ORGANIZING YOUR PANTRY

pantryOne of the most overlooked—and probably one of the most despised—jobs around your home would be that of reorganizing your kitchen’s pantry.  It’s one of those tasks that generally isn’t even on your radar.  When it occurs to you is when you are digging through shelves of items hurriedly looking for that spice or canned good you know is there somewhere.  You saw it a while ago, but now it seems to have vanished.  You make a mental note that “one of these days,” you’re going to take the time to straighten up everything on those shelves and put them in some kind of order.  And then you forget all about it until the next time you can’t find something.

And here’s a bit of bad news:  There is no easy way to reorganize that space.  There are no short cuts.  Once you’ve made your peace with that bit of bad news, you can move on to actually doing something about it.  With that in mind, here are some tips that will make the process somewhat less painful, and the end result much more effective.

Step one is to remove everything from the shelves and other storage space in the pantry.  This enables you to give the space a thorough cleaning and to inventory all of the items on hand.

Toss out the empty or nearly-empty containers and check labels to see whether anything is past its expiration date.  Get rid of those things, as well.  Scrutinize what is left and determine what is worth keeping.  There’s no point in holding on to items that have seen no use over the past few years.  Decide also whether there’s anything that has been occupying space that really belongs in another area of the house, such as in a linen closet or desk drawer.

You’re still not ready to return anything to the pantry just yet.  Instead, group everything you intend to keep into appropriate categories.  For example:  spices and baking goods together, beans, grains and pastas together, condiments, oils, salad dressings and vinegar in one area.

Consider which articles you reach for most often, and which ones see less regular use, and let that be you guideline for how you return them to the shelves.  The more frequently you need to reach for something, the more convenient its regular spot should be.

Finally, scrutinize your pantry space closely while it’s still empty and uncluttered.  Consider additional storage options.  What about using an over-the-door shoe organizer to hold some items?  Does your pantry space allow for pegboard backing on a wall or a door?  These can be amazingly versatile and strong.  You can anchor hooks or suspend plastic baskets for these, creating room for cutting boards, utensils and shelf-stable items.

Take a few moments to plot out just how and where you will store things in your refurbished pantry area and what you might want to buy before everything goes back into the space.  Be realistic and reasonable in your goals.  Using clear plastic storage containers with labels can be time savers and efficient places to keep cereal, snacks or bulk items.  Remember, however that those require some ongoing maintenance (transferring the contents from the boxes and bags in which you purchase them, and keeping the bins clean).  If you know yourself well enough to know it’s not something you’ll keep up with regularly, then buying things like these may be nothing more than a needless expense and a waste of your time.  You might be better off simply keeping things in their original containers!

One last key element to pantry reorganization…  If you’re going to go to all the trouble of doing it, then keep up the good work!  Incorporate a few moments in your week to making sure things remain tidy and in their proper space.  Don’t fall into the trap of casually tossing something back into the pantry telling yourself that you’ll put it away properly later.  At least once a week, take the time to make sure everything is in its designated spot, package labels facing outward.  Wipe down the shelves and inventory items regularly so that you know approximately when amounts are getting low and things don’t remain well beyond their expiration dates.

It’s easy to let messiness and disorganization creep in.  It’s also easy to prevent it with just a little vigilance.

If you are looking to expand your pantry’s space or to create a new one, remember that your local Handyman Matters office is happy to assist you with this or with any other repair or remodel jobs around your home.