This post may contain affiliate links. See here for full details
Have you ever purchased groceries and been super excited to be stocked up on food, only to realize when you get home that you don’t have enough space to put it all?
Let me tell you, it used to happen to me every. single. shopping trip. No lies, y’all. No lies!
In our last apartment we didn’t have a pantry, so the struggle was real. When we were looking for places to buy I made it my mission to find a place with a pantry.
And of course, the condo we ultimately bought doesn’t technically have a pantry.
But it does have a linen closet just outside the kitchen. And so, I have reclaimed the linen closet as our pantry. It’s itty bitty, but it’s my pantry!
Up until recently I kept it kind of (but not really) organized: I could find and retrieve everything I wanted, but it looked terrible and my “system” was breaking down. Here’s what it looked like:
It was quite ugly, and over time items started to find their way out of their intended spots (sneaky Cheez-its!). This did not make the organization gods (aka me 😉 ) happy, so I decided to organize the pantry better so it didn’t slip out of control. If you’re in a similar situation, here are some tips I have on how to organize a small pantry:
1-) Find appropriate baskets
Storage baskets are a pantry staple. However, the appropriate baskets for your pantry will depend on three main factors:
- Size: choose baskets that fit the space comfortably. For small pantries it’s best to measure the space you have on each shelf (length, width, and height) and find baskets that best use the limited space you have.
- Labeling: If you need to label your baskets, choose baskets that have a good way to label what’s in them. I DON’T recommend using labels that can easily wipe off (chalkboard, dry erase)! Because of the amount of handling that happens, you’ll spend way too much time relabeling them regularly.
- Ease of cleaning: Depending on what you put in the bins and how messy your family are you may want to stick to bins that you can easily clean. I chose wire baskets with a removable and washable liner, but you could also choose metal or plastic bins that you could wash out with a soapy rag. Either way, I would avoid fabric bins in the pantry.
My pantry is small enough that I don’t worry too much about labeling. I absolutely LOVE these baskets that I’ve been using! They have a nice rustic feel and the liners come out so you can clean them. They also have chalkboard (which I don’t really use, but they are cute!).
2-) Ditch bags and flimsy boxes
Foods that come in bags (snacks, rice, beans, etc.) or flimsy boxes (cereal/snack boxes, pasta boxes, etc.) don’t stack well. Like, at all. It’s really hard to be organized if you keep these foods in the containers they come in because everything becomes hard to find. In addition, they won’t stay fresh as long due to their higher oxygen exposure once opened. Which brings me to my next point…
Side note: I don’t recommend dumping unopened bags into containers (cereal, snacks, etc). Many manufacturers seal the bags under nitrogen, which prevents the food from oxygen exposure (i.e. going stale) before opening. Wait until you open it, and THEN put it in a storage container.Foods in bags and flimsy boxes don't stack well. Transfer them to proper containers to get instantly organizedClick To Tweet
3-) Use square or rectangular storage containers
Believe it or not, the amount of storage space you get from round storage containers is significantly smaller than rectangular storage containers of roughly the same size. Don’t believe me? Consider the image below:
Imagine this the view from the top of two round containers compared to a rectangular container. The containers take up the same absolute length and width, but all the purple space represents wasted space if you use round containers. That’s a lot of wasted space when you are trying to maximize your storage capabilities! So, stick to rectangular containers such as these containers…kk?
4-) Determine whether everything belongs
Go through and decide whether everything in your pantry now actually belongs in your pantry. For example, I am allergic to our cats so it does make sense for us to keep our cats’ supplies in our pantry (instead of in our room where the cats aren’t allowed). However, the ancient hookah that Ted and I haven’t used in years was better off somewhere less accessible (or, you know…the trash. But I couldn’t convince Ted, so there’s that.). Figure out your needs and find new homes for items that don’t really belong in your pantry.
5-) Make sure you have room to grow
This goes back to not having anywhere to put your food when you go grocery shopping. When you organize your pantry, do NOT say this to yourself:
“Oooh look, I have extra space now! Maybe I should find something else to store in here.”
It sounds harmless, but leaving a little extra space to put items after you go shopping will make ensure that you don’t end up wasting time trying to find spots for all your foodstuffs later on. The pantry is an ever- changing and rotating space in our homes, so we need to leave space to allow that.
6-) Make it pretty
No matter how well organized you actually are, it won’t feel as satisfying if there’s a lot of visual clutter. Find ways to add your own design stamp. Do you obsess over mason jars (I know I do!)? Incorporate them! Get creative with labels, basket/bin colors, and even the shelves themselves (paint, replace with wood, etc.)! Have fun with it! And if it doesn’t turn out as well as you hoped, close the door until you can work on it again ;).
So what happens when you follow these tips? Here’s what my pantry looks like now:
Now that is a sexy pantry! It’s SOOO much better, isn’t it? Eventually I also want to make a couple additional changes (namely painting the closet and replacing the crappy wire racks with wooden shelves), but for now this will do. Here’s another photo to show off the progress:
You may notice that not all the items in the pantry are the same. If I wanted to treat this like a science experiment, that would be a big no-no. But as I mentioned above, pantries aren’t fixed. I really wanted to highlight that, so I let my pantry undergo it’s natural flow over the ~2 weeks it took me to work on this project. Believe it or not, there is actually more stuff in here than before, but I have extra space now that it’s properly organized.
Before we wrap up, can we just have a moment of silence for the honorable, the awesome …
OK, those are my tips on how to organize a small pantry! What do you think? Do you find these tips helpful? What tips do you have on organizing a small pantry? Let us know in the comments below!
Want more organizing tips? Join The Modern Nest community and get tips delivered to your inbox every week! You’ll also get access to my mini planner completely for FREE!
Once you do that you can head over to 5 one-time tasks to keep your kitchen organized for good, how to get organized: 9 attitudes you have to change, and 9 tips to keep toys from taking over your house to get your daily dose of organization inspiration!