every minute of it! I’ve had a navy and white kitchen for 26 years (in two houses) and it was time for a change! The brass fixtures are gone (SO over that!), replaced with simple oil-rubbed bronze (such a great deal on a chandelier at Lowe’s – $61? Yes, please!) and it’s been painted a lovely light gray-blue. Next on the agenda: new countertops (goodbye white formica – hello soapstone! Okay, not really, but a laminate called oil-rubbed soapstone that has the look, but doesn’t need to be “oiled” once a month – puh-leeze!) and beadboard backsplash. It’s happening in stages and I’m enjoying each phase! Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. Adrienne

    My dream kitchen? No! But it’s becoming the dream I have for THIS kitchen! Slowly, with a budget, and doing most of the work ourselves, it will be the dream I had for it when I first began to dream. We rented a little, 60’s-vintage ranch-style home for the location and convenience to my aging parents. I didn’t like the kitchen and always said if it were my home I would change it – and I knew exactly what I would on a budget. Then the day came that it went up for sale and we bought it. Great because we knew all the negative and positive things about it. Slowly we have been upgrading and updating and making it our own. If I could I would change out the ‘new’ laminate countertops for granite, enlarge the window and add new appliances. One wall still needs upper cabinets but the kitchen I didn’t like has become the kitchen I enjoy! We painted the old Birch cabinets white, added new hardware and made them ‘new’. I have a pantry cabinet (temporary) until we finish adding cabinets to unfinished spaces.

    Organized? Not really. Your post made me suddenly realize what I need to do to achieve effective zones. Think I’ll go out and start rearranging and organizing!

    Thanks for your posts. They always inspire and ignite my imagination!

  15. Andrea

    Oh, my current kitchen is SO my dream kitchen, and to my despair, we are moving =( I doubt I’ll have a kitchen quite like this one, unless, like you, I design it. I almost hope to find a new house with a really ugly kitchen so I can justify reno’ing it. My now kitchen does have a pull out spice drawer, fancy dividers, and slow close drawers and cupboards. I’m very lucky, but I know that I will make my next kitchen just as charming….after all, it’s the heart of the home!

  16. Franki Parde

    Here’s my tale of kitchen woe…my “half week” kitchen consists of cooking on two card tables (I did put velcro around them and skirted them with country plaid. ) I have a bakers rack for dishes and a stove and fridg and a sink that is also skirted (some storage hidden underneath!) One table table top has the coffee maker and the other table has the microwave with a plastic bin for spices underneath….are you ready….26 years! We’ve had lots of people over for meals..more the merrier. Next year I retire and next year I may get a REAL kitchen Yahoo!

  17. Jess

    I have actually started making notes about all my kitchens – trying to pin down the pros and cons. I am not in my dream kitchen yet – but it has a lot of things I really love. It has tons of drawers! (Have you ever noticed there are never enough drawers in kitchens??) And it has a lot of counter space and is open to the rest of the main living area.
    Cons are that it doesn’t have a separate pantry and the sink is so small! And I need more cabinets! And an island and a gas stove … but who is counting really!

  18. Deanna

    My kitchen and living room are one big open space. This allows for great conversation, eating and fellowship. My kitchen is not ‘stunning’ nor does it have top of the line appliances, countertops or cabinets. What it does have is charm, warmth, and functionality!

  19. Bekki

    I like the kitchen I have now, it’s just small and has no pantry. So I have trouble storing all of my bulk items. I am in the process of refinishing some old cabinets from the 1930’s to add some much needed space. I am slowly making it mine.

  20. margitta

    Dear Melissa!
    I really love your October series… I love your approach to live! Thank you for sharing all your insught with us strangers out here.
    I love my kitchen, even though its’s old and not fancy at all :
    Greetings, Margitta

  21. Ivy

    My husband and I have a Remodeling business, but remodeling our own home doesn’t make us money. Sooo… my kitchen is functional but not beautiful. I’m ok with it. Helping other people get a dream kitchen fulfills that need in me. Weird, huh?

  22. Roberta

    Great post Susan! I’ve moved SO many times in my life and I’ve had kitchens of all sizes. I had the dream kitchen a few years ago in our dream home but found that it was so darn big…I got tired when I tried to cook…lol Also because I was working full time in a very stressful job, by the time I got home I didn’t care to even walk into the kitchen. So my job ended and we downsized and now I have the perfect, small kitchen here at the Love Shack. I have the time and energy to cook whenever I want. I’ve always been organized…natural result of moving around so much I think and you tend to purge what you don’t need/use/want with every move. I don’t go out and buy every new applicance as it comes out and I’ve got pans/appliances that I’ve had for 30 years that are still my workhorses…like my GE hand mixer…I think I paid $7.99 for it when I got my first apartment…ha! I’ve always assigned zones in the kitchen and stored my food/dishes/pans accordingly. Here’s my post about my storage in my small kitchen and hope this helps anyone looking for some more inspiration. Fondly, Roberta

  23. Kristen

    Thank you, Melissa, for reminding us to make the most of the kitchen we have! Growing up, I certainly had my dreams of my someday kitchen. When my husband and I bought our house last year, the kitchen was not what I was most excited about. The views of the countryside are nice, but a tiny gallery kitchen? Still, it has become my dream because it is my kitchen in our home. I can cook just the same as I would in any other kitchen. I just have to make more efficient use of my tiny space. I’ve enjoyed your whole 31 days series. Thanks for encouraging me!

  24. Linda

    Thanks for the inspiration! I have looked at my overflow kitchen cabinets for 3 weeks knowing they are out of control and then closed them just not ready to tackle it yet! The pictures of your drawers and the description have helped me get mine organized in my head. Have a good Saturday!

  25. emily

    Nope, not our dream kitchen, but a vast improvement from our original ‘builder’ kitchen. It was a crazy thing to do {modifying a one year old kitchen}, but the changes we made make all the difference and make me smile and want to use the space. I have lots of dreams for a fabulous dream kitchen, but am pretty happy with what we have for now.

  26. Sheila

    Ok, now you have just started meddling. ;) I am not a organized or cleanie by nature so over the years I have tried to become more so. Still trying!
    So after reading your blog I had to go and clean out my tiny pantry or what I use for the pantry. I had to throw out a few outdated items and I also made up a box to take to my daughter when we go visit her and her family next week.
    This is NOT my dream kitchen by any means. But God has placed us here at this time so I am thankful for what I have been given. We have moved many times in our 35 years of marriage. Most of the houses have been parsonages or homes used as parsonages.
    I do know what I would put in my Dream Kitchen and how I would organize it but for now it is just that a Dream.

  27. Pinky

    Oh no, this is NOT my dream kitchen but I doubt I will ever have one so…. We built this house 27 years ago with the idea we would be here 10-15 years TOPS. HAHA for me!!!!! Here I am and wish so much we could move. I am organized, have always done the zone thing and also am pretty neat, especially the kitchen. If I could, I would knock out the back wall of the house and enlarge the kitchen, breakfast room and dining room…..THAT would be a dream:):) XO, Pinky

  28. Seedplanter Designs

    Melissa, this is the most beautiful blog. I have a teeny tiny kitchen, which in some ways is wonderful and other ways frustrating. Read: Not enough cabinet space or storage. You’ve given me a lot to think about, and I may be onto something here…

    LOVE your blog! Will be back.

  29. SimplyLKJ

    I would have to say that, yes, I do have my dream kitchen (at least one I can afford…who wouldn’t dream up better with an extra million on hand?) We recently did a mini-remodel (countertops, backsplash, cooktop, fresh paint on cabinets and walls) and I love it!! You can see pics on my blog under House Tour Part 1. As for organization…I am SUPER organized (to a fault as my family would say). I don’t have dividers in all my kitchen drawers, just the ones that work. And, I recently updated both of my pantrys (one the size of a basic coat closet, the other a tall double doored cabinet that was part of a new wall of cabinets I designed a few years back). We spend a lot of time in our kitchen (more so than any other room) so I wanted it to be very functional.

  30. judy

    My kitchen is FAR from my dream kitchen. Although, I’m not really certain what my dream kitchen would look like.
    We have a great mid-century 1949 ranch house and in the kitchen, everything other than the floor, all of it is original and in mint condition! So, the kitchen has been one of the last frontiers to tackle.
    Your kitchen is lovely and I know I would like to use your method of organizing. It makes for easy finding and much less fretting.
    Well, now that I have the organization that I would like, I only have about 30 other things to decide.
    p.s. what is the color of your kitchen walls, it really “feels” good?

  31. Sara

    This kitchen definitely isn’t my dream kitchen, but it’s not horrible either. The house is only ten years old so everything functions, making it hard to justify remodeling it. But if I could? I’d change the counters, get all new appliances, new floors (those are coming, thankfully) and make the whole thing bigger. As it is, my husband and I can’t cook together in there without it being a major hassle.

    Coincidentally though, I did just do a pantry makeover! Check it out here:

    I am a bit of an organization freak so the pantry actually always looks like the pictures in that post. I put everything into food zones too – baking, spices, canned goods, bulk goods (all in mason jars), etc.

  32. Tracy

    Love this post. I do not have my dream kitchen right now. But we did get a new dishwasher two weeks ago — it’s a bit small and doesn’t dry very well but I am so thankful! I also love the zone method for just about everything.

    A couple of years ago I had an apartment kitchen with avocado green appliances from the 70’s. Who knew those things could still work? And the kitchen sink was rusty. I’m thankful for the kitchen I have now. My dream kitchen would have a pantry.

    P.S. When I have my act together I chop up a bunch of those onions and freeze them.

  33. Denise C.

    First of all, what an awesome blog! I found you via Remodeling This Life, great stuff! My husband & I purchased our townhouse last fall, & the kitchen is what sold me. I love it. It’s functional, big, but not too big (there is room to keep my kids entertained when I cook). The selling piece? The island. I’ve never seen anything like it. It has so much work space, though I never seem to use it for that. We replaced the fridge when we moved, & just ordered a new dishwasher today (the old one died.) Down the road a new stove & microwave. My pantry is organized, I am a wee bit OCD in that department. My pantry in my previous townhouse was featured on the blog- The Perfect Pantry. I just painted the inside of mine, it is clean & fresh! :)

    P.S. I keep my onions (3) & potatoes (5-6) in square wire baskets in the pantry. I never have more than 3 onions, or they get gross. Yuck.

  34. Denise C.

    Love the pump on your coffee syrup! One last thing to add, I too keep “like” things together. My main cooking utensils share a drawer, ones used once in awhile in another, baking in one etc. So simple & so effective! :)

  35. Vee

    Two things: 1. Yay for getting the owl framed. It really is a great piece of art! 2. I have that many onions hanging around. They are left over from the Lady Ashburnham pickle making session. What in the world am I going to do with all those onions?!

    You can make a kitchen sing no matter what is going on with it, Melissa. Of that I am convinced. Zones are great and so is storing things where they are used. No sense in having a coffee station on the right side of the kitchen if storing coffee on the left side.

  36. Jessica Engel

    Our current kitchen is definitely NOT our dream kitchen, but we are planning a complete renovation so I love reading your ideas and everyone else’s as well!

  37. Angela

    I love posts on kitchens and organization! My kitchen is nice but certainly not my dream. We are on our way to a new cottage with a smaller kitchen but great character! I’m so anxious to get into the new place and organize! Thanks again for sharing such great posts. I included a link to my kitchen post on my blog.

  38. Kristin

    1. We live in a roomy townhome with a miniscule kitchen.

    2. The kitchen is very organized!

    3. It is not my dream kitchen, but I do have a new appreciation for a more compressed design as opposed to the sprawling, open kitchen we had in our suburban home. When you have less room with which to work, you have to pare down to essentials and I find that I enjoy the forced simplicity.


  39. The Prudent Homemaker

    My kitchen isn’t my dream kitchen–but it’s pretty close! We gutted the kitchen and changed it all when we bought this house. It has tons of features that I like in it.

    My pantry is functional, but not super pretty. I need to get in there and take some more pictures, because I actually DO have that many onions in there right now (well about 3 times that, really. I got them on sale 6lbs for .96 and it takes a lot of oions ofr french onion soup for a large family!) I also have many more home-canned items than before–4 shelves more, in fact. You can see photos of my pantry here. Our house didn’t have a pantry, so we built a walk-in pantry in the garage and installed an a/c unit.

  40. kay ellen

    My kitchen needs some work~~~it has good bones,
    I am doing a little shopping for hardware ” new jewelry” for my cabinets and drawers they need a pick me up! lol
    A slow process on the home front~~~

    As a designer I am always helping others with decor and re-modeling, it never seems to be my turn? Oh well…

    For now, I will just plug away at some little changes.

    Have blessed weekend,
    Kay Ellen

  41. Annelise

    Organized yes, dream kitchen no. I could use and need all new appliances and a better paint job on my cabinets. Your post inspired me to edit the kitchen. Thanks for the nudge…wink wink.

  42. Houston

    I am lucky enough to be using my dream kitchen… but like you I designed it and it’s exactly what I wanted and needed our kitchen to be. It makes a huge difference when you get to choose the cabinets that best utilize your space and makes cooking even more fun, but that isn’t always an option and like you I do the zone method for organizing most things it makes finding what you need quick and easy!
    I’ll share that one of my favorite things in my kitchen is the “super susan” a heavy duty lazy susan corner cabinet that holds all of the small appliances that I don’t use every day, they are hidden away but easy to get to!
    PS I loved this weekends fairy tale house and can just imagine that it must have an equally charming kitchen :)

  43. Jody

    My kitchen isn’t my “dream” kitchen but she is like a family member to me. My family & I live in the home I grew up in. My husband & I are slowly fixing things to fit our family without changing too much of what I loved while growing up. The 42 year old linoleum had to go, the birch cabinets & copper hardware have to stay! Next is new lighting.

  44. Crystal

    We are in the process of a kitchen makeover at our house. What a mess!! I cannot wait to try to get it organized. Try is the keyword. :) Beautiful kitchen photos!


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