When was the last time you opened the door to your pantry and smiled at its welcoming appearance? It’s probably been a while, especially on the heels of winter and the holidays that inevitably invite a random assortment of things into the pantry: leftover holiday fare, foodie gift baskets, and new kitchen appliances. If spring cleaning is in full swing at your house, don’t overlook the often-overlooked pantry. Give it a day of its own using these six steps from Tailored Living®, and your newly cleaned and organized pantry will become one of your favorite spots in the house!
An organized pantry is a helpful pantry, eliminating one more stress point from your day
Step one: Remove contents and clean every nook and cranny
Pantries can harbor dirt and messes like you won’t find anywhere else. Syrup and honey jars drip, bottles of oil create gummy rings on the shelf, and spilled cereal and pet food get kicked under the shelves and crunched into the floor. (Yes, that’s that sound you hear.) To thoroughly clean the pantry, remove all contents and do some dedicated cleaning. Start at the top and work down dusting, vacuuming, and then washing every surface. Leave no mess behind!
- Dust shelves, vacuum into crevices, drawers, corners, walls, ceiling, and the floor, eliminating all crumbs and dry food spills.
- A Swiffer® or microfiber-towel-wrapped broom can reach high on the walls and ceiling to remove dust.
- Wash all surfaces; for DIY natural solutions that clean and sanitize, check out Cleaning Hacks to Clean Your House And Let You Get On With Life.
- If shelf paper resists cleaning and remains sticky to the touch or has curling edges, it’s time to replace it with new, washable paper.
Step two: Refresh your pantry’s appearance
Now that the pantry is clean enough to eat right off the shelves, before restocking, turn a critical eye to your pantry and see if it could be more appealing. This is the fun part and where lots of personalities can kick in! If your pantry has that “lived-in” look from years of service, here are some ideas for refreshing its appearance to give it a new lease on life.
A pretty space is more fun and encourages keeping the pantry neat and organized
- Give a fresh coat of paint to shelves and walls or put up pretty, washable wallpaper.
- Shelf edges can get chipped and repainting just the edges will refresh the whole look, or jazz it up with decorative edging, painted to match, a contrasting color, or metallic edging for a little drama.
- Dress up storage jars with fancy labels; go online for free downloads, labels to purchase, or DIY ideas like chalk paint on glass containers.
- Matching baskets or bins look pretty and keep small items contained, eliminating clutter.
- Install stick-on touch lights for additional lighting to illuminate shelves without having to deal with electricity or wiring.
Step three: Purge and sort, mindful of expiration dates
A pantry is no different from any other storage area or closet in that they tend to end up stuffed with things that don’t belong. Before you put anything back into the pantry, you need to purge everything that doesn’t belong there to free up space for what does. Then, carefully sort what will go back into the pantry and only keep what you will actually use, including food, vitamins, appliances, linens, and serving dishes. All food should be checked for expiration date and freshness. Especially if you have children who help themselves, you want to be sure your pantry only contains “time safe” food and snacks.
Checking expiration dates on all foods will ensure healthier eating and help eliminate an overstuffed pantry
- Expiration dates can be deceptive, “best by” refers to quality (may lose taste or freshness but still safe to eat), whereas “use by” means don’t consume after this date.
- This FoodKeeper App lets you instantly check the food shelf life for hundreds of items.
- The Shelf Life of Pantry Foods is a complete, printable list of expiration dates for foods, herbs, and spices. (thespruceeats.com)
- Regardless of the expiration date, anything that smells “funny,” looks wrong, or at the first bite doesn’t taste quite right, don’t eat it.
- As you work, make a shopping list of replacement items for expired foods and any essentials you need to stock up on.
Step four: Create zones for improved efficiency
Keeping like items together lets you better maintain pantry inventory and efficiency. Do you like to bake? Are snack foods or cereal a major staple for your family? By categorizing your supplies, you’ll be able to easily see exactly what you have, making it easier when it’s time to shop.
Custom accessories from Tailored Living can organize specialty items in your pantry like wine and spices
- A baking section can contain everything from flour to chocolate chips so it’s all at your fingertips.
- Keep snacks and cereal on lower shelves so everyone can find their favorites.
- Create a drinks section for water, juices, and sodas.
- Keep all spices in one place with custom spice racks so those small bottles don’t get lost.
- Wine is safely preserved with wine racks that store the bottles horizontally.
- Keep school lunch items together and create separate sections for canned goods, boxed mixes, and pet food.
- Reserve a section for platters, serving dishes, small appliances, paper products, kitchen towels, and table linens.
Step five: Proper food storage protects freshness
A big part of having a clean, fresh pantry is proper storage of the food inside. You want to avoid these five enemies of food storage: heat, humidity, oxygen, light, and nasty little pests. Air-tight glass or plastic containers are by far the best protection for pantry storage, especially if a bag or package has been opened or unsealed. Keeping the pantry cool and dry will also contribute to food preservation with temperatures between 40 and 72 degrees and low or no humidity.
The right storage options will keep everything in your pantry fresh and safe to eat
- Air-tight containers are best for long-term storage since oxygen will break down the flavor, appearance, and texture of food.
- No open packages like cookies and chips; use sealed containers or bag clips to preserve freshness and prevent spills.
- Keep the lights turned off when the pantry is not in use.
- Ants, silverfish, weevils, mice, and other icky things can easily get into cardboard boxes or bags, so transfer food from the original packaging into a glass or plastic containers.
- Baskets and bins are great for keeping like items together and they control the clutter smaller items can create such as individual chips bags and energy bars.
- Store dry pet food in air-tight containers to keep it fresh longer and eliminate the inevitable mess when the bags tear open.
Step six: Implement change to stay organized
If your pantry has not been effective, now is the time to take control and institute some changes to make it into a pantry you can love. You’ve cleaned it, dressed it up, and purged the contents, so to keep your pantry clean, fresh, and organized, here are some suggestions that will help to maintain order:
- Clear or labeled storage containers and bins will keep everything on display and easy to identify, making it easier to return things to their proper place and to see what you need to buy.
- Stacking containers can maximum storage, providing two or three levels on a shelf.
- Rotate the newest items to the back of the shelf to ensure that things are used in the order of purchase, so you don’t end up having to throw out expired food.
- Once opened, fats like nuts and oils become rancid with oxidization and should move to the refrigerator to last longer.
- Don’t buy in bulk unless you know you will use all of it before it goes bad. (Costco is an enabler … beware!)
- Keep the pantry floor and shelves free of food spills and use purchased or home-made sachets with bug-busting scents and essential oils (eucalyptus, tea tree oil, peppermint, lemon, cinnamon, lavender, and cedarwood) on shelves or tucked into corners.
Pantry-perfect, all year long
It’s not impossible to have a beautiful, functional pantry that is designed for your needs, so you don’t have to work so hard. Whether it’s finding new pantry space or maximizing your existing pantry for greater accessibility, your local Tailored Living can provide a custom pantry design that will perfectly fit your space, your style, and your budget. Call 866-712-3404 today or go online to www.tailoredliving.com to find a designer near you and schedule a free, in-home, or virtual* consultation. We can also help with any household clutter problems, including closets, home offices, entryways, and the garage. Just see how beautiful life can be: Tailored Living Design Guide.
*Virtual consultations are not available at all locations.