My Kitchen Pantry Organization (with Help from Ikea and Wal-Mart)

My Kitchen Pantry Organization (with Help from Ikea and Wal-Mart)

And so we’ve reached the end of my kitchen reorganization inspired by The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. If you haven’t been following along, I read the book in April and began a bit of a home purge because two years ago(ish) I married my husband and we combined households into a small(ish) townhome with the type of open floor plan that looks so beautiful in Dwell magazine and shows every bit of mail left on the counter in my all too real life.

If you’d like to catch up in detail (and please do, won’t you?), here are some reminders of what I’ve been doing.

If you just want a quick catch-up, here’s an overview of the space I’m dealing with.

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Still too cluttered for my taste, but way better now that the kitchen table and bar cart are gone.

Technically, I suppose, a pantry reorganization isn’t necessary for my overall goal of making the downstairs an airy, non-cluttered space to live. But I took on the project for two reasons: 1) I’m hoping to clear up space in the pantry to hold items that are currently out in the living area and 2) I’m realizing more and more that clutter stresses me out and the more I can get rid of it, the better I feel.

So, let’s start with the unvarnished truth: the before picture.

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I would say, look, I took this on the afternoon of December 31, I had been cooking a whole lot right before this, it was at peak disorganization, etc. These things are all true, but Marie Kondo wants us to be organized at all times. And if I did this organization correctly, I should be able to take a picture of my pantry on December 31st this year and be proud to share it. Goals!

I started with the usual process: I took everything out and I discarded! As a child of a child of the depression, this made me deeply uncomfortable. Throwing out food! In fact, I didn’t. It’s in my garage, waiting for the right place. But here’s what I removed: Duplicate spices. Too many duplicates of other things (that’s why you organize!). Spices which I had to admit I never noticed when I added them to my food (I’m looking at you oregano). Multiple boxes of popcorn. The cocoa we bought in Paris and then didn’t like, but we bought it in Paris! Basically, anything I touched and then said, “This does not spark joy.”

When I finished, I still had quite a bit of food left and here’s where Marie Kondo’s guidance was no longer helpful. I don’t think the Japanese pantry, if there even is such a thing, is quite the same as an American pantry. In her book, she is very against buying containers for organizing, but once I saw everything in front of me, it seemed clear to me that I needed containers. And so, I turned to my other organization guru for guidance. I went to Pinterest.

After spending several hours in research (and you can check out my research efforts here), I ended up organizing my pantry with the following types of containers:

Stackable containers for items I don’t access every day

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This would be sugar, different types of flour, crackers, trail mix, an astonishingly large amount of small candies, etc. I had previously been keeping most of these in their original containers and they were getting shuffled to the back of the pantry shelves. This way, they are clearly visible and easily accessed. As a result, our candy and trail mix consumption, rather minimal in 2015 because our impulse purchases always got shelved to the back of the pantry has, I believe, doubled in this month because we see it every time we walk in the pantry. Full disclosure: I ate a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, which I probably previously wouldn’t have found until June, during the writing of this post tonight.

I got mine at Wal-Mart, where they had tons of choices, but these are very similar.

Pasta Containers

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I also finally came on board with keeping your spaghetti in pasta containers because it does indeed keep everything nicely corralled and we eat a lot of pasta.

My pasta containers came from Ikea but these are similar.

Standing Shelves from Ikea

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I’ve tried a variety of things for cans over the years, and I did already have one of those can stands in the pantry that I kept. But I actually found these standing shelves from Ikea to be really helpful. I’ve photographed them here so you can see them but the way I actually used them was to not put anything underneath them but instead simply to raise the items on the second level high enough so they could be seen behind the first row. These shelves are wider and more stable than the typical can stand and help make the space on deep pantry actually useful.

(I bought this at Ikea and couldn’t find them on their website on anything similar, but as soon as I do, I’ll update the post. If you know of anything, please let me know in the comments.)

Bins with Handles

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Bins with handles for items in boxes or pouches that didn’t transfer easily to containers and are accessed pretty frequently. These were things like sauce pouches, noodle side dishes and these containers were quickly elevated to the rank of “How did I live without you?”

I bought this at Wal-Mart, but this is pretty much the same thing.

3 Bin Stacking Unit

On the top shelf, I put a clever stacking 3 bin unit for potatoes and other root vegetables (although right now I have potatoes and nuts in it). Oh, Basic White Plastic Stacking Bin, you are selling yourself too short! You are so much more than basic! Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of you, but that is no reflection on your usefulness.

I bought mine at Wal-Mart, but this is the same one.

Door Organizer

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Finally, I took the door space and turned it into a paper towel/grocery bag/pen & paper holder through a lovely all-purpose kit from Ikea. It’s been possibly the most useful change of all, I never realized how often I asked myself, “Where is a pen and piece of paper?”

(You guys, Ikea’s website is the worst. Why would a search for “paper towel organizer” show me a bunch of rugs? If I find a link for this, I’ll post it because it’s really great.)

What’s Next?

So what’s next on the organizational agenda? Not a damn thing at the moment. It’s always a good thing to make a few changes and then live with them a bit to refine them and let them become true habits. I have big plans for my living space in 2016, but that’s a bit down the road. For this weekend, I’ll hunker down in front of the weather channel and think of my friends (and my daughter!) just a bit north of me who are experiencing yet another storm of the century. And I’ll send the first commenter who asks some great cocoa from Paris! How about some oregano?

Here’s the final result. It sparks joy in me every time I open the door. And I’ve been cooking more since I’ve finished. I’m going to throw out all that candy though.

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23 Comments

  1. January 22, 2016 / 1:01 pm

    What a dramatic difference! I love Ikea but usually don’t have a project in mind when rummaging around the container/shelf sections. I’m just in denial that I need to get my pantry organized. Thank you for the inspirational post and now I must go plan this project out!

    • Katy
      January 22, 2016 / 1:38 pm

      I’m usually the same way but as it turns out the experts are right. It really helps to figure out what you need and then go shopping! Who knew? Thanks for stopping by.

  2. January 22, 2016 / 7:22 pm

    Started following you after seeing your posts on Happiness at Midlife’s Pinterest board. Glad I did! I’m in the same de-cluttering phase you are — and am also reading Marie’s book. Decided the only way to get the whole house decluttered (for the first time ever) was to do one area a week, take before and after pix, and post it to my blog. Hoping the pressure keeps me on track!

    • Katy
      January 22, 2016 / 7:39 pm

      I’ll check out your progress and we can be declutterers together. I need a buddy to keep me on the straight and narrow. 🙂

  3. January 22, 2016 / 7:35 pm

    First of all, I would never need a container for candy because I would eat it all as soon as It got in the house! When I reorganized a year or so ago, (need to do it again), I was astounded at how many duplicate spices I had. And how many had expired. I think your pantry looks great & your townhouse is lovely. Stay warm this weekend.

    • Katy
      January 22, 2016 / 7:37 pm

      I never realized I had so much candy! Here’s hoping that container stays full for a long time I guess?

  4. January 22, 2016 / 8:04 pm

    I’m with you. Clutter stresses me out! I’ve tried the Ikea online site and it’s horrid! I’m working my way through the Konmari book, and need to start putting it into practice. Your kitchen cupboard looks so lovely I could live there!!

    xo-Rosemond

  5. January 23, 2016 / 9:55 am

    I just saw this book in Barnes and Noble yesterday and was thinking of buying a copy. Your post inspired me. I so need to organize my pantry closet.

    • Katy
      January 23, 2016 / 10:24 am

      I loved it but be warned – it’s like no they organizing book you’ve ever read!

  6. January 23, 2016 / 11:04 am

    Wow! I’m so glad to have discovered our site via WOM. Your gorgeous photos are inspirational, and make me thing a mundane thing like organizing the pantry can maybe even be a teeny bit fun. I’ve heard about the tidying up book. You’re making me want to read it.

    • Katy
      January 23, 2016 / 11:11 am

      Thanks Suzi! So glad you stopped by!

  7. January 23, 2016 / 1:22 pm

    How fast can you get over here? this is perfect timing because I’ve been threatening to get my pantry organized for a month now. I am tired of re-buying items that I actually already have, but could locate in the black hole that is my pantry! PS I loooove your kitchen!

    • Katy
      January 23, 2016 / 1:29 pm

      Rebuying is the worst! Two bottles of vegetable oil, multiple jars of cinnamon, etc. I didn’t have room for this in my post but I finally broke down and alphabetized my spices so I can see what’s on hand. Why did this take me so long to come on my board? My poor husband is so happy with how the downstairs has been staying so clean.

  8. January 23, 2016 / 8:09 pm

    Wow! What a difference. I have a much smaller space, so all the more reason to get organized. Thanks for all the great ideas and for sharing at the Blogger’s Pit Stop.

    • Katy
      January 24, 2016 / 8:23 am

      Thanks for stopping by Debbie!

  9. January 24, 2016 / 10:08 am

    Great post! I am reading her book and doing the same. I am only on the “books” section, but so far so good! Loved your photos, too.

    • Katy
      January 24, 2016 / 12:36 pm

      Thanks Tomi. I need to hit my papers next. Fortunately I did a lot of that already when we moved. I probably should do my books too. Love to know what you’re doing.

  10. Fiona Meaney
    May 24, 2016 / 2:46 am

    I find the easiest way to keep my pantry neat & tidy and with only 1 of each item, is to make a menu & shopping list.
    Although I am probably a bit weird, I do up a 30 day menu, which saves me having to do it every week.
    I have an excel document which is a ‘standard’ weekly shopping list. To this I then add the extra items I need from the weeks menu.
    The morning before I do my shop, I go through the pantry, fridge, laundry & bathroom and cross off anything from my standard list that I don’t need to purchase.
    Not only does this mean that I only buy what I need, my cupboards don’t fill up with duplicates and I save money !

    • Katy
      May 24, 2016 / 5:57 am

      That’s a great idea Fiona! I’ve actually started doing something similar although I don’t plan out my menus quite so far in advance :-). Now that I can easily see what I’ve got on hand I check out my pantry and fridge before before I leave for the store and cross off any items I don’t need.

  11. June 29, 2016 / 6:36 am

    I love those stacking shelves – they could just turn me into a super-star homemaker. Ikea here I come!

  12. Denise
    January 23, 2017 / 1:12 pm

    I am so inspired by your posts! I have been trying for about a year to find a declutter plan that I can get motivated to use. I have decided that this method, along with one other, will blend quite nicely for my needs. depression and anxiety have plagued me for many years and as the child of a generational hoarder, I have always struggled with clutter to the point of feeling as though I am drowning in it.
    As of this week, I have accomplished a few small areas of decluttering that may not seem huge to anyone else, but are HUGE in my eyes.
    thank you for sharing your journey!
    I did notice in these comments that nobody asked about your French hot cocoa… what ever became of it? lol!

    • Katy
      January 23, 2017 / 3:53 pm

      Hi Denise! Thanks so much for commenting! I think the Kon Mari method would be really helpful for someone struggling with possessions. I tend to be an accumulator myself so it’s much easier for me to declutter if I ask myself, “Does this think actually bring you joy or is it just a way to fill up space?” It’s a great question to ask myself before buying new items as well. As for the French Cocoa – I was going to donate it to a homeless shelter nearby but I was worried that it had expired so I finally thanked it for its (potential) serivce and threw it away.

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