Pantry Organization: Before & After

The pantry: one of the most used places in the house, yet often the area that quickly gets out of control. My friend Jamie, a busy mom to three little ones, admitted she was overwhelmed and needed help. Her first project area: the dreaded pantry. The Organized Sister {me!} to the rescue!

The biggest challenges with this pantry:

  1. the wire shelves
  2. the wide spacing between the shelves
  3. the L-type corners — where wasted space occurs
  4. and lots of stuff!

(As always, slide the arrows left and right to see the before and afters.)

I spent a couple of hours shopping for the right containers. I found these Sterilite containers at Lowe’s, where they had both large and medium size containers. I wanted something that fit the shelves well, was easy to clean and could possibly stack. Of course, I had to run to multiple locations and bought out the stock at each place.



As you can tell from the before photos, things were stacked precariously on top of each other, so it was hard to know exactly what she had.

Pantry Before 2


I tackled the project one area or shelf at a time, starting with the floor. This is a walk-in pantry, but as you can see, it wasn’t easy to walk in. Jamie has a ton of small appliances: a mixer, juicer, toaster oven, waffle iron, griddle, an Easy Bake oven, and crockpots galore of various sizes {I seriously lost count} that were all piled on top of each other. Mixed in were a lot of entertaining type items, such as wire baskets, serving trays, and paper products. Jamie admitted they used to host a lot of parties — before kids. Because of the wire shelves, a lot of stuff had fallen down to the floor, making this a whole pile of mess. My solution? I put the crockpots in one large bin with a cover. Another closed bin held the kid stuff I found: the Easy Bake Oven, cookie cutters and paraphernalia. In the third bin, I put the waffle iron, KitchenAid mixer, and another large crockpot. There wasn’t room for the toaster oven, which wasn’t getting used anyway, so that went in the donate pile. (Jamie has a regular toaster on her counter that her family uses regularly.) I put the stock of paper towel in the corner as well, for easy access.

Since this isn’t my pantry, my goal was to reorganize the items on each shelf Jamie already had them on. But as I dug further into the project, I realized it made more sense to group similar things together, creating zones. For instance, I created a lunch zone, where bread went in one bin, snacks in another, nuts in a third container. I created categories: rice/potatoes, pasta, fresh produce, baking, even medicines. Jamie keeps all of their medicines in the pantry, so I further subdivided medicines into prescriptions, cold/allergy meds, and vitamins. I also moved all the cereal from the third shelf down to the first. My thought was that eventually, her kids can help mom out by getting their own breakfast in the morning. To compensate for the height between the shelves, I used bins that can be stacked when the handles are turned in, so you’ll see some of the bins on top of each other to make use of that height. To solve the corner problem, I put a large turntable (this one is from OXO Good Grips) for bottles and such. She can easily spin it and access any of the items. I also set a smaller turntable on the 2nd shelf for more bottles.

Pantry Organization lazy susan

To access the cans, I added this adjustable tiered can organizer.

Pantry Organization cans

With as much stuff as Jamie has, I wanted to use every inch of space possible. The door itself is valuable real estate, so I added a closet shoe organizer. The clear pockets are great for little items, such as vitamins and drink packets.

Pantry Organization After

It took me four hours to organize Jamie’s pantry from top to bottom. One thing to remember is that when you organize, if something doesn’t work well or as the needs of your family change, don’t be afraid to move things around and make it work better.

Tips for a well-organized pantry:

  • Arrange items on shelves so that the oldest ones are at the front and are most likely to be used first.
  • Buy only the items you need and don’t buy large quantities unless you use the item frequently.
  • Create zones, where similar items are located together so you can see exactly what you have.
  • Write the purchase and expiration date with a sharpie on the top of all cans.
  • Write the purchase date on bottles of herbs and spices. Throw out any unused portion after one year. (This also goes for medicines.)
  • Use items like baking powder and baking soda before their expiration dates to make sure they work the way they are supposed to.
  • When you use up a pantry item, write it on your shopping list right away so you remember to replace it.

Who’s inspired to organize their pantry?

P.S. I’ve already heard from several of you that you have organized a pantry or linen closet after reading one of my posts. Please send me photos! I’d love to share them on my Facebook page. And please, share my Facebook business page with your friends!

P.S.S. And if these kinds of posts overwhelm you rather than inspire you, then I am here to help! Check out this link.


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