8 Ways to organize your kitchen for better entertaining

Jun 9, 2009 at 2:25 p.m. ET

When most people think of fabulous kitchens, they imagine sleek appliances, elegant cabinetry and beautiful floors with coordinating countertops. They visualize lively conversations with family and friends, accompanied by the perfect menu of casual fare, prepared effortlessly by an impeccably dressed hostess. The path to this magazine-inspired reality: Organization!

Woman in Kitchen

Whether preparing the family meal while explaining ancient Greece to your child and her best friend, or deliberating with your friends about which celebrity was the best dressed at the Oscars, an organized kitchen is the key element to entertaining on any level.

If you want it, write it down

Harriet Schecter of The Miracle Worker Organizing Service says that, if you want to achieve something, whatever it is, write it down. Think about all of the activities performed in your kitchen and plan a course of action for each. Be as clear and specific as possible and prioritize your tasks.

About space

Even the largest kitchens can be inefficient if they are cluttered. Start by removing any appliances that you don't use frequently to maximize space on your countertops. Don't be afraid to throw out or donate the things you don't use (or don't know how to use). Use your newfound space for additional seating, a bar or a new point of interest, such as a bowl of fresh fruit or a vase of flowers or herbs.

Grand Central Station

Set up your kitchen in stations. For example, if you drink coffee in the morning, place your filters, coffee and scoops in the cabinets above the coffee pot. Thoroughly clean out your cabinets, and then group the contents according to activity or station. When you're entertaining, you will need ready access to certain tools, such as a complete set of glasses and plates, so place them where you won't need a playbook to find them.

Contain yourself

Organizing your pantry eliminates confusion should unexpected guests arrive. Use food containers to store and organize items for easy access. Go a step beyond and label the containers, too. You might just save some money, too: If you can see what you have, you won't buy it when you don't need to.

Take stock

To stay prepared to entertain at a moment's notice, chef Colin Cowie recommends that you have the following on hand:

  • Salad ingredients and a squeeze bottle of freshly made salad dressing
  • Fresh fruits, including lemons, limes and seasonal berries
  • A dozen eggs
  • Milk and butter
  • Two bottles of wine, a bottle of bubbly and a selection of beers
  • Bottled water, both flat and sparkling
  • An assortment of cheeses of different textures

Fridge in the zone

As in other areas, keep like items together in the refrigerator. Create a snack zone (maybe with some yogurt cups and fresh fruit) and deter those pesky "I'm-hungry-and-I-don't-see-what-I-want" culprits from hanging on the refrigerator door. Store the items you need to prepare meals in an ingredient zone.


Some kitchens are cluttered simply because they don't have appropriate trash receptacles. If they're too small, trash accumulates, often creating offensive odors. But forget your momma's big avocado plastic monstrosity -- modern trash cans for the kitchen are functional and attractive. Put one where guests can find it easily.

Keep it organized

An organized kitchen requires regular maintenance. Dishes need to be washed, counters wiped clean and floors swept. Delegate to family members to help maintain kitchen order and make it easy to clean should you be inspired to entertain.

In Cooking as Therapy, Louis Parrish wrote, "If you can organize your kitchen, you can organize your life." Getting organized creates more time, space and energy in your life for the people and things that matter most to you.