A kitchen pantry is one of those places that can be hard to wrangle. A common receptacle for a wide variety of grocery products—from the frequently used to the might-need-it-one-day—a pantry closet can quickly become a disorganized, cluttered jumble.
By putting the right routine in place, however, the pantry can become a tidy and efficient part of your kitchen and daily lifestyle. Stick to these strategies from home-organization expert Marie Kondo and start adding some order back into your life:
Discard expired foods. While this may seem like a no-brainer, expiration dates need to be tracked in order to keep your pantry streamlined. Keep a pantry inventory with items and expiration dates and refer to it frequently to know what foods need to be used soon. This will go a long way toward avoiding food waste as well as clutter.
Ask if an item will “bring you joy.” A hallmark of Kondo’s organizing philosophy, ask yourself if you would truly enjoy the experience of cooking with each item you’ve squirreled away in your pantry. While the thought of baking brownies with that can of imported cocoa powder might lift your spirits, you may get an entirely different feeling from the can of anchovies you’ve been holding onto. Get rid of anything that falls into the latter camp.
Store food upright and by category. To maintain an organized pantry, you must be able to quickly see its contents. Therefore, make sure everything is stored upright, using risers where necessary, and group items according to category, such as dried goods like pasta and rice, and canned goods like fruits and vegetables. This will help you avoid the common pitfall of purchasing items you already have plenty of.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Once you’ve thoroughly assessed the contents of your pantry, make a plan for sustainably disposing of anything you no longer want (provided it’s not expired). Give away items to neighbors or donate them to the local food bank. You may also be able to repurpose certain items, such as green tea, which can be used as incense or drawer potpourri. Old pasta and baking sprinkles can make great additions to your arts and crafts supplies, and certain canned vegetables and fruits may be compostable.
If you practice the above steps routinely, your pantry will become a usable, organized masterpiece.