There are many quirks about the apartment that my boyfriend and I moved into exactly one year ago. For one thing, the building is so old that the floor on one side of the living room is seven-and-a-half inches lower than it is on the other (we measured). It literally feels like you’re strolling downhill when you walk from the couch to the table. And then there’s the shower in our kitchen.
So sometimes I forget about a slightly less eccentric feature that, in any other house, might be a big deal, but for us seems pretty unremarkable compared to the fridge-adjacent shower and leaning living area. (Not to mention that we live in a city where tiny, funny apartments come with the territory.) Here’s what it is: We only have one kitchen drawer.
See? It doesn’t seem like a big deal. At least we have one! But, along with squeezing plates, bowls, pots, pans, cookie sheets, canned goods, dry goods, storage containers, and cleaning supplies into a handful of cabinets, this means we have to fit everything that would otherwise be separated into multiple drawers into one 18-by-22-inch pull-out. That includes forks, knives, spoons, spatulas, wine openers, cookie cutters, coasters, aluminum foil, parchment paper, can openers, chopsticks, and all kinds of other odds and ends.
Fortunately, over the course of a year, we’ve learned how to make it work. Come to think of it, the tips and tricks we’ve stuck to are helpful for efficient, tidy, hard-working kitchen drawers and for the kitchen as a whole, too.
So, whether you’ve got one measly drawer or a half dozen of them, here’s how to keep them orderly.
It’s the Marie Kondo approach for your kitchen drawer: Take everything out, lay it out on the counter, and assess. You do not need two can openers. Donate any duplicates or unused tools—for me, that includes an extra pair of scissors. The exception, of course, is utensils, but be sure you don’t have too many: Etiquette Scholar recommends four to eight flatware sets for a couple or small family, more for a big family or frequent entertaining (or those who don’t like doing dishes every day).
Avoid Speciality Tools
Resist the urge to buy specialized tools that only work for one purpose or at one time of year. Avocado slicers and corn on the cob butter spreaders have no place here! For me, that means avoiding holiday-themed cookie cutters—I keep three cutters in simple, year-round shapes instead. And a single tool that serves multiple purposes is always a help for small spaces: An all-in-one corkscrew/bottle opener replaces two separate tools.
Once you’ve assessed everything in your drawer, you’ll need to assign a system to the madness. Since I don’t have a drawer for cutlery and another for knives and yet another for miscellaneous tools, this means creating some separation between different categories of stuff, all within one drawer. I’ve found that low trays and open boxes are best for this. Take a look through your house and consider what can be repurposed as storage dividers: An unused cake pan holds our measuring spoons and cups, and a low wooden box holds long spatulas, spoons, and scrapers. It’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle in there, but having separate compartments for each category prevents the drawer from becoming one huge jumble.
Get into the habit of telling takeout restaurants you’re all set on the utensils front so you don’t accumulate more plastic flatware. In addition to their impact on the earth, single-use plastics are not worthy of your precious drawer space. Have a few disposable spoons and forks lying around already? Check your local recycling rules to see whether you can recycle them; the material is not always recyclable, and some towns don’t accept cutlery because it’s too small (more on that here). All the more reason to ban plastic utensils from your kitchen drawer once and for all.
Yes, there are days I have to rummage around a little, but most of the time, our tiny kitchen works efficiently, and I don’t even notice the one-drawer thing. The slanting floors, though, are another story.