Pantry Organization and Re-do: Done!

When we first moved into this house a year ago, we came bearing trunk-loads of food, frozen items, and appliances.  We were anxious to get everything stored (somewhere) and get on with the business of living in our brand new home.  As a result, everything got shoved into the area where it sort of belonged, or as close as it could get.  Weekly shopping trips were made, more stuff was hastily stored.  The resulting mess was unusable, unbearable, and downright hideous.

I usually like to live in a space for a while before reaching any major decorating decisions.  I like to know how we live in a space, how it’s best used, where the light comes from, etc.  But I stood looking into my pantry and I found it gave me a sensation very much like bungee jumping.  My heart started to pound (and it wasn’t the heart meds).  I got a headache.  I felt the need to flee.

There were appliances we never used, piles of candy from Christmas, Halloween, and beyond.  We couldn’t find anything.  In short, it was ugly chaos of the highest order.  Check out these pictures and you’ll see what I mean.  Maybe you’d better sit down first.

Left Side


Back Wall


Right Side


Quite the mess, eh?  One might even say…a disaster.  Note that I have not one but THREE punch bowls.  I collected them for a while.  Yes, I do use them.  But all those small appliances?  Not so much.

I stared at it for a while in terror.  Then I devised a plan.  I wanted to find everything quickly, have space for the things I truly use, and not start to shake when I opened the door.  So, as with all plans, it began with a trip to Walmart.  In our town, Walmart is the ONLY place available.  I bought those wonderfully large and stylish ribbed crystal baskets that you see.  I immediately began throwing out the old stuff, the bad stuff, the unneeded stuff.  I put the rest into categories that made sense for me, plopped them into baskets, and made labels.  I found some of those wonderful baking pan organizers at the thrift store for under a dollar each. And the left side of the pantry ended up looking like this:

Left Side: After


Categories include breakfast items, bread, pasta and rice, bags and wraps, baking mixes, etc.  All my baking items like vanilla, baking soda, flour and nuts and chips are in one basket.  If I decide to bake, I simply carry that basket into the kitchen and go at it.  When I’m done, the whole basket gets slipped onto the shelf.  So simple.  So easy.  I love it!

The canned goods were a challenge.  To start out with, I bought one of those gravity-fed can organizers.  I’m talking about the wire ones they have at Walmart.  But I found that that didn’t work for me.  You can’t see the cans properly, it’s hard to work with, and flimsy.  So, I went back to Walmart and bought the extendable shelves that you see below.  They worked well, were very adaptable, and allowed me to see exactly what I had on hand.  Perfect!

Expandable Can Shelves

We also use a couple of hundred batteries a month and tend to store great amounts of them.  The lovely painted cans from a previous post provided the perfect solution for that.  And this is what the back wall looked like when I was done:

Back Wall: After


The blue containers on the bottom shelf were bought to house cat food, dog food, and wild bird food.  You’ll note the lunch boxes (we have 5 kids, 3 still at home) and the Easy Bake oven.  I am toying with hanging the lunch boxes from pegs on the wall.  The Easy Bake came from Santa and I wanted it high up enough that my daughter knew for sure that she wasn’t supposed to use it without supervision.

Everyone has their miscellaneous items, their plastic storage containers, the stuff that just can’t be categorized.  We have hundreds of Eggies (a long story, but essentially a double-click on my hubby’s part) and some rather cumbersome hand appliances.  Some are used often, some scarcely at all.  I had the lovely green tote left over from another project, so I pressed it into service to hold those large plastic serving and storage items.  The white boxes house the items we almost never use, tiny plastic things and even some specialized cutlery.  They were free packing boxes, spray painted white and labeled.  The three silver chests house my mother’s silver, hubby’s family silver, and a spare set of stainless steel flatware for emergencies. And here is what became of the right side of my pantry:

Right Side: After

Right Side: After

Please note the red container in the middle.  My daughter received a large amount of candy for Christmas.  I told her that she needed to store it somewhere where her brothers wouldn’t mistake it for their own.  So, she turned an empty tissue box into a Santa’s sleigh, complete with runners, and used it to contain her candy….mostly.  I love to encourage her creativity and organizational skills, so it will sit proudly on the middle shelf until the candy is eaten, or has expired.

The lone box of pop tarts and cereal were put there in an effort to separate her special foods from her brothers’.  They are out of place, and it occasionally bothers me.  I leave them be in order to hone my skills in tolerance and zen.

The find of this entire project was the little metal basket which holds small bottles of sugar, spice packets, and tiny lids.  It was found at a thrift store for fifty cents and I adore it.

Thrifted Metal Bin

While this seems like a simple project, it actually took me months.  The crystal bins were discontinued and I had to drive all over NC and VA to find more.  I faltered several times with the can storage.  And there were several occasions when I simply felt overwhelmed and would shut the door and walk away.  Organizing a space can be a difficult thing when it contains a host of items that are used many times each day.  And each space has its own challenges.  The important thing to remember is that no space will ever truly stop evolving, changing to meet the needs of its users.  You have to roll with the punches, let yourself evolve, and not be afraid to make mistakes.  The most important thing is that when I open the pantry door now, I smile instead of having a panic attack.  That makes all the work VERY worth-while.

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