Have you ever met someone who had the most perfectly arranged pantry? If so, you probably felt like you had walked into a wonderland: truffle oil, olive oil, peanut oil and canola oil on one shelf; almond flour, quinoa and rice in separate containers; seven (yes, seven!) types of pasta all portioned out into glassware.
“Without proper organization behind the scenes, people can never truly have their homes feel like the haven they set out to create,” says Carly Waters, an interior designer in Los Angeles. Waters has seen it all when it comes to her clients, including (but not limited to) one avid baker’s collection of more than 20 types of flour. The organization guru says she likes to think about a pantry the way others think of closets: The more you have, the less you’ll use.
“The idea behind the capsule wardrobe can be transferred to your pantry,” she says. “Have your set food staples and make them stand out.”
But before you can start on the fun stuff, there are a few things to be done. With Waters’ help, we’ve rounded up five insider tips for how to organize your pantry like a pro.
1. Empty: Take everything off the shelves. Since you probably haven’t seen the tops of the shelves in a while, now is a good time to give them a good wipe, Waters says.
2. Sort: “Remember those matching games from when you were a kid?” Waters asks. “This is just like that.” Put all the grains with the grains, legumes with the legumes and so forth.
3. Edit: This is the time where you decide between tossing or keeping each item. First, start by checking expiration dates: If something is old or smells off, chuck it. Next, evaluate which items you’ll never use and donate those to a local charity.
Then Waters suggests getting creative. For example, if you have a collection of half-empty liquor bottles that you use only occasionally, create a bar and display those bottles as decor.
4. Relocate: Your pantry should contain only food, so random items that ended up in there must be returned to their proper homes. Waters is a big proponent of displaying items that traditionally are kept in the pantry — for instance, she loves setting up a tea or coffee station on the counter. “Use those items to design your space,” she says. “Make your home feel like your favorite hotel room.”
5. Decant: Welcome to the part where you get to break out the label maker. Remove all food from its packaging and fill up glass jars with airtight lids to keep food and ingredients fresh. You can decant anything, from spices to toothpicks.
Lastly, label each jar so you can easily spot it among your array of goodies.