Ask Unclutterer: Too much storage space

Reader Marci submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

I am a fanatic unclutterer. Our kitchen is very organized. But we actually have too much storage space (tons and tons of drawers and cabinets). What should I do with these empty drawers?

My first instinct is to tell you to leave them empty. Think of them as Drawers of Possibility. At some point in the future you may take up a new cooking hobby or decide to use them for things not cooking related at all — and you’ll have the room to grow.

Have you wanted to learn to can your own vegetables? If you have, now you have the space to store the equipment. Have you wanted to learn to make amazing cakes like Duff on Ace of Cakes? Now you have space to store your supplies.

You could use them for paper files or get a puppy and store dog food in them. The possibilities are endless, and you will know what to use them for when those opportunities arise. Enjoy them as simply Drawers of Possibility in the present.

By the way, I am really envious of your situation. My two kitchen drawers are not cutting it right now. Also, check out the comments where readers will give you even more ideas for your storage space.

Thank you, Marci, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

32 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Too much storage space”

  1. posted by Dave P on

    I don’t believe it — want to see a photo!

  2. posted by Michele on

    Well, we did talk about Preparedness Month on this blog recently. Maybe Marci could use the open space to build up her emergency supplies?

  3. posted by L. on

    I am embarrassed to admit that I also have two empty drawers in my new kitchen.

  4. posted by Ana on

    I lived in a cramped apartment with a tiny kitchen, but we still have too much cupboard space too. We just don’t have a lot of kitchen equipment. We cook every day, but we use the same basic pots and pans, and don’t have a ton of dishes. Our little kitchen crams a lot of cupboards in, but many of them are inconvenient to get to, and whatever goes in there rarely gets used. We store our tools and home repair stuff in one cupboard, and still have several empty shelves.

    One thing someone with a lot of space might consider is helping out someone else who doesn’t have a lot. Like maybe there is some family heirloom china that only gets used once a year at Thanksgiving, or tamale making equipment that only gets used at Christmas. The person with extra room can store it for the family and bringing it out on those occasions that need it shouldn’t be much hassle.

    This isn’t to say that the person with room has to hold onto other people’s clutter, but there are a lot of kitchen things that are really really useful on those special occasions, but in the way the rest of the year. If you have extra room, why not help out a less kitchen-blessed friend or relative.

  5. posted by Lisa Zaslow on

    Wow – what a problem! Not one that many of us in Manhattan have. Kitchen drawers and cabinets are such prime real estate, I’d hate for them to go unused.

    Some ideas:

    Is there a category of stuff or food that you can sub-divide so you can be uber-organized with the extra space and have something that you use often be really convenient – band-aids? your favorite snacks? vitamins? pens? favorite recipes? take-out menus?

    You could use it as a spot for mementos and inspiration – things/quotes/photos that are meaningful for you but you don’t want to display. Open the drawer or cabinet for a mental pick-me-up.

    You have an abundance of kitchen space – anything else you’d like to have an abundance of? Use an extra drawer as a 3-D vision board – put photos and small figurines in it that represent things/experiences you’d like to have more of. Let the Law of Attraction work its magic.

    Since you have the space, you can save money by buying items in bulk when they are on sale. Use the free space to store the extras.

    Rent it out!

  6. posted by Martin on

    Ya know, this might be a vast, untapped market. Micro storage! Just think, you really *could* rent it out. Small storage space–everything contained so there’s no clutter, and make like 10 bucks a month on unused space. It’s brilliance!

  7. posted by Thomasina on

    I’m a big believer in empty space! I always try to keep at least one drawer or shelf or cabinet empty in any space or piece of furniture. I’m always surprised by the strong reactions some people have. They can get really angry!

    But it feels like common sense to me and makes me feel better knowing there’s room to grow if I need it. After all, if I need a book shelf and I pack it out right away, what am I going to do with the new books I buy? o_0

    I really don’t understand the driving need some people have with filling a space just because it’s there! 😀

  8. posted by Anita on

    The options I see:
    1. Leave ’em empty. You uncluttered/organized your kitchen to have less stuff; why do you feel the need to fill up the space that’s left?
    2. Things you could store in your kitchen, if they aren’t there already: table linens, cleaning supplies, tool kit(s), emergency/first aid kit, or anything that doesn’t have a good enough home in the rest of your house and wouldn’t risk being damaged by heat/moisture.
    3. Remodel your kitchen with fewer drawers and cabinets, if all else fails and the presence of empty storage space bothers you that much.

    Interesting question though. If uncluttering is meant to be such a stress-reliever, then why are we stressed out by the fact of having too much storage space and not enough stuff to store?

  9. posted by Sylvia on

    I would love to have this problem, I think this space is especially useful for once a year items as another poster mentioned. Right now my tamale pot lives in my closet *sigh*, but it is a necessity at Christmas.
    How about kitchen linens, if you have a linen closet perhaps move the kitchen or dining room related items into your empty space to free up room elsewhere. They would be more easily accessible too!
    Or if the space is large enough you could use it to store small appliances that might otherwise sit on your counter top.

  10. posted by Celeste on

    I vote to make it a storage space for paper goods such as toilet paper and paper towels. It’s easier to take advantage of a good buy in bulk if you have a dedicated storage space…and it’s priceless not to ever run out of toilet paper. Besides, you will always use up what you have and if the space is ever needed for something else, you’ve still got it.

    My only other suggestion is to store small kitchen appliances in it, so they don’t collect dust when not in use and the counters are easier to wipe down. The space always seems so much bigger with appliances garaged.

  11. posted by Vicki K on

    If you choose to keep the space open AND you live with someone who likes to fill every available space, I suggest you find an empty box to put there as a “Reserved” spot for a future use.

    I have some garage shelves that I know I will need at some point but if they were sitting bare, my dear husband would just Stick Stuff there. So I have a few boxes that say “My Stuff” on the outside that reside on the shelves so that it is ready when I need it.

  12. posted by chacha1 on

    We live in a large 1950s apartment with tons of kitchen storage. I use some of the cabinet space to store artwork that’s been cycled off the walls, some to store bulk beverages for parties, and some for books!

  13. posted by Ash on

    If you’re an oenophile, build a wine rack into one of the cupboards. Or create a mini bar!

  14. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    Yes: Drawers of Possibility! I have a few of those, and it’s such an awesome feeling after years of living with very little kitchen space and a love of cooking.

    I have a big kitchen with a lot of drawers and cabinets. We use them for the usual kitchen things, but here are a few maybe not-so-traditional uses:


    – Fix-it stuff that gets regular use: hammer, screwdrivers, twine, duct tape, etc.

    – Takeout menus and appliance manuals.

    – Batteries, extra pens, chargers for things we don’t constantly need, etc.

    – Shallow serving pieces I don’t want to stack in a cabinet.

    – Costco-sized box contents emptied into the drawer, rather than finding a place for the humungo box: instant oatmeal packets, granola bars, trash bags.

    – Kitchen towels, placemats, napkins, tablecloths.


    – First aid basics and medicines/vitamins.

    – The bar (minus the wine, which has its own rack in the dining room), at least until we get a cabinet in the dining room that will work for that.

  15. posted by Sky on

    Now that’s a problem I would like to have. I say, don’t limit yourself to storing only kitchen things. Depending on the size of your space, anything could go there. I’m working on getting everything out of my attic and storing it in closets and under beds.

    Think outside the box!

  16. posted by Claire on

    If I had the extra kitchen drawer “problem” I would spread out what is in my other drawers. Maybe dedicate a drawer near to the stove to just mixing spoons or spatulas. That way you can just open and grab while cooking without fighting off the potato masher and whisk.
    Or, you could fill one drawer with cheap kitchen towels and use them instead of paper towels. Economical in the long run and environmentally conscious.

  17. posted by Claire on

    Thought of this one after……
    Over the years I have ruined several pieces of clothing while cooking. I think I own an apron. I don’t have space to store it anywhere convenient to where I cook though. If I had an extra drawer I would 1) hunt down a apron I could tolerate wearing ~ something cute, funny, modern or maybe retro ~ and 2) stuff it in an empty kitchen drawer. If it was convenient (and somehow fashionable!) I would be a lot more inclined to take it out and use it while cooking and probably save myself a few outfits in the future.

  18. posted by marie on

    I agree with everybody. Use it for stuff that isn’t necessarily kitchen ware. You could keep cookbooks there, magazines, food storage, cutting boards. So many possibilities. And if everything in your home already has a home, then don’t worry about it, and leave them empty.

  19. posted by Brandon Green on

    Sublet them.

  20. posted by empty on

    We have twice lived in a place where the kitchen had no upper cabinets, and loved it. It makes the kitchen feel open and the counters easier to work on. So, assuming I had lots of empty space in my current kitchen, I would remove all of the upper cabinets. Then I’d either hang some art on the open wall (framed so it could be cleaned–kitchens get dirty) or if I were really ambitious, add a couple of windows and improve the light.

  21. posted by Rosey on

    I’ve got the same problem, but in my bedroom closet. The thing is a mini-walk-in with bars on one side and some shelves on the other. There’s two empty shelves right now that I have no idea what to do with. I already have all my clothes, shoes, and accessories in the closet; the only non-clothes items in there are some sleeping bags and two duffel bags. I don’t keep a spare set of sheets.

  22. posted by brokensaint on

    Why is this a problem? Keep them empty.

  23. posted by An Ivy-League Hopeful on

    Oh wow.

    I’d want the problem of plenty of storage space almost as much as I want to go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford.

  24. posted by [email protected] Frugal Girl on

    I’m with broken saint…I see no problem here!

  25. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    This isn’t a problem unless there’s stuff around your house that you’d rather have hidden in a drawer, or closets that house unrelated items (Like bags of dog food in the linen closet!)

    Drawers can be used in unconventional ways if you “think outside the box.” (Pun intended). We use one kitchen drawer instead of a family bulletin board. It contains things like invitations, baseball game tickets, event schedules from schools or groups we belong to, the weekly household schedule (carpools, garbage day, cleaning service day, etc.), a household chore reminder and family chore chart. All of them could easily get strewn about the house, and “missing” when you need them, but the whole family knows to look in the drawer.

    We use another drawer to keep loose photos until there’s time to organize them.

    Still, if you feel a need to fill every nook and cranny, I’ve got a solution: acquire a family of five, two cats and a dog. Speaking from experience.

  26. posted by Matthew Elm on

    Why use them at all. Sometimes having a surplus of free space allows for the mind to be clearer and calmer. Just think also that the less you have the easier it is to move if you choose.

  27. posted by Soochi on

    I solved the ruining my clothes while cooking problem by dedicating a long tee shirt to food prep, and I cook at lot. All of my grease spots and strange stains stay on this shirt. I slip it on over my clothes and just take it off when finished. Just make sure you don’t have sleeves too long or loose that can catch in pot handles.

  28. posted by Monica Ricci on

    I love empty drawers! To me, they are a visual reminder that not every space needs filling. They represent that empty space is perfectly fine. :o)

  29. posted by Marie on

    This is a problem? If only.

  30. posted by Katrina d on

    You could go through your home and identify any bookshelves, cupboards, storage boxes etc that you don’t need cluttering your floorspace and move the contents into the kitchen. Then get rid of the unwanted shelving.

    How about a games cupboard?

    Dedicate a cupboard to each season and put the seasonal items in there. eg all the Summer items together.

    The only things I wouldn’t store in the kitchen are delicate items such as old photos, and anything poisonous (like shampoo, bug spray, etc) that could be confused with food.

  31. posted by Keith on

    Root veggies: potatoes, onions, etc. Bulk foods? Look up hoosier cabinet on the net. These kitchen cabinets were used for holding kitchen impliments as well as bulk foods.

  32. posted by Keith on

    Another one: many hobbies are best done in the kitchen. For where water is needed, like wine and beer making. Kitchen is easy to clean up: great for arts and crafts.

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