Those Deep Cabinet Shelves

I should expect it at this point, when I go into another house, to see more badly designed cabinets. Somehow, I am still shocked at these “spacious” cabinets that are barely functional. How can anyone think these are useful? Or functional? Then what do you do when you are stuck with them? I wish there were better answers, though here are some ideas.

There are many shapes and varieties of these weirdly designed cabinets. I’m not sure if there is one that I dislike more than another. What I am talking about today is specifically those deep shelves.

Those deep shelves boggle my mind, how can that back area be functional? Then in many kitchens, there is a half shelf above in the back! I think I get the idea of it, but it’s typically the lower shelves and then even more inconvenient. Here is a picture of my own kitchen, with this exact set-up. It functions, though is not great – as you can see from the stacks in front as well as some precarious balancing (that remarkably does not fall!). For us it works because the things in that back half, both on the shelf and below it, are things we rarely use. Therefore, if it’s an option, put things used less frequently behind those things you do use.

There are companies that allow those shelves to pull out. I worked with one woman whose lower kitchen cabinets had those for the upper shelf. She had not been pulling them out. This ended up adding to the disorder, and after rearranging she agreed to practice pulling them out. The last time we talked about it, it was working well. Yet this is something we don’t always consider, pulling out a sliding shelf is more work. Not necessarily a ton of work, but it is a bit of a shift, our behavior has to change to accommodate this new feature. If you do not uses the feature, it can add to the mess.

Back to the idea of putting less used items in the back, can work in a linen closet or other such deep shelving, though sometimes with more difficulty. I have another picture from my own home, where some of the shelves are deeper than is truly useful. Some of the shelves you cannot see are being redone. One of the things we’ve done is to stack things two deep – on the left are the towels and washcloths. We work from the front, and when those stacks are empty, what is behind them are easily accessible. This is also a place where less used items live farther back.

Another way to work with deep shelving is to use containers. Here we used them to help with two issues, the high shelving as well as the deep. There are two containers; each has a grouping of items, typically used together. She can grab the lip of one and pull it down, use the items, in this case cleaning supplies, and when she’s done, put the container back up. On a different shelf, we used containers behind, they were used infrequently, but were used together, so she could clear a path for the container to come out, use it, and return it, with minimal chaos. This works best if the frequently used items in front are larger, so when you need to access the containers in back there are less items to move.

You might have noticed that much of coping with less than ideal shelving focuses on storing less used items farther back. The real dilemma occurs when there is so little space that those back areas are important for frequent use. Some people use the idea of staggered tools, so the items in back are higher, and this can work, though I think of all the wasted space under those gadgets. As is so often the case, much depends on your own personal setup and preferences.

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