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12 Pantry Organizing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Looking to give your kitchen pantry a makeover? Create a neat and tidy space with these tips from the ultimate storage experts.

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Professional pantry organizing tips

Have you ever wondered how a professional would recommend organizing your pantry? If so, click ahead for these tips from Cori Horsch,  buyer for kitchen at The Container Store. She shares how to correct the most common mistakes you might be making.

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Guzzini Grey Italian Pantry BinsVIA CONTAINERSTORE.COM

Mistake: Mixing categories

Grouping like with like in pantry bins is a basic rule of organizing—and one we should all try to follow according to Horsch. Think in terms of broad categories: contain all baking ingredients together and do the same for beverages, breakfast, canned goods, condiments, grains/pastas and snack foods. That way “when looking for a specific item, you’ll know right where to go to find it,” Horsch explains.

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Mistake: Losing little stuff

Container Store customers are obsessed with Stasher bags and for good reason. They are the perfect way to contain all the little things that get lost in the pantry, like seasoning packets and accessories for small appliances. Use the easy-to-see-through clear version or color-code by category.

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iDesign Linus Divided Lazy SusansVIA CONTAINERSTORE.COM

Mistake: Wasting space

You might be overlooking valuable pantry storage according to Horsch. Maximize every inch by using a shelf expander to add an extra layer of storage to your existing shelf. And solve those awkward corners with a customer favorite, The Home Edit Divided Lazy Susan. Oh, and here’s how the Lazy Susan got its name. 

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Mistake: Piling instead of filing

Stacking stuff is a big mistake; when you pull something from the bottom, you risk an avalanche. Use dividers to divvy up the space so you can slide things in and out with ease. To save time, try storing pot and pan lids, baking sheets, food storage containers and even lunch bags this way.

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bin label clipvia

Mistake: Guessing what’s inside

Horsch has a simple solution to the problem of not knowing what’s inside the storage container; apply re-usable write-on labels. Or better yet, she suggests for a clean look and so you can see what it is you use clear containers. They eliminate the need for guessing what’s in there and how much is left. Looking for more inspiration? Here are some clever ways to label your buffet table.

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Translucent Elfa Ventilated Wire Shelf LinersVIA CONTAINERSTORE.COM

Mistake: Having sticky shelves

Shelf protectors do more than just protect the shelf, they make it, “very easy to wipe up the mess with a wet rag or paper towel,” Horsch says. And the Montauk Open-Front Bin “is your best friend for spills!” Store messy marinades and sticky sauces inside and if anything spills, they’re washable. Check out these pantry organization tips from the experts.

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open front binvia

Mistake: Not unboxing

Horsch’s habit of opening and dumping could not be easier and it makes so much sense. She recommends designating “reach in bins for categories like protein bars, chocolate, snacks and easy-to-grab single-serve foods. Then get in the habit of opening the bulk box and dumping the food into the bin.” Follow this simple trick when buying in bulk.

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Mistake: Picking the wrong storage containers

The wrong containers can cost you money, time and space. If they are not airtight, “like the hard-to-keep-in-stock ProKeeper,” then Horsch reminds us, “you’ll have to re-buy food that goes stale.” If they are not labeled or see-through you may overbuy or not restock in time and risk running out. And if they do not stack then you’re wasting valuable pantry space.

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3-Tier Bamboo Expanding Spice ShelfVIA CONTAINERSTORE.COM

Mistake: Always alphabetizing

Instead of wasting time reciting the alphabet, Horsch prefers to simply use a spice rack and “keep the most often used items up front for easy access.” See more products professional organizers use in their own homes.

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Mistake: Not using a step stool

Less convenient spots, like a fourth shelf, are “perfect to store back stock (like those extra boxes of chicken broth) or rarely used items” according to Horsch. But you might need a step stool to help you reach it safely. She suggests keeping a slim, folding, step stool in your pantry so you can easily reach those up-high spaces.

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gravity can feedervia

Mistake: Forgetting to rotate

If you keep re-stocking with the new in front, you risk forgetting to use the cans in the back before they expire. Horsch recommends using a gravity can feeder; simply fill from the top and it will dispense from the bottom. That way you are always using your back stock first.

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Rectangular trash canVIA CONTAINERSTORE.COM

Mistake: Skipping the edit

“Once your pantry is set-up and everything has a place, maintaining it will take minimal effort,” Horsch explains. During the purge process remove anything you’ll never use, like a gift set of sauces in flavors you don’t like, and relocate ’em to a trash can.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest