How I Really Organized My Kitchen Without a Single Drawer — Kitchn

When you fall in love with a new home, every challenge is merely an opportunity — a chance to swoon over clever ideas you find on Pinterest or Etsy, or a reason to load up your Amazon shopping cart in the wee hours. We humans are really good at convincing ourselves that possible drawbacks to something we really, really want are not drawbacks at all. My college psychology professors might have called this the avoidance of cognitive dissonance; I call it required creativity.

So when I walked into a potentially glorious 1890 home in a historic neighborhood of my city and found love at first sight, I managed to gloss over the shortcomings and instead focus on the (many, to be sure) charms like soaring ceilings, eight (!!!) fireplaces, and gorgeous hardwood floors. The less-than-positive attributes, well, they were but trivial matters, I told myself. Next to no closets, no modern cabinetry in the kitchen, and, I realized somewhere after that first showing and before closing, nary a kitchen drawer. (Talk of ancient plumbing and crumbling plaster we’ll save for another day.)

Where would all this sort of stuff go?

(Image credit: Cambria Bold)

What a curious thing! How did the previous family, who lived there for some 40 years, make do without a single drawer for their kitchen stuff? (They also managed without central air during all those Kentucky summers. I don’t care how thick the brick is on these old houses — that’s non-negotiable (AC was our first project). But no drawers? Where do you stuff rubber bands, chip clips, soon-to-expire coupons, that truffle slicer you’ll never use but can’t bear to give up (just in case!), the army of takeout chopsticks, and the bits and bobs any self-respecting home cook accumulates?

I was mystified. And spent hours each night while we waited for our own house to sell trolling the internet and crowdsourcing Facebook for solutions. After much deliberation I ordered a wooden utensil caddy that would look just fine in one of the two floor-to-ceiling pantries, and for our spice collection, a zinc two-tier tray to go with the zinc countertop I was dreaming about. That didn’t seem like much when I had half-a-dozen drawers overflowing in the kitchen I was leaving behind, but part of me thought that on moving day, somehow it would just sort itself out.

Surprise! It didn’t. But after a few weeks of seeing what things we used and how often, a system gradually did work itself out. A ceramic canister set (from Paris, because the parts of my kitchen not outfitted via Amazon Prime are made up of things I bring home from travels) got paired up with others to hold tongs, mixing spoons, and other tall utensils. A couple of Mason jars made the perfect home for narrow items like chopsticks and straws. I enlisted a fancy bourbon box (Booker’s, an amazing whiskey, by the way) to store items that cut (think: can opener, pizza slicer, and knife sharpener). This idea of grouping like things, I should note, was thanks to help from a good friend and organizing enthusiast who helped me get my last kitchen in order. When in doubt, she taught me that like goes with like.

There was still no logical home for things like oven mitts, cutting boards, and rolling pins, though, until I happened to visit a commissary kitchen one day for an assignment. There I saw a brilliant storage cubby with angled shelves that made it easy to grab the items inside. By this point our reclaimed wood island was underway with a local artisan (this being our big kitchen splurge), so I showed the woodworker a photo and he designed a clever little slanted shelving system to be wedged into a narrow dead space between the stove and wall. He also added shelves to the side of the island, where I put boxes, which kind of act just like drawers.

Now a year-and-a-half into living here I wonder why I ever needed drawers. With everything in sight every time I open the pantry door there’s no chance for the dreaded junk drawer to accumulate; I’m forced to deal pretty much daily with whatever ephemera makes its way to the kitchen. I’m proud to say that I do not have any random catchalls filled with rubber bands, batteries, or twist-ties.

More Smart Storage Ideas for a Drawer-Less Kitchen

What about you? Do you a lack of drawer space, too? How do you make storage work in your kitchen?

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