When you think of spring cleaning, what generally comes to mind? For me, it’s generally shampooing carpets, really cleaning the couch, and dusting, well, everything. I often forget about organization… or maybe I want to forget about organization. To me, there’s nothing fun about cleaning out a closet. Seeing all the money I spent on items that are never used bums me out, and I tend to run away from that sort of project.
With that said, it’s no wonder that my pantry is a total and complete nightmare. As a person who cooks a lot, having a totally unkempt pantry is actually pretty frustrating, so I was thrilled when Maeby Lopez, a professional organizer with Imagine Home Organization, sent me this six-step guide to cleaning out and organizing my pantry.
1. Take everything out of the pantry.
This was easy enough because I have a lot of counter space. If you don’t have much space in your kitchen, I suggest setting up a card table.
2. Sort it all.
Lopez says to sort non-food items into categories (paper goods, cleaning supplies etc.) Sort food into categories (breakfast items, canned goods, sauces, pasta and grains, etc.)
I didn’t do this during this step because I didn’t have room. I just sorted as I was putting away because I had a good sense of where things were meant to be.
3. Toss expired and unloved foods.
Lopez urges to check expiration dates. She says not to feel guilty if you never tried that fancy olive oil, because it’s not going to be any tastier 6 years later…
And yeah, I threw away a lot, but not as much as I thought I would. Mostly empty jars of peanut butter and weird food that was given as gifts.
4. Clean. Like, really clean.
Lopez said to vacuum first, then go to town on cleaning the shelves. And… this part was gross. I used my vacuum’s crevice tool and got in all the corners, then I used the brush tool to clean up the shelves themselves. I cleaned the shelves with an all purpose cleaner and steel wool, then wiped them down with water and dried them.
Lopez said to sort pantry items in the following categories, but they didn’t work for me. I tailored the categories to what works for my family: a grains shelf, a canned goods shelf, snack shelf, baking shelf, and specialty vegan ingredients shelf. Check out Lopez’s categories below and see if they work for you!
- Backstock items and big appliances can go up high.
- Snacks should go somewhere easy to grab and go.
- Dedicate a shelf to breakfast items.
- Cases of drinks work well on a low shelf or the floor.
6. Contain any small items in bins.
Lopez says to label the bins to help you maintain organization, and to use Lazy Susans for items like sauces so you can get to all of them without taking anything out.
I really liked the bin part. I got these bins from The Container Store in the small and medium sizes. My pantry is REALLY shallow, and the mediums were just barely shallow enough to work while still being able to hold a lot of stuff.
7. Gaze in satisfaction at your work.
I added this one, because wow. When I put everything away, it looked amazing. And the whole project only took about an hour (sans trip to The Container Store). This project was definitely worth it, and I’ll absolutely keep it as a part of my spring cleaning schedule in the future!