A few months ago I was in one of my best friend’s kitchens. We were cooking dinner and I was hunting for ingredients in her crowded cabinets and shelves. I came across at least five types of honey, all taking up valuable real estate, and multiple bags of the same cornmeal. There were many boxes of brown sugar and they were all open, each becoming small bricks. I nearly took out all of her wine glasses in one swipe since they were dangerously close to the edge. You get the picture. So when OXO offered me some of their new POP Containers, I knew exactly where they needed to go. “Mission: Reorganize My Best Friend’s Kitchen” went into effect. Below you’ll find some before and after photos and my notes on the best ways to make your pantry work for you and not the other way around.
1. Take inventory. I asked Cleo to send me photos of her pantry so I could see exactly what was in it. This meant we would be getting containers and other solutions for everything she actually stores, not the idea of what she might store. In other words, don’t make a system that you have to fit your items into, make a system that works for your items.
2. Measure (at least twice). I also had Cleo measure the length, depth, and height of her cabinets and shelves. This way we knew that the containers would not only be the right size for her ingredients, they would also fit together in her space. Keep in mind that most cabinets have adjustable shelves. Don’t be afraid to move them! We ended up adjusting her shelves to move all of her wine and other drinking glasses up top where they (a) would no longer take up more accessible space that’s better used for everyday things and (b) be out of her toddler’s reach.
3. Assess your options. OXO’s guide is an incredible resource! Also look around at what’s already in your kitchen. We ended up mixing POP Containers with canning jars Cleo already owned. In addition to containers, we also chose a few of OXO’s Turntables for her bottles of things like vinegar, oil, and soy sauce. I use these in my own kitchen and swear by them. You can see everything and you don’t forget about bottles that are pushed to the back of your cabinet. Pro tip: I also use these in my refrigerator for jam, mustard, etc.
Before you can put everything away, you need to take it all out. This is the most chaotic part of the process, but probably the most essential. Throw away anything that’s gone bad or dried up or anything like that. Make a donation pile for anything that’s still good (and sealed) that you haven’t used in over a year. If a whole year has gone by and you haven’t used it, you probably won’t anytime soon. Bring that box to your local food pantry or see if a neighbor or friend might want something.
5. Put everything away. Now is the fun part! Put it all away. Decant things into your new containers. Put like with like. Meaning, all of your vinegars should be together, all of your nuts in another place, your grains in another. Pretend your pantry is your own private, curated grocery store. You want to be able to find everything.
6. Label it all. This could be done with a label maker, small pieces of paper and tape, whatever. You don’t want to confuse cornstarch and powdered sugar and flour when you’re in the middle of baking. Make it all clear.
7. Live with it and readjust as needed. After a week or so you might find that you wish you put your canned beans in a different place or that your oils were on a lower shelf. It’s your kitchen! Feel free to move things around. Make your kitchen work for you.
Once you’ve tackled the kitchen cabinets and shelves, you can try these other organization tweaks that will revolutionize your kitchen.