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case study: kitchen downsizing 101

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

Once a month I will bring you a case study to give you a peek into my world of organization. Names and identifying features have been changed to protect client’s privacy.

Sarah and her husband needed to downsize from a 5-bedroom house in Westchester to a 2-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side. The occasion was a joyous one – their three daughters live in the city and they were moving in an effort to be closer to the grandchildren. Sarah was overwhelmed and what’s worse is that she felt guilty for being overwhelmed because she was moving for positive reasons. This is not uncommon; good stress is still stress.

Like many of my clients, Sarah is incredibly organized; what she was struggling with was the scale of what needed to be done. And for Sarah, her biggest anxiety point was her kitchen. A lifelong hostess, Sarah had often hosted dinners of 30+ people with ease. I was tasked with a tall order: help Sarah downsize to fit in her new, smaller kitchen while still allowing her to feel like herself. I’m going to tell you how we prioritized, purged and unpacked and how you can do the same in your own kitchen.

Before we began organizing, Sarah and I had a conversation about what her ideal new kitchen would look/ function like. What I needed to know from Sarah was what was most important to her so that it could be prioritized. I was upfront with her about the fact that when living in a New York City apartment, concessions often need to be made. For example, Sarah owned six sets of dishes: kosher milk, kosher meat, formal milk, formal meat, Passover milk and Passover meat. We agreed that she would keep only one set for milk and one set for meat and that the Passover dishes would be stored in the apartment’s basement storage unit.

My priority for Sarah was to donate/ recycle/ throw away as much as possible before the move. When you’re moving, the goal should be to move in with only what you need and it is much easier to do the letting go before you unpack. The more you get rid of, the less you have to move and unpack! This process took us 3 hours, which is less than the 6 hours a kitchen usually takes because we didn’t reorganize anything, we just purged.


Once we had unpacked the kitchen there were inevitably pieces that didn’t fit. Working together we played around and discussed how Sarah’s new kitchen would be used. And even though we had purged before the move, we put aside another round of donations. I took into account Sarah’s back issues and put the dishes directly above the dishwasher. Because Sarah makes challah every week, we made sure that her bread-maker was easily accessible.

Suggestions were made for space-saving products that would help Sarah have a well-oiled (pun intended) kitchen. One suggestion was this Joseph Joseph cutting board, which lives on the counter, making it easily accessible.

Downsizing was not an easy process for Sarah and as is always the case, the discussions about her kitchen were about more than her kitchen. She was closing a chapter on her old life and making room for a new, different life. My goal was to help Sarah downsize to fit in her new, smaller kitchen while still allowing her to feel like herself. Goal achieved.

For more tips and tricks for organizing your kitchen check out: How To Optimize Your Kitchen Space. Stay tuned for next month’s case study about one client’s struggle to separate work from home in a small space.

Try my tips and tricks above and let me know how it goes! You can email me at and follow me on Instagram @toritheorganizer.


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