All organizing projects need the flexibility of adjusting and adapting over time. When we renovated our pantry in 2012-2013, I had a few unrealistic expectations of how our pantry would function. I learned a lot from the mistakes I made and created a few solutions to remedy the problem.
When we took on our pantry last year, I needed a lot of help! We went from chaos to heaven – it was truly an amazing difference and helped us so much.
As I’m sure you can predict, with two small children it didn’t stay this pristine. Here is my pantry a few months ago (a year after the reveal):
Not horrible, I suppose, but certainly not as neat as I would like. So I began to evaluate what wasn’t working for us.
As an organizer, you would think this would all be second nature. But, I quickly learned that in order to maximize our pantry space, we need to make some changes in the way we stored our belongings and food, and how we used the space we already had.
As follows are the five pantry organizing mistakes I didn’t realize I was making…
Small Pantry Organization Mistakes & Solutions
Using the pantry as a storage solution
Sometimes, our pantries turn into the junk drawers of closets. They turn into the alpha of all catch-all storage solutions for rarely used appliances, empty storage containers, and a whole slew of other odds and ends that really don’t have a place anywhere else.
For us, it was our DVD collection and player that never made it to the living room. It was only supposed to be temporary, but we all know how that goes! Since our previous reorganization, we’ve relocated these items to make room for small attachments to appliances and other food storage items.
As a good rule of thumb when organizing, it’s important to put like with like.
Otherwise, you spend precious time and energy searching and digging around the random items (like a DVD player) to make grocery lists or take inventory. Then, the disorganization creates even more chaos and that’s how you end up with duplicate items and waste!
It’s a vicious cycle that can only be stopped by giving everything a place to live – permanently.
Improper food storage
I never thought you could store foods improperly, but this is definitely a thing!
Did you know that some produce items aren’t exactly neighborly with others?
For example, I recently learned that it’s not a good idea to store flour and cumin next to each other. Flours and meals absorb the scents and flavors of other food items nearby. Keep this in mind when you are mapping out your pantry plans.
Air-lock containers can help with the “contamination” and flavors spreading around. These are usually clear, containers with a locking lid. Plus, clear containers are a great way to display your dried foods in a practical and aesthetically pleasing way.
Here’s another great idea: If your fruits and vegetables tend to go bad before you are able to eat them, store them outside of the pantry or in an easily accessible spot. Warm, dark pantries encourage foods to rot quickly.
This used to happen to us often, so we keep our fruits on the counter for easy access. Now, I have a place to store dried pasta and snacks.
This was a great solution as my boys grow older. One shelf and one basket were not enough!
Using the wrong labels
I never anticipated using the wrong labels would be an issue, but as many times as my boys change their minds about their favorite snacks, I have found myself labeling and re-labeling over and over again!
When we first organized the pantry, I used printable labels that were applied directly to their containers. It was a great idea until I needed to update the labels.
Instead, I now use the Martha Stewart for Avery Chalk Labels. The chalk pen makes it easy to write on the label and simply wipe them off if something changes!
Keeping everything labeled makes it easier on yourself and others who may be helping in the kitchen.
Ignoring valuable real estate
My biggest aha! moment when reorganizing the pantry space was all of the valuable real estate that was ignored!
My biggest piece of advice when reorganizing a pantry is to maximize your pantry space as best you can!
When we inset the top of the pantry to make the shelves easier to reach, I was completely okay with sacrificing the space…and I’m not sure why I thought I needed to.
If you are anything like us, you also have an abundance of canned foods. They always seem to overflow into other areas and hide behind each other making it impossible to see what you already have!
I’m not sure why it took so long to realize I had two blank doors, but my pantry door organization has been a game-changer.
I bought two inexpensive can/jar holders that slip over the tops of the door and are the perfect size for cans and even seasoning packets.
This is one of the best pantry storage tricks out there, and I even implemented it in our former home. It opened up so much space in the drawers and on the shelves, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it to begin with!
Not keeping a pantry inventory and system
Not implementing a system for your pantry is a recipe for chaos and frustration. Creating a system should be a part of your pantry planning and layout phase. Structure your pantry in such a way that benefits you and your lifestyle. Utilizing a system for storage, cooking, and keeping inventory will help your sanity tremendously!
Now, we use the “first in, first out” rule. When we purchase in-bulk products that we use often, we bring any leftover “inventory” of that product to the front and place the new items directly behind the older ones. This way, the older things are used up and don’t expire before the new ones.
As we are unloading our groceries, we automatically unpackage granola bars, fruit snacks, and anything else that is packaged individually, and place them in their respective containers. This way, a lone breakfast bar inside a box isn’t mistaken for five breakfast bars. This keeps our inventory accurate and prevents fruit snack emergencies!
Also, organize your pantry in the way you cook. For example, if you make a lot of soups, store the broths and canned items within quick reach. Keep the flours and sugars on a higher shelf if baking isn’t a regular occurrence.
Speaking of inventory, this always seemed fussy to me, until I actually tried it. Along with my free printable menu planner, this has made meal planning extremely easy and actually helped me save money in our weekly grocery budget. I no longer need to try to remember every little thing we have, and I don’t end up with unnecessary duplicates. Get your free printable pantry inventory here!
After our simple changes, this is the pantry now! It may not be a huge difference, but we are making it work as time goes on and adapting when needs change.
Even when you think an organizing project is done, chances are it isn’t going to be perfect forever – everything requires maintenance! Have you ever completed an organizing project, only to find that you were making changes shortly after? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
This always seemed fussy to me, until I actually tried it. Along with my free printable menu planner, this has made meal planning extremely easy and actually helped me save money in our weekly grocery budget. I no longer need to try to remember every little thing we have, and I don’t end up with unnecessary duplicates. Get your free printable pantry inventory here!
After our simple changes, this is the pantry now! It may not be a huge difference, but the plot of the story is making it work as time goes on and adapting when needs change. Even when you think an organizing project is done, chances are it isn’t going to be perfect forever – everything requires maintenance! Have you ever completed an organizing project, only to find that you were making changes shortly after? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! You can also see a post answering some of the most frequently asked questions about the pantry here!