My Golden Rule for Organizing Kitchen & Pantry Cupboards

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

I’ve cleared out and reorganized my kitchen many times over the years, usually in conjunction with The Kitchn Cure, and every time I’ve learned something new: I much prefer storing my spices upright in a pull-out drawer, rather than in a wonky rack; there’s

a simple solution for a flaky pepper mill

But more than anything, I’ve realized the secret to creating (and maintaining!) organized cabinets and shelves comes down to just one simple rule.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

My pantry rule: Make sure you can see everything.

Okay, so maybe it isn’t such a simple rule after all — in fact, sticking to this rule can be remarkably tricky! — but if you can swing it, it really makes all the difference in the world. Here are three reasons why:

1. It forces you to edit.

If you only have a certain amount of allotted storage space within your cupboards or on a shelf, and you’re telling yourself you need to be able to see everything you have at a glance, that means you have to be choosy. You may technically have room to stock the cupboard four containers deep end to end, but if you do that, those containers in the back may never see the light of day. (And you’d forget they’re even there after awhile.) This way you’re forced to store less, which makes you really think through what you choose to buy, and what you keep around.

2. You always know exactly what you have.

If you can see everything in your cabinets, you’ll always know exactly what you have and where it is, which will prevent you from overbuying. Yes, you do in fact have sherry vinegar, and you still have two cans of diced tomatoes left, and you know that because you can see them on the pantry shelf! (Something you didn’t know when they were left behind three boxes of cereal and a bag of onions.)

3. It makes putting things away so much easier.

No more trying to stuff things into open corners, no more searching for available space. In the design world, they say one should always have a little white space so the eye has somewhere to rest. The same principle applies here: Keep a little wiggle room in your cabinets, and it’ll make managing them much easier.

I don’t follow this rule perfectly, because it’s hard to do all the time, but when I make the effort to rearrange my cupboards so that everything is visible and easily accessible, I feel like I have a whole new kitchen, and all the other quirky stresses of the space don’t seem so irksome anymore.

Do you follow this golden rule?