How to Be Someone Who Always Has an Impossibly Organized Pantry

updated Jul 16, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Organized pantries take a lot of work, both to get them that way in the first place and to keep them that way. Get that space under control, though, and the payoff is huge. Not only will you enjoy the look of an organized pantry every time you open the door, but you’ll also save time, money, and energy.

You’ll enjoy the benefit (multiple times a day) of knowing exactly what you have and exactly where it is. No more frustrated digging in the pantry muttering things like, “I could have sworn I had another package of split peas. Where is it?” Instead, you’ll do things like twist a turntable to find the exact bottle of hot sauce you were looking for. 

An organized pantry also affects your shopping life. Rather than adding a jar of salsa to your shopping list while two other jars hidden in the back hurtle toward expiration, you’ll be confident knowing that you really are out of whatever’s added to your list. Buying only what you need saves money. 

So how does one get an “organized pantry”? It’s not as out of reach as you may think. Although your personal pantry might not emulate a magazine spread — no one says it has to! — you can create a beautifully organized, real-life pantry that serves you every day. 

Here are some tips, adaptable to your unique pantry needs, for obtaining the organized pantry you always wished you had.

1. Start with a thorough pantry clean-out.

You won’t get an organized pantry by shuffling things around. Reset the entire thing with a complete pantry overhaul. Take everything out. Wipe down shelves. Sort through each item. And categorize your remaining belongings and assess whether you need any additional organizational items or tools.

2. Put the most-used items at eye level.

Save pantry prime real estate (that’s organizing talk for “the best spots,” which are the easiest to see and reach) for the items you use most often. This could mean staples like sugar, flour, and brown rice, as well as cans of diced tomatoes and black beans. But these items could vary based on how you eat and cook.

3. Add a turntable to each corner, at least.

Lazy Susans transform awkward pantry corners into arguably the most hard-working spots in your pantry. They’re perfect for tall bottles like oils, vinegars, sauces, and marinades, and also for smaller items that get easily lost, such as sprinkles, vanilla extract, spices, and baking powder. Choose from this affordable option, this attractive two-tiered option that maximizes space when used with shorter items, and this clear option with sides to corral smaller things.

4. Decant when it makes sense.

Decanting items into uniform containers goes a long way in terms of making a pantry look nice. In addition, filling a good portion of your pantry with uniform containers maximizes space and minimizes jumbles of awkward bags that, if opened, might not even be keeping your food fresh. However, if you’re not the type to decant every time you have refills, reconsider whether it’s the best practice for you to adopt. Most people do best with their own happy medium of some decanted items and some items kept in their original packaging. For instance, you may pour rice, sugar, flour, and oatmeal into a container, but choose to keep your small boxes of crackers in their boxes and your bags of chips hung with pants hangers from your wire shelves

Credit: Minette Hand/Apartment Therapy

5. Use baskets or bins to keep unruly items contained.

Baskets and bins can make a huge difference. Stash like with like and you’ll even be able to grab en entire bin and bring it to your work space when you’re, say, baking a cake.

6. Get an organizer for your canned goods.

Graduated shelves for storing your canned goods allows you to see what you have and what you need and maximizes vertical space without any stacking of cans on top of each other. Make sure if you have larger cans that your shelves accommodate them properly. Alternatively, can organizers like these allow you to adhere to the FIFO (first in, first out) method. 

7. Clean up spills when they happen.

You’d think this goes without saying, but it’s worth adding this as a gentle reminder. Also, if you have things like honey that tend to make messes, consider storing them on a small plate, which will help contain the mess.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Label everything.

Label your pantry containers and label your shelves. This will allow both you and others in your household to know where everything goes, with no excuses. You’ll find this is key when it comes to maintaining the order you’ve worked so hard to create.