We have all been there before…we surround ourselves with disorganization, stepping over piles, and searching for one lost item after another until we finally say, “This is not working!” We know we have to do something before we officially go crazy!
Daniella was feeling that way about her kitchen. She sent Space for Living pictures of her tiny pantry and limited shelf space.
The best thing is, Daniella had not given up! She was hatching plans to create a coffee corner and get her space organized. She reached out for help because there were a few sticky areas that she needed advice on. She knew she needed to work with what she has, but every time she got started there were a few problem spots that would stop her before she started. She left a comment on the Space for Living blog:
“I’m having trouble coming up with ideas on how to store/organize my pantry items (flours, sugar, dried beans, etc). I have no pantry so am just tetris-ing things onto shelves and counter tops. And I’m brainstorming ideas for what to do with my coffee cup collection. Any ideas?”
As soon as I read Daniella’s comment, (and admired the word “tetris-ing”, seriously I want to incorporate it into my daily vocabulary), I decided we should get started right away! I seriously might have an organizing problem (as in I get way too giddy about transforming spaces) because I dropped the other post I was working on for last week (Oops!) and began dreaming of kitchen solutions for Daniella.
What I came up with are 5 tips to solve a small pantry problem.
No matter what you call it, the first step in organizing it to comb through your cabinets to get rid of items you no longer need, want or use.
Is there any food item that has been there unused for 6 months or more? Either incorporate it into a meal this week or admit to yourself that you aren’t going to use it and give it to a friend, food bank, or trash it.
Really be ruthless with what you keep when there is limited space. Plus it always feels good to start with a clean slate.
2. Limit your Stockpile
Anyone with a small space knows it is really important to buy only what you need for the next week or two.
Unfortunately, this is not the time for stockpiling. Unless you can designate another area in your home for stock pantry items such as a basement or hall cabinet, stockpiling will create more headaches then it is worth.
Yes, buying in bulk may save some money, but not enough to justify the time and space these bulky purchases take up when you have tight space. No one wants to store bulk jars of mayonnaise in their bedroom right next to their shoes, am I right?
For instance, try to keep only a handful of spices that you use on a monthly or even weekly basis. If you must have a certain spice for a special recipe see if you can buy it at a store that sells spices by bulk and buy only what you need for that recipe instead of a whole jar that won’t see the light of day for another year or two. Spices will have lost potency by then anyway.
3. Sort Like with Like
Once we have paired down our food storage as much as possible, it time to start thinking about the layout of the kitchen. What types of food items go together and where will each item be most accessible in the kitchen?
Daniella is already one step ahead of me with this one and has her spices right next to the stove and vitamins and some baking supplies on the fridge. She’s also been working on plans to make a little coffee station.
Once food is sorted by type, it is time to make it easy to access with containers! This is the fun part and what helps keep a space organized!
For storing items on top of the fridge, I would recommend 2-3 containers to separate out food and vitamins. They could squeeze under the cabinet like mine or be towards the front if you access them often.
Be sure to add labels to your containers. You’ll be amazed what a difference it makes when putting things away!
Sort your vitamins and other items into as detailed a groups as possible. All the vitamins you take at the same time can be pulled down in together in one container. This can also be applied to your medicine cabinet and other areas of your house. Containerizing like with like is always a win!
Going above and beyond
If you are really feeling the bug to get organized you could sort out your vitamins into divided pill boxes or even daily plastic baggies. This would involve more effort but might allow you to recycle the vitamin containers to create more space on the fridge for storage.
5. Rethink Cabinets
The next problem area are the very narrow cabinets on either side of the stove.
It is easy to see how hard it is to store and access much of anything. However, Daniella mentioned the spice rack, on the bottom right, has helped her organizing efforts some.
Daniella is no organizing newbie and is already keeping the most used items on the lower shelves while the less frequently used items on the upper shelves. Fabulous!
My next best advice, create drawers!
This is really just another way of using containers in your cabinets. Using containers to make drawers allow you to reach an item in the back of the cabinet without rearranging the whole cabinet. A huge plus I’d say!
You can buy matching containers or use whatever is available around the house like me. An old box and baby wipe container are perfect for keeping my top shelf baking items easily accessible.
If your cabinets are shallow, I would recommend baby shoe boxes, bank check boxes, or even repurposing old food packaging containers.
Once you sort food by type or by products you use together, you can pull down the container to reach everything and put it all back in one fell swoop.
Going above and beyond
Labeling shelves is a small trick to discourage the natural tendency to stuff items into any open space. This not only keeps shelves a little tidier, it also gives items a permanent home so you always know where to look. It also work well for anyone who is helping with prep or cleanup *wink,wink.
While these 5 tips are a great start to any organizing project, here is part 2 of solving small pantry problems to see the complete answer to Daniella’s question. There are more tips you can apply throughout your home and even a world renowned sketch.