Jul 22, 2013

Taming of the Pantry

It may not be a classic novel, but it's a classic problem.  If you are lucky enough to have a pantry with food in it, you have undoubtedly have experienced pantry disorganization chaos.  It had been about a year since our last cleaning and organizing pantry purge, so it was time.

The top half.

The bottom half.

I decided to start at the top and work my way down.  My organizing method is basically to pull everything out, sort it, make a plan for organizing and then put it back.  Or, Make It Worse to Make It Better.  So I pulled everything off our top shelf, which serves as our liquor cabinet.  Once I got everything pulled out, I was able to sort the liqours by type.  I also make a collection of unopened bottles that got moved to the same place as unopened wine bottles.  And then I was left with a huge collection of bottles that were almost empty, spoiled, or hadn't been used in at least two years.

See ya.

Some of the bottles must've been inherited from Steve's parents.  Check out the price on the bottle of Creme de Menthe!


Everything that was left got put back in, loosely organized by type of liqour and then bottle height (so we could see as many of the labels at once as possible- I hate it when we buy something because we think we're out only to find it hidden at the back of the shelf after the fact).  We had so much room left that we moved our extra mason jars and flavored syrups to the top shelf as well.  For two fairly tall people, seeing and accessing things on the top shelf is easier than seeing and accessing things on the floor, which is where the extra mason jars and flavored syrups used to live.

Rank and file.

I tackled the next two shelves the same way.  Here's everything that didn't get tossed, grouped by the type of food.


I decided to do both of the shelves at the same time so I could FINALLY get around to patching and finishing them two coats of semi-gloss paint.  It's only been two years since Steve built those pantry shelves.

Looking good!

Then came the tricky part.  I decided that I wanted to store my grouped items in boxes for a couple of reasons.  I liked the idea of being able to pull a box out  and just sift through a few items to find something I was looking for instead of scouring an entire shelf (or two).  I also knew that if we had labeled boxes, both Steve and I would be more likely to put things back in an assigned place rather than just shoving them onto any open shelf space.  I figured I could get a couple of boxes with high sides to make it easier for stacking canned goods without toppling them.  Plus, using a wipeable box or basket would be really handy for storing things that tend to leave residue on shelving like cooking oils.

After lots of measuring, I decided to use what I had as much as possible and the purchase a few plastic bins.  I was able to re-use some cardboard packages by covering them with wrapping paper or a few coats of white gloss spray paint.  Less messy things like pre-bagged snacks and boxed items ended up in those, since they're less liekely to need wiping.  I ended up buying one large plastic bin and three tall and narrow ones from Target.  I'd estimate that using materials I had on hand to make three bins myself saved me about $25.

Bin city.

This was also my first foray into the world of Washi Tape.  I definitely think it's fun, like stickers for grown ups.  But I'm not fervent about it like so many people in the crafting/DIY world seem to be.  Regardless, it was a fun and practical way to label the bins.

Label madness.

Help yourself.

This stick-it-in-a-wipeable-bin strategy has worked really well for the lower part of our pantry for about a year now.  All of my baking items are held in one itso tray.  When the mood strikes to bake, I just pull the tray out and go to town.  The corn syrup drips and cocoa powder reisdue can be wiped off the tray and our pantry shelves stay in good shape.

Baking on the left, disposable food containers & napkins on the right.

And because of reorganizing with the bins and a little juggling of my large snaplock storage, we had enough room to move our small appliances into the pantry.  It may not seem like a big deal, but our Foodsaver and blender have been making the rounds between the top of our washer and dryer to our kitchen table to our breakfast bar and back for a few months now.  I am so excited that they finally have a place to live!

Home at last.

 Overall I am very happy with how this organization project has turned out.  I was somewhat concerned that it would be difficult to access some of the bins, but so far that hasn't been the case.  And Steve has given this system rave reviews- he loves being able to pull a bin out to get something he needs when he's cooking.  Between the organizing, painting, shopping for bins, and putting everything back together, this project took about five hours and only cost about $25 (the cost of four plastic bins).  I don't think the pantry is picture perfect, but I think this was a good investment to make a space we use daily more functional and a little prettier.

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