I think I’ve figured out why so many people struggle to get organized and stay organized. It’s not that the process of purging and cleaning is overwhelming, it’s that it’s tedious and boring.
There is a solution. Find the right pairing to go with the task.
This past Saturday I cleaned out my kitchen pantry and a few cabinets. I want to show you how you can do this, too, without spending too much on organizing products by utilizing what you may already have, while also having a bit of fun.
First, and most importantly, let’s determine which drink pairs best with this kind of work. We’re cleaning out the pantry, which means, determining which nasty stuff is expired or just won’t be eaten (organic, gluten-free, soy-free also means “no one in this house is even going to pretend to like it so why is it still in here?”), and getting rid of it. This is why a recently opened bottle of wine that hasn’t been finished is just perfect.
It doesn’t matter if it’s red or white, whatever is left over is what we’re drinking to clean out our pantry on a Saturday morning. Mine was this red table wine:
It’s a heady blend of “you can’t afford better wine if you’re going to drink this often” and “let’s be honest, your standards aren’t really that high.”
So, we have to start with purging everything from the pantry first. This means everything. Get it all out on the counters and if necessary, the table. Wherever you have space, but empty it completely. This includes any other cabinets that may also be storing food as well. I also opted to attack the medicine cabinet during this project. (I would have done the refrigerator too, but that should be done on a weekly basis, and I like to keep that task isolated to its own “to do” so that I don’t get off track when focusing on the pantry.)
I thought about only posting pictures like this, so that it looked like this is how we eat all of the time:
But let’s be honest:
I filled the garbage can and had a ton of recycling once I was done getting rid of some stuff that I had seriously forgotten about. Like, “didn’t I buy that two iPhones ago?” forgotten about.
Making Sense of Things
The next step is to just group like things with like things, before they go back in the cabinets and pantry. This way you know what you’re dealing with before you start to make a home for them. Group things like:
- Canned Goods
- Sauce Jars
- Baking Ingredients
- Cereal/Cereal Bars
- Small Appliances
- Serving Dishes
- Paper Products
When you have a category for each thing, you can then create “zones” for them. For example, I chose to keep our coffee, tea and cocoa in its own cabinet. And if we’re being real, shouldn’t coffee have its own cabinet? I mean, if it’s on my top 5 reasons for living, I feel like it should have a special place.
It makes sense to have your spices in a handy space, a bit separate from other things in your cabinet and pantry. It should be no further than two steps away from your cooking zones, which means the counter surface you typically do your meal prep on and your stove. I have a small kitchen, so everything is only two steps away, but my spices in particular are in a rack on the back of the pantry door. This makes it really simple to grab while I’m in the midst of making a meal.
Some folks also opt to keep them in racks right on the counter top (just watch the clutter on the counter top, too much and you’re losing valuable counter space real estate and it also starts to look messy), or in cabinets directly surrounding the stove.
I love storage bins more than is normal, and I’ve made peace with that. But, I don’t recommend buying them in a valiant effort to finally get organized. The purging is the most important step. You’ll realize that you’re using less than you have, and you actually don’t need as many storage organizing products as you may have originally thought you did.
Once you’ve completely purged, determine which things could use some storage bins or baskets or shelves that fit within your pantry or cabinet. Do you already have some things you can utilize so that you don’t need to buy anything new? For example, do you have jars that can store dry goods (you can take the labels off of sauce jars, put cute labels of your own on them, and paint all the lids to match)? I do this with my dried herbs.
My pantry is teeny tiny, so I need to use slim and small bins like these, and I need to be certain about what really makes sense. I’ve opted to use a small bin for bags of rice, as well as one for baking ingredients that can be stored together, like food coloring and cupcake liners.
Analyze Your Habits
Put your pantry items back based upon the categories of foods you will need to access most often, and also by size. For example, my husband eats cereal most mornings, but it’s at the top because it’s the tallest item. I’ve got rice and pasta in the middle of my pantry because they’re needed almost every day. Canned goods are heavy, so they’re near the bottom (my hardwood is nicked up in a zillion places from having dropped cans because they were up too high, and also because wine pairings).
Whatever you’re grabbing for most often, and need access to the quickest, try to keep those at eye level, or wherever you’ll see them immediately.
If you’re lucky enough to have a walk-in pantry with some space, you can keep some of your small appliances handy so that you’re not fighting to get them out of odd corners. Arrange these in one place so that they also have their own “zone”. You may also want to create a zone for extra serving dishes, or things you don’t utilize every day, but that have a place in your pantry.
The same goes for paper products like napkins and paper towels, or bulk items like sandwich and garbage bags you may store in your pantry. Keep them organized by “zone” so that you can always find them easily, and you know when you’re running low.
As is typically the case, the entire project took a little longer than I expected it to. Checking expiration dates, cleaning each shelf, and breaking out into spontaneous dance routines is surprisingly time-consuming (dancing had nothing to do with the wine).
Hopefully you’re inspired to tackle your own pantry cleaning project. Remember, you don’t need to spend a lot to keep things organized and make your space work for you.
Pair your pantry cleaning with a red blend, and let me know if that doesn’t make all the difference. Send me pics of your pantry purging and re-organization along with your favorite pairing on Twitter @jessbarretttn!
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