Organize and Declutter a Small Kitchen – Pots, Pans and Skillets Oh My!

When I moved from a two-bedroom California Bungalow with a large 1930’s kitchen and into a one-bedroom condo with a small 1960’s kitchen, I had to make some difficult choices. One of those choices was what to do about my kitchen! I had lived in my rented bungalow for 18 years and collected a lot of vintage kitchen utensils and small appliances. My affection for 1950’s blenders, mixers and toasters were evident as you looked around my kitchen. My vintage finds adorned my kitchen as beautiful ornaments to inspire the frugal gourmet inside me. The perfect time to start to get rid of clutter and organize my kitchen.

I am drawn to all things food-related including cooking, strolling farmers markets, and dining out at funky little roadhouse cafes. I am overcome with delight when the Williams and Sonoma catalog arrives in my mailbox. I understand my penchant for kitchen gadgetry is in direct opposition to my quest to downsize and minimize but girls gotta do what girls gotta do. For years my Sunday morning consisted of watching Martha Stewart Living, a scone and cup of coffee as I retreated into foodie heaven and dreamed of being master chef and gardener. Those Sundays inspired me to try and turn my kitchen into a gourmet retreat, alas it did not exactly work out as I had hoped.

Back to the move, the hardest part was my kitchen; my cabinets were like Mary Poppins’ purse! How in the world could all that stuff ever fit into my kitchen and more importantly how would it fit into my new smaller kitchen? The complicated process of deciding what would be worthy of moving into my new home and what to donate had begun. Out went the 1950’s Sunbeam Mixer, out went the vintage toasters, out with the portable toaster oven, out with the oversized microwave, and out went half my cookbooks.

I made a pretty good dent in the larger items, but three full sets of dishes, all my pots and pans, vintage potato masher and a dozen wooden spoons moved with me. My little condo kitchen was now cluttered, and every cabinet was stuffed to the maximum, it was hard to find anything in my 24-inch deep pantry shelves!!

I’d like to share my 5 step process for turning my kitchen into a modern minimalist kitchen.

 Step 1: Create a list of meals you prepare.

The first step in organizing my small kitchen was to create a list of all the meals I prepared; including holiday meals and special occasion meals. I suggest using a spreadsheet as it makes the following steps much easier.
Example meal: pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy and sweet peas.

Step 2: List all the pots, pans, and utensils used in the preparation of each item.

This is where the spreadsheet comes in handy. It’s important to think about the process of preparation and every item used. Using the example meal above I might use the following;

1.) 10-inch skillet to cook the chops and make the gravy
2.) medium size cutting board to slice onions and potatoes and other ingredients
3.) peeler to peel the potatoes
4.) chef knife to slice
5.) 4-quart saucepan for boiling the potatoes
6.) potato masher to mash the potatoes
7.) 2-quart saucepan to heat up the peas

After your list is complete, you will have a long list of duplicated items, and many will be listed more than once.

Step 3: Now you’re ready to sort the list and remove duplicated items.

Sort your list and remove the duplicates and you will end up with a short list of what you truly need and use in the kitchen. At this point review the list for single purpose items and determine if you can use one of the other items on your list or if you REALLY want to keep the single use item.

Step 4: Remove all pots, pans, skillets, baking pans, etc. from the cabinets and drawers.

Empty the cabinets and give everything a nice cleaning and fresh layer of shelf paper. Once everything is outside of the cabinets, you get a more realistic idea of how much stuff you truly have. When I went the process, I looked at the huge mound of kitchen items on my dining room floor and was amazed at how much fit into my tiny kitchen. I had unintentionally created another Mary Poppins kitchen.

Step 5: Reintroduce the items on your list.

Return only the items on your list back into your kitchen. Everything else goes into a box or plastic tub with a lid. Over the next month or so if you find your need of an item in the tub, just go pull it out, use it and find a home for it in your kitchen. I completed this exercise over the holiday, so I was sure that I did not toss anything I might need to prepare my holiday dinner, I’m talking about you Mr. Vintage Bundt Pan that only gets used at Thanksgiving.

Now you have the five steps for minimizing your pots, pans and utensils in your kitchen. My personal experience uncovered that I have an addiction to bowls! I have small bowls, large bowl, vintage bowls and I love them all. I must confess I kept most of them. Remember the Vintage Sunbeam Stand Mixer I mentioned before, I kept the bowls it came with.


The four skillets I use in my kitchen range from the inexpensive Tramontina to the more pricey All-Clad. If you’re interested in purchasing any of the items below, please click on the item and you will be directed to If purchased using my link I receive a small commission that will help my blog grow.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope you can take something from it that will help you on your own personal quest to downsize and minimize.

the urban kitten
the urban kitten

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  1. September 27, 2015 / 9:40 pm

    Very well articulated!

  2. Lilly
    September 28, 2015 / 7:02 pm

    I tried it this weekend and it sure worked for me!

  3. Lawrence Toole
    February 29, 2016 / 2:56 am

    I love You and Audrey

  4. Frances
    August 16, 2016 / 12:48 am

    I love the idea on decluttering step 5 where you put things in a plastic tub and see if you really do use any of the items, genius! I moved 5 months ago and had to downsize my kitchen, I designed the new kitchen with lots of handy roll out trays, but it is still less space than my previous kitchen and had to donate many items, a few I wish I still had, oh well I sense a shopping trip coming on.