by guest blogger Maya Rodale, writer of historical tales of true love and adventure
Is your pantry a disorganized mess? Mine was—until I spent a blissful afternoon watching TV, cleaning it out, reorganizing, and labeling everything. I find tasks like this soothing and the sight of a neatly organized and labeled space brings me ridiculous amounts of joy. Here are my 8 steps to getting it done well:
1. Observe the mess. Different pantries have different problems. In ours, potatoes and onions and garlic were jumbled up in bowls, making it hard to check inventory status. My mom’s pantry was plagued with stale, half-eaten boxes of snacks. My cleaning closet was a jumbled mixture of products—some even empty!—making it hard to ascertain what was needed.
2. Take EVERYTHING out. Remove every last thing from every last shelf. Oh, you might want to clear off your kitchen counters first.
3. Wipe off the shelves. I apply a vinegar-and-water solution with a paper towel. But whatever floats your boat—just make sure it’s nontoxic.
4. Throw out the old and the bad. I don’t like wasting food, but let’s face it: If it’s stale or expired, no one is going to eat it. Compost, trash, or recycle, accordingly. See what you can donate. This is an EXCELLENT time to set your space up for success with food resolutions; get rid of the food you no longer want/should have in your diet (such as anything white).
5. Take an inventory of remaining items and space. What needs to be replaced? What makes sense to buy in bulk? Is there a better way to store items? Now is a good time to take measurements if you think you need to buy containers. Make a list.
6. Make strategic acquisitions. I purchased containers to hold our staple items. I also invested in nice glass jars with lids so that we could see at a glance what we had, and how much of it. Also, this means I now skip packaged foods at the store and go straight to the bulk bins, saving a bit of plastic and money in the long run. If there are foods you go through a lot of and you need to resupply, head out to the store NOW. There’s nothing more annoying than fitting everything in just so and then returning from the grocery store with more.
Speaking of food resolutions: Don’t replace junk food and don’t make room for it.
7. Stock your shelves. I’m guilty of putting items with pretty labels in front (and then not wanting to eat them because they’re too pretty). Aside from aesthetic criteria like that, stock foods in a way that makes sense for your family. Me? I put the snacks up high so The Husband sees them. My little sisters have claimed the bottom shelf. Whatever you do, make sure it’s easy to see what’s there.
8. Label it. I learned organization and labeling from my dear Aunt Heather, who also gifted me with my Cadillac of label makers. It is my hope that the labels remove the mystery (not what you want when it comes to food or cleaning supplies), help me to keep supplies stocked, and encourage others maintain my system of organization (I can hear my mother scoffing as I write this).
Maya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a Master’s degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.Her latest book is The Tattooed Duke. Learn more at mayarodale.com.
Great article! I found out a long time ago that if I couldn’t SEE what was in a container, I quickly forgot about it altogether. Over the years I have saved a variety of glass jars (pickles, sauerkraut, jelley, etc.) and their lids and now use them almost exclusively in my pantry. They are free and if you break one (outside of the mess) it doesn’t cost a penny. From “little bits” to a couple of pounds of rice they are visible and so much easier to keep track of. Another plus? The bugs and moths that can plague a pantry from time to time can not get into the jars.