DIY: Lower Cabinet Drawers

When we moved recently, I left a kitchen full of drawers instead of cabinets under my entire countertop. They were a joy to use! That isn’t reasonable to install in our new kitchen, but there is an alternative.

We installed sliding drawer inserts into the existing cabinets. Four were from Aldi and fit into the bigger cabinet. Four were from Closetmaid and fit into the more narrow cabinets. Now pans and bowls can stack nicely inside the cabinet. When I need anything, I can pull out the wire basket and see what is available. It’s fairly easy to pull something from the right stack, and it can be replaced just as easily.

In order to do that, my husband had to make some minor modifications to the cabinets. That took not quite 2 hours, and the install of the drawers was 2 or 10 minutes each, so this was done in one evening.

First, the half shelf needed to be removed (for the two-tier drawers) or converted to a full shelf (for the single drawers).

  • Taking out the shelf was pretty easy — just remove the screws and then the boards.
  • To make a full shelf, he cut shelf board (using some of what we had removed from the other cabinets) to make side supports (arrow in photo below). These had to be placed outside the space needed for the drawer, so we did a dry run before they were attached. Because of the dry run, he did need to move the hinge on the door to allow the drawer to slide by (circled in photo).

  • Then he cut a shelf to fit in the front half of the cabinet, next to the half shelf in the back. This was placed on top of the side boards, and he put a couple of screws down into the side boards on each end.

Now each cabinet had a flat surface for all the drawers to attach as designed.

Then, we opened up the boxes and installed the drawers as instructed.

  • The Aldi drawers were simple. They came in two pieces. The frame had four screws to attach to the floor or shelf. Once that was done, you slid the drawer in. It’s then ready to use.
  • The Closetmaid set needed a few more minutes to assemble the frame, but it was fairly simple (as long as you had the pieces right side up). It had the same attachment to the floor before it was ready too.

Using your Kitchen Cabinets

The time had come. Our kitchen cabinets were set up for one flow, but lately we have been using them differently. Time to reorganize! So a young friend and I set to work one morning. Below are the practical principles we used as we evaluated and restocked.

Kit Col 1Put things where you use them. Dishes usually make sense near the sink and/or dishwasher and table. Pots and pans will be used by the stove, so don’t walk across the kitchen if you don’t need to. If you have a stand mixer and always bake on one counter, go ahead and stock those supplies near there. Although you may get extra steps toward your daily goal criss-crossing the kitchen multiple times, it may not be the most effective or efficient way to accomplish that goal AND make dinner.

One step at a time. We followed the same process we have discussed when refreshing closets. Everything came out. Clean the cabinet. Sort. Decide where it will be best located and arranged. Put it back, one cabinet at a time. Although we could not empty the entire kitchen at once, due to limited counter space, we did empty the entire cabinet we were working with each time.

Match up sets. Pots have lids. Pans have lids. Casserole dishes have lids.  You will probably come up with some mismatched lids, where the dish broke but the lid didn’t go in the trash with it. You don’t have to keep the lids with the items as you place them back in the cabinet, but it will help you not keep lids you don’t need.

Cups need to go together with like cups. When all the cups are in one place, you may notice that you have more than you need. For instance, I ended up with 3 of the same size saucepan. Since I don’t often–make that never–use all 3 at the same time, one would be a good to donate to someone who doesn’t even have one.

Make the most of your space. Some cabinets have extra tall room. Some are more narrow. Use those to your advantage. Stack bigger things in the tall cabinets, or use stacking shelves inside the cabinet to stack smaller things taller.

Keep in mind, however, that your kitchen cabinets are usually well-used. Don’t stack or cram too much in any space. It needs to be easy to reach in and grab whatever is needed each time. Having your child start a cup landslide isn’t the quickest or best way to a glass Kit 3of water.

Also, remember that flat things can go sideways to allow you to grab one in the middle without having to re-stack and potentially make the most of room up.

Keep like items together. As you replace items back in the cabinet, take a few minutes to put all the same things together. All the sugar in one row. All the red glasses in one row, then the yellow glasses, then the plastic school memento cups. All the bowls in one section of the shelf. This helps you see at a glance what you need as soon as you open the cabinet door, rather than having to search through a broad category of cups or dishes. It is also easier to unload the dishwasher when the time comes. You already have a place for everything.Kit 2

High shelves are for rare items. The very top shelves, or the very back of the corner cabinet, are for the items you only use once or twice a year. Don’t strain yourself unnecessarily. You will be able to get them when you need them, but that leaves room for the often-used items on the easy-to-reach shelves.

Finally, remember our tips from closets:

  • Label enclosed containers, so you don’t have to wonder what is in the canisters.
  • Contain loose or sloppy (shapeless) items.
  • Repair as you go.
  • Decorate what you cannot fit in the cabinet, or needs to be even more accessible. Baskets, canisters or hanging bins on the countertop, if used in moderation, can be attractive and useful.
Kit Col 2
Before & After

So if you have the need to reorganize your kitchen at any point, keep these things in mind. I hope they are immensely helpful to you! If you have anything to add for the good of all, please comment below to expand this resource.