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There’s no shortage of aspiring Kondos pumping out aspirational organizational content, from ASMR unboxings of spice racks to before-and-after videos of formerly chaotic garages now full of sterile plastic bins. The promise is that buying shelves, hooks, bins, and baskets is a foolproof way to organize your home — and, therefore, that organizing your home is a foolproof way to live a stress-free life. That’s an overstatement, but it is true that living in an organized house is better than the alternative.
If you’re eager to enjoy the benefits of organization, there’s no better place to start than the kitchen — a highly functional room that’s also a gathering place for the entire household — and no better project to tackle than the pantry. The best pantry organization tools can bring order to chaos in what’s probably one of the most highly trafficked rooms in any house.
The right tools can save time and frustration hunting for that crucial ingredient that’s in there somewhere. For both ambitious home cooks and those who rely heavily on prepackaged and ready-made food, an organized pantry will make trips to the kitchen that much more serene.
What the Experts Say
Mindy Godding, founder of Abundance Organizing and incoming president of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, says that there are four factors to consider when organizing a pantry: accessibility, visibility, adjacency, and aesthetics. Any organization tool that doesn’t increase one or more of these is a waste of money.
“We have a lot of people in a shared space coming and going with different priorities, bringing in different stuff,” she says. “It’s an area where we’re coming together and communing as a family or as partners, but then also preparing food and nourishing ourselves. It’s a really important space to make sure that it’s functioning for you.”
Christina Hidek, a professional organizer at Streamlined Living, adds that it’s worth it to spend a bit more for durable containers made out of easy-to-clean materials like plastic and wood. They’ll cost less in the long run, and if the goal is a long-term solution, it’s worth investing in tools that will last a while. She also says that it’s crucial to ensure that the tools are right for the space.
“Measure the space, as well as what you intend to put in the organizer, to ensure it’s making good use of the horizontal and vertical space,” she says. “Too often I see the wrong storage bin or organizing solution being employed for the specific space.”
The Container Store Expanding Shelf
This rack from The Container Store can double the amount of stuff that can fit on any given pantry shelf. It also works as a way to reduce the number of items stored behind other items, which increases visibility and accessibility.
This shelf expands from approximately 16 to 32 inches when the pieces are arranged in parallel, but if they’re arranged perpendicular to one another, it can also fit in a corner. This flexibility means it will probably have a home in any pantry, no matter the size and shape. Bonus: its vinyl-coated wire construction is plenty strong and looks at home with most kinds of modern kitchen décor.
mDesign 11.5" Bamboo Lazy Susan Spinner
Godding often recommends turntables to her clients: “They’re an easy way to bring whatever’s in the back to the front without having to move items aside,” she says. This lazy susan from mDesign is a great size for most pantries. It’s small enough to rest on a shelf of average depth, but big enough to fit two layers of items — taller near the center, smaller around the diameter — that can be seen at the same time.
BEST TIERED SHELF RISER
The Home Edit by IDesign 3-Tier Shelf
This tiered shelf is another tool that increases visibility and accessibility in any pantry. Instead of having to pick up items in the back to see what they are, it allows for a complete view of everything on the riser with just a glance. While these kinds of shelves are commonly used for spices, they’re also useful for cans, jars, and any other small items.
Rubbermaid Brilliance Containers
Storing dry goods in clear canisters reduces the visual clutter that comes with lots of different packaging sitting together on the same shelf. Godding adds that any clear canisters should have a silicon gasket in the lid to keep things sealed tightly. These shatter-resistant plastic Rubbermaid Brilliance containers check that box — plus, they come with scoops that make measuring extra-convenient. Lastly, by using these kinds of containers, it’s easy to shop in bulk, which is a more environmentally friendly (and less expensive) way to buy dry goods.
BEST OVER-THE-DOOR STORAGE
White Elfa Utility Pantry Over the Door Rack
If there’s room between the door to the pantry and the shelves inside, an over-the-door storage rack is a no-brainer. They’re particularly great for storing kids’ snacks, keeping them both separate from the rest of the pantry and down low for smaller people to access. But, kids or no kids, this sturdy rack adds a ton of flexible storage space that would otherwise go to waste.
mDesign Metal Bin with Handles
Bins are another key organizational tool for pantries. Godding likes that they group similar items together (adjacency!) and have right angles that don’t waste space the way curved baskets do. Particularly with items that are irregularly shaped — bags, pouches, produce, and the like — bins like this sleek metal option from mDesign are key. Just make sure to store it with its handles out for easy retrieval.
BEST LABEL MAKER
Dymo LabelManager 280
Even with as many clear storage items as possible, a label maker can come in handy. From flour and cornstarch to salt and sugar, there’s no shortage of lookalike ingredients, so it’s vital to label them to alleviate any confusion when cooking or baking. This label maker from Dymo is a solid option, featuring a rechargeable battery, QWERTY keyboard, wi-fi connectivity, and a wide array of font options.
BEST CAN STORAGE
Utopia Kitchen Storage Can Rack Organizer 16.5 x 12.5 x 13.5 Inch, Stackable Can Organizer Holds Upto 36 Cans for Kitchen Cabinet or Pantry (Bronze)
Cans are an item that pretty much everyone keeps in their pantry, so a rack made especially for cans makes sense for most people. This metal rack displays cans openly for the utmost visibility. It’s also slightly tilted, so the cans roll into place neatly, and stackable, for those doomsday preppers who want to keep a ton of cans ready in case global catastrophe hits.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pantry Organization Tools
Where should I start organizing my house?
There’s no universal right answer, but the kitchen is a good place for most people to start. It’s highly functional (there’s lots to use, move, and clean) and typically a place where the household congregates for an extended period of time. Godding adds that, by organizing the kitchen, it’s possible to cut down on food waste and develop healthier habits, both of which are benefits that don’t come with organizing other rooms.
What’s the best way to organize the kitchen?
Again, individual needs may vary, but Godding says the pantry is a good choice for most because it’s a small, contained space you can work on without getting overwhelmed. In other words, if you’re looking to develop your organizational muscle, it’s a great place to get some reps in.
Will buying kitchen organizational tools automatically make me an organized person?
Sadly, no. You need to do the legwork to figure out which kitchen organization tools are right for you, develop a system that uses those tools, and figure out a way to stick to that system over the long haul. It’s not a quick and easy fix, unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.