One of my favorite places to see in kitchens is the pantry. I swoon over organized pantries on Pinterest and am always looking for ways to improve mine. Today, I’m showing you that tall skinny closed door you see in all my Instagram pictures of my kitchen. Also, I’m going to show you how I keep it organized with three kids who are always in there!
First off, I am no expert in the field of organization. I just keep moving things around until they work for our family. Over the years though, I have found a system that works well for us and maybe they will work for you too if you have trouble keeping things organized in the pantry. You can see more of my Spring/ Summer kitchen tour here. Let’s get started! (*Affiliate links used for your convenience)
When we first moved into our house a year and a half ago this small closet had three wire shelves in it. That would certainly not do! While we had the painters painting the rest of the house I had my poor Father-in-Law ripping out that wire shelving. Then had the painters paint it SW Sea Salt right after they painted the laundry room. He and I took some measurements and I took a quick trip to the Container Store.
Back in the day, I used to work in a busy restaurant and always loved their industrial shelves. The clean lines and the amount of weight they can carry makes them ideal for pantries. We had just enough room to squeeze these heavy duty Metro Commercial Industrial Shelving This closet has the 60 inch and the 36 inch. I also have the clear liners on each shelf.
This project can be broken down into days if needed. I know in my house they minute I enter the kitchen I have an audience of little ones who are suddenly starving and must be fed immediately! So go shelf by shelf if that is all the time available.
Step 1. Clean out and Purge
Take everything out and check expiration dates. Have a donate pile for foods that will not be eaten due to dietary changes. Also a great time to see what staples you might need to replace. Dust off shelves and cans if needed. I like to do some brainstorming about different dinner combinations! I know I tend to get in a rut with dinners and this sparks that little light inside my head to go “oh, yeah, we haven’t had that in a while!” It’s like shopping your own personal store! And who doesn’t love shopping?
Step 2. Group like items together into zones
Now that it’s all sparkly clean in there, let’s get a system together. Start putting like things together. Whether it’s baking supplies or pastas nothing makes a pantry work better than having distinct sections. I usually think of this as zones. In our house, we don’t bake often so baking supplies are up on higher shelves. Pastas and snacks are kept lower. Most used items are eye level. Can goods are kept lower because I use them less often. This is the planning phase.
The “Breakfast Zone” is cereals, pancake mix, oatmeal, breakfast breads and breakfast bars. Any and everything my family eats every day for breakfast. This system keeps everyone from digging around in there and messing up other shelves. A bonus about this zone system is when it’s time to make the grocery list I can tell at a glance what we need.
The “Snack Zone” is a two shelfer for this family. The bottom container has granola and bars and even some fruit snacks. These are items my 4 and 6 year old can grab. They are portioned out items. The upper shelf has items that I have taken out of their store packaging. Clear uniform packaging makes it easy to see what needs to be added to the grocery list. All my square containers are the OXO Containers from the Container Store. They are a bit pricey, but they have an airtight seal and they come in a large variety of sizes. I have been collecting mine over time. A little here and a little there every time I go to the Container Store I add a couple more to my shopping cart. Shhh!
Step 3: Shop for baskets and containers
This is the fun part! And it doesn’t have to cost anything more than a trip around your house. Anything can be used to corral like items: baskets, buckets, shoe boxes covered with paper. Really the sky is the limit! My white plastic containers I have had for years. They are from Target and I have moved them around whenever I needed to organize a space. Walmart has a large selection of baskets too that are very reasonably priced. And don’t overlook the Dollar Store! For my pantry I wanted the uniform color to be white.
Step 4: Label, label, label
Next, label your containers. I used chalkboard labels from Martha Stewart. They come in different sizes and I really wanted some flexibility of what they said. My kids get tired of snacks and I wanted to be able to rotate the contents. Office supply stores are a great source for labels. And don’t forget about the dollar spot in Target. I have found some really cute labels there!
Step 5: Set up zones
Let’s get that pantry back together! Most used items would go eye level and work up and down to lesser used items. This is the best part of the whole project! Step back and marvel at your accomplishment! Snap a selfie and pat yourself on your back. You did it!
Step 6: Don’t be afraid of change if it doesn’t work right the first time
Organization only works if it works great for you! What I mean is, if it ends up messy in a week then go back and re-evaluate the system. Why is it not working? Too many restrictions? User error?(meaning children or husband) Zones not easy to reach?
Never be afraid to go back and tweak it a little. I can’t tell you how many times I have organized a space only to find that it ends up looking a mess in a month. Usually it’s just a small adjustment that needs to be made so it works more smoothly. Organization should make things easy to find and less stressful. If it has the opposite reaction then start over.
Okay, quick recap of this book I have written:
Six Steps to an Organized Pantry:
- clean out and take inventory
- corral like items
- shop for baskets/containers
- Label them
- set zones and place on appropriate shelves for ease of use
- don’t be afraid to change it up if not working
Thanks for stopping by and I hope these tips can help you if you need a pantry overhaul. I would love to hear how this system works for you! Leave me a message and let’s chat pantry organization!
In the meantime, you can find me feeding my starving children who have been patiently waiting for me to finish this up so they could eat. LOL!