Day 9: Organize Tall and Skinny Kitchen Cabinets

We have tall and skinny cabinets on either side of our oven. When we had the cabinets installed, the installers asked me how I wanted the shelves positioned. I told them to space them evenly because I had no idea what I would store inside. Eventually, I used the one on the right to store aluminum foil, cling wrap, and gallon size plastic bags.

About week ago, as I was getting some foil to wrap up leftovers, I took a look at the cabinets and realized I had a lot of dead space causing unnecessary mess. It took me brainstorming different gizmos at The Container Store, Target, and other home improvement stores to realize the obvious: I could lower the shelves and store short things on the bottom and tall things on top. You won’t believe the contraptions and whirly-gigs I imagined for those cabinets prior to this revelation.

This is what I had in the right cabinet. At some point in the last seven years, I decided to store more than foil and cling wrap. I tossed the Target bags (?), but kept the mandoline, silpats, and 397 bamboo skewers.

You can see where I’m going here. I thought this job would be straight forward, but the shelves are attached with these plastic alligator-like clips you have to press to release. I had to press both clips on one side and then thwack the shelf up and loose on that same side. That’s fine (not really, it sucked), but these cabinets are deep and I have the arm span of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Getting the shelves out involved tippy-toes on a step ladder, a butter knife, and the equivalent of giving a cabinet the Heimlich.

It was worth the effort, thank goodness.

I ended up devoting most of the cabinet to food storage. That big stack of paper bags has been in our laundry room since last year. I bought a small case of them at Sam’s Club for $6 and use them as snack bags for soccer and baseball games, school parties, etc. The top shelf holds my mandoline and bamboo skewers. They’re sharp, somewhat dangerous, and I feel better with them out of the way. I stole a shelf from the left cabinet to make that happen.

The left cabinet became a catch-all since I never established its purpose. It held appliance manuals and instructions (I knew where to put those!),  random DIY supplies (I knew where to put them, too!), and a few miscellaneous items, like kitchen mitts. I tossed the mitts in a drawer I will later organize.

Now that I reduced the cabinet to two shelves, I was able to store my small platters on the bottom shelf (I use those often) and my muffin pans and spice grinder on the top shelf (I use those rarely).

I so happy with the way it turned out.

New here? For the next 31 days I’m living according to the famous William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” You can learn more about the project here, and catch sneak peeks of my projects by following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (I’m @pancakesfries).

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. says

    I’m jealous of all that great cupboard space. I’m going to have to do something this month to make the most of the few kitchen cupboards we do have. I think, once again, it’s going to come down to throwing out a bunch of junk that I have ‘stored’ down there to make room for things could earn their keep.

    • says

      If your kitchen is around the same size as mine, that’s exactly what you’ll have to do. I have a small galley kitchen. You can’t fit a table in it (not even close) and I think the entire room is 10×14 or 9×14–including the cabinets. Last October I donated or tossed A LOT of stuff out of my kitchen, and that’s when my kitchen finally started to look and work well.

  2. Jeanine says

    This looks great! I am really enjoying this series, so thank you for writing it. I was wondering if you have another tall skinny cabinet somewhere that you store cookie sheets, etc. on their sides similar to the way you stored your platters. I would love to have those cabinets on either side of my oven, because I could definitely fill both of them up with cutting boards, cookie sheets, jelly roll pans, etc!

    • says

      Yes, I do! I have a thin cabinet devoted to cookie sheets and cutting boards right next to the sink. It’s one of the benefits to having a postage stamp kitchen–lots of skinny cabinets.

    • says

      Yeah, I was thrilled when I figured out they were adjustable! If they weren’t, I was pricing out plastic shelf inserts you see at The Container store. They’re made to reduce dead space in cabinets. I was also pricing out how much it would cost for my husband to make shelves out of mdf with iron-on veneered fronts to match the other shelves. There’s plenty of ways to go. :)

  3. Karen F says

    I’ve been away for a few days, and I’ve enjoyed catching up on all your posts! You’ve been busy! Your idea for these cabinets was so smart – I’m glad the shelves were adjustable!

  4. Susan G says

    It looks great! And the best part? Finding things like appliance manuals and already having a place for them!

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