Towards the beginning of the year, I finally got around to reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by the Marie Kondo. You might think a little strange to be reading a book on tidying up, but I must admit Kondo makes tidying up fun. The book is quite honestly life-changing. Kondo offers a new approach to organizing everything from clothes, to books, to paper, to komono (not the outfit, that’s actually Japanese for miscellaneous). That’s also, by the way, the order she recommends doing things. Clothes first, books second, then paper, everything else and then sentimental stuff.
The secret to tidying up is learning to keep only things that spark joy. Spark joy? Kind of a hard idea to wrap your brain around with some categories. Clothes and books were far easier for me with this idea. But how about things like your pantry? How can you sort stuff in your pantry based on what sparks joy? Well, it was a little hard, but I managed it. Let me walk you through the pantry section of my ongoing KonMari Overhaul.
So this was the space I started with. Actually, it was a litttle worse then you see here. In this picture, I had already cleaned off one of the shelves. My kitchen features a set of wall ovens and a glass stove top in place of a single range and pantry. As a result, I have no formal pantry, but simply some narrow, deep cabinets. This resulted in a lot of food items getting shoved in the back. I had way more then I thought….
….as you can see. My center island was quite a mess. And this did NOT include the spice cabinet and lazy susan.
Step 1: Gather Everything, and I Mean EVERYTHING
One of the key elements of the KonMari method is to sort things by categories. So before you start sorting make sure you have gathered everything and lay it out where you can see it. This makes it easier to know if you have duplicates. For instance, you see in this picture I actually had four jars of peanut butter! I will admit that I did break this down into smaller categories, focusing on the food in the pantry versus the food in the spice cabinet versus the food in the lazy susan. But I did that knowing that each of these sections carries different foods at this time and I the odds of duplicates was unlikely. (I also did this because I am also caring for a five-month-old at home and it seemed a little less daunting to only focus on the pantry and keeping her content.)
Step 2: Discard Anything Past its Expiration Date
The second step in the KonMari method is to go through each item and see if it sparks joy. Again, we’re working with items in the pantry. Instead of holding a box of cereal and asking myself “does this box of cereal make me feel joy?” I started with “is this box of cereal expired?” Way easier question to answer. You’ll quickly find that you’ll probably eliminate close to 25% of what was in your pantry just by doing that. Keep in mind some things might still be good, for instance, I’ve found a bag of coconut flour that had remained sealed and unopened but was past its expiration date. Upon cracking the seal it appeared fresh and I opted to store it in one of my lovely new glass jars later on. You might be surprised to find how long some of the stuff has been back there. I think the record for me was food that expired in November of 2015.
Step 3: Discard Anything You Don’t Expect You’ll Ever Cook With
I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s been “gifted” food items from other people’s pantries. And I’ll be honest, I doubt I’ve used any of it. So I took this opportunity to discard what I figured I would never cook with. Depending on what that is you might be able to donate these items to the local food pantry. This is also a good time to discard items that may not be very healthy. Since we’re trying to eat better, I took the opportunity to discard some chips and candy that we honestly didn’t need.
Step 4: Organize What’s Left
Now the fun part, putting things in order! This is where you get to put some of those cute and pretty little ideas you found on Pinterest in place. I went on a container shopping spree at my local Target and picked up these plastic wicker baskets as well as four glass jars. The Oxo containers I already had and had been gathering dust on the top of my fridge. It helps to try and organize your items by type. For instance, all of my sauces I put in one basket and all of my canned vegetables in another. Dry items like flour, pasta, and nuts I opted to store in the Oxo containers. You can also use things you find around the house as storage items. For instance, I had a small serving tray laying about that worked perfectly as a holder for my nut butters and sweeteners. The larger baskets at the bottom are where I’m storing some of my specialty kitchen appliances like my food strainer, pasta maker, and airbrush kit (for cake decorating). The result is a beautiful and Pinterest worthy pantry unit!
I think my system will work much better for storing and managing food. As for the stuff on the shelves, I moved my canning supplies to the bottom half of my narrow, deep cabinets where I can access them come canning season. The top half has some of the ingredients I buy in bulk like sugar and flour (and pistachios which belong to my husband). These are stored in jars in the kitchen and I can refill as needed. Now, if I can just organize the spice cabinet…
So what about you guys? How have you tackled organizing your pantry? Do you approach it with Marie Kondo’s method of sparking joy?