Don’t Skip These 6 Tasks When Organizing Your Pantry
A label maker is about to become your BFF.
My mom is a home renovation maven. It’s a combination of occasional boredom and her penchant for making thoughtful interior design improvements. Over the years, her kitchen has changed colors (bright yellow to calming blue to neutral gray), styles (thanks to what I like to call “the Joanna Gaines effect”), and more. This time around, she set out to achieve a long-time dream: having a kitchen with a walk-in pantry.
As we were walking around her new pantry, I started thinking about how to stock it. Where should her infrequently used baking equipment go? Or her beloved Nespresso? To tackle all of these questions, I reached out to two professional organizers: interior designer Julie Hovnanian of Hovie Interiors and Amanda Titchenal, founder of full-service organizing firm Well Organized.
Whether your pantry space is big or small, it could probably use a refresh. Here are the best ways to declutter this area in your home, according to the pros:
1. Start Fresh
“Empty and clean your pantry for a fresh start,” Hovnanian says. Before you do anything, you want to look at the existing items in your pantry. Titchenal adds that you should check expiration dates and evaluate whether you even use certain pantry items.
“You want to clean out any food that’s no longer good and/or you’re not eating anymore,” she says. “You can donate food that has not expired”
2. Categorize Your Pantry Items
After your cleanout, both Hovnanian and Titchenal emphasized the importance of grouping your items. Titchenal and her team outline these categories when working with clients: breakfast, snacks, baking, cooking, and backstock. And if you have kiddos in your home, she also recommends adding a lunch-making section.
3. Stock Up on Baskets and Canisters
There are four main types of containers Titchenal uses for sorting pantry items. These include:
- Airtight canisters for baking-related goods. Titchenal often decants baking flour, sugar, and other similar items, and places them in canisters. OXO is her favorite brand for handling this category.
- Clear bins or containers for snacks. For example, you can take granola bars out of the box and place them into clear containers, so you can easily see what’s inside. “Removing bulk items like that from their packaging saves a lot of space,” Titchenal says. “They’re easy to see and grab, and then there’s not a lot of empty packaging in your pantry.”
- Stackers or lazy Susans for cooking and dinner-related items. Stackers are three-tiered shelves that can hold canned goods and condiments.
- Decorative baskets for backstock. If you have a bunch of items that you don’t necessarily need at the ready, consider “disguising” them in containers that match your kitchen’s aesthetic.
“It’s sometimes a little bit of an investment up front to get the right containers and baskets, but it does end up saving you in the end for not having to waste food,” Titchenal says, adding that The Container Store has an extensive range of sizes to choose from.
4. Place Essentials at Eye-Level
When deciding on the layout, you need to think about your everyday essentials and typical pantry behavior. Titchenal says the most grabbed are often breakfast and snacks, so those should go at eye-level in the pantry. Same goes for appliances you use frequently, like a Nespresso machine.
If you have backstock, those decorative baskets can go up higher or down low—anything that keeps them out of the way. Baking products are similar, unless you’re constantly whipping up delicious baked goods and desserts. Hovnanian adds that specialty or holiday tools and appliances can also go in a more tucked-away spot.
“We go down the line in the order you would use them, like breakfast on the top, then snacks, then dinner,” Titchenal says.
5. Get a Label Maker (If You Don’t Already Have One).
“Labeling your containers is helpful for both seeing when stock is low and keeping yourself from overstocking specific items assigned to that designated container size,” Hovnanian says.
Titchenal and her team often label canisters to show the specific materials inside, and she recommends marking broad categories for baskets or containers. For instance, you can mark one with “snacks” versus something more granular like “granola bars.”
If you’re ever concerned about the expiration dates, Titchenal suggests writing it with a dry erase marker or adding a label on the bottom of the container.
Labeling can also help you avoid any potential cooking or baking mishaps. As Titchenal warns, “You don’t want to [accidentally] put salt instead of sugar!”
6. Invest in a Closet System
If you want to completely renovate your pantry, Hovnanian suggests installing drawers or some type of closet system in the lower section for instant organization. “This helps ensure quicker access to everyday essentials and keeps your pantry neat and clean when you might not have time for specific organizing tasks,” she says. “This way, items can still be put away and stored properly.”
One major benefit of following these handy tips? Having a pantry that’s easier to use and maintain, and one that might help you avoid placing yet another pricey food delivery order.
“I do think once you have your pantry organized, you end up saving money in the end, because you see what you have, everything’s labeled and clear,” Titchenal says. “And you don’t have to go to the grocery store every night or buy takeout because you can’t see what’s in your pantry.”
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