One of my favorite things about January is that decluttering and organizing become such hot topics as everyone works to get organized for a fresh start in the new year. I don’t generally have “get organized / declutter” as a New Year’s resolution, because I’m in a constant state of doing these things throughout the year just because I enjoy them. I love how easy it is to find inspiration and new ideas this time of year for organizing projects to try.
A couple weeks ago, I discovered the 2018 Home Organization Challenge from A Bowl Full of Lemons and was excited to see that her first couple of projects were dedicated to one of my favorite areas to organize (and coincidentally, the one that needed it most DESPERATELY in our home at the time) – the kitchen!
We have a relatively small kitchen (about 68 square feet if you’re curious, I just measured!), and I really love to cook, so it has been a fun (and sometimes daunting) challenge to constantly re-evaluate that space and all we keep in it to ensure things stay orderly and functional on a day-to-day basis.
Last weekend I made a big grocery run and became a bit frazzled as I tried to fit everything into our pantry (which is 4 square cabinets of about 15 cubic feet of storage space). I felt like I was cramming everything in just to get it off the counters, with no sense or order and no hope for keeping track of what we had. This was when I knew things had to change. Bringing home a haul of fresh food from the grocery store is something to be joyful and thankful for – what an incredible blessing to be able to afford food for our family! I should be consciously giving thanks for each thing as I put it away, not grumbling about how hard it is to store/find things. So in addition to prompting a pantry makeover, I appreciated that God used this instance to point me toward a much-needed attitude makeover as well.
When I hopped on my Bloglovin‘ feed later that day, I was really excited to find A Bowl Full of Lemons’ kitchen organization post, followed later by her pantry-specific post. They were so timely, and her ideas gave me just the motivation I needed to tackle this project! Here are 4 key tips that helped whip our small pantry into shape:
1) Over-the-cabinet storage can really maximize unused space.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner for our tiny kitchen! After seeing how well this works in the couple of spots I’m using them so far, I’m excited to add even more over the cabinet storage baskets soon. The two I have in use right now are:
1) This AMAZING pot lid organizer. Y’all, I love this thing. This seriously makes my life SO much easier as I put away dishes and go to grab a pot lid for whatever I’m trying to boil. I used to dread finding and putting these lids away because they had no real “home,” and I was constantly just stacking them in random, precarious (and loud) ways in the bottom cabinet of our pantry, hoping none of them would fall out. Now each lid has its own spot and they’re stored in size order so I always know which one I’m grabbing! It’s the little things.
2) A small basket in our middle pantry cabinet that holds our ground coffee. This is right next to our coffee maker, so it’s nice and easy for Hubs to grab when he’s pre-making our coffee at night (one of his sweet nightly chores).
2) Embrace the magic of the lazy Susan.
This is going to sound weird, but I was resistant to getting a lazy Susan for a long time because I somehow decided in my head that they were all big and expensive. I guess I had seen one too many decorative marble ones at Home Goods and put them in the category of “too fancy / impractical” for our kitchen. Imagine my surprise when I saw this totally normal, functional one at Target for $5.39! I was excited to use this to wrangle our taller bottles and jars of sauces and condiments. It looks great and works really well!
3) Look for ways to group like items together in easily accessible spots.
This felt a little tricky with the dimensions I had to work with, but using a combination of collapsible shelving, plastic drawers, and small storage bins/baskets, I was able to group most of the items in our pantry into categories that make finding what we want quick and easy.
In this cabinet, the white bin in front is for small grab-and-go snacks. The bread drawer above that holds bread (obviously), rolls/buns, and taco shells, and the flat space on top of the drawer makes a nice space for the tortillas and English muffins to hang out. Our pizza stone is sitting against the side of the cabinet to the right, and our favorite pre-made pizza crusts sit right in front of it, ready for pizza night. For my “guilty pleasure” treats – mostly chocolate and cookies – I intentionally made them a little harder to get to by grouping them together in a plastic bin I tucked underneath the white wire shelf, behind the snack box. I have to consciously move it out of the way if I want to indulge in a little sugar!
The top cabinet of our pantry area has always been reserved for my glass baking dishes. I bought this stacking organizer from Home Goods a long time ago, and it has served us very well – I love that everything has a home and is easy to access. (Bonus storage: I also keep my largest, flattest saucepan stored in the glass loaf plan sitting on its side when it’s clean and put away. Every inch of space counts!)
The last thing to group together was our canned goods, which had previously been in random stacks throughout the cabinets. I found this awesome storage bin at Staples – I love how it’s the perfect width for the cans to stack in and also narrow enough that I can continue to stack up my pots beside it without having to find a new spot for them. These bins are also stackable, which is always a plus!
4) Be selective about what you store in the original packaging and what you remove.
One of the pantry organization trends I tried few months ago was buying pretty glass jars and trying to keep all of our dry goods (noodles, rice, cereal, etc.) in them. It looked nice, but with the dimensions of our cabinets, it was a pain for me to reach that far back, open up the jars, and empty out new containers of stuff into them. Plus, that also presented the awkward problem of sometimes having a full jar but also having some cereal or pasta left in the box – so then I had my fancy storage jar and also my original packaging, which I was trying to eliminate to save space, taking up room in the pantry.
I can see how this system might work well for others with a different pantry layout, but it just wasn’t practical for us. Instead, I now just keep Hubs’ cereal in the box, right up against the corner where it takes up the least amount of space. Oats stay in their containers, which don’t really take up that much room anyway. All our various pastas are kept in their packaging and grouped together in a storage bin behind one of our snack drawers. I still have to reach to the back to get to them, but the bin is tall enough that I can see all the pasta we have at a glance and grab what I need easily.
On the other hand, for our small snacks like popcorn bags, Larabars, oatmeal packets, and cookies, it totally makes sense to take them out of the boxes and keep them together for grab-and-go convenience. These are all nestled in the white snack box from the photo above the previous one. I love that I can tell how many we have of each thing with a quick glance, and I don’t have bulky boxes eating up precious real estate anymore!
If you have a tiny pantry and struggle to keep things orderly, take heart – it can be done! It just takes some patience, creativity, and a whole lot of trying new things and adjusting as needed. I would love to hear your favorite tools or techniques for keeping your pantry organized, no matter the size!
To see the original blog posts from A Bowl Full of Lemons that inspired this post, check out the links below. She has some awesome tips and photos for inspiration!