Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How to organize a pantry {spring cleaning series}

Welcome back to this organizing, spring cleaning series! I'm continuing a bit from a previous post on kitchen organizing, under sink organization, and now into the pantry space.  If you haven't read the kick off post, "How to organize anything," you'll want to flip backward and read that {here} first. That post is key, as it highlights the practical how-to steps needed to organize any space, room or mess. It's the method I use with every organizing job I do in my home, big or small and how I work, one drawer or one cupboard at a time. 

As I jump into this space, one thing to note, is that I like to organize here, using things I have on hand.  Because food items frequently change, the method I organize or store them with often changes as well.  For example... I had two large jars that I kept snacks and cereals in, on the counter top, off and on for years.  They aren't currently being used in the kitchen, but I did need a large jar or container for a box of Costco oatmeal packets, so I transitioned the canister (without the lid) into temporary storage for that food item.  It's much less messy than the original box with flaps and things.  (Which incidentally is often helpful for making pantries looking tidy) And the best part, is that it's clear so I can see when we are beginning to run low. My organizing theory is simple... waste not, want not.  By using items around the house for a variety of uses as needed, I seldom have empty containers or messy spaces for that matter.  I'm constantly trying to make things both tidy and thought-out.  This is by no means picture-perfect, or even Pinterest worthy when it comes to fabulous pantries, but I've noticed that there isn't much "real life" pantry organization out there and I'd like to be a slightly different voice when it comes to this.  

It certainly doesn't have to match and be expensive and high end  looking, in order to work for your family.  By using containers and jars that you already have on hand, you can save time and money simply by being organized and being able to see at a glance what you need to stock up on. That's the kind of organizing that matters... 
When we moved into this home, we didn't have a pantry.  I tried using some of our kitchen cabinet space for years and it worked fairly well until the kids got older and began eating a lot more.  One day, I opened this hall entry closet, where we used to store a vacuum and the occasional guest coat... and thought, why don't I adapt this into a pantry? (The vacuum lives in our master closet, and guest coats get hung on hooks in the hallway now.) I kept thinking that it was rather convenient, being just around the corner from the kitchen.

That idea got my wheels turning and my husband came up with a simple and inexpensive way to adapt this closet.  He purchased metal shelf strips, some shelf boards and shelf clips.  He screwed the shelf strips into the two sides of the closet, and used the adjustable clips to create holders for the shelf boards.  (I painted the inside "Rainwashed" by Sherwin Williams, a soft, light blue color that still makes me happy, a decade later.)

A few years ago, we added the little metal side racks, which easily hold snacks and mason jars.

I already shared the method I use, to organize anything, in this first post.  I'd like to add, that when organizing a pantry, you may want to trade out the "consign and donate" bins for a "food bank" bin.  You'll still want a trash bag probably and you'll definitely still want to remove everything as you go, placing things into like with like piles, wiping down shelves to clean and then you can stand back, think it through, and decide how it all needs to be replaced on your shelves.
When organizing our pantry, I like to use little sticky notes to create categories for the shelves, once everything has been removed, such as "canned items," "breakfast," "snacks," "grains and pastas," "baking," etc. 

(Note, once you've got shelf categories that work well over time, you won't need to remove everything each time it needs organizational tweaking... a quick tidy and pull out of expired items is often all that is needed for maintenance. The full clearing out works best for the first time a space is getting an organizational overhaul, however.)

Things that can often help with a pantry job are;
Clear storage! I can't stress "clear" enough. You want to be able to see it all!
Can risers for canned goods
Jars and canisters of all sizes, including mason jars
Clear bins or several sizes (great for gathering small packages, pastas, half-opened bags, etc.)
Small clear bins or containers for tiny items like seasoning packets, etc.
Clear pull out bins for snacks, bars and such
Decanting items from messy boxes with flaps, into tidy, clear containers

I do still like to label shelves or small bins when I am done, so that it's obvious what goes where.  I've normally got plenty of teens that don't belong to me, snooping around, looking for snacks.  Also, something to consider, is keeping often-grabbed items at eye or hand level, as well as tucking things you don't want grabbed (ahem-the really good chocolate) out of sight, on a higher shelf.  I also store things that I seldom use, or that are bulky, such as my crock pot, on a low shelf in here.  One thing to think about when replacing items, is trying to keep the floor as clean and free of items as possible. Floors can get cluttery very quickly.  I do keep a French market tote on mine, which I grab when I head out to the store, after doing a quick scan of the pantry. (and I am currently hiding the cocoa and marshmallow canisters behind it... don't ask... Teenagers!!) (Ha!) I also like to contain all of our paper products into a large, clear bin so that they are all in one spot.  I have found that to be really handy for impromptu gatherings, which I seem to have a lot of.

(My pantry is a bit sparse today as I snap these photos, but I'm grocery shopping later this week so it will fill a bit. I just wanted the very real life images for you.)
Thank you for joining me for this spring cleaning series and for your sweet feedback.  I am guessing that the comments issue has finally been fixed, because I'm getting plenty of spam again! Ha ha!

But as I've said before, if you have any questions or comments for me, I'd love to hear them.  I'm nearly finished detailing my home organization for you on this blog, and I'm afraid I'm leaving something important out that I've been asked about... if so,  please let me know. 

I try to simply share my own, unique voice, but there is a sea of "expert voices" (of which I do not claim to be!) that often make me step back a pace, feeling like what I have to share is perhaps inadequate beside them in all of their staged perfection.  I have no desire to compare, (yikes!! when I do for a scary moment on occasion) and in light of that, I strive to be as real as possible here.  I feel strongly that that's not always what's shown in social media and there needs to be more real and less of the fake/staged/perfection illusion...  I do hope and pray that in light of that, it's been a helpful series for you all. 
Up next, I'll be sharing hall closet thoughts, home office and paper clutter management that work for me.  


  1. Thank you for offering real life solutions. We can't all always afford to go out and buy all new bins and baskets. We do all have empty jars and plastic containers that can be used. Thanks for being a breath of fresh air!! I look forward to your posts. :)

  2. Denise,
    I hear you!! That was exactly the response my heart was hoping to get, with the message I so want to encourage with.

  3. I am enjoying this organizing series. I love reading about organizing, but I'm not always great about implementing. I like that you give simple tips. I am motivated by your clean, simple style to clear out the clutter from my different areas. Thanks!