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by Sarah Steimer

The wild and wonderful world of my nonperishables, cooking tools and various kitchen odds and ends.

So Caitlin had some killer before and after photos for her refrigerator post, but I have no “before” pictures.  I got to start entirely from scratch because I recently moved to a new neighborhood in Chicago! But trust me, this was quite the challenge. My previous pantry looked nothing like this at all, so it took some serious brainstorming to get everything in place.

Unlike refrigerators, pantries are a lot more apt to vary from home to home, so I’ll try to avoid too many tips that are unique to a certain style of kitchen closet.

I look so much more organized than I feel.

Let’s start with the foodstuffs.

  1. As best illustrated by my oils and vinegars corner, try to keep like items grouped together. This is just a simple trick so when you reach out aimlessly with your hand, you at least have some general direction to head in. Using this same thought process, remember that accessibility comes first: Don’t worry about organizing by height, organize by how often you use the item.
  2. Save those extra shoe boxes or baskets! We all have lots of items in our pantries that are half-used and and wrapped in rubber bands or twisties. There is no easy way to stack or file these. Toss them into a box or basket so you can avoid a loose clutter that falls every time you reach for something. You can also store your extra twist ties and rubber bands for the next half-used bag of chocolate chips.
  3. Stack your cans! Canned goods are so great. They take forever to expire and they can be stacked up like (slightly less stable) Legos.
  4. Remember those container tips? Here’s where it really comes together. Storing you bulk ingredients in a few nice jars truly saves space and makes your pantry look crisp.

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Next up: Let’s accept that sometimes we need to add a little something to make storage easier. The shelves that already exist in your pantry just don’t always cut it. So add some shelves, some cubby holes or a few hooks.

I don't love Ikea all the time, but their quaint (and cheap) little cubby options are just what you need every now and again.

  1. My pantry already had hooks in it, but it would definitely be worth adding some yourself if you have the room. These certainly aren’t all of my pots and pans, but they are the ones I grab the most often. The rest I keep under the sink. On the opposite side of my pantry (see the smaller picture below) I also have a coat hook where I hang my apron and oven mitts. You want to have easy access to those mitts when you need to grab a hot pan FAST.
  2. It’s so easy to find a nice, solid pitcher or other ceramic container at a thrift store – or a new container for cheap as well. You want to be able to see what cooking tools you have without having to root around for them. I have another similar pitcher next to my workspace in the kitchen for the tools I use most often. I keep my knives in a drawer, though. You don’t want sharp objects in anything that could be tipped over.

    Special thanks to Anna for the oven mitts and hot pads and to my mom for the apron.

  3. I haven’t quite mastered my spice center, as it is not as visible as I would like. But I do try to keep the spices I use the most up front and at eye level or a little below. You don’t want spices above your head as they usually come in glass containers.
  4. This is my dishtowel, napkin and other assorted cloth center. Don’t store you towels with food or cookware. Keep them separate so they remain sanitary.

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Last, but not least, we have the bulkier items. When I started this guide I made a point to look around at other websites’ organization guides. Well, I don’t know where they keep their cooking appliances, but I don’t have a special hidden spot, I have space on the floor. Because I don’t own a house, I can be pretty sure that I’ll be moving again one day, so I don’t really like to throw away the boxes my appliances come in. It really makes moving a LOT easier when you keep those boxes. And guess what – it makes storage easier, too. If you look back at my top picture, I keep most of my appliances that I don’t use as often on the top, hard-to-reach shelf.

Get a microwave cart! They offer great extra storage.

  1. Keep your snacks in a nice basket. Not only does it organize them away from the rest of your food, but it can be easily picked up and carted off to your guests in the living room. Or it just makes it easier for you to hide it from your roommate or yourself.
  2. Some like to store their bakeware (cookie sheets, muffin tins, etc.) in the oven or in the oven’s separate broiler. Mine fit pretty cozily under the microwave. I guess this isn’t really a tip, is it…
  3. I have large appliances and no lovely spot on the counter to store them. Well, keep it in the box, on the floor. No one will judge you, I promise. Keep the items you use the most on top of their boxes if you want to access them faster. If the sight of the boxes really bother you, try sectioning them off behind a colorful curtain.

Looking for more cleaning tips and tricks? Check out our full Spring Cleaning guide here.

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