De-Clutter Series: The Pantry
Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Welcome to the first post in the de-clutter series! For this series I will be sharing one area of my apartment that needs to be de-cluttered, cleaned out, and organized. Whether you have a small or large home, I'm confident that you'll find something to take away from these!
Though I do keep fairly routine practices like not collecting things I don't need and staying on top of organizing, not every area of my life is always neat and tidy. Of course, life happens, things collect and need to be gone through regularly. That's why "living simply" isn't just ticking things off a to-do list, it's a way of life that I always come back to when other things may have taken priority.
That being said, the pantry is one of those places that can get neglected during those times. To start things off this week we're heading to my pantry, which can be more or less daunting for you depending on how large your pantry is. Some people have a whole cabinet dedicated to a pantry, others an open cart or shelf displayed in their kitchen, and for some, an entire pantry closet. For Anthony and I, we are quite limited with our pantry space. We have two cupboards right above our only counter for our daily food items, and one shelf in the bottom cupboard for baking supplies and treats. That's it. While it may seem like it would be a breeze to keep organized since it's so small, it's quite the opposite. We find it hard to make space for all the food we need and use frequently and it often piles up into a mess that can be hard to sift through.
Here are some negative effects that may occur from having a cluttered pantry:
1. Not being able to find anything when you need it.
2. Throwing away food because it was opened for too long or expired, contributing to food waste.
3. Inability to enjoy your kitchen because the thought of cooking stresses you out.
4. Wasting money on groceries you already have but didn't you know you did.
5. Missed opportunities to get creative while cooking in order to use up ingredients that will go bad soon.
Anthony and I have certainly gone through periods of experiencing at least one of these effects when our pantry is a mess. I know I can lose motivation to want to cook because part of the joy has been taken away when the ingredients I need are all over the place. We also end up purchasing more groceries than needed because we think we're out of something, when really its hidden on the top shelf. This cycle only adds to the mess. I'm sure you can relate if you have a large pantry as well! Whatever your food storage situation may be in your home, the process I'll be using will work for regardless, with a few tweaks here or there. Feel free to change things a bit based on how you think it will work effectively for you and your family.
Now that we've covered the negatives of having a cluttered pantry, let's take a look at what our pantry looks like when its gotten a bit out of hand. While we do have some organization on the bottom, the top is kind of a free for all.
In order to get any space in order, the first step is to take a look at it's entirety. Open it up and brainstorm solutions. Some questions to think about would be:
*What do I want this area to look like?
*What items do I/we use most often?
*What organizational tools would work best for the space? (Measure out your shelfs and sizes of containers that will fit)
For us, our coffee station (top left) needs to be more accessible, along with our breads and snacks (top right).
Now you need to gather your supplies for organizing. Since I already had a few baskets and empty candle jars hanging around, I decided to put those to better use in the pantry. If you can't find things around your house to use, the Dollar Tree, Target or Walmart all have cheap storage solutions for any issue you might have. I recommend getting cereal containers and jars for regularly used items (coffee, sugar, oats). I like to clean out used marinara, salsa and pickle jars to re-use in my kitchen and throughout my home to reduce waste and make it easier to see how much of an item we have.
For the candle jars, I cut out the wax with a knife, washed them out with dish soap and then let them soak in a baking soda and vinegar solution to get rid of any leftover scent. (I find these are also great for cotton pads and q-tips, makeup brushes and whatever else you can think of!)
The next step is to work through your pantry, one shelf (or area) at a time. This is especially true if you have a large pantry. Don't overwhelm yourself by taking everything out at once, rather, go shelf by shelf.
Empty everything onto the counter or floor, then clean the shelves. Get all those crumbs and built up gunk off the walls. This will create a fresh start for when it's nice and organized later on.
Next, go through the food in your pantry. Check the expiration dates, make sure the food is still fresh, and ask yourself if you use it any more. Are you really going to use 10 cans of corn before they expire? If not, set aside the items that are still in good shape and unopened to donate to a food shelter, family member or friend that you know will use it.
Due to the fact that we have such a tiny pantry area, I didn't need to throw out or donate anything. Instead, I chose to take out items that I don't use weekly and replace them for things that I do. I also took this time to organize everything into better categories of similar items (i.e, breads, granola bars, sauces, spices, all together).
This is where creativity can come into play because how you want your pantry to look like and function is up to you! Use bins to hold your onions so the peels don't get everywhere, a basket for the snacks you reach for often, or a spice rack if that floats your boat. Whatever you've got, use it now to start putting things back on your shelves in a way that makes sense for you.
As long as you make sure items that are consistently used are easy to access, you're in good shape! Plus, it's not set in stone. I'm constantly switching things around as we add new foods to our diet and our habits change.
Here's the results from my de-clutter:
Everything we use often is within easy reach and with similar items. I decided to put labels on some areas of my pantry. While this is totally optional, I find it's nice for when you have guests or to tell items apart when you put them into jars like we do. (You can find plain labels at the dollar store).
The best part about finally doing a de-clutter is now we can see what we have and build meals based on what's already in our pantry. This is oh so cleverly called, pantry shopping. Due to the fact that we have such a small pantry, we have to do this all the time, though it can be extremely helpful for those with a larger space as well. I guarantee if you pantry shop more often you'll be saving tons of money while getting better at using up the items you already have, thus becoming a more mindful consumer.