I don’t know about you, but the idea of having someone examine every cabinet, cupboard, drawer, bench space and shelf in my kitchen is almost as intimidating as having my body measurements taken on live TV. When the lovely people at Open Haus presented me with a Howards Storage World makeover challenge, I originally found it as daunting, as it was exciting.

But I’ve listened to one too many Tony Robbins audiotapes not to know that I can turn fear into power.

And so that’s what I did!

Now to give you a bit of background insight, I gave up my spacious Inner-West three level terrace last year to move Inner-City into this pet friendly teeny weeny double storey terrace. Zen and I were faced with new circumstances last year when my dog (a large German Shepherd X) had to move in with us; for those of you out there who are renting, you’ll know how tough it is to find a place in the Inner-West or Inner-City that is pet friendly!

Downsizing is one of the most painful tasks I’ve ever had to experience.

When we decided to apply for this house, we acknowledged all the compromises we’d have to make. I was moving my home-office out anyway, which meant we longer needed all that space, but the bedroom was one third of the size of what I was used to (I had to really condense my wardrobe!), we no longer had a spare room, we’d have to give up entertaining, and I’d have to put up with a shitty 80’s style oven. We had already spent several weeks inspecting other houses that were in even worst conditions (sometimes, smaller!!), hence in desperation, we accepted that this was the best we could find at that time. It did afterall, satisfy my criteria of location, having a gas cooktop and a decent size courtyard with nearby dog parks.

So as a busy professional couple, we tried to unpack in a few days to minimize down-time. And since then, I’ve kept telling myself that because this was a temporary solution (until we buy, or move to a larger space once our lease is up), it was OK that my kitchen wasn’t set up perfectly. We eat out so often anyway…

But then Howards Storage World sent their organisation expert, Cathy, to my place for a personal consultation and she made me realise that there was plenty of small things I could do that would completely makeover and organise my space.

This turned out to be such a fantastic opportunity, I can’t thank them enough! Even though our lease is nearly up, it’s great to know that I no longer have to settle with my daily frustrations in the kitchen while we are here, and the best thing is that everything I’ve bought or applied, is transferrable for when I move!

I think it’s like riding a bike… Once you learn how it’s done, you never forget. I’ll be sharing these tips and tricks with you so keep reading!

Kitchen makeover - before and after shot of the kitchen bench space

Terraces are usually built with clever hidden storage spaces all over the house. In our previous place, we hid things beneath the staircase and scattered many other non-essentials in various concealed areas. With this new place, shelves are built all the way up to the ceiling so I found that despite the kitchen being a third of the size, I actually had lots of space to work with.

The main problem was reaching those top shelves. I used to have to take two buckets in from the courtyard to create a make-shift ladder! A step ladder was one of Cathy’s first suggestions. She of course also suggested that we use the space on top of the shelves to store appliances or things less used. You’ll see that I’ve done exactly that, in the above before/after shots!

Another critical frustration I had, was how little bench space I had! Again, see the photo above.

Funnily enough, when I had to explain these issues to Cathy, it felt like I had excuse after excuse for why things were placed where they were. I’ve always been an extremely organised person so this came to me as a surprise. (Tip: Always get a fresh set of eyes on any issue!)

For you to truly understand the extent of my issues excuses, you really have to see them:

Kitchen makeover - under sink space

Stuff that was too tall to fit elsewhere, was thrown into the space beneath the sink because those shelves had the greatest height allowance. Cathy classified this as an A-grade space which meant it was easily accessible so only things that I needed to use frequently really should have been placed here.

The same theory applied to the microwave, which we could actually live without.

Kitchen makeover - valuable bench space taken up by microwave

I had the same excuse for all the tall stuff that was spread out across another bench top!

Kitchen makeover - bench space not thought out

I grew up in a house where the rice cooker had a permanent spot in the kitchen, so I didn’t think twice when we placed ours on the bench top. However, upon further calculation, I discovered that I only cooked rice maybe once or twice a fortnight so it definitely didn’t deserve to hog up all that precious bench space!

Kitchen makeover - under utilised cupboards

The top shelf in my pantry was basically empty because I couldn’t reach it!

Meanwhile, the awkward corner cabinet which doesn’t open completely because of the ill-placed oven, was used as a junk storage area. Cringe!

Kitchen makeover - the junk cupboard

As a kitchen gadget hoarder, I had the most chaotic drawers… It was organised mess in my eyes but Zen never had a clue where anything was!

Kitchen makeover - chaotic drawers

After weeks of reviewing my situation and sorting out all the various components, the day finally came to visit a Howards Storage World store!

Two hours later, I left, equipped with the tools that would change my daily life!

Kitchen makeover - shopping spree at Howards Storage World

Not sure where to start? Well, don’t try to do it all at once!

The tip to starting I received from Cathy were to:

  1. Stop, and assess what the problem is before going any further
    Ask yourself, what is it that annoys you about a particular space? Whether it’s lack of storage, cluttered pantry or an inefficient system, this is your opportunity to stop and indentify what could be better organised.
  2. Sort everything into groups and prioritise the different areas
    Pull everything out, group similar items, discard unwanted or unused items and finally, prioritise. Then you’ll be able to put things away in the appropriate place.
  3. Solve your problem by using the best HSW products for each job
    The catalogue is full of ideas or bring your drawers or photos of your problems in-store for assistance!

She also passed on invaluable advice, like how bulk-grouping similar items into three zones on each shelf will make things feel more orderly.

To give you some inspiration, I thought I’d share my most favourite changes!

The ‘under the sink’ space was the easiest to start because during the consultation, Cathy had already changed the layout of the top shelf! By simply lifting all the chopping boards and storing them vertically, it instantly created it’s own zone. Now the chopping boards are a bliss to access!

Kitchen makeover - organize things in sets of three

I also tidied up the bottom shelf by using these amazing Wide Separators ($9.95) which makes the most of deep shelves and feature high sides and sensible handles. Plus it’s clear plastic so you can see what’s inside. I bulk-grouped all these tall items into Oils & Vinegars, Asian Sauces and Miscellaneous Oils.

The same baskets were used in the pantry to store things like baking stuff, which allowed me to group everything from cocoa power to dry yeast. Now every time I need to bake, I just pull out the entire basket!

Kitchen makeover - bulk food storage, wide seperators makes the most of deep shelves

The pantry was probably the largest task of all… but I really had momentum going once this was sorted and organised.

By using the same strategy of grouping ‘like’ items, I discovered that I could create zones for:

  • Mediterranean
  • Japanese
  • Chinese & South-East Asian
  • Herbs & Spices
  • Baking
  • Dried Noodles, Pastas & Rice Paper
  • Cans & Packet Stuff
  • Baking Stuff
  • Things For Frying
  • Coffee Beans

And the top shelf (a little empty in the photo because I was low on supplies) was reserved for spare kitchen supplies such as napkins and paper towels.

You’ll notice I also borrowed my sister’s label machine and bought these gorgeous gold on black labels. My pantry is now so organised, a complete stranger could walk in and start cooking from it without any hesitation!

Kitchen makeover -pantry storage ideas

These Aamina Easy Access Storer ($14.95 – also available in large, $19.95) containers are perfect for the pantry because they have flexible airtight lids, are clear, stackable and feature a large handle which makes it safer and easier to access! I had a moth problem in my old pantry so these will definitely come handy!

I also adore the Xox Pop Containers (ranges from $19.95 – $49.95) which offer an airtight seal with the touch of a button!

Kitchen makeover -packets organiser

There are some really innovative storage options (such as racks, expanding shelves, turntables and stadium shelves) for cans which help increase visibility and make accessibility much more simple, but Cathy pointed out that I didn’t have many cans so I simply stacked them up behind this nifty Linus Packet Organiser ($29.95)! This packet organiser is easy to pull out which means the cans are easily accessible, and because it keeps the packets upright, I’m able to quickly see what I have on hand.

Kitchen makeover - baskets

Moving onto the next cabinet, I used four Marie Baskets ($4.95, or $6.95 for large) to seperate my teas, chocolates and junk food supply. They’re cheap and effective!

Kitchen makeover -modular drawer organisers

Now, with the cutlery drawer… We had to work with rather unique dimensions so I actually brought the drawer with me into Howards Storage World and custom configured each drawer to my own needs. There were several styles available including one made from bamboo and one with a grip base, but I went with the Linus Modular Organisers (from $5.95) as they were clear which meant it would definitely go with whatever look my new kitchen would one day be. Yep, I’m thinking ahead!

Our cutlery used to explode out of the standard tray but now these deeper containers hold a lot more and we’re able to make use of the entire drawer space.

For all the other drawers, I used larger, wider containers to custom configure a layout that would fit 3 different zones. In the photo below, we have miscellaneous things, sharps (peelers, graters and scissors) and tongs. I discovered I had almost 10 tongs!?!

Kitchen makeover -modular drawer organisers to group like items

Continuing with the theme of modular solutions, check out my new wine rack!

It definitely made the most of that odd space I had between the fridge and the staircase!

The Cellarstack modular system (15 bottles, $42.95 or $109 for 35 bottles and $159 for 55 bottles) are flat pack modules which can be joined as your needs grow. I love that they could be configured to any arrangement!

Kitchen makeover -modular wine rack to fit into odd spaces

Because this is such a small kitchen, I also followed Cathy’s advice to get as much off the bench tops as possible. This Everloc magnetic rail ($29.95) is the coolest thing you’ve seen yet! The Everloc suction cup is removable, transferrable and requires no screws to install! It’s some pretty impressive technology! I used the magnetic rail to get my frequently used knives off the bench.

Kitchen makeover -suction cup magnetic rails are removable and strong and requires no drilling, the sink caddy is perfect for the tidy sink

Although, it’d be a tough choice between which I love more, if I had to choose between the Everloc magnetic rail and this cute sink top caddy ($12.95)! It holds just the right amount of things and has a well designed driptray and grip base!

By the way, here’s the ladder I ended up getting – it’s the Snazzee 3 step ladder ($69.95) which folds up very slimly and slides right in between the fridge and my ‘appliances’ trolley!

Kitchen makeover -ultra slim step ladder folds up neatly

So the ‘appliances’ trolley used to hold our wines and other random things, but it is much more useful now holding the mini-oven and microwave!

What you see beside it, are double stacked Tallis 21.7L Bins ($21.95 each). We go through a lot of fresh fruit and veg in this household as we’re juice maniacs so this is great for storing our rapid turnover of fresh produce. We keep our rice in the bottom one.

But I’m not done yet! In the below photo, you’ll notice how handy the Wire Corner Plate Stacker ($13.95) is! Now I can easily reach any plate I like without having to take the top ones out first. It used to be such a nuisance!

Kitchen makeover - corner plate stacker to makes all plates easily accessible

Furthermore, I used the Chrome 7 Plate Stand ($13.95) as a baking tray stand and turned the corner cabinet beside the oven into my baking wares shelf!

Kitchen makeover - baking tray holder

The last product I wanted to show you, are these Over the cabinet towel bars (from $26.95) which are a fancier and neater way to hang tea towels!

Kitchen makeover -over the door tea towel holder

Once these makeover changes were implemented, I was able to organise the remaining cabinets more thoughtfully!

Naturally, some cabinets went untouched because they were perfect as is (such as my cookwares, tea cups, mugs, glass cups, wine glasses, etc), so I’ll just show you the ones that were revolutionised!

Kitchen makeover - grade items by frequency of use and store accordingly

Above: on the bottom shelf are my semi-frequently used items; my mini food processor/blender and accessories and rice cooker. On top of it is my pasta machine and my collection of slicers and graters, and on top of that is the never-been-used blender and some vases.

Below: neatly arranged plastics!

Kitchen makeover - another example of grouping items by frequency of use

My very clean bench…

Kitchen makeover -my new clean kitchen bench top

The new hot beverages station!

Kitchen makeover -my new hot beverages station

More neatness…

Kitchen makeover -my new free kitchen benchspace

My makeover was completed over four weeks and cost $1000 which included a selection of premium Oxo airtight pop containers and various kitchen gadgets like this super fab Joseph Joseph Quicksnap Ice Tray.

Ever since the makeover completion, I’ve found myself spending heaps more time in the kitchen. Sometimes, I’ll just open cabinet doors just to gaze at how neat and tidy everything is. It’s a wonderful feeling 🙂

Win Gift Vouchers For Your Own Kitchen Makeover

I’m so delighted I’m able to extend this makeover opportunity
to three lucky readers! Thanks to Open Haus and Howards Storage World, I have $500 worth of gift vouchers up
for grabs!

Howards Storage World giveaway competition

The Prizes

The winner of the major prize will win a $300 Howards Storage World gift voucher! And two runner-ups will each win a $100 Howards Storage World gift voucher!

The Competition

This makeover has taught me that little things can go a long way. To enter the competition, leave a comment on this post in 25 words or less, select one of the products I’ve used in my makeover and tell me how it would change your life.

Terms & Conditions: Competition closes 21/3/2012 at 11:59pm
AEST. Winners will be judged on originality, creativity and entertainment value.
Winners will be announced on this page on 22/3/2012 and will be notified via
email. Competition is open to Australian residents only. Competition entry is strictly 25 words or less only, if in doubt, do a word count in Microsoft Word. My decision on the competition winners is final.

*** UPDATE 22/03/12: THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED.

Congratulations to Michelle V.


This makeover was made possible thanks to Open Haus and Howards Storage World.

  • A tidy kitchen makes a happy cook! Being the clean freak that I am, the sink caddy in particular caught my attention!

  • “Over the cabinet towel bars” have already changed my life – look great but also important in a rental where permanent fixtures are out.

  • I reckon those WIDE SEPARATORS were definitely useful! Labelling them according to their use and purpose in the kitchen was a smart way of categorizing them! They’re gonna be so much easier to access rather than sorting through the spice cabinet one by one!

  • Ve

    Wire Corner Plate Stacker is what I’d love to have. No more annoying heavy lifting of small plates to get to the big one! Yay!

  • looks good! bro would love the wine rack! his storage is looking a little messy =/ i love the knife rail!

  • WOW. Well done. I have a tiny original kitchen as well from the 60s which hasn’t very limited bench space. There are so many things that would help but I’d love one of those sink top caddy to help drain the sponge and hold the cleaning brushes.

  • Caroline

    OMG, my kitchen drawers look exactly like your ‘chaotic’ drawers. This Linus Modular Organisers would make me more organized when cooking.

  • The chrome plate stand would make dealing with stacks of cutting boards & baking trays easier & quieter for midnight snack attack cravings.

  • My choice would be the Linus Packet Organiser since I have bags of dried spices and herbs scattered everywhere.

  • Ha! My cutlery drawer looks like your before pic. The modular organiser would definitely help organise the many types/shapes of cultery we have.

  • Hey Jennifer, I really enjoyed this post, I probably have borderline OCD… I could really do with 1 of those Plate Stackers. Everytime I try to cook when my baby is sleeping, I’m bound to wake him by making the most shrill plate clanging sound when pulling 1 out.. So now I have to keep my plates in the dishwasher for easier retrieval but it means we can’t use it anymore…

  • Fiona

    I too have organised my pantry with everything by size. I have the big stuff shelf (tall bottles of soy, oil, wine) the fat stuff shelf (tall and wide wide containers of flour etc), tiny stuff shelf (herbs and chocolate chips for baking… How this fills up a whole shelf is beyond me) and the junk food shelf (milo, various sweet sauces, chocolates, and …. Pasta. But that’s not junk!). I think what’d sort this out is a whole heap of Aamina Easy Access Storers so I could group things by food type rather than sizes.

  • Cathy Player

    Hi Jennifer
    Your kitchen make over is nothing short of amazing. EVERYTHING we talked about you have done! You took your time to “figure it out” which is important. So your reorganising project became a journey,not just a destination. Congratulations again and I say to all your readers “Dont delay”!! Take action this very day and say no to clutter and poor organisation. Make your space a wonderful place to be in. If anyone wants a copy of the Howards Catalogue, pop into a store, request a copy online or simply view online at hsw.com.au
    All the best, Cathy Player
    Howards Organisation Expert

  • Being 5ft 1 in my kitchen designed for basketballers isn’t easy, a step ladder would be ideal…then I can maximise space above cupboards 

  • Nerida

    Everloc magnetic rail – Like you, I have little bench space. My utensils should be hanging here and not in a canister occupying precious bench space.

  • “Aamina Easy Access Storer” Everytime I get any type of baking item out of the cupboard, its on my toes and always right at the back. It could literally fall on my head and kill me. Handles, thank Howars for handles hey

  • Carmen

    Sink top caddy – to help stop my sponges from running away and returning to become jealous of new sponges that have replace them

  • Lauren Keats

    We have a tiny kitchen and I think the Everloc magnetic rail would be bitchin 😉 It would save me time sharpening knives, and give me more time for mixing.

  • Modular wine rack is going to help so much. I have bottles of alcohol and wine. It will be great to stack them up so that I can have more space for other pantry stuff! That will be a start for sure.

  • Jane

    Tallis bins would save me as we love to juice as well.

  • Great job! The chrome plate stand would be a complete saviour for my baking trays!

  • Donna

    Being short and dumpy, not being able to reach the top makes me grumpy. A Snazzee 3 Step Ladder would be the thing for me.

  • angevb

    Linus Modular Organisers would absolutely transform my disorganised maze of a utensils drawer.

  • Raelene Graham

    Cleaning my pantry,I’m so bloody tired!
    Of throwing out food because the dates have expired!
    Weevils in flour!,potatoes gone rotten
    Stuffed in the back,where they’ve been forgotten!
    Food grouped together and organized -so I can see!
    Need stylish baskets just like MARIE!

  • Megan Howard

    I’ve just finished reinventing my kitchen after a great day of shopping at Howard’s Storage World.The staff were so friendly and helpful, it made buying what I needed so much easier. The only thing I still need to get is the microwave stand, to make better use of my limited bench space.

  • Michelle Vamvas

    With three kids aged 7 and under
    My kitchen’s disasterous, is it any wonder?
    Therefore, its really a no-brainer
    Life-changing things = Oxo Containers! 🙂

  • Michelle O’Reilly

    Took the wheels off the Kitchen Rack and put on my bench over the microwave for the coffee maker. Six Marie Baskets is next purchase.

  • I’m dreaming of all the amazing things I could get if I won vouchers but I would start with the Linus Packet Organiser!

  • Christine

    Love the idea of labelling & bulk-grouping using Separators! Mapping out culinary zones.
    Aamina Storers – perfect for my curryleaves, shittakes, gingers, currently I’m going by aromas.

  • Bri

    The Linus Packet Organiser would be simple yet revolutionary (for me!). My packets are flat in icecream containers and the bottom ones always get overlooked!

  • Tina

    The WIDE SEPARATORS!! My cupboards are filled with sauces, oils and condiments to the brim, it’s so hard to pick out what I actually need!

  • Isla

    Those Wide Separators will come in handy – I am ashamed to say I currently use cut-up cardboard box to store the Asian sauces! Oopsie!

  • This is fab! Lucky girl- love the kitchen update. Those modular drawer things look awesome- think I need to get some because my drawers are a mess. Also- love those wine racks- perfecto use of space. I actually love organisation!!

  • oh my GOSH i love this post. your pre-cleaned up kitchen looks exactly like mine. thank you so much for this post ! you’ve inspired me to go clean and organise the heck out of my kitchen. I’m obsessed with keeping everything organised but everything manages to go to seed after a few days 🙁
    i absolutely love the look of the wide separators – finally something to save me from drowning in packets of spices and a plethora of asian sauces and oil.. salvation!!

  • Gabi

    First of all, WOW! You’ve done an amazing job in your kitchen, and have definitely given me the motivation to organise mine (which looks very similar to your ‘before’ image)
    My 25 WOL entry:
    My pantry’s a jungle
    Cluttered, a mess;
    With MARIE BASKETS
    There’d be easy access;
    Expired products gone,
    And I’d no longer stress!

  • Jess

    E-liminate unwanted punctures
    V-ia Howards
    E-xtraordinary magnetic
    R-ail, also
    L-eaving me free
    O-f
    C-uts.
    R-ealiable
    A-ffordable &
    I-nnovative, making
    L-ife easier!

  • Jess

    Not sure why its coming up as 22nd March, its still 21st March 11.20pm Sydney time :/

  • Jen

    Must be my daylight savings time setting! Don’t worry, your entry is accepted 🙂

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