Pantry Organization

Hi Friends!

Spring is here and that means Spring Cleaning! I typically do all that stuff in the FALL (I know, I’m such a *rebel*) but this past Fall was more about getting the house clean enough to host the holidays and not much more. I have more than made up for that this Spring!

*Spring* cleaning (no matter the season) usually involves making a MUCH LARGER MESS and then decluttering and putting what remains back in a tidy manner. Most of the house is currently in that LARGER MESS phase, but now that the first project is complete I have some motivation to keep going!

When I say “first project” I certainly don’t mean the first one I started. I started with the linen closet, got frustrated, started the pantry, got sidetracked, went back to the linen closet, dabbled in some clothes clutter, went back to the pantry, FINISHED the pantry, and now I’ve got my eye on the front coat closet. But the PANTRY!!!…

It’s EMBARRASSING to look at the *before* pictures. I didn’t want to post any but I feel like it can be helpful to others.

It might not be obvious, but when I look at the *before* picture I can see some level of organization going on. Like items were together, cans were contained on a large tray, and kid snacks were reachable. But it was chaotic and cluttered. Lots of things didn’t have a home so they were just shoved in front or in bins where they didn’t belong. Nothing was labeled so how could I expect anyone else to keep up?!

Even though it took a lot of dedicated effort and a solid week of having my kitchen look like a BOMB went off in it (for real though, the process is anything but glamorous – see photo below!), I’m so happy with the results and now I feel like I can tackle even the messiest closet in my house!

There are FIVE things that made the biggest difference to me in terms of functionality. I’m calling them game-changers.

  • ONE: The OXO Pop Canisters. They are air tight. They are easy enough (and FUN!) for kids to use. They are clear so you know when something is getting low! They can be pricey so I put off buying them for a long time but they are totally worth it. I would even pay FULL PRICE, they are that good! If the cost is holding you back, I would highly suggest buying one or two for your most used pantry items (think cereals and kid snacks). Then, if you decide they are awesome you can buy one or two at a time and build up your collection. Mine are all from The Container Store or HomeGoods. There are usually some fantastic deals online too so try here, here, here, and here.)
  • TWO: The Can riser. This was easily one of the least expensive things I added to the pantry and made one of the biggest impacts both aesthetically and functionally. Previous to the pantry makeover, everything was contained on a large tray. While the tray kept cans and bottles centrally located, it made things difficult to see and everything at the back was forgotten or expired. No More! And did I mention it expands to be wider and accommodate more cans if necessary?! It does. Mine is the MEGA size one which is big enough for cans and the regular one is perfect for spices. There are acrylic options available and ones with silicone padding but I like the look of this simple (and easy to clean!) option. It’s also really sturdy so I’m not worried about weighing it down with lots of products.
  • THREE: The Lazy Susan. This goes hand-in-hand with the can riser. I could have purchased a second riser and called it a day but this baby called out to me from the shelf at HomeGoods and is working out beautifully so far. The size here was KEY because my shelves are 18″ deep. Plus, it adds another texture and design element which I love. I don’t need to see what’s at the back of the shelf or reach around things because all of the jars and bottles are within reach. BONUS: It’s apparently super fun for kiddos to spin around to get the Peanut Butter. Obviously I can’t link you to HomeGoods but they were still in stock at 2 different locations the other day (in multiple sizes AND metal hardware options!). I also found the SAME ONE on Amazon and Walmart! There are plenty of similar less expensive options out there too!
  • FOUR: The Gravity Can Feeder. This is something that is marketed for canned goods, but we use it for beverages. There seems to be a variety of drinks in our house at all times and we usually end up with 3 of these, 6 of those, 4 of this flavor and 2 of that, etc. Traditional drink dispensers are designed to hold a 12-pack of the same drink, and every time you take one out a new one rolls forward. The organizer we have now fits 12 drink cans on each level and essentially allows up to 9 different types of drinks on the rack. This is perfect for all those odd leftover cans that used to hide in the back of the pantry for YEARS at at time.
  • FIVE: Labels. This little chalk marker now lives in the pantry. I wrote directly on all the clear containers and I used black gift tags from the craft store (love these on Amazon!) for the baskets. I promise, it wipes off every container AND tag easily if you mess up! Nothing in the pantry was labeled before so you either had to know what each basket was meant to contain or you had to look inside and make an educated guess. (Want to guess how often the hubs and the Kindergartener took the time to look in a basket and make an educated guess before they put something away? The answer is NEVER). Now everything is labeled and it helps keep us all accountable. Bonus points for teaching the kiddo to read cursive! If you’re going to organize your pantry on a budget and can’t swing adding all things shiny and new, I highly recommend labels!

In addition to these 5 game-changers, my ELFA over-the-door organizers from The Container Store have been used since day one in this house and are a great way to maximize space. If I didn’t already have them before the makeover, I would have absolutely included them in my top FIVE! I also think the shelf liners made a big difference. There are a lot of options available but I used these from The Container Store since they are already cut to size. They just help things stay upright without having to replace all the shelving.

I’ve had a few people ask for a step-by-step *guide* but I think it’s different for everyone depending on what space you have, your budget, how you work best etc. So instead, I’ve just compiled a quick checklist to cover the basics and MUST-COMPLETE tasks! It’s okay to do them out of order or go back and forth between steps (ex: empty one shelf at a time and declutter as you go) but if I skip any of these steps, I won’t get the same results!

  1. Empty EVERYTHING from the pantry.
  2. Declutter. Throw out expired goods, donate food items that you know you will not use, and remove anything that doesn’t belong!
  4. CLEAN. Take the time to sweep the floor, dust the shelves, and give yourself a fresh start. If you plan to paint, wallpaper, or update the shelves – now is the time!
  5. GROUP like-items. This will help you get a better sense of how to arrange things, how many containers you need, what to put on your LABELS, and if you’re over-shopping (or under-shopping) in any one category.
  6. LABEL. (EVERYTHING!) This will make things easier to find but also help keep everyone accountable!
  7. Do it ALL AT ONCE. This doesn’t mean it has to be completed in an hour, a day, or a week. But don’t organize one section or one shelf and pat yourself on the back. Chances are, you won’t be able to maintain it! The #konmari method isn’t for everyone but I understand why Marie Kondo says to tackle everything in a category at once.
  8. If it’s not maintainable, it’s not actually organized. It’s the biggest mistake I’ve made in the past and it is SO important. You can clean, categorize, contain, and label to your hearts desire – but if you know you won’t take the time to open that box of cereal and pour it into a pretty clear container when you get home from the grocery store, don’t torture yourself! If you want your kids to serve themselves snacks after school, try to stay away from heavy glass containers on high shelves! Make it work for YOU!

I know when a space is working for me (for us as a family) when it STAYS that way. If it starts turning into a mess then it’s just a disorganized space that happens to look pretty for a hot minute. If you *think* a space is organized and it’s starts to get a little chaotic, take a step back and address the issue. Sometimes all you need is a little tweak to get you back on track. Move it to a different shelf, change the container, make the label more specific, etc. Don’t be afraid to edit the space a bit over the first few weeks or months! I will definitely be posting any updates over on Instagram or in my Instagram stories (behind the scenes and updates aresaved to my highlights!) so check-in with me over there!