Have you ever met someone who had the most perfectly arranged pantry? If so, it was likely as if you had walked into a wonderland: truffle oil, olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oil on one shelf; almond flour, quinoa, and rice in separate containers; seven (yes, seven!) types of pasta all portioned out into tall reusable glassware… But why is it that this level of organization gives you all the feels?
“Without proper organization behind the scenes, people can never truly have their homes feel like the haven they set out to create,” says Carly Waters, an L.A.-based interior designer and, by default, professional organizer. Waters has seen it all when it comes to her clients, including (but not limited to) one avid baker’s collection of more than 20 different types of flour and numerous other unknowing food hoarders from 2006. The organization guru says she likes to think about a pantry the way others think of closets: The more you have, the less you’ll use. “The idea behind the capsule wardrobe can be transferred to your pantry,” she says. “Have your set food staples, and make them stand out.” But before you can start on the fun stuff, there are a few things to be done. With Waters’s help, we’ve rounded up five insider tips for how to organize your pantry like a pro. Scroll through to get the step-by-step details.
STEP 1: EMPTY
Take literally everything off the shelves so that when you’re finished, they’re completely bare. Since you likely haven’t seen the tops of the shelves in a while, now is a good time to give them a good wipe so they’re extra clean, Waters says.
STEP 2: SORT
“Remember those matching games from when you were a kid?” asks Waters. “This is just like that.” Put all the grains with the grains, legumes with the legumes, and so forth. When you’re finished sorting, there should be piles of each food category.
STEP 3: EDIT
This is the time where you need to decide between tossing or keeping each item. First, start by checking expiration dates—if something’s old or smells off, chuck it. Next, evaluate which items you’ll never use and donate those to a local charity. Then, Waters suggests getting creative. For example, if you have a collection of half-empty liquor bottles that you only use occasionally, create a bar and display those bottles as décor.
STEP 4: RELOCATE
Your pantry should only contain food, so any random items that ended up in there must be returned to their proper homes. Waters is a big proponent of displaying items that traditionally are kept in the pantry—for instance, she loves setting up a tea or coffee station on the counter. “Use those items to design your space,” she says. “Make your home feel like your favorite hotel room.”
STEP 5: DECANT
Welcome to the part where you get to break out the label maker. Remove all food from its packaging and fill up glass jars with airtight lids to keep food and ingredients fresh (see Waters’s favorite jar for decanting below). She says you can literally decant anything—from spices to toothpicks. Lastly, label each jar (like the one below) so you can easily spot it among your array of goodies.
Be sure to read about must-know closet organization tips, and tell us what your dream pantry would look like in the comments.