This weekend was finally time to do some pantry organization I’ve been putting off for far too long. I love decluttering and organizing and I still find myself procrastinating on tackling messy areas of my house. If you don’t love organizing and tossing stuff you don’t need anymore, then you may have even more trouble procrastinating than I do. In that case, I hope I can inspire you to get started!

I want to share some simple tips for getting started, making the most of your time, and getting the best use of your space. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about organizing. You can see how I reworked my first aid drawer and baking cabinet to make them more efficient. When you use an area a lot, you just have to reorganize it every so often.

Using Non-Traditional Spaces

When we were looking for a house, one of the things we wanted was a pantry. Obviously since my pantry is the closet under the stairs we didn’t end up in a house with a purpose built pantry. It met all the other needs we had so we went for it and I haven’t regretted buying this house for a second.

The lack of a pantry pushed me to be creative. When you have a large family and store large quantities of bulk food you’ve got to get creative and quick! Aside from storing coats, the vacuum, craft supplies, and puzzles this wasn’t an ideal space for much else besides storing buckets and bins of food.

Be Creative!

If you don’t have a nice pantry space in your home, just look around and see what you can modify for a pantry. Ideally it would be close to your kitchen but that’s not a deal breaker. Maybe you have a closet in a guest bedroom or extra shelves in your laundry room. I store flats of canned goods under my china cabinet. A friend built a tall bed frame for her guest bedroom and stores buckets underneath. You might have a linen closet that would be better used as a pantry than for storing sheets. Think outside the box!

Simple Pantry Organization

The first step on any organizing job is to pull out everything that is currently in the space. When every item is out, you can see what you really have crammed in there and how much space you have to work with. I pulled out the vacuum, bottles of oil and molasses, bins for food, buckets of grain, sugar, and flour, along with bins of toys we keep for visiting kids.

There were also random hats, bags, crates of old schoolwork, the bag of winter hats and gloves I’ve been looking for, several tablecloths, and lots of random things to sort through.

Pantry organization in process.
Pantry organization in process.
Pantry organization in process.

Time to Sort

Next go through all the things you pulled out and see what you need to keep, toss, donate, or return to its proper home. I went through the bins and organized them into categories. One bin is for bulk baking items I use to refill containers in my kitchen like baking powder and cocoa. One is for coffee and bulk herbs, one is for chips and snacks, and a final one for gallon jugs of liquids and potatoes. The big buckets store quick and old fashioned oats and all-purpose flour. I keep sugar in the small buckets.

These are all things I access often so it’s better to have them close to the kitchen. You want to think through where you put certain things if you are not storing them in your kitchen. I store wheat berries, rice, and dried beans in buckets in our garage. The grain mill is out there as well so it makes sense to keep the wheat near the mill.

Clean Your Space

The next step is to clean your space really well. In the before photos you can see the mess that had accumulated in my pantry closet. A bag of chips had ripped when someone aggressively pulled it out (teenagers!). The chips were just hanging out with spilled oats and other trash and toys. That’s life!

I vacuumed the carpet really well, especially around the edges. Next I wiped down the walls, door, and door frame with my all-purpose cleaning spray. If you have shelves or anything like that then give them a good scrub down.

Pantry closet before.
Pantry closet clean and ready to go.

Put It All Back Together

Now it’s the fun part! Take all your sorted items that belong in the pantry space and reset them in the most logical and efficient way you can think of. I put the buckets in the back since I only access them to refill my gallon jars. Most of the bins are on the left so I can get back to the buckets. Since my bin lids aren’t super strong I make sure the ones on top aren’t too heavy. The bin we keep chips and snacks in is on top of my bulk baking bin.

The thing to keep in mind is that things don’t have to be final. Set up your space the best you can and if you find yourself moving something back and forth to get to a particular thing then rearrange. You have to make your space work for you instead of you working for your space.

Pantry closet before with coats.
Pantry after!

Pantry Organizing For Yourself

Obviously everyone who cooks in your home is going to benefit from an organized space but if you are the primary cook then you want to consider your working and cooking habits first. If something makes sense for you and helps you cook and put groceries away more easily then go for it. There are no rules and being more efficient will make working in your kitchen more enjoyable. You also will have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what you have and where it is.

Not Just For Pantries!

I’ve been talking specifically about pantry organization but these steps and tips apply to any space you need to get under control. I do the same process for my closet or a whole room. For a room I would work in sections but follow the same steps. Once you get started, the satisfaction of seeing a clean organized space will motivate you to tackle the next area!