Most people use their kitchen pantry often, which means it can easily get jumbled and feeling like chaos. Most pantries (even mine) are in constant need of tweaking and adjusting based on the time of year, what food items you’ve been buying lately, and a whole host of other things. While periodically cleaning and rearranging the pantry will always be a necessity of good housekeeping, establishing a baseline of organization is imperative to being able to easily maintain the space.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with my client, Lacy*, to take her pantry from overbearing to inviting. Your food storage area probably has some of its own unique challenges, but I hope you can pick up a few tips here to take back with you!
*name changed for privacy
First, Lacy painted the pantry a light tan/yellow to match her existing kitchen walls. She also added new granite-look shelf liner. It was a good “clean slate” for our project!
Lacy and I sat down before I got started and to talk through the task. She laid out her top priorities for the pantry as a usable space.
Of course, we wanted to make every inch as efficient as possible, but these three issues were must-solve problems:
Number 1: Visibility of spices, jars, and cans
Number 2: Poor Lighting
Number 3: Wasted space on top and bottom
We started by pulling out all the the food items and sorting them by type: bottles, bags, cans, etc. Then, we went through each stack and threw away all the food that was out of date or donated the items that were still good, but Lacy said she would probably never use.
Don’t we all have items that we were given or bought on sale, but sit around for months, maybe even years?! It was time for them to go.
Since Lacy’s main concern was being able to see and locate all of her spices, jars, and cans, over-the-door shelves were a mustfor her pantry. Over-the-door shelves are great for pantries (or other closets) where the shelves are deep and small items easily get swallowed up by larger items. Putting shallow shelves on the back of the pantry door was a great way to pull all of those small bottles and containers into an easy-to-spot location.
This brand of shelf can actually be mounted right onto the wall, but over the back of the door worked best here. And bonus- it was easy to put together!
To organize the canned goods, we opted for a dispenser. This type of device doesn’t make sense for everyone, but Lacy had a lot of like-cans: 10+ cans of corn, 10+ cans cream of chicken, 10+ cans green beans, etc. Basically, she has several favorites that her family eats often and that she buys in bulk when they are on sale.
These dispensers stack cans one in front of the other, so when you grab one, the next one rolls down, ready to go– kind of like at the grocery store. There are many varying types of can dispensers, but two of these mini organizers worked best for the size of shelves in Lacy’s pantry.
Another problem was the wasted space at the top and bottom of the pantry. Underneath the bottom shelf, there was about two feet from the floor to the first shelf. The space itself wasn’t a problem! However, most of the items being stored underneath were short. This left a lot of empty space above (between the items and the first shelf) that was not being used!
The same problem was happening on the top shelf. The pantry ceiling goes way, way up- as high as the kitchen ceiling. Not all of that space was useable, but we could certainly capture more of it, especially to store seldomly-used items.
Our solution was to add a steel wire rack to both the top and bottom areas to cut the big space in both places. That means Lacy gained two more shelves in her pantry! That’s huge!
She now can now use the *new* top shelf for infrequently used items and the *new* bottom shelf for her stockpile. Before, Lacy was storing all of her boxes on the main shelves, even duplicates. Now, instead of having 4 boxes of cake mix on the middle shelf, she can store one box there and the rest underneath, replenishing the box from her stash below when needed. Keeping only one of each item on the main shelves can be a game changer. I would have advised this method regardless, but having two shelves in that bottom area made Lacy’s available stockpile space twice as large! That’s a win.
Lighting is a huge problem in many pantries. Even if you have an overhead bulb, chances are, once you get a ways back in your shelves, it’s hard to see what’s there. In this project, our best option was LED motion-sensing lights. As soon as we reached for something in their path – BOOM- everything was bright!
I loved that you didn’t have to hit or click anything to activate the light. We installed them around the door frame, so they would provide light to multiple shelves at once and shine all the way to the back. Once we had them working, Lacy wondered how she ever found anything before!
To complete the project, we put Lacy’s opened snacks, cereals, and baking supplies into tight-sealing containers. Lacy owned a few that she loved already, so we ordered more of the same brand to match. Putting snacks in containers not only extends their freshness, but allows you to easily see how much of any given product you have left. I’m all for anything that cuts down on my time making a grocery list!
Overall, we got rid of very little, but gained a lot! Of space, of light, of visibility. I enjoyed working on the project with Lacy and am looking forward to conquering our next organization challenge!