The One Kitchen Tweak That Changed My Attitude

a simple kitchen

I’m not a kitchen design expert.

But I am an expert at using kitchens and knowing if they work well for our family. That might be worth more.

I had three main objects with our modern farmhouse kitchen redesign. And they were all a result of living in 13 different homes with kitchens that functioned poorly with a few good ideas mixed in. My main goals for our kitchen were to have a lot of counter surface, natural light, and places to sit. I knew a sink and stove and storage would naturally get worked in so I didn’t focus on those.

But I did plan for one morning altering decision:

how to organize a kitchen

I planned for the dishwasher to be right next door to the storage for the stuff that we wash in the dishwasher.

how to organize your kitchen

For some reason unloading the dishwasher is a dreaded chore in our house.

It’s a pain to dread something that needs to be done daily.

When I dread something that needs to be done daily, it’s a red flag. It’s an opportunity to evaluate if I’m helping or hurting the situation just by something simple that I can change.

how to organize your kitchen

For years it never occurred to me that I have an intentional say in where stuff goes in my kitchen and that I didn’t have to be at the mercy of whoever helped me unpack my kitchen and their decisions of where my glasses and knives should go or the fact that on TV all the dishes and glasses are always high up in the upper cabinets or that we’ve always had our plates ‘there’ so why would I change it?

What worked well last year might not work for me this year. That’s not bad, that’s life.

organize your kitchen

You get to evaluate the best placement of your stuff and if a change needs to be made, you can change it right now! It’s okay if your family is confused for a few days while they get used to the change. They’ll thank you later for a mindful kitchen.

organize your kitchen

Now, everything but pots and pans can be unloaded from the dishwasher without even taking a step. Dishwasher unloading takes about 90 seconds and even the 16-year-old thanked me for planning out the kitchen to make unloading the dishwasher super fast and non-dread-inducing.

organize your kitchen

I had a moment where I wondered if the silverware should be closer to the table since that’s where we use it. But then I figured it would be best to cater to the chore I dread the most. Which isn’t grabbing the forks to put on the table, but rather putting away the forks from the dishwasher.

organize your kitchen

how to organize your kitchen

The point of this post isn’t that I believe that everyone should have their dishes next to their dishwasher. Oh no. I really don’t care where your dishes are. But I do care that your kitchen works best for you. Two methods that work for me in my home:

Cater to the chore you dread the most.

Question everything & expect to re-evaluate for the current best solution.

Is there something you hate or dread about your kitchen? Accommodate for that one thing and make a change to help your attitude with that, even if it means it might not make as much sense for something else. If you can lower your dread, you raise your happy.

Here are a few other ideas I’ve implemented in a hard working, mom of three boys kitchen :: simple solutions to everyday issues.

summer caldrea



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  1. Great post!!!! When we decided on open shelving for all our plates/glasses/bowls I had no idea the added benefit of the quickness of putting them away after being in the dishwasher! It really is wonderful to have that chore seem not so bad.

    • Open shelves!! LOVE that, that’s in our phase two of the kitchen…one day…

    • Catherine says:

      Yes!! Samething happened in my kitchen! I took the doors off the cabinets with dishes and glasses and BAM! the kids stopped whining (not completely) about unloading the dishwasher!!

  2. I love your statement about “lower the dread”. Love it! We moved our laundry room upstairs to where the bedrooms are. No more carrying dirty laundry down and clean laundry up. No more piles where visitors can see. Changed my life! Sometime it’s the little things that have the greatest impact.

  3. When we moved into this house last summer, I did the same thing. 95% of what comes out of the dishwasher goes in the immediately adjacent cabinets/drawers. It makes unloading super quick!

  4. This is great! My dishwasher is right by where my glasses and silverware go. One thing I started doing years ago (when my boys were shorter) was to start putting my dishes and glasses in the bottom cabinets. That way I could teach them how to unload the dishwasher and they could actually reach to put things away. I also put the cereal and bowls together where they could reach them. Now that they’re older I’ve rearranged again.

  5. I love your tips! You are the reason my children’s socks are in the mud bench drawer WITH their shoes (genius!) and why their cups/bowls/plates are in a kitchen drawer THEY can reach! :)

    • You know, I stopped the sock basket this year when we moved because we don’t have any storage or shelves in our mud room yet and my boys STILL complain about it, I really need to bring that back!

      • That would mean that you are “Bringing sockies back”! (That is the only line of that song that I have ever heard, lest you think I’m a JT junkie!)

    • Brilliant! I need to do this!

  6. Awesome!
    Question: from your 13 (14?) kitchens, would you say that it matters whether or not your feet can go under the cabinet in front of the sink? You know, so that one can stand closer to the sink when doing dishes/washing produce etc.?
    I see the bottoms of the shelves go all the way down, and in my kitchen there is quite a gap between the floor and where the cabinet ends, and so I’m wondering if I might want to keep that feature in the new kitchen, whenever that will happen.

    • Hmmm, I can’t answer your question–we actually do have a toe kick–the bottom of our cabs don’t go straight to the floor (even though on the sides it might look like they do thanks to our fake waterfall effect) Anyone else have an opinion on this? I’ve seen the look in other homes and think it’s really pretty but I don’t know about actually using them if you are used to snuggling up close next to your sink.

      Is that what you are asking? Feeling slow today!

      • Personally, I have never thought much about the toe kick space, but think it would be weird if the cabinets went flush to the floor. But, your question reminded me – I saw an article the other day on Houzz, I believe, about using the toe kick space for sliding drawers. Genius in my opinion, sheer genius. Obviously it would be hard to retrofit, so it’s best to do this with new cabinets, but I love this idea….

      • Yes, that is exactly what I meant (didn’t know it had a name, toe kick, neat), thank you! Thanks to this post, definitely adding toe kick as a must for the new kitchen. I do snuggle very close to the sink :). Thank you.

        • Also, I just noticed yesterday that my counter actually sticks out a little bit, and now looking at your sink I see that it sticks out too, so you get the toe kick effect anyway: the sink makes that toe kick space up there, “hip kick space”? :)))

    • Jennifer says:

      Keep the toe kick! We have one, thankfully but the mistake I made in our kitchen remodel was our kitchen sink faucet…it doesn’t go nearly far enough into the sink so I’m in an awkward lean when I’m doing anything at the sink. It’s given my Chiropractor plenty to adjust but as soon as I have the money, I’ll be replacing it!

    • We just put in new cabinets that are a “furniture look,” with feet and cut-outs for the toe kick. The new opening is lower than my old conventional cabinets, which led to a painful surprise the first time I washed dishes wearing my go-to platform sandals. OUCH! Just make sure you measure.

  7. I don’t know if we consciously set up our kitchen this way, but we can put away everything from our dishwasher except for pots, pans, and specialty bakeware without taking a step! That makes us look pretty smart even if it was completely accidental.

  8. Amen! I was fortunate enough to be able to completely remodel our kitchen and one of my top priorities was to make sure to put the dishwasher right next to the drawers and cabinets that hold 80% of our kitchenware.

    The other priority was to have a counter prep area right next to the stove so I can chop and transfer food to the cooking area with as little chance for dropping stuff on the floor as possible.

  9. Hannah Reid says:

    This is brilliant!

  10. I’m not sure if you posted it or not…sorry if you did. But we are redoing our kitchen this summer. I’m already stealing your white countertops…but now i want to steal your cabinets and dishwasher…oh where oh where did you get them. We live in Fayetteville NC… so If I have to travel to your side I will!

  11. This is SO smart (and pretty). The vertically-challenged part of me is drooling over those deep, non-step-ladder-requiring drawers!! :)

  12. Joy Manoleros says:

    I’m so heading to the kitchen right now to look at it differently. I HATE this kitchen – galley, no room to move and no room for storage…. and no wiggle room to expand it without a gazillion dollars. I didn’t realize how nice my other kitchens were until we moved here and I totally took them for granted.

  13. Brilliant!! Drawers for the win! I had deep wide drawers in the one kitchen I got to design (10 moves) and I sorely miss them. I’m thinking I may to a dish move in the very near future. My 5 yo needs to start earning his keep around here. ;)

  14. So smart! This is great advice! I would love to have our trash compactor closer to our sink. That is my dream kitchen convenience. Holding dripping wet whatever in my hand from the sink to the trash is sort of disgusting at times!

    But as part of my purging I decided that I would only limit all of my kitchen and serving ware to our kitchen and dining room. If they did not fit into one of two locations in my house, I had too much and things needed to be stored in their proper used room.

  15. I dread sweeping up after every snack and meal that the four and two year old have. So I have the four year old sweep instead. Sure, she misses a lot of stuff, but she can sweep up all the big pieces, which is a huge help, and at this age she is just super excited to help!

  16. This is a great idea…and with a little one I’ve been thinking about putting the stuff he uses lower so he can reach it. This might be dumb question…but do your glasses and dishes crash into each other in a drawer that isn’t packed every time you open it?

  17. JoAnn in NJ says:

    I have my dishwasher right next to my sink, silverware drawer and dishes. I still dreaded it until I timed myself unloading. I can thoughtfully unload it within 4 minutes. It’s always full and we are a family of 3. I figure I can’t hate something I can do in 4 minutes. When I can design my dream kitchen, I will move the sink/dishwasher away from the main cooking area because everyone is always trying to maneuver around me when I’m cooking (also the kiddo wants to help too).

    By the way, I made the Tortellini Soup and it was love at first bite!
    Thanks for all you do for us!

    • YES. Timing yourself at something you hate is SUCH a good idea. I used to dread taking a shower (yes I am 8 years old) because I had to start my hair from scratch all over again. Then I timed myself and it only took 30 minutes from dry pre-shower hair to dry showered fixed hair and I felt like an idiot.

      Oh my gosh this might have to be a post. thanks for the prompt!!!

  18. Our coffee maker is out of the regular traffic pattern in our kitchen, far from the dishes. In a bold move, I relocated all the mugs to the cabinet next to the coffee maker! It kind of bugs me that all the dishes aren’t in one cabinet, but I love having all my coffee stuff right there in one spot.

    • I did that in our new kitchen and it does feel weird not having the glasses together, but it makes sense to have the mugs where you’ll use them!

  19. i did the same thing in our new, little house. It is all within reach except for a few random things. My 5 year old is really helpful now, because she can throw in the drawer beside the dishwasher!

  20. Our home is the same way – dish washer is the dread. It used to be laundry but then we got a new machine and it’s a nicer dream now.

    Dishwasher unloading is usually my #1 dread – I’ve started asking the hubby to do it and I will load it and hand wash items that won’t fit. Seems to work out well. Thankfully we have one wall of cabinets, for all the items that go in there but I’d really love if they were right next door to the washer. I had never thought of putting glasses and mugs in a drawer that’s so smart (and less height for me to drop them and break them as I tend to do, a lot.).

  21. Jennifer says:

    Where did you get your sink faucet? I’m on the proverbial hunt…


  22. I LOVE this idea! I hate unloading the dishwasher for the same reasons. If we ever design a kitchen I will do something similar.

  23. Ooh, this is so smart! We are getting ready to move dishes into our half finished kitchen and I see I need to rethink things. Our table is pretty far away from the prep area already, so I’m planning to get a cart to easily transfer things over there. It makes a lot of sense to put things close to the dishwasher, but I never thought about it that way. We are going to have 2 dishwashers side by side and I’m SOOOOO excited! Our family is big enough that one meal is more than will fit in one. I’m on the craigslist hunt to find one that matches our old one, until we can afford to replace them both.

  24. I really like perfectly timed posts! I’ve spent the last two days wandering my house, evaluating and planning, as we’re at one of those points in life where things need to be moved around again. Although we have a very large kitchen, it’s really like two rooms – one serving as sewing/craft/playroom, and the other the kitchen. However, our dinnerware has mostly been stored in the sewing area, since that’s where it landed when we first moved in -and since we actually do not have a dishwasher, whoever is drying is in for a good workout, lol! I have a cupboard that would be unconventional in the kitchen (which I like) that would allow it all to be stored close to the sink, and this post has given me the push I apparently needed to go ahead and try it! Hey, if it doesn’t work, we move it again – nothing new in this house!!

  25. OH MY GOSH. why CAN’T I put my dishes in my pantry that is right across from my dishwasher and put the FOOD close to the oven????

    This will happen in my house tonight.


    We’re doing a massive kitchen reno in about 6 weeks {if the ground ever thaws}, and we’ve been working on a kitchen layout for at least a year {well I have}. I hadn’t even thought of this.

    How long is your island?

  27. Your kitchen is BEAUTIFUL. Fabulous job with the design.

  28. Christina says:

    Genius : )

  29. Oh my goodness! My kitchen is in desperate need of reorganization, and I love your ideas. I, too, have the unloading dread – consciously I know that I spend more time procrastinating on the task than it actually takes to do it, and yet…..I put it off. Now if only I had room for those fabulous deep drawers next to my dishwasher!
    Two questions: any suggestions for the horrid, miserable tupperware? I keep as little as possible, but even my small collection is a never-ending avalanche of mismatched containers and lids. And – what camera do you use? Your photos are always lovely. I’m looking to upgrade from a Canon Rebel.

  30. Thanks for this! I am trying to plan our island in the kitchen and it has the sink/dishwasher in it. This helps finalized the plan I had where the dishwasher is close to the cupboards. :)
    I keep my dishes and cups in low cupboards for the same reason. :) I’d much rather have them low where the kids can help out than up high where I have to do it all. :)

  31. Iowamom says:

    I love it! We remodeled last year and a huge farmhouse sink was first on my list. I hated how our sink would pile up when we’d have extended family over (which is often). No room in a tiny sink for a big stock pot, baking sheet, etc. Now with my lovely huge sink there’s more than enough room and it brings me such joy! Who knew?! My dishwasher was also placed like yours…our feet never move when emptying. It’s the little things sometimes! :)

  32. Tara G. says:

    The huge drawers…I had them in Eastern Europe and have missed them more than anything!T

  33. I love your kitchen. like love. loooooove.
    one day we’ll have a farmhouse with a kitchen that serves our whole family. one day.

    i need desperately to have a “work station” in my kitchen. it’s not that i think it’ll look great, it’s just that we are always in our kitchen, and it seems to be the place where all of us need to put our things..papers, calendars, books, etc… i can’t seem to make it work. it’s driving me bonkers.

    i was just working on it when i stopped to look on pinterest for ideas and found this post of yours.
    back at it. just had to stop long enough to complain. :)

  34. I used this idea too. Also open shelves and no food in the kitchen cabinets. The only food stuffs are oils, vinegars, and such. I put the refrigerator in the mudroom and use an adjacent closet converted to a pantry. It’s such a waste of money to buy cabinets for boxes and cans of food. Think of the food you can buy! Your kitchen is really coming along and I love the view you have . jd

  35. Why didn’t I think of this before? This is brilliant! So smart. I love your cabinets and I love the placement. Thanks for sharing.

  36. My daughter and son-in-law are having their Ikea kitchen components delivered tomorrow and the one thing we were iffy about when planning/ordering from there was the short-sided drawers…in your photo I see what appears to be a (tension?) bar of some sort that ‘raises’ the side of your mug drawer. Is that something Ikea offers (we sure didn’t see it if so) or did you come up with a solution on your own? Would love insight into correcting this issue…thanks!

  37. Nester, you constantly find new ways to change my life! The cabinet near dishwasher idea is genius…PURE GENIUS!!! You know you’re my shero right? Anyway, that along with the old post you linked in are brilliant. I have a little boy and another one the way who are going to reap the benefits of your simple act of sharing. Seriously, the idea of catering to the chore we dread can be applied to every area of our lives. I despise laundry and grocery shopping so now I’ll look for a way to cater to them. Thanks a bunch :)

  38. I’m right in the midst of reorganizing my lower kitchen cabinets to make certain things more accessible. And not just shifting a few things around, but taking everything out, lowering/raising shelves, and really thinking about where things go. Mostly it’s just to keep me busy until I go into labor, but I don’t doubt that I’ll appreciate the results! I have our plates/bowls right by the dishwasher, but the glasses/cups/mugs aren’t. Hmm. Maybe I’ll have to reorganize the upper cabinets as well… because I too dread emptying the dishwasher…

  39. P.S. Your kitchen (what I can see of it) is looking REALLY beautiful! Such great progress! :)

  40. Brilliant. I had never thought of moving the dishes next to the dishwasher but it makes total sense

  41. This is how my kitchen is arranged too – the most used dishes stored right by the dishwasher. But the BEST alternative to unloading the dishwasher? Hubby took it upon himself that it is his job! He does it in the morning while he cooks his breakfast and I am still gloriously asleep. Somehow it has become our morning ritual – he unloads the dishwasher and I unload the dish drainer when I awake (am I the only one who handwashes pots and pans and most plastics?) BTW he also makes our morning smoothies and mine is waiting for me in the fridge when I awake. He’s a keeper!

  42. Michele says:

    I know this wasn’t your intent when writing this post, but I now feel STUPID. I have three drawers next to my dishwasher. I don’t have to change they layout of my kitchen or anything to make this chore easier. I can’t believe I never thought of it. BRILLIANT!

  43. Anytime I “cater to the chore I dread the most” I can come up with a solution–life is too short for dread.

    I used to get so ticked when we would sit down for dinner and I had forgotten a serving spoon or we were short a fork, I moved that silverware drawer and now it’s within reach of the table. FREEING! This is second only to the day I moved the glasses to a low cabinet that the kids can reach. What would I do without you?!

  44. We did a kitchen remodel due to a flood in 2009. The best thing we ever did was put in two dishwashers; one on each side of the sink. It is great for big family get togethers (which we have a ton of and I usually host). It also gives us the ability to use one of the dishwashers as a cabinet… essentially leaving the clean dishes in the dishwasher and grabbing from there instead of putting them away. Then there is always an open one for the dirty dishes throughout the day.
    I am also tall. So, we opted to have our counters slightly higher than usual. This has made a huge difference. Of course this solution came from my chiropractor husband — always thinking about posture. It has made baking and cooking more comfortable.
    Thanks for your post! Your kitchen is looking fabulous.

  45. When we designed our kitchen, I wanted to have ALL huge, deep drawers under the counters instead of cabinet doors. So we have no cabinet doors underneath. We have an appliance garage, a pantry and some big upper cabinets that will all hold the big things. But those big, deep drawers are amazing. My kids can get their own sippy cups. I can take out pots and pants without causing a crash of the other pots and pans. Maybe it’s a simple change, or not so simple, but it has made such a huge different to us.

  46. I’ve recently been rearranging my kitchen and streamlining it. I am the person who uses it the most so I have decided I should be the one to organize it. Generally, the things that make me say “aaaaaaaaggggh” in frustration are the next things I tackle. Its only been a few weeks but I’ve been much happier with fewer screams coming from the kitchen when I’m cooking/cleaning

  47. You are a genius! Bookmarking this as we start gathering ideas for our own kitchen remodel!! xoxo

  48. MelissaMarie says:

    What a wonderfully practical suggestion. Cater your design to the job you dislike, I can’t wait to start rethinking my “problem areas” Sometimes simple ideas are really the best ideas. Thanks Nester! :)

  49. Susanne says:

    I have ALWAYS regretted not putting in two dishwashers…one to use the clean dishes out of and one to put the dirty dishes in! When the dirty is full just turn it on and switch dishwashers! How lazy is that???

  50. I could not agree with you more. I hate the dishwasher, in fact I hate it so much I never use it.

    Beautiful kitchen!

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