Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pantry Challenge Part 1: Four Weeks To Clutter-Free Closets

Week Three Already!
If you haven't checked out the other closet makeovers in my Four Weeks to Clutter-Free Closets challenge, you can find them here:

Week One: Linen Closet

Week Two: Coat Closet

Now, on to this week's challenge: The Pantry!

I love an organized pantry! Since I love to cook and bake, it's important to keep it organized in a way that I'm able to find everything I need. As I finished up this post, I realized that it was way too long, so I decided to split it into two parts. Today I'll share a before, discuss the problems that need to be addressed, and a "during" shot. Then, tomorrow will be the big reveal. This will be another $0 closet re-do, using only what I have on hand. I can't wait to show you how it turned out!

My Keys to Pantry Storage:

Clear Containers:

My favorite pantry organization tools are OXO Pop Containers , Mason Jars, and Cereal Containers (not just for cereal). Clear storage is so important because I can see at a glance how much of each item I have before going to the store.
Believe it or not, I only bought one of these containers. I asked for the Pop containers for the last few birthdays and Christmas, and slowly accumulated my stash (there are a few in other cabinets, too). The mason jars were hand-me-downs from Hubby's grandparents. We use most of our mason jars for summer canning, but I've snagged a few here and there for storage purposes. I love how they look! :) Finally, the cereal containers were from my mom. There were some in her office's kitchen, and when they decided to get rid of them, she snagged them for me. They've worked great!
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Baskets and Bins

The best part about basket and bins is that they corral like items together, and it's an added bonus when they hide things that don't look pretty. I also love having bins for the top shelf so I can easily pull out what I need without having to get out the stool to reach things in the back. It saves me plenty of time and frustration. :) Yard Sales and the Dollar Store are great places to find baskets on the cheap. For my pantry, rather than shell out the big bucks for baskets or fancy bins, I fashioned my own out of some boxes and decorative shelf liner.
This was actually my first-ever blog post, and almost a year later, it's still one of my most popular. The most-used boxes are starting to show a bit of wear, but over all they're holding up really well.

What Wasn't Working:

I'd like to think I keep my pantry pretty neat and organized.... well, at least the top of my pantry is in good shape. The bottom is hard because whatever is down there needs to be immune to toddler exploration. That means it can't be breakable, spill-able, sharp, or easily damaged. So, the bottom shelves basically became a dumping ground of randomness.
Just focus your eyes on the top...

The Bottom

Originally, I had aspirations to turn the bottom shelf into a "mini kitchen area" for Kiddo, so he could pretend to cook while I prepped dinner. I set it up with some bowls, measuring cups, and utensils, but he just wasn't using it. He'd rather sit at the island and watch Mommy cook than play with his back to me.
Eventually, the shelf became a dumping ground. There was random junk on the far right, and napkins and potatoes on the left, as well as Hubby's lunchbox . (He really needs a new one, but he likes the size and shape of the one he has. I'm slowly wearing him down...)
The floor space contained some bulk grains from the Mennonite market, my re-usable grocery bags, and an overflow of plastic bags, not mention all the random stuff hiding in that extra space to the right.
I had to figure out what I wanted to do with the space. The previous owners kept their small appliances on the pantry floor, and I considered doing the same. Unfortunately, the problem with that is that there are sharp pieces to my food processor and blender - a no-no when within a toddler's reach. Plus, I was afraid he'd somehow break them.

The Hidden Space

There's a 12-inch space to the right of the doors and a 3.5 inch space to the left. The space on the right would easily get disorganized because it's out of plain sight. Some items would get hidden in the back, or blocked by the items that were in front. I came up with some easy and inexpensive solutions that will hopefully help me find things and help prevent those nooks from becoming a dumping ground. You'll have to wait until tomorrow for the details, though!

What Was Working:

As I said before, the top three shelves were working pretty well.
When I organize, I try to think in terms of zones. For the pantry, I already had three clearly established purposes for the shelves.
Top Shelf: Bins
These are items I don't use everyday, contained in my DIY-ed decorative bins

Second Shelf: Snacks
In addition to snacks, I store peanut butter and a few small dry goods in the corner space. 

Third Shelf: Baking
This is where I keep all my flour, sugar, and other baking goods, plus oils and vinegars.

Then I had to figure out what to do with bottom two "zones" For now, I'm keeping them mostly empty, partly since it's less for Kiddo to get into, but mostly because I'm not sure what to put in there.  :)
Bottom Shelf: Kind of Random
This shelf will hold potatoes, a berry basket (for garden season - yay!),our egg basket, and a basket to hold Hubby's lunch bag.

Floor: Mostly Empty
I'll be storing my extra baking goods from the Mennonite Market and extra plastic bags on the floor.

The other items that were in the bottom spaces found new homes. My reusable bags found a place in the car, where they won't be forgotten on grocery day. Other than a few things that needed to go back where they belonged, I'm pretty much selling/donating/trashing the rest.

One Step Left:

After all the re-organizing, this is what it looked like. Can you guess what I did to finish off the space?
Come back tomorrow to see the final product!


  1. It's looking good! I like what you've done so far! Where do you buy your contact paper?

    1. Also - since this is labeled "pantry" where do you keep your canned food items and back-up items? I always buy a back up of whatever we use around the house so my pantry is stocked with cans and boxes. Just curious :)

  2. Your Tip Me Tuesday link is incredible this week! In fact, my readers would love to bookmark it in their craft rooms. Did you know that if you upload this blog post into your Tip Junkie craft room using at least 2 images, 2 steps, and blog post URL then Tip Junkie readers can favorite it which instantly bookmarks it so they can find it later? {Whoohoo!} ~ Laurie {a.k.a. the Tip Junkie}

  3. Wonderful tips and great job at cleaning out your closets!

    Thank you so much for sharing your creativity with us at Show-Licious Craft & Recipe Party! I hope you will join us again this Saturday at 8:00 am EST!

    ~ Ashley


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