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I’m not big on making TikTok-style videos, but I have recently been swayed by my fellow New Orleans Mom contributors to participate in a few videos for our social media. In one of those videos, we were asked to do the #dropitlow challenge while “momming.” I chose to do it in my pantry with a baby on my hip as I reached for a canister of red beans.
The funny thing is that I chose that specific setting because I needed to film my part quickly – and that’s consistently the tidiest, most organized room in the house. (This is in no small part because my kids can’t get past the baby gates to get in there!)
Because my super-organized pantry was front and center in that video, I got a lot of requests for more information about it. So here’s the deal.
In what feels like a lifetime ago, I was a twenty-something in her first solo apartment. It was a 600-square foot section of a two-story shotgun duplex in Mid-City that came with an angel of a landlady who became another grandmother to me. Working with such limited space, I had to get pretty creative to store all that I wanted in my apartment without feeling like I lived in an episode of “Hoarders.” (I definitely did not always succeed in this.) I scoured the internet for organizational tips and tricks and tried more than one person probably should. Some were hits, some were misses.
I realized that no matter how big or small a space is, it’s best utilized when it’s organized in a way that works for you personally.
The pantry was obviously a huge selling point when we were buying our house. It was literally almost as big as the bathroom from that Mid-City apartment! I couldn’t wait to Pinterest it into pantry perfection. But I was worried because…
Who among us hasn’t “reorganized” our cabinets and closets a time or twenty, only to find that they get cluttered again seemingly overnight? I’m definitely guilty. And I’m the type of person whose mind is very affected by clutter in my environment – and my environment is often very affected by clutter in my mind.
What works best for me is to use a system that is both (1) easy to maintain and (2) easy to access. We’ve all heard the adage “a place for everything and everything in its place” and it definitely rings true in this case. If there’s an assigned spot for an item, it’s much easier to find it when you need it and easily return it there when you’re done. The easier something is to grab and replace, the more likely you are to actually keep it in its spot – for the long haul.
We all swoon over those gorgeously styled pantries on social media and in magazines because they are functional spaces made to be beautiful.
But what’s functional for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. It may take some trial and error, but find a system of organization that works well for you long term and then shift your focus to making it beautiful.
The most obvious functional-but-gorgeous items in my pantry are my sets of clear OXO Pop Container canisters, which happened to be wedding gifts. (I’ve also seen those exact containers and other similar ones for great prices at HomeGoods and TJ Maxx.) I bought a stock set of pantry labels in a style I liked to keep my containers uniform and easily identifiable. I love these rice storage containers because they have a built-in measuring cup cap. These tiered shelf organizers are great for being able to see all the items you have at a glance. The white bins that span one of my upper shelves are also HomeGoods finds, but here’s a similar set of various sizes on Amazon. I use them to store an array of baking supplies like baking powder, nuts, cake mixes, and our sprinkle collection. The size works perfect for me because they’re small enough to manage lifting from a higher shelf with only one hand, even if they’re completely full. The two large tiered lazy Susans were from Amazon and are awesome for sorting snacks like fruit bars and crackers. I store all my canned goods in gravity feed racks I purchased on Amazon, and I sort them by type (beans are on one, then tomato products, canned soups, veggies, fruits and the like) so that I can quickly tell what I’m running low on.
If You’ve Got It, Mount It
Don’t sleep on wall space! I know it’s not all that common, but if you’ve got some wall space available, use it. I installed wall-mounted baskets in between the shelves and the pantry door itself. They’re perfect for items you may buy in bulk, like GoGo Squeez pouches and fruit cups. The higher baskets hold bags of chips and other items I don’t want little hands to reach. Behind the pantry door is an adjustable over-the-door rack that we mounted on the wall. I buy my spices at warehouse stores and the large containers take up a lot of space, but the adjustable rack is great for holding them. It also fits quart-sized cartons of chicken broth perfectly. I arrange my spices by grouping them with what they’re usually paired with, like sea salt next to black pepper and garlic powder near the onion powder. It makes it much easier to grab them quickly that way.
I have this wall-mounted rack for Ziploc bags, but I’ve seen several fancier ones on there as well that label the size of the bags. I also use a shelf-top rack to keep the rolls of plastic wrap, parchment paper, and aluminum foil within easy reach.
Even though I’m horrible about remembering to use it, I keep a wall-mounted grocery bag holder above the Ziplocs.
Try a Little DIY
One of my favorite DIY projects we’ve ever done is this rolling crate one. My pantry was able to fit 5 of them beneath the bottom shelf and we use them to store “overstock” items like the extras from multi-packs and the vacuum-sealed bags of rice and flour I make from buying those items in bulk to save money. We were able to make the rolling crates in a weekend using craft store wooden crates and a few casters and drawer pulls we got on Amazon. Their high sides are great at camouflaging an assortment of items that would otherwise look messy.
My husband recently built the very top shelf so I can store my cookbook collection (many of them are sentimental to me because I inherited them from my grandmother). I love that they’re out of the way but easy to access. I keep a folding step stool behind the pantry door.
While it’s not something I’ve had a need for, there are lots of internet tutorials out there on how to build wooden faces for your ventilated shelving to upgrade the look of your pantry.