When you move into a new home you always seem to have the best intentions of keeping your pantry and kitchen cabinets organized. And yet, if you are like most of our clients, you rarely ever stick to that commitment.
Call it a human flaw, but our kitchen cabinets become catch-all collectors for appliances we think we’ll use, ingredients we think we’ll love, and bakeware that we only use once every five years.
When you realize your cabinets have just gotten too crazy and too difficult to see through, it’s time to declutter your kitchen cabinets. When you are ready to take on this task we highly suggest breaking it into several days or else you’ll burn out. For example, tackle half the shelves in your pantry one day and do the other half the next. Decide on which cabinets to go through based on how big they are and how many items they contain.
In this article, we’ll lay out a plan you can follow for each cabinet in your kitchen so you’re left with beautifully organized cabinets you’ll want to maintain forever.
Step 1: Purge
Purging is not meant to be easy. You need to be tough on yourself and ask the hard questions like “will I ever use this again?” or “do I really need three of these?”
Luckily, purging the pantry is easy.
- Throw out anything that is past its sell-by date.
- Toss any spices that have lost their punch.
- If there are items you have tons of but don’t like, consider giving them to a neighbor or food bank.
- As you throw out or give away these items, keep a list so you know which food products you tend not to use so you avoid buying them in the future.
Moving onto the cabinets. As you pull items out, think about the last time you used the item. Was it within the last year? Will you use it again this year? Go ahead and keep it. If not, put it in a giveaway pile. Broken items should make their way to the trash while items you have multiples of should go to the giveaway pile. Also, any pots, pans, or baking sheets that are made of low-quality materials should also go to the giveaway pile, especially if you have a better-quality replacement in your cabinet.
Step 2: Clean
While everything is out of the pantry or cabinet, take the opportunity to clean the shelves and put down shelf liner if you haven’t already. Run over everything with sanitizing wipes and focus on any sticky spots that have appeared.
Shelf liner is not a must-have but can be useful if you sometimes put sticky or damp items back into your cabinets.
Step 3: Optimize Your Cabinet Space
There are tons of clever ideas about how to organize and optimize your kitchen’s cabinet space. After the cabinet you’re working on is cleaned out, think about the best way to get the most space out of it.
To maximize your cabinet space, here are a few other tips we’ve picked up along the way that we love:
- Use tiered or mounted spice racks so you can see everything.
- Put can dispensers in the pantry so you get more vertical room.
- Change shelf heights to accommodate taller appliances or storage canisters.
- Tension rods can be used horizontally to store spices or vertically to keep cutting boards and baking sheets propped up.
- Over-the-door clear shoe organizers are perfect for storing bulk spices or extra bags of rice.
Not all these solutions will make sense for your cabinet space or make sense for your family. Think through each possible solution before you implement it.
Step 4: Organize and Replace Your Items
As you think about optimizing the space in your cabinets, also consider if the items you keep in them are best suited for the layout of your kitchen. For example, it makes the most sense to store pots, pans, and ovenware in cabinets near the stove. We like storing dishes and glassware in cabinets near the dishwasher or sink to make unloading the dishwasher or drying rack easier.
In your pantry, organize by foods that go together. You might store oils, vinegar, and spices together because they’re most often used together. Grains and pasta should be stored near canned veggies to make up the savory section of your cabinet. We also like keeping all our baking items like flours, sugars, and chocolates, on one shelf. Finally, have a grab-n-go area for snacks to make running out the door a bit easier in the morning.
Regarding how to arrange those grouped items, you have a few options. You should always put foods that are closest to their expiration dates at the front of the cabinet so you’ll use them up first. Store tall items at the back of the cabinet, so short items don’t get covered up. Also, keep items that you use on a nearly daily basis at eye and hand level. Anything else that’s extra or that you don’t use very often should go on the bottom or top shelves.
If you want your pantry to look hyper-organized, consider getting uniform storage containers. You can find glass or plastic canisters in tons of home goods stores like Target, The Container Store, and the Dollar Store. These are great for storing flour, sugars, grains, and pasta, so long as they’re airtight. Baskets can also help keep you organized and help get rid of excess packaging in your cabinets. They’re perfect for your grab-n-go snack area. Simply take all the pre-portioned snacks out of their boxes and store them in baskets in the pantry.
Step 5: Maintain Your Beautiful Cabinets!
Now that you’ve spent all this time organizing your cabinets to make them work for you, don’t fall into the old habits that made them unbearable in the first place. Commit to doing a cabinet check in once a month to get rid of any expired food and tidying up. You’ll be sure to enjoy being in your kitchen much more with your highly-organized cabinets and pantry!