Tips for Organizing a Tiny (RV) Kitchen
Looking for ways to organize your tiny kitchen, or just curious how we've organized ours?
To be honest, our RV is still a work in progress when it comes to organization and it all comes down to trial and error. Now that we've been on the road for over a year we have a better sense of how we actually use the space, which has made it easier to organize in a more efficient way.
We recently put together a video showing a walkthrough of our RV kitchen, where Eric opens up every cabinet and drawer. You can watch it below:
Tips for Organizing a Tiny Kitchen
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While none of our storage hacks are super inventive, we hope they'll give you some inspiration or at the very least some motivation to make your own tiny kitchen more useful. If there's one thing we've learned since hitting the road, it's that the smallest change can often make a huge impact, especially in a tiny space.
Wanna know the secret to an organized kitchen? Getting rid of all the crap you don't use or love, and duplicate items you don't need. This is especially true for a tiny kitchen. Space is at a premium so if you're not using it, get rid of it and make space for something you will use.
No need to panic if you're not quite ready to let go of that avocado slicer or extra bottle opener. You don't have to throw it out or donate it right away if you're not quite ready to let go, instead you can put it inside a small box or basket and store it elsewhere. Check the box in 2 months and if you haven't missed what's inside, you'll know it's time to let it go.
Once you get rid of all the stuff you don't need you'll have a better idea of what you need to organize, and more space to actually get it done.
We love mugs and have a decent amount of them in one of our cabinets….and more inside a basket under our sofa. Ya know what? I love me some mugs, drink everything out of them, like to eat out of them, and they make me happy so I'm okay with having more mugs than we may need. #muglife
Moral of the story? If it makes you happy, keep it.
More Dishes = More DIRTY Dishes
Ya know that whole trial and error thing I mentioned earlier? When we first moved into the RV we decided to keep only 2 of everything: plates, bowls, forks, spoons, etc. We had some extras but kept them inside a basket underneath the sofa. Our main reason for keeping the extras was in case we ever had company and needed them.
The problem is whenever we had lazy days or didn't feel like doing dishes after cooking dinner (which is more often than I'd like to admit), we would take the extra dishes from underneath the sofa. Before we knew it we had at least 4 of everything. This was nice until we had a kitchen exploding with dirty dishes. Not fun.
We're now back down to just two of all the basics. We may need to wash dishes more often but it's helping us stay on top of them more, and even if we miss a day or two it's not nearly as bad as it used to be.
I've since donated some of our extra dishes and am only keeping those I really like or want to keep. Besides, we can always pick up disposable dishes if we really need them.
Trial and Error
We've also tested out various drying racks over the last year and a half. Whoda thunk something as simple as a dish drying rack could make such a difference in a tiny space?
When we first moved into the RV we had one of those collapsible dish drainers.
It was pretty cool, but I didn't like how much space it took up in the sink, so most of the time we would move it over to the counter. With counter space at a premium, this annoyed me.
Ultimately, we gave it to my mom and she loves using it in her house. You may wanna give it a go and may even discover it works awesome for you, it just wasn't right for our situation.
Once we got rid of it we switched to using dish drying mats. I actually love these mats and we still have them, but again, didn't like the space they took up on the counter. To be honest, when I do dishes I generally dry them immediately so I can put them away, but Eric leaves them out to dry. We have different systems, and that's okay but yeah I guess I just don't like seeing the clutter in the kitchen even when the dishes are clean, haha.
The other thing was getting the mats to dry completely. We would have to leave them out even after the dishes were put away or find a place to hang them so they could dry out.
That led me to buying a rollup dish drying mat and I LOVE it! It doesn't bother me when it's out, we can roll it up if we need more space, and we can easily dry our dishes or even use it as a cooling rack for food. Best of all, it's stainless steel so we don't have to worry about it getting all damp and musty. (We have this one).
We also used one of those sponge holders that go in the sink but didn't really care for it. We've had this ceramic sponge holder for almost a year now and I love how pretty and functional it is.
Again, it comes down to trial and error and just seeing what works best for you.
True confession: we've had our Instant Pot since before we moved into the RV and have only used it a handful of times. We've loved everything we made with it but just haven't used it as much as we thought. We have it back on the counter in hopes of motivating us to use it more. We'll see… If you have a favorite vegan recipe using the IP, let us know!
Under Sink Storage
You may have seen this idea of using a magazine holder to store foil, wax paper, and other various ziplock bags and I've gotta say it's worked like a charm for us. I don't know who originally came up with this idea, but it's pretty awesome.
To be honest, you can purchase cabinet organizers specifically made to hold these types of items, and they're about the same price of a magazine holder. I purchased a clear acrylic container I thought I could use for this very instance but sort of got my measurements wrong (like REALLY wrong, oops) and needless to say the organizer I thought I would be using to hold our foil, is actually holding our apple slicer, ha!
We have two simple trash cans underneath the kitchen sink, we use one for trash and the other for recycling. We kept cleaning supplies under here at one point but have since moved those items either to the bathroom linen closet, or we hang them up on a basket near the fridge.
Canisters and Baskets
If you ask me, even a disorganized kitchen will look more organized with the use of matching canisters and baskets.
I'm all about using items that are not only functional, but look good too so I try to be intentional when making purchases.
This is also because we try to keep things out on the counter we use often. If we can keep it out then we don't have to worry about finding a place to store it in the cabinets.
Matching canisters can create a cleaner look that makes an area feel more organized. Some of the clear containers we have I purchased at HomeGoods several years ago, but luckily I found some matching ones online. They're made of clear acrylic which is nice because I don't have to worry about them banging around or breaking.
And since I get asked this quite a bit, the copper canisters were a HomeGoods find, and the copper utensil holder was found on Clearance at Pier1 a couple years back.
I'm not saying you need to go out and buy all new decor, but you can slowly update items over time. And rather than go out and buy something right away or just because it's on sale, try to find items that excite you. Maybe that sounds silly and I'm not saying you need to go overboard, but by adding items you love, you'll create a space you love to be in.
We still have a few things in our kitchen we would like to eventually upgrade, but for now they're practical and get the job done.
You'll notice we keep our Ninja inside this cabinet, which we use ALL the time. If we don't end up using our Instant Pot we may have to put this bad boy back on the counter, although this is easy enough to access.
I love the clear canisters in our upper cabinets because it's easy for me to see what's inside them. I added labels (more for Eric) and have them over in the shop if you'd like to use the same ones.
Square containers will probably fit better and give you more space, but I had these round ones before we moved into the RV and really like them.
Storing Pot Lids
It's the simple things in life that make me happy. Ya know, like pot lids hanging nice and neat inside a cabinet door.
I don't know who originally thought of this idea, but it is GENIUS.
We tried keeping our lids in a drawer or vertically in one of the cabinets but no matter what we did they annoyed the crap out of me.
When I finally decided to hang them up, we had a bunch of random command hooks but no adhesive so we used industrial strength velcro to attach the hooks. To be honest, I feel even better knowing they're secure in the cabinet, especially since the lids are glass.
Magnets, Hooks, and Hidden Storage
Anywhere you can hide hooks or magnets to snag some extra real estate is a bonus and can make a huge impact on how you use the space you're in.
You may notice we have our pot holders, favorite mugs, and even a wok hanging on mug hooks.
We also have some of our most used spices on a magnetic bar behind the stove. They can get a little warm, but nothing too crazy. And the rest of our spices we keep on the fridge.
By the way, we made a paper towel holder using pipes that screwed into the bottom of the cabinets. It's out of the way and somewhat disappears into the space.
Our measuring spoons are inside one of our cabinet doors. I love that they're hidden away but easy to access. It's hard to tell from the photo but they're nesting inside one another.
There is some clanging when we open or shut the door but we've gotten used to it and don't slam the door shut. You can always add a backing, like felt, to soften the sound.
We also keep extra casserole dishes inside this cabinet, behind our French Press.
We gave away our massive coffee pot/single cup brewing system within a few months of moving into our RV. This was right after we visited my aunt in Florida who has a French Press and were blown away with how good the coffee was, how easy it was to make, and it's compact size.
Expanding Trays and Separators
When we first moved into our RV I wanted to buy an expanding silverware drawer organizer. Then we decided to just make our own organizing system.
Then a year went by.
Then another half year and we still hadn't gotten around to it.
Eventually I caved. We have other projects I'd rather spend my time on, so I spent $20 on an expanding organizer and called it a day.
Sometimes it's a good reminder that not everything has to be custom and it's crazy how something as simple as a tray that completely fills out the inside of a drawer, makes me happy every time I open it. And for $20? Yeah, definitely worth it.
Oh and at one point we kept our silverware in a flatware caddy inside the cabinet, but didn't really like it there. Again, trial and error…
We did use some of our wood to create separators for our plates and bowls, and it blows my mind how much I love opening this drawer and seeing everything in it's own little corner. We did place a small container with randomness in there, but it's randomness we use or like.
I took out the old shelf liner we had in there and just haven't put any back in, but it's definitely a good idea to have some in there. Especially if you're gonna be doing a lot of driving.
We have one of our dish mats underneath our cast iron skillet which keeps it from moving around. This is also where we store our pot for making soup and a copper mixing bowl we use often. We keep larger mixing bowls in the back corner of the kitchen cabinets since we rarely need to access them.
You can find all kinds of nesting pots and pans online, which are perfect for a tiny kitchen. While we may upgrade someday, we like what we have and it works for now.
We also store a baking sheet and our cast iron griddle inside our convection oven/microwave. Every inch counts in a tiny kitchen!
Nesting or Collapsible Items
We have a set of nesting plastic containers that are pretty awesome, and an older set of containers that are not as awesome. We'd like to upgrade these eventually, maybe to nesting, glass containers but until then they get the job done.
You can also find collapsible storage containers, mixing bowls, funnels, measuring cups, pretty much anything and they can really help you maximize a tiny kitchen. We have a collapsible colander, and it's worked out well for us so far.
A little wall space can go a long way, especially in terms of vertical storage. By adding mug hooks to reclaimed wood, and hanging a couple baskets we now have a place to store extra items. This is where we keep our sauce pan, cook books, cutting board, collapsible colander, and cleaning supplies. We've also used this area to store fruit.
We made the outside of our fridge more useful by replacing the heavy wood panels with sheet metal. This made the panels magnetic so we can store extra spices and magnetic holders. It also created a surface we can use dry erase markers on to write lists or reminders.
The inside of our fridge is nothing spectacular. It just looks like a fridge to me and some days it's pretty tidy, other days not so much.
We did add a tension rod to the top to prevent things from falling and will generally add a couple more before we hit the road. We also have a couple acrylic containers we use to keep food a bit more organized.
That's how we currently have our RV kitchen organized. It may not be perfect, but it's certainly progress. It's all about making the best use of the space you have, based on how you actually use it.
I hope this post gave you some ideas for maximizing the space in your tiny kitchen! If you have any questions or favorite organizing hacks, we'd love to hear about them in the comments below!