The top one or two shelves in any pantry are always tricky to navigate — no matter how large or small the space happens to be. You know how it goes: You jam stuff up there and then promptly forget about it because it's too hard to reach or you're worried about the Jenga-like effect that could happen if you were to try to get something down.
Fortunately, some small changes can make the difference between those top shelves being wasted space versus becoming a storage space that really works for you. Here are a few good tricks.
1. Invest in a step stool.
You may file this under "super obvious," but you'd also be amazed at how many home cooks we've visited who don't have a step stool in their kitchen or pantry. If you're on the shorter side, folding steps can make a huge difference! Even for taller people, a few extra inches can put things in better reach. Try a lightweight folding step stool that you can hang from the pantry door between uses.
3 Step Stools We Love
2. Use bins to your advantage.
Plastic or wire bins filled with lightweight, less frequently used items (like party decorations or seasonal-use items) can be stashed on these top shelves. Just don't go with anything too heavy and it'll be easy when you need to pull a bin down.
3. Store things vertically.
Taller items that can be stored vertically, like cookie sheets and serving trays, can stand on their short ends inside filing cabinet-style shelves with spacers in between to hold them in place. This way, things are less likely to topple over on your head when you pull something out.
See more: Organization Orgasms: 21 Well-Designed Pantries You'd Love to Have in Your Kitchen at Apartment Therapy
4. Make the top shelf less deep.
The technical term for this is called "stepping." The idea is to simply make the top one or two shelves a few inches more shallow than the lower ones. This makes it easier to see and reach those shelves.
5. Or try a U-shape — and pegboards!
Janet of the Army Mom shared this clever project on the organizing blog A Bowl Full of Lemons: She reconfigured the top shelf in a U-shape and backed it with pegboards to transform the space into a display. And because the shelf is open in the middle, it's easier to access all three sides.
See more: The Evolution of Her Baking Pantry at A Bowl Full of Lemons
6. Stop stacking things all the way up to the very top.
One mistake I've made is jamming things on the top-most shelf — and then not being able to get them out! You need at least three or four inches of clearance between the top of the object and the next shelf or the ceiling.
7. Don't store your heavy stuff up there.
Even if you barely use your stand mixer, it will be a pain in the neck (maybe literally!) to get down from a high-up shelf. And then you'll be less likely to actually want to get it down. Keep heavy stuff on lower shelves and put light things (like paper towels) on these upper shelves.
What do you store on the top shelves of your pantry?