4 No-Cost Solutions to My Small Space Kitchen Storage Woes

We’re back with a new edition of A Renter’s Diary! Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue to follow Rebekah Hall as she and her boyfriend move from a home into a 800-square-foot apartment in Little Rock, Arkansas. From battling with the task of downsizing, to figuring out the quirks of the space, Hall will share all of the things you might forget or underestimate. Last week, Hall shared how she got over the temptation of buying new stuff for her space with a few genius money saving tips. This week she deals with small-space storage solutions on a very limited budget:

I am an apartment optimist. I see the potential in every space I enter and in every listing I swipe through on Zillow. I start thinking of the possibilities for arranging the space and what pieces could make the space more usable and efficient. My mind is swimming with floating shelves, vintage Hoosier cabinets, space-saving kitchen carts on wheels, magnetic knife racks, and lazy susans.

But when it came to space-saving solutions in my new apartment, I was stumped. For the rest of our home, we’ve been able to rely on three easy solutions to storage problems: A surprisingly large closet to store bed linens, a set of stackable plastic storage drawers I’ve had since college, and a hanging shoe rack. We’ve also been able to store some winter clothes (who knows if they’ll see the light of day here in Little Rock) and a few items we just don’t know what to do with at my parents’ house. We, of course, have that miscellaneous stray box in our closet holding several jigsaw puzzles and a tangle of extension cords that I can’t bring myself to attempt to unravel, among other things.

But the kitchen was a huge storage problem for me. It only has three bottom cabinets and not one single upper cabinet. There is one solitary usable kitchen outlet and no pantry. Our only counter space is the top of a large cabinet that measures a little over four feet long and two feet deep. Thankfully, this is somehow a more usable counter space than we had in our previous home. The counter also has a little shelving unit on the back of it, so I’m able to house some of my objects there.

Every time I enter my kitchen, my brain yells solutions at me: Get a pegboard for over the sink! Invest in open shelving! Buy that three-tier rolling cart from IKEA that everyone has! But all of these cost money—something we’re trying not to spend too much of right now. So it was time to be inventive and put to use one of the oldest tricks in the book: Shop from other places in my house (and my family’s house, too). Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Problem: Limited counter space


There is a three-tier metal shelving unit that’s served multiple uses in my family’s home. My boyfriend and I also used it in the laundry room/sunroom area of our house in Columbia. In our new kitchen, there was an empty space between our water heater and our refrigerator—and what do you know, the shelving unit fits in perfectly. It’s flush with the wall and there is still enough room to open our fridge! We’ve plopped our microwave, the small tub we’re currently using as our pantry, and the large storage bin housing all of our food containers on it. It’s not fancy, but now we can actually use our counter space for food prep.

Problem: No pantry


Our apartment is old and charming, so it came complete with an old ironing board closet that sits right above our new/old shelving unit. The narrow, shallow closet was fitted with small shelves at some point, so now it perfectly holds the spices we don’t regularly use.

Problem: Weird empty wall


Above our stove, there is a big blank wall. For the longest time, I had a difficult time figuring what to do with it—we had to be careful about what we chose because it’s directly above our gas stove (I know, we’re lucky). My boyfriend recently found a small, old metal medicine cabinet, and he brought it home to see if I could find a place for it. Four sets of Command strips later, it’s hanging on that wall. I’m hoping to find a large, inexpensive mirror to hang above our sink—next to the stove, to create the illusion of having more space. Plus, we’re tired of staring at a blank wall while we wash dishes.

Problem: No upper cabinets


Though there are no upper cabinets, there are a pair of built-ins flanking our kitchen. Though they’re glass-front (meaning I need to be mindful of what I put in them), they act as valuable storage space for our glassware, mugs, kitchen linens, and cookbooks. These built-ins helped sell me on the apartment, and I’m excited to continue filling them up with treasures and mismatched coffee mugs.

So far in our new apartment journey, I’ve been surprised by our creativity and open-mindedness when it comes to storage. This small space is winning us over very quickly, even though our kitchen sink can hold approximately three and a half dishes at a time. But I’m in love with the way our wood floors gleam in the afternoon sun, how much easier it is to pick up after ourselves, and how right this place already feels for our small, goofy family.

Check back next week when Hall reflects on her first month in the space.

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