How To Organize Your Pantry (Once and for All!)

Spring might be for cleaning, but January is most definitely for organizing.  There’s something about a fresh new year that makes me want to declutter and organize everything in sight.  Most of you know that we have been shacking up at my parent’s place for the last six months while construction begins on our new house. To make up for invading my mom’s personal space, garage, and early mornings, we tapped Margaret Williams from Edit Spaces to turn my parent’s cluttered and over-crowded pantry into a total dry food heaven!  I feel like the real genius of what Margaret did is that she created this beautifully organized space that WE CAN ACTUALLY EASILY MAINTAIN.  Sure, something like this where everything is decanted out of it’s original containers and into glass jars looks really pretty, but it also means that every time you come home from the grocery store you are removing everything you buy from it’s packaging and decanting it. Plus, what if you introduce something new? Now you need more containers.  You can see how it might not be the most practical system for everyone.  Here’s how Margaret created this total dream pantry system, plus the before and afters… (oh, and there’s a special deal for TEC readers below!)

Here’s the before:

For starters, this pantry has one really great thing going for it: It’s huge! There is so much space, but I think that’s is why it slowly just became a resting place for anything that didn’t have a real home resulting in the above mess.
Ready to tackle your own pantry?  Here’s the step by step:
1. Begin, by measuring the length, width, and depth of your shelves.  That will help you determine what you want to purchase in terms of containers.
2. Order or go shop for your containers. We used these expand-a-shelfs for the canned goods and condiments. It really helps you to be able to know what you have and access what you have in a single glance.  These deep stackable bins were used for dried nuts and fruits as well as dry beans and rice.  We used these nordic baskets more than anything else. They are super versatile, come in a lot of sizes and can be used with or without a lid depending on what you’re storing.  We used them for everything from coffee and tea storage to kitchen utensils and crackers and snacks. They’re great because you can use a dry erase marker to label them, so it’s easily changed. Lastly, these akro bins were perfect for adding division and separation to similar items like oils, vinegars, and vitamins, among other things.
(Pro tip: order or buy about twice as many bins as you think you will need. It will keep you from not having something you really need when you start organizing and you can always return the excess when you’re done with your project.)

3. Set aside the time. A project like this pantry took a pro four hours, so depending on the size of your own space, set aside the necessary time. The problem with only having an hour or two is that you will get half way through and have to just stick everything else that’s remaining back in your pantry, negating all of the time you already spent!
4. Ready to tackle your pantry project?! Begin by taking every last item out of the pantry and setting it on the counter. Margaret grouped like things together as she was removing them– dry goods on one side of the sink, entertaining pieces on the other, snacks by the refrigerator, etc. It made determining the size and number of the bins as well as putting everything back in the pantry much more efficient!
5. Now that everything is out where you can see it. Get rid of anything that is expired or that you know you’ll never eat. If it’s a half eaten box of crackers, then toss it. If it’s canned goods, donate them to your local food pantry. (Don’t donate expired things obviously– just the things you have, but won’t use.)  If you have duplicates and can combine them, go for it!

6. Now it’s time to contain, arrange, and put everything back in the pantry. If your pantry allows for it. Leave little bits of negative space here and there, so that items are easier to grab and it doesn’t looks so congested.
7. Once everything is in how you like it, make sure you label all of your bins. It makes putting things back in their place a total breeze!  Four weeks later I can attest that my parent’s pantry looks just as good today as it did when we shot this.

Just writing this post has me so excited for when we have our own space to get in tip-top-organized shape!
To contact Margaret about your own space, click here.  If you book 3 hours by this Saturday, January 14th Margaret is giving TEC readers a $50 discount!
Photography by Katie Jameson

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  1. Kathryn


    I only wish my pantry had shelves this narrow. Mine is one cabinet, as deep as the base cabinets, and only 4 shelves. They are black holes that things disappear into. I’ve tried using low sided boxes so I can slide them out to reach things in the back. This doesn’t work as the pantry is framed so I lose lots of space. Since each shelf has enough space for the enormous cereal boxes plus enough for a can on top of them there is so much wasted space. The upper cabinets have the bottom and 1 shelf, therefore, lots of wasted space in them also. I’ve lived here for 35 years and have yet to figure out how to best use the space and cabinets I have. Obviously I’m still searching.

    • margaret


      kathryn you might want to try the elfa drawers…they mount into the shelf itself and you can pull it out like any other drawer. i believe they call them “easy gliders.” good luck!

  2. Looks so nice. Don’t have near the space but sure would like it to be that organized. 2017 is the year! You’ve inspired me.

  3. One of my goals this year is to organize the pantry. Your parent’s pantry looks so lovely. Mine isn’t nearly as big. Maybe I can re-organize mine this weekend when I have time!

    xx Jennifer

    • Jen Pinkston


      There’s is seriously huge. In LA we just had two large cabinets that served as a pantry. I think it would be so fun to makeover a small pantry too and show the different approach!

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