Creating SPACE in the Pantry
My dear friend and professional home organizer, Amber Bloomberg, gave my pantry a total makeover this week and WOW, what a difference!
Amber uses just five simple steps to creating a useful and well planned pantry. Naturally, she 'organized' these five steps into a useful acronym: SPACE.
Each letter represents a step in the decluttering journey that you can take with you to other rooms in the house, too! By following these steps you will save you time, money and energy in the future. #winning!
Now, grab a piping hot cuppa tea and let’s get to work - you’re going to rock this!!
Here’s What You’ll Need to Get Started:
A clear counter or table
Camera or Phone
Sharpie + tape, chalk marker, or label maker
Compost (if applicable)
Banker’s box or any box (for donations or relocation)
Vacuum, spray cleaner and rag
Proper containers once measurements are made
Focus with little distractions
- SET AN INTENTION -
It’s helpful to start your pantry reorganization journey by setting an intention. Think of a word that best describes how you want to feel when you open your pantry. Is it clean? Healthy? Inspired? Cozy? Calm? Is it all of the above? If you keep your intention in mind as you’re reorganizing, you can make it a reality.
At the same time, keep in mind what your dislike about your current pantry -- you have to identify the problem before you can fix it. Is there just too much stuff? Are there a bunch of items that don’t belong? Do things get lost? Or is there simply no flow to the pantry?
Tip: Snap a before photo so you can look back at far you’ve come and witness the changes.
- PURGING, CLEARING & SORTING, OH MY -
Once you’ve set your intention, the second step is to purge. Take a look at everything you have in your pantry. Now, empty everything out and put it on a counter! As you’re doing this, group like items together -- i.e., put breakfast foods together, snacks together, baking ingredients together, etc. If you keep food in other areas of your kitchen, take that food out and consolidate it with your pantry items. The goal is to get everything in one place.
As you are taking each item out, dispose of anything that is expired, stale, or that you just plain don’t know how long it’s been open and it could be an unwanted science experiment. Look at all of your stale and outdated items and consider whether you are overbuying certain items. If so, write those items down, and plan to buy less in the future. If you’re disposing of unwanted, unused, within date items, look into donating them to your local food pantry. More people than you could ever imagine can use that food, so give it a second thought before throwing it away!
Before you get started with putting items back into the pantry, give the ol’ pantry a good cleaning. I like to start with the shelves: vacuum the crumbs off and then use non-toxic cleaners (see my favorite below) to wipe down surfaces. I also recommend cleaning walls, baseboards, shelves, and floors to the best of your ability.
Tip 1: To avoid overbuying, do a quick inventory of your pantry before making big grocery store trips. Knowing what’s there is the best way ensure that you’re cooking what you already have, rather than buying foods that will go to waste.
Tip 2: Use a list app such as Google Keep to keep a grocery list and jot down when you run out of something.
Tip 3: Non-toxic Cleaners
- ASSESS, ZONE & MEASURE -
Now that your pantry is *so fresh and so clean, clean*, assess your pantry items, and divide the pantry into zones. For example, you can have different zones for: appliances; non-essentials; dry ingredients and baking needs; cans; snacks; liquids; herbs and spices; etc. Or, you can choose to create zones by meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You pick! You can zone your pantry off by shelf, by “column,” or by smaller areas. Whatever suits you and your style best!
This is also a good time to do some measuring. At the next step, you’re going to add containers and other organizing products into your pantry. It will be useful first to know the height, width, and depth of each shelf. Measuring now will save you valuable time on the back end.
Tip: When measuring, allocate approximately two inches of clearance above the tallest item on your shelf to allow for easy access.
The next step is to utilize containers and other organizing products to make your pantry clean and functional. Before you start buying new containers, look around your house for unused baskets, bins, bowls, and jars that you could visualize working in your pantry. You’ll probably want to supplement the containers you’ve gathered from elsewhere in your home with some new products, designed specifically to make your pantry more functional. While your exact needs will depend on the size of your pantry and the types of food you keep in it, I recommend picking up the following items to start:
10 airtight jars or varying sizes
4-6 larger glass containers
2-4 lazy susans
2-4 baskets or bins
2-4 shelf risers
Once you have a good base of these items, it’s time for a trial run! Take some time to arrange these storage items in a few different ways to see what you like best. Use your zones to help you achieve your desired style, and to ensure functionality. Play around with the staging until you see a result that you love.
Don’t forget that the the shelves between waist and eye level are easiest to access. This means they’re the most difficult to keep organized. You’ll want things you grab most often on these shelves. Keep that in mind while you’re deciding what bins and containers to place where.
The last part of the Containerize Step is to start putting your food items into your jars and containers. Combine duplicate food items as you go. Remember those four bags of half-used flour? Dump those all into one glass jar. How about those bags of corn chips scattered about your pantry? Let’s put those into one bin.
Tip 1: Bring empty jars, containers, or reusable bags to the grocery store and start buying primarily from the bulk bins to cut down on wasteful packaging.
Tip 2: Store chip clips and little things on the wall with a pencil holder or a clear sponge holder and a command hook.
Tip 3: Use Square shaped, stackable containers for space and efficiency.
Tip 4: Lazy Susan’s are great for hard-to-reach upper shelf storage as well as pesky corners. They allow you to see everything you have with very little effort!
Tip 5: Have wall space inside your pantry? Use a magazine rack to corral vegetables or other items of the like.
- LABEL, PUT AWAY, & DECORATE -
Now it’s time to put the finishing touches on your reorganized and decluttered pantry. Emblazon your pantry with your own style.
Label yours baskets, jars, containers, shelves, and zones as you deem fit. There’s no need to go crazy here, just do enough so that you can easily know where to find what you are looking for, and to differentiate your all purpose flour from your gluten free flour.
Put Away your food items, sorted into their new zones, and placed in their new containers. Load your items back into the pantry as you had them during your trial run in the “audit” stage. My suggestion is to go zone by zone, so that you can be sure you are creating defined spaces. Also, be sure to leave room for more food if you’re planning a big shop soon.
Decorate your new space with decor that enhances your pantry and makes you smile. Bonus points for a dry erase grocery board!
Tip 1: Load tallest stuff in back and shortest stuff in front, making use of shelf risers if you need to. I like shelf risers for jars snd cans. Keep appliances on top storing them in bins if they have additional pieces.
Tip 2: For jar labeling my three favorites are: (1) Masking Tape and Sharpie. This is easily accessible for most, stays clean, doesn’t wipe off and is easy to change. (2) Chalk Marker. They’re aesthetically pleasing and you can choose any color you want. (3) Label Maker. It’s more time consuming and much more labor intensive, but it sure does look clean and crisp!
Tip 3: Cut out cooking instructions, for anything you decant but don’t cook often enough to remember how to make it, and tape it to the back of jar.
Once you’ve finished your pantry re-org, don’t be afraid to do some tweaking and rearranging in future days. You may realize as you go that things need to be moved around a bit to optimize efficiency. This is no big deal! In fact, it’s great! It means you’re paying attention to the flow of your pantry and are in it for the long haul.
Now, go enjoy your new SPACE!