Many of us have goals this year to be more organized around the house. And some of us also have a goal around healthy eating and wellness – everything from cooking more meals at home, eating less processed food, or making healthier choices that promote weight loss. These goals can be a challenge, but the good news is that you can tackle them both simultaneously by focusing on your pantry! They say the kitchen is the heart of the home – well, I say the pantry is the heart of the kitchen. Having an organized pantry can help you cook more, shop smartly and efficiently, and help foster the choices you and your family want to make with regard to food. And you can do all of this while creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing display just like those #pantrygoals posts on Pinterest!
Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to help create your very own pantry makeover at home:
Clean It Out
Start by taking everything out. Give the shelves a good wiping down. Sort through all of the food and discard stale and expired items and donate or toss items you don’t eat or don’t want to be eating. Sort everything else into categories – pastas, rice, condiments, baking supplies, etc. This helps you start with a clean slate and you’re organizing what you’ll actually use and consume.
Use Clear and Accessible Bins
When possible, use bins that allow you to see the contents on the shelves in your pantry. This helps you easily see what you have and if you’re running low on anything. The bins can be plastic, but they can also be wire baskets. Look for risers or tiered organizers for cans and bottles that can get crammed onto a shelf. The risers will help you see the items in the back. Lastly, think about using a Lazy Susan for spices, oils, or other bottles and cans. This makes everything more visible, accessible, and easy to use.
Decant When Logical
To decant or not to decant – it’s always the question. This is a personal choice of whether or not to empty bags and boxes of food into matching or at least more substantial and sustainable containers in your pantry. On the positive side, decanting things like flour, sugar, rice, and grains into your own jars can make them easier to use, easier to see when you’re running low, and a uniform, matching set of labeled jars or canisters can make your shelves look very pleasing to the eye. Having your own containers makes it much easier to buy items like lentils or grains from the bulk bins, too. I recommend you take packaged bars and snacks out of the often large cardboard boxes they are sold in. Decanting them into a bin or basket can save a lot of space. On the negative side, decanting can be an extra, annoying step that busy people don’t always feel like they have time to do. I personally have found that decanting things like flours, sugars, rice, and lentils makes a lot of sense for me. But for things like breakfast cereal, decanting it just not worth it for my family. We go through it too quickly to make decanting cereal something we can keep up with.
Make Frequently-Used Items Most Accessible
When putting your pantry in order, place the things you use the most, in the most accessible spots. For example, if you don’t bake often, don’t put your baking supplies front and center. Perhaps your morning smoothie supplies and your kids’ snacks would be items you’d want to make easiest to access. It’s all a personal preference, but you’ll want to think through what you will need to access most often when placing your items. When you’re placing your bins and baskets, place like with like and make each bin or space on the shelf a different category of food.
Help Your Pantry Support Your Goals
If, like me, you’re someone who is always striving to eat healthier and eat less processed food, these sorts of goals should be central to your pantry organization. As a professional organizer, I love to see the #pantrygoals photos on social media with all of the beautifully sorted bins of colorful chips, bars, and other processed snacks. But while those processed food colors look great, those products are foods I try to make more of a “sometimes treat” for my family. I say this because more than any other single factor, your environment influences your choices. If you’re working to choose less packaged snacks, for example, you may not want to have them on display or front and center in your pantry. It’s putting a visual temptation in a prominent place. Opt to put the healthier choices where you can your family and see them and reach for them!
Don’t Stock for Armegeddon
While I know for some of us it can feel like the end of the world is coming, as a professional organizer, I’m here to tell you should not stock your pantry as if it is. You do not need to prepare and stock for a hurricane unless one is actually coming. When you buy things like paper towel or canned goods, think about how much you actually need in the near future and just buy that amount and store it. And then, as I like to say, “store the rest at the store!” Otherwise, you’re taking up valuable real estate in your home and cluttering up your pantry with unnecessary bulk. In most circumstances, you can buy more when you need it – I promise you!
Katherine DiGiovanni is a professional organizer and principal at Neatnik in Washington, DC. When she's not helping clients organize their homes and lives, she's trying to keep up with it all and spend time with her husband and two children. You can find her on Instagram at @neatnikdc and at www.neatnikdc.com.