How to Organize a Pantry

Having a clean, well-organized pantry is one of the more satisfying things in life. Seriously! If you’ve never organized your pantry before, plan to set aside a few hours to tackle this project, and prepare to feel great afterwards! 

To get started, you’ll want to have compost, recycling and trash bags/bins on hand, as well as cleaning supplies, an old bed sheet (I’ll explain this later), and a good pair of rubber gloves. Try to use non-toxic cleaning supplies, since this is where your food is stored. A little bit of warm, soapy water will work just fine. Consider taking a “before” photo, so that you can admire your hard work when the pantry has been transformed!

Follow these steps:

  1.  Lay the old bed sheet on the floor or counter. Pantry items can be messy, so protect whatever surface you are using to categorize them.
  1. Set up your compost, recycling and trash cans near the sheet.
  1. Begin to pull items out of the pantry, one-by-one. Check the expiration date. If it has expired, compost the item and recycle the container when possible. Use the trash can for containers that cannot be recycled.
  1. If the item is still good, place it on the sheet. Begin to create categories for all of the items. Keep “like” items together, such as healthy snacks, sweet treats, chips and crackers, cereals, baking supplies, vitamins, backstock, etc. Categorize the items in a way that makes sense to you and those you live with. Everyone is different, the only “right” way is the one that works for you. 
  2. Once the pantry has been completely emptied, it’s time to do a deep cleaning. Be sure to wipe down every surface. Pay close attention to the corners, where crumbs tend to collect. 
  3. Now that the pantry is clean, you can start to put things back. Pro tip: be very intentional when creating systems. The more thought you put into it, the more likely the system will withstand the test of time. It’s useful (though not necessary) to use a variety of bins and containers to keep pantry items contained. For example, you can use one bin to store all baking supplies, another bin for sweet treats, cereals, snacks, etc. If decanting is your jam, go for it!*
  4. Label your system! Labels help us remember where to put things when we are done. 
  5. Take trash, recycling, and compost out, and wash the bed sheet. Finish this (and every) project to completion!
  6. Take your “after” pic and send it to Create Calm!
  7. Maintenance phase. The best way to stay on top of organization is to be proactive. Adopt a “do it now” mantra. Every time you open your pantry, take a minute to check your systems and tidy if necessary. When you establish this habit, staying organized is easy-peasy!

*A note on decanting… Using clear containers or jars to store dried food certainly helps keep a pantry organized. But you need to make sure this is the right system for you. Does your schedule allow time for decanting each week when you unload your groceries? The purpose of a well-designed system is to make your life easier, not to create more work. The only “right” way is what works best for you. 

Happy organizing!

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