Decluttering a Kitchen – 12 Step By Step Instructions

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If you're not the kind of person who likes minimalism, it can be very difficult to declutter your kitchen and get rid of stuff you don't need. Throwing things away is hard for some people, but it's essential if you have a small kitchen or limited cabinet space.

We don't all have huge cupboards!

So if you're cleaning your kitchen cabinets and decide you need to declutter things, this guide is for you. There are 12 questions to ask yourself when decluttering your kitchen, tips to make getting rid of stuff easier, and a checklist of 10 kitchen items to throw away.

Here's your personal guide to decluttering kitchen cabinets!

Things You'll Need When Decluttering Your Kitchen

  • Trash Bags
  • Boxes
  • Timer/Stopwatch
  • Willpower!

When it comes to getting rid of useless items in your home, it's often helpful to have a “keep it” box and a “throw it away” trash bag on either side of you. For everything you pull out of the kitchen cupboard or off the cluttered kitchen counter, decide which box/bag to put it in.

Be harsh.

You don't necessarily need a timer or stopwatch for this process, but it can help some people to make a “gut decision” if they feel that they're under some kind of time limit. If you linger and think about things too long, you might end up keeping items that you SHOULD be throwing away.

Don't overthink it – you got this.

declutter your kitchen

Declutter Your Kitchen Cabinets – 12 Questions To Ask Yourself When Organizing

Even with a garbage bag and a time limit, throwing away kitchen clutter is a tricky process for people with hoarding tendencies or those who have sentimental attachments. As a result, we've put together 12 questions to ask yourself when trying to declutter your kitchen.

If you have trouble letting go of items – ask yourself these questions HONESTLY.

1. Have I used this in the last year?

If you're sorting through your cupboards and you find an old appliance or utensil that you haven't used in over 12 months, are you really going to use it ever again?

That random ice cream maker or bread machine you bought many moons ago… when was the last time you actually made bread or ice cream with it?

If you haven't used something in 12 months, it's a strong sign that you don't need it in your life anymore.

2. Do I really need ALL of these plates and utensils?

It's not uncommon for us to clutter our kitchen cabinets full of plates, bowls, and eating utensils that are seldom ever used.

If you live in a house with 2 or 3 other people… yet you have 12 plates, 8 bowls, and 15 sets of knives and forks… do you really need all of that clutter?

Unless you're having dinner parties every other week, chances are that you can reduce group items so that everyone in the home has 2 each – leaving a spare for each person while things are in the dishwasher.

Getting rid of undeeded plates and utensils is one of the easiest ways to declutter your kitchen.

3. Is this an extra/spare item?

It's not uncommon for homeowners to have more than 1 of a small kitchen tool when there's no apparent reason for it.

Do you have 3 wooden spoons?

Maybe you have 4 spatulas cluttering up your kitchen cabinet?

If you've got 1 whisk and a spare for safekeeping, then you can probably throw away that 3rd, 4th and 5th whisk. 2 is probably enough to meet your kitchen needs.

4. Will I ever REALLY get into baking?

Lots of us have grand ideas that we'll become master bakers in our kitchen someday, but the reality is that most of us will not. If you binged a season of the Great British Bake Off and then bought a bunch of baking supplies… only to lose interest… then it might be time to let them go.

You can do it.

Any professional declutterer will tell you that many people clutter their kitchens with baking sheets, cookie tins, cake-decorating tools, and various other “hobby cooking” appliances and tools that they're never going to use.

Be honest with yourself – if you're never gonna spend a Sunday afternoon baking brownies, then ditch the baking tins and free up space for items you love and use regularly.

5. How many coffee mugs does one person need?

Most people have 1 or 2 favorite cups that they drink coffee/tea from on a regular basis. Nonetheless, most people's kitchen cabinets are filled with cups and things that they literally never use.

It's not uncommon to receive a novelty mug as a gift from someone, for example. But over time, you can end up with so many cups in your way that they become a problem.

Reduce your mug count!

Keep enough for your family and a few spares for when friends visit.

6. Does this spark joy?

As famous declutterer Marie Kondo always says: “does this item spark joy?”

In other words, you need to look at your chosen kitchen appliance and ask yourself “do I love this thing or not?”

Obviously you need to keep things that have practical uses, but if you have items that offer you no practical use AND you don't love them – it's time for the trash.

7. Does this item make my life easier?

Even if you don't love something, it might make your life easier.

You may be annoyed by your counter space being limited due to small appliances like espresso machines and electric kettles, but if you use these items regularly and you find them convenient, you need to keep them.

On the other hand, if you're putting up with kitchen clutter that serves no real purpose, then get rid of it and make more space in your home for items that you love.

8. Would I buy this appliance again today?

This is one of the best ideas for how to frame things as you declutter kitchen cabinets.

For everything you pull out of that kitchen cupboard, whether it's a mixing bowl, weighing scales, baking tray, or anything else… ask yourself “Would I buy this again today?”

But really do it.

Honestly think to yourself “If I saw this thing in a store right now, would I buy it?”

If the answer is no, it's a sign to get rid of that clutter. Wanting to buy something again suggests that you get some use of it, you love it, or both.

9. Does this item work properly?

Are you keeping around small appliances and kitchen tools that don't even work properly?

If you've got a French Press that leaks, a Microwave that's slow, or a Knife Set that's super blunt… why are you doing that to yourself?

You deserve better.

Get rid of kitchen clutter that doesn't work properly or isn't fit for purpose. Make space for replacement stuff or send the things off for repair so they can return and take up space for the right reasons.

10. Could these pots and pans be multitasking?

No matter how much bigger or the perfect kitchen cabinets you have, they will never be enough if you keep hoarding things in them. Pots and pans are some of the biggest things that take up a ton of space in your cabinets, no matter what size house you have to work with.

However, sometimes we have a bunch of pots and pans for different reasons when they could actually be multitasking all along.

For example, an egg-poaching pan can often be used as a regular saucepan if you take away the top parts that are used to house the eggs.

Think about the food you cook and the pots and pans required to make it – can any of them be used for multiple different purposes?

The answer is probably yes.

11. Why do I keep these food items that I never eat?

Have a look in your pantry or the kitchen cabinet where you keep long-life non-perishable foods. Chances are that this cabinet is filled to the brim with food that you're never going to eat.

If you and your family won't eat it, then get rid of it.

While you shouldn't throw away everything and it's always good to have spare food supplies, be honest with yourself. Has that ramen packet been staring at you for months on end? Are there cans of peaches that you have no intention of eating?

Throw away food you'll never eat and see what a difference it makes to your kitchen cabinets.

12. Do I actually use anything in this junk drawer?

No matter the house, all kitchens have a junk drawer somewhere. You know the one – it's filled with miscellaneous clutter that you don't know where else to put.

Common items in this kitchen drawer include:

  • Old batteries
  • Cables
  • Old phone chargers
  • Small tools
  • Zip ties
  • Tealight Candles
  • Junk mail

If you can free up space in this drawer, you'll make room for the stuff you actually love and use on a regular basis. Chances are that you don't need everything in that junk drawer and whatever is left over could find a new home elsewhere in your property.

Kitchen Declutter Checklist – 10 Items To Throw Away

When they declutter kitchen cabinets and get rid of old things, some people just need a checklist telling them “throw this away”.

If you're the kind of homeowner who needs a direct list of items to throw away, then here's your kitchen declutter list:

Unwanted Pantry Items

If you've got food in that pantry that you have no intention of eating, get rid of it and make space for things you would prefer to keep.

Many people are guilty of seeing the same pack of rice or the same can of soup at the back of their pantry for YEARS without getting rid of them.

In my experience, you're probably not going to ever eat that stuff.

Old Cookbooks

When it comes to kitchen organization ideas, throwing out old cookbooks is a no-brainer.

If you've got old cookbooks that you don't use cluttering up your drawers, it's time to throw them away. To be honest, you can probably do away with cookbooks in general – consider going fully digital and getting yourself a kitchen iPad to view recipes on.

Cookbooks are too bulky if you've got limited space to work with.

Ratty Dish Towels

Dish towels, kitchen towels, flour sack towels, whatever you want to call them… these thin towels can be handy for mopping up everyday spills in the kitchen.

However, kitchen towels can quickly get battered and bruised, looking quite ratty and disheveled as time goes on.

Invest in new kitchen towels or get rid of some if you have lots that you don't use.

Old Wooden Spoons

Old wooden spoons should be the first thing to go for any kitchen decluttering project.

It's common for households to have 3 or 4 wooden spoons that they don't need when 2 is usually more than enough. Old wooden spoons can be burned, rough, splintery, and just generally not nice to use.

Throw this clutter away and just keep the nicest spoons!

Mismatched Food Containers

Tupperware and fancy food container products seem like a good idea at the time, but they often become mismatched and disorganized over time, with missing lids and missing accessories common.

If you've got a bunch of Tupperware that isn't matching up, it might be time to take them all out, see which ones match up, and then throw the rest away. Decluttering your kitchen cabinets of these unnecessary containers will transform the look of your cabinets entirely!

Cleaning Products

Kitchen cabinets in the home tend to be filled with cleaning supplies that we've collected over the years, from bleach to antibacterial spray and drain degreaser.

While some of these cleaning products are handy, many of them will be seldom used and a lot of them will be past their use-by date, making them potentially dangerous to use when cleaning the kitchen counter, cabinets, floors, etc.

Get all the cleaning products out, check if they're expired, and assess whether you actually use them or not.

Unnecessary cleaning supplies

Extra Pairs Of Oven Gloves

For some reason, a lot of us have multiple pairs of oven gloves and hot mitts that we don't use.

In most cases, you only need one pair of oven gloves for your home. Think about it – how often are there 2 people in your kitchen, both of whom need to take hot trays out of the oven at the same time?

There's no way that ever happens.

Unused Kitchen Gadgets

From egg crackers to banana slicers, there are so many kitchen gadgets that you probably never use in your home.

If you've got an apple corer or a crepe maker cluttering up your cabinet, it's time to say goodbye to kitchen clutter that you never use.

Novelty Mugs

You often end up with novelty mugs as presents from friends and family… but do you actually use them?

While you should keep anything sentimental, you can probably get rid of that souvenir cup from Disneyland that you've not used since 2004.

You'll thank yourself later.

If you can't get rid of it, at least put it in the attic or someplace where it's not in the way of everyday kitchen activities.


A lot of homeowners keep medicines and painkillers in their kitchen cabinets and drawers, especially if it's spare medicine and pills that they don't use too often.

Be sure to keep an eye on these pills to make sure that they're still in date (medicines expire!) and to see whether you still need them for your current health circumstances.

If 5-year-old painkillers are creating clutter in your cabinets, it's probably time for some organization.

medicine rack
Image credit: Kitchen Infinity Photo

The Bottom Line

Maintaining a kitchen is difficult for many people, but hopefully these tips have shown you that you can declutter your kitchen and end up with a room you love that has plenty of cabinet storage  and counter space for the stuff you actually use.

Whether you're doing a little spring cleaning or turning your kitchen into a pretty Pinterest board, we hope you find the steps and tips you need to declutter your kitchen and begin living a happier, more minimalist lifestyle.

Good luck!

Dino Paccino

Dino Paccino

Dino is a lifelong writer and home improvement specialist. He enjoys bringing cutting-edge information on home renovation and remodeling to Kitchen Infinity.

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