Learn the five types of kitchen drawer organizers and how to use them to make your kitchen tidier than ever with this storage guide.
Kitchen drawers are one of the hardest-working storage spaces in our houses. We usually try to cram as much as we possibly can inside these limited areas, and that usually results in a hot mess of overflowing gadgets and utensils that get stuck when you try to open the drawer. If your kitchen drawers could use some order, here are the five types of organizers you should consider, as well as how and when to use each kind.
When you think of a cutlery tray, you probably think of the moulded silverware trays that hold your forks, knives, and spoons. These trays come in a variety of shapes, sizes, layouts, and materials, and some are expandable so you can stretch the side pieces to fill more space in your drawer.
Cutlery trays are great for so much more than just silverware, though. Use them to hold cooking utensils, baking tools and supplies, small gadgets, grilling accessories, party supplies, barware accessories, and serving utensils, and even tools in the junk drawer.
Plastic Cutlery Trays
Plastic cutlery trays are the most inexpensive option you can buy. The cheapest ones are usually white, black, or gray, and the more expensive ones are usually clear. They are lightweight, easy to clean, and most are dishwasher safe. Their main drawback is that they are small and have limited space. You can’t adjust the sizing, and since they’re very short, you can only fit a small set of flatware inside.
Organized-ish Approved Plastic Cutlery Trays
Wood Cutlery Trays
Wood cutlery trays are a little more expensive than plastic, but they are more versatile. Many have expandable sides which allow you to fill in small gaps on the side of the drawer, and they are thicker and sturdier, too. While they can be wiped down with a damp cloth, they can’t be put in the dishwasher and they take a bit to dry. The most common type of wooden cutlery tray is bamboo, and it looks really nice inside a wood-tone drawer. You get a custom look without the custom price tag.
Read More: How To Organize A Silverware Drawer
Organized-ish Approved Wood Cutlery Trays
For a more customized kitchen drawer, a cutlery tray may not cut it for you. (haha, get it?) Instead, you can add individual trays to the drawer to fill in as much as the space as possible based on the sizes you need. Individual trays allow you to play a game of Tetris to puzzle-piece a layout together, and you can rearrange it over and over again as your kitchen needs change.
Just like the cutlery trays, individual trays come in plastic and wooden options. They’re more expensive than a cutlery tray, though, because you’re paying for multiple pieces instead of just one. You can buy a plastic cutlery tray for $10, but plastic drawer trays to fill the exact same area may cost your $25+. You can save money by using cutlery trays as the base organizer and adding individual trays around it to fill in gaps of larger drawers.
How To Shop For Individual Drawer Trays
Most individual trays come in widths and heights of 3″ increments (3, 6, 9, 12, 15). The reason for that is this size allows you to create squares and rectangles inside the drawer for the best fit. Before shopping for individual trays, measure your drawer and round it down to the nearest multiple of 3 inches. Then you can sketch out a layout on paper so you know what to buy.
Read More: How To Measure For Drawer Organizers
Should I Buy Drawer Trays In Sets Or Individually?
Buying drawer tray sets do save you money and time because you don’t have to select each size separately. You get a good variety of tray sizes, and they all fit together to make one even square or rectangle based on the placement.
This can be a good option for a beginner, but keep in mind that sometimes the sizes you get in a set aren’t always the sizes you need. Maybe you need more smaller trays and your set only came with one or two. Or maybe the largest tray in the set doesn’t even fit in your drawer at all. Be prepared to not be able to use every piece in the set in the same drawer, but leftovers can be repurposed somewhere else in the house.
Organized-ish Approved Drawer Trays
If you aren’t a fan of adding all these trays inside your drawer, but you still need some organization, consider using dividers instead. These work like a telescoping tension rod and go straight inside your drawer. They come in wood and plastic and include a variety of heights. Some even come with slots to create extra divided areas, so you can truly customize your layout exactly how you need it to be.
The best part about drawer dividers is they can be used to create categories and sections inside a miscellaneous drawer. You can turn one space into a multi-storage area by dividing it up. This drawer above (from my old house) held different types of dishes and separated them into their own little homes. The dividers also keep the dishes from sliding around when we opened and closed the drawer, preventing loud clanks and damage.
Divider Pros & Cons
Pros for drawer dividers are the ability to utilize the whole drawer without worrying about gaps or spending lots of money on trays that may not fit well. But since dividers sit right inside your drawer, that exposes everything inside to the bottom of the drawer. If your drawers are brand new and coated with an easy-to-clean finish, that’s not a big deal. But if you have older drawers, you may want to put down a liner first.
It’s also worth noting that if something spills inside a drawer that has trays, you can just take out one tray and wash it while everything else stays in place. If a drawer has dividers, you have to empty the entire drawer—including the dividers, clean the whole base, and then reassemble it all.
Organized-ish Approved Drawer Dividers
Tiered trays are large drawer inserts that have separated tiers for lining up items in rows. The most common use for these are for spices and seasonings like the photo from my old house above, but there are a lot of other options and uses. A tiered tray can maximize drawer space without having to add in a bunch of individual trays, and they give you that “store-like” look.
You can buy tiered trays in plastic and wood materials, stationary or expandable, and moulded or adjustable. The biggest concern for using tiered trays is that they raise up the items inside by quite a bit, so these types of trays don’t work for shallow drawers. There are also some tiered trays with hinges to create different “levels” inside deep drawers, which allow you to store two or three times as many small gadgets and utensils as you would with one layer.
Organized-ish Approved Tiered Trays
You can find a ton of specialty organizers on Amazon and The Container Store to hold specific items. They’re a fun addition to an already organized kitchen and give you a custom and curated look. You can instantly make your kitchen look fancier and more high end with specialty organizers without even doing any renovations.
The downside to specialty organizers is that they’re not very versatile. This coffee pod organizer looks great in the drawer, but it only has one job—to hold coffee pods. It can’t be reused, it can’t multitask, and it takes up the whole drawer. I only recommend adding specialty organizers when your kitchen is already completely organized on a functional level and you have some extra space to play with.
Organized-ish Approved Specialty Organizers
Tour My Entire Kitchen
Want to see how I organized every single drawer in my own kitchen? Here’s the most recent kitchen tour of our home, plus some tips sprinkled in for how to organize your own. Be sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel for more organizing tutorials and ideas.