Our apartment has what I think has to be one of the world's smallest kitchens. It's euphemistically called a “galley” kitchen. The term refers to the small kitchen found in a ship's berth and basically just means “you are the proud owner of a tiny ass hallway-shaped kitchen”.
If you are looking for a new home, I would definitely advise taking how much you use your kitchen into consideration when making your final decision. Adapting to a small kitchen was much easier for me (a total non-cook) than it was for Kris (he loves to experiment in the kitchen). If you love to cook and entertain, a good size kitchen should be a priority.
If you're already struggling with a small kitchen, I feel your pain and I am here for you! Most of the advice I give in this post falls under one heading: Become a kitchen minimalist.
The most important piece of organizational advice I can give you is to maximize your space. Work with what you've got, but use your cabinet and counter space logically. Also, be flexible in where you put things at first. As you cook more, you'll get a better feel of where things should be. It took me a few months before I got a setup that worked really well for me.
Nesting items are your friends. Bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons, and pots can all be nested to get the largest number of items in minimal space. They make magnetic measuring cups/spoons and ones that snap together for even easier organizing!
There's no such thing as a “junk drawer”. When you're pressed for space, you can't afford to waste a drawer. We do have a “miscellaneous” drawer, but its contents are all things we use on a daily basis – pens, cords and chargers, Post-It notes, batteries, stamps, and upcoming bills – and they are all neatly arranged for easy location. The old adage “A place for everything, and everything in its place” is important in a small kitchen/small living space situation!
We literally have one cabinet for non-perishable food. Lack of storage space means we shop for the week and we only buy things we know will get eaten. The upside is a lot less wasted food, but it does mean that crafting a grocery list is serious business! There's little room for impulse buys. If you're a non-list user, this can be hard to get used to. (Just ask Kris!)
Double-duty dinnerware is a must! It's common to have both a casual and formal set of dishes (and glasses, depending on how fancy you are!), but you may not have the cabinet space for that luxury. Find one pattern that you really love that is durable and appropriate for entertaining. We purchased white porcelain square dishes that look great and are sturdy enough to survive several trips through the dishwasher. The most important thing I learned working at Crate & Barrel is the durability scale of dishes. It is, in order of highest to lowest, bone china, porcelain, stoneware, and earthenware. Porcelain is the most common choice because it's more prevalent and more cost-effective than bone china.
Go function over form! Unless you're an avid cook, skip the high-end specialized appliances and go the more practical route – only buying things that will get regular use. Save counter and wall space for functional kitchen items (canisters, small appliances, etc.) and limit yourself to one purely decorative item that you absolutely love. As a collector, I know how difficult this can be. Even though he is rarely full of cookies, George (my zombie head cookie jar) is the unofficial mascot of the house and makes me happy every time I see him, so he's definitely worth the counter space he takes up!
Outsource (When You Can)!
This kitchen cart may not look like much, but it's hands down the best purchase Kris and I have made for our home. It adds a little bit of extra counter and storage space, while still giving easy access to things like dishtowels and cookbooks. If you have the room, adding kitchen furniture can beef up your storage power.
Use your kitchen's strengths to compensate for its flaws. To make up for our very limited cabinet space, I keep my dry baking ingredients and spices on the counter, where we have a bit more space.
Racks and external shelves can also free up space. If you have the right kind of kitchen, you can install pot racks and wall units for even more storage.
Keep it Clean!
The most important things I have done to make my tiny kitchen work are routine daily cleanings. The rare occasions when I have put it off make a HUGE difference in the kitchen's functionality. Even if I can't get to anything else, I always try to clean up the kitchen.
Weeding out expired items in the fridge and cabinets regularly is a MUST.
An empty sink = a more relaxed you. Dishes are my least favorite chore, but my mini-kitchen looks even smaller when they aren't done. As you can see from the pictures, a sink full of dishes would be hard to miss! I always feel better when I don't have a dirty sink eying me from across the room.