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« Our Holiday Wish List | Main | A Semblance of Normalcy »

Getting Started: Organizing the Pantry

All one needs to do is search on Pinterest for "pantry" to see beautiful, enormous, light-filled, precisely organized food storage spaces. French doors. A bevy of swing out doors and drawers. And an endless assortment of perfectly matched and possibly labeled containers. Let's be clear: THIS IS NOT MY PANTRY. Mine is a not-quite 2 ft x 2 ft x 8 ft space with no light and five (albeit adjustable) shelves.  It is crammed to the gills with food and other kitchen wares. The front half has some rough sense of order. The back, not so much. After telling myself for all these months that I was going to make some sense of that space, I've finally done it. Well, sort of...

Original image from Amy Azzarito's DesignSponge tour of the New Hampshire home of Ryan and Emerson Fry.

Inspired by coursework for interior decorator Jill Vegas' online class, the School of Speed Decorating, I have been itching to do this seemingly simple project. But I know myself and know that no project of mine is ever "simple". (Anyone remember the door project that inspired not one, not two but THREE different posts and only took 12+ months?) It took two weeks of post-superstorm Sandy disorientation for me to finally attack my pantry project in an effort to demonstrate some control over my life (since I couldn't control the availabilty of electricity).

Are you up for a little pantry organizing action too? Well then, let's do it:

  • CLEAN. Been toting around that same box of Jiffy corn muffin mix for a while? Been off your heat-and-serve Indian food kick for a while? Go ahead and donate or toss what you know you will not use. Once you start, you might also save yourself some money by realizing that you already have three bags of dried shiitake mushrooms and really don't need to buy any more (not that there's anything wrong with that).
  • ORGANIZE. Group foods by category (canned goods, condiments, baking supplies, snacks, etc.). Also note how frequently you use these things so you know how accessible they need to be. I'm more of a cook than a baker so my cooking oils and condiments are front and center at shoulder height while the baking supplies have been relegated towards the bottom of the space. Determine a location for each category and physically move the foods there. You'll have a better sense of how big a rack/drawer/basket you might need.
  • PLAN. Determine what gear you might need. Are your cabinets deep? Pull out drawers can help you keep from losing food to the depths of your space. Cranky corners? Maybe a lazy susan will help you access that space. Try to identify dead spaces (like out of reach upper shelves) and find ways to make them useful (like a hook for hanging and storing onions!). Also consider refreshing your look by repainting or wallpapering the pantry's interior. For an even simpler project, apply some fresh shelf liners in a fun print.
  • SHOP. Look around for the pieces that will suit your budget and your aesthetic. Make sure you've got your measurements on hand so you don't overshop for your space. Stick to a tight palette of colors, finishes and materials.
  • INSTALL. Pretty straightforward, right? Then get to it!

My chicken scratches and notes from my cleaning and planning sessions.
(Yes, I have categories for both candy *and* snacks. No judging!) How does it look?!

So far I've cleared out at least a third of the things that were in my pantry, logically grouped and placed the remaining items, and ordered the various baskets, sliding drawers and other accessories that are sure to make my vision a reality. Check back soon to see how it all pans out!

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