Before & After: My Little IKEA Pantry Gets Reorganized

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Kristin Appenbrink)

Despite liking things neat and tidy, I have a secret organizational confession: If a space is hidden, whether in a drawer or cabinet, I don’t care that much how it’s organized. My closet is filled with things in a moderately tidy fashion, and my nightstand is a jumble, but my pantry had approached problematic levels of clutter. As you can see above, nothing really had a designated place; baking supplies were mixed with vitamins, and pantry staples were mixed with coffee and tea. I was beyond due for an overhaul.

Take a look at my new system, and then let’s walk through what I did and what still needs to be done.

(Image credit: Kristin Appenbrink)

It looks so empty now, doesn’t it? My kitchen, which you may have seen before on Kitchn, is large for New York City standards, but lacking in storage space. That’s why when I first moved into this apartment, I bought a kitchen pantry from IKEA. It is tall and narrow, and wouldn’t be my choice if I were buying a storage piece for the kitchen now, but it’s what we have.

Because I live with a roommate, we’ve pretty much always broken it up by each having two shelves in the unit. That’s the most equitable, but not the most efficient solution — especially when there were shared staples, like salt and baking soda, that would end up taking up one person’s precious shelf space. In fact, that’s what spurred this transformation in the first place. Now that it’s cooler here in Brooklyn, I’ve been baking again (thanks, Baking School!), and the baking supplies have been multiplying.

(Image credit: Kristin Appenbrink)

As I pulled everything out of the cabinet and sorted things by kind, these were all the baking supplies I had. Do you notice that there are four containers of baking soda? Four! That’s a clear sign things were too disorganized and in need of a purge.

So I took everything out and sorted it by its function. I left a few things that didn’t really fit in with my categories in two separate piles — one for me and one for my roommate — which went back on our personal shelves. More on that in a minute.

Let’s start from the bottom up and go shelf by shelf.

(Image credit: Kristin Appenbrink)

Admittedly, this is still a bit of a jumble. I’m still in the process of finding the best arrangement of things. (See the list of things still to do at the bottom.) The good news is that I cleaned out those four containers of baking soda. Some was relegated to the cleaning supplies, and the rest was labeled and will be used up in order. I’m also going to add a few OXO POP Containers to store flours and other dry goods.

(Image credit: Kristin Appenbrink)

This is the oil/sweetener/beverage shelf, which houses all the other things in our pantry that are pretty much communal. Yes, we each have our own coffee and tea preferences, but I can easily tell which ones are mine; it really doesn’t matter if any of those thing get mixed up.

(Image credit: Kristin Appenbrink)

And finally here are our individual shelves, which are for all the things we don’t generally end up sharing, like cereal, pasta, etc. It’s one of those strange roommate things where we each buy our own tuna, dried fruit, and grains.

So let’s take a look at the before and after, side by side.

While it might not be the most revolutionary makeover, it is so much easier to find everything we need in the pantry, and we’ll avoid buying multiples of staples that take a really long time to use up. That said, I have a few more things on my to-do list before I can call this pantry makeover fully complete.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

What’s Next?

Here’s what I have planned next.

  • Get additional shelves: I haven’t decided if they will be the shelves that are made for the pantry, or if they will be those wire shelf inserts, but we’ve got some unused space that I’d like to take advantage of.
  • Stock up on OXO POP containers: I started putting some of the specialty flours and baking mixes in OXO containers, but I have a few more I need to get. I like that they are airtight and that they stack easily.
  • Use up some of those random ingredients: There are a few things in there that I thought about tossing, but will still probably use up. I’m making a list and seeking out recipes so I can free up some more space for other winter staples, like canned goods and soups.

When was the last time you gave your pantry a makeover? What’d you do?