I started de-cluttering my house systematically room by room several months ago. I followed a step-by-step program that I learned from Nourishing Minimalism. I learned I have a long way to go to becoming a true minimalist, but I have made some major progress nonetheless. I finally have a pantry that I’m proud to take a photo of! As with most rooms in any house, the cleaner it is the more likely you are to want to spend time in there. Did you ever walk into a disastrous room (Say, an unfinished basement or a storage room that never makes it to the top of the priority list) only to turn around and walk right out because you can’t stand the clutter? Well I have. And if a space like your pantry evokes the fight or flight response, well it doesn’t bode well for your blossoming cooking hobby.
Here are a few basic tips for making the most of whatever space you have so that it’s functional, pleasant, and even presentable. For starters, snap a before picture. It’s the best way to understand how much progress you’ve made!
- Start by taking everything out. Yes, everything. Pull everything off the shelves and put it on a counter somewhere so you can actually see what you have.
- Throw out anything that’s expired or that you haven’t used in more than a year (storing molasses or corn starch from that recipe you made once and never repeated?) Get rid of it.
- Wipe down all the shelves for a fresh clean start.
- Doesn’t that feel better already?
- Identify pantry staples that you use the most frequently.
- Grains: Rice, quinoa, oats, etc
- Beans: Black, garbanzo, cannelini, kidney, etc
- Canned tomatoes and vegetables
- Vegetable broth
- Plant milk cartons
- Spices, curry paste, balsamic vinegars, etc
- Baking ingredients
- Emergency supplies like canned salsa, pre-cooked rice, etc.
- Group your frequently used staples in a manner that makes the most sense to you and identify a spot you can keep them readily accessible.
- Consider clear storage containers for bulk items so you have a visual of what you actually have. I found these great containers at IKEA and they revolutionized my pantry. Note – Good organizing tools are no replacement for de-cluttering! It’s easy to think that you just need to buy the right storage system and your life will be organized, but it doesn’t work that way. For the things you really do need to keep on hand, these containers are really great. Now I can tell at a glance when something is getting low and it saves me from running out unexpectedly.
- Put your staples back in a neat and orderly fashion (no running please).
- As you put back anything else, consider carefully whether you
need itwill actually use it. Even if you have plenty of space, consider carefully whether items should be front and center in your pantry, elsewhere in the kitchen, somewhere else in the house, or out of the house completely.
- Snap an after picture and post both pics on the Facebook page!
In summary: In order to actually use the ingredients you keep on hand, you need to know what you have on hand. The best way to know what you have on hand is to see it! Find a way to scale back on the excess and keep only ingredients you use frequently. You’ll save time and money by not going out to buy something you already have hiding in the back that you forgot about.
Upcoming post teaser – As you see in the photo, I just started using a chalkboard to display the week’s menu. Menu planning and efficient grocery shopping tips coming soon!