Tag Archives: Pantry

Get Your Home and Your Life Organized and Energized!

Do you feel like you and your home are energized and organized?

If you feel overwhelmed and already behind with your resolution to get your life in order, here are a few quick steps you can take to help you get ready for the holidays.

Take the time to look at your home through the eyes of a complete stranger (or perhaps your most critical relative!). I find that when I have a service provider, like a handyman or a heating and air tech, come through my house, I see my home from a completely different perspective. I see the pile that is stacked in front of the electrical box (real life scenario that just happened to me). I see the old Halloween decorations that are still not properly put back into their boxes. So, step one is to see your home from a new perspective. What would you hide or change if you knew someone was coming to appraise, repair or critique your home? Go ahead declutter  and eliminate the obvious eyesores.

Next grab an empty laundry basket and walk through your house collecting items that are not in the right place and need to be put away. After you fill your first basket, empty it by moving to each area stowing each item away into it’s designated ‘home’. Keep filling your basket and moving items to their proper locations.

Next up – declutter your guest room. Even if no one is coming to stay during the holidays, a clean and spacious spare room will give you a huge surge of energy because you will suddenly have a space to stow gifts, make lists, wrap gifts write cards and generally do whatever you need to do to get your holidays organized!

OK – now it’s time to move into your kitchen. The holidays are the time that you really need to clean and clear out your fridge. Tis the season to cook and eat and the last thing you need is a cluttered fridge. I find that the week before I buy the turkey is the best time to clear out the fridge. For most of us it is a necessity or we can’t fit the bird in anyhow!

Give your pantry a once over. As you move items around you can make mental note of what you need to add to your shopping list. It is always good to have a few quick snacks on hand and spur of the moment appetizer ingredients. This is also the time to make sure you have healthy snacks and quick meals stocked and ready for the nights that you get home wiped out from shopping or working a long day. The best way to eat healthy is to plan in advance. Make sure to stock your pantry with snacks that you can take with you while shopping. I love having small packs of nuts in my purse for the times when my outing extends into lunch or dinner time. It keeps me from stopping at a fast food place on the way home!

Set up a gift wrapping station. It is nice to have a dedicated place to store gifts and gift wrap throughout the year. During the holidays, having a space set up will save you time and energy. Imagine having all of your wrapping paper, ribbon, bags, tape, decent scissors and cards all in one place with a surface to work on. You can stow your gifts until wrapped in this same area in a large opaque plastic storage bin. This will keep your gifts clean and away from peeping tom eyes!

These are things that you can do to make your home feel more like a zen sanctuary and less like a chaotic jungle! If you spend the time this weekend organizing and decluttering, I know that you will be able to enjoy the holidays more fully with less stress and less effort.

Remember what Abe Lincoln said? 1 hour of preparation saves 3 hours of perspiration.
Get organized and eliminate unnecessary stress in your life.

If you are already feeling overwhelmed and know that you can’t get your home and your life organized and decluttered, I am here and ready to help. I work in person in the San Diego area and also consult virtually throughout the US. You can reach out and contact me here.

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5 Smart Spice Storage Tips

Reprinted with permission from hgtv.com


They say variety is the spice of life, and that’s also true in your kitchen. Whether you’re a keep-it-simple sort or a devoted gourmet, an assortment of dried spices is a must for every pantry. A few pinches of the right seasonings make the difference between dull and delicious.

But a jar of thyme can quickly become three in a disorganized stash of spices, while once-fragrant herbs wither in dark corners. Professional organizer Kathi Burns saves her clients from making such missteps. “We’re chef wannabes at my house, so we have every spice possible,” says Burns, CPO of San Diego’s Make Space in Your Life! “I’m always testing new organizing solutions.” We’ve got the dish on the best ways to keep your spices fresh and at the ready.

Stock up on versatile staples. Start with black pepper, salt’s better — or at least healthier— half. Popular all the world over, it adds essential bite to countless culinary styles. Purists will insist on whole peppercorns and a grinder, but ground pepper serves the same purpose. Other home chef favorites include ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, bay leaves, dried bay leaves, chili powder, oregano and cumin.

Figure out the best storage option for your space. If you can spare a cabinet shelf, a single three-tier spice rack should be plenty for the average home cook. Mounted pull-down spice racks make even the back row easily accessible. “It’s old-school and it works,” says Burns. Stylish new storage options continue to surface as well, such as sleek magnetic wall strips that hold sealed spice cans right where you need them. Just keep them clear of direct heat and light.

Organize your spices by cuisine. “Indian spice trays are one of my favorite things for the kitchen,” says Burns. The most common version features a round metal tray, seven small containers, a tiny spoon and a lid for the whole thing. Modern variations can be found everywhere from Etsy to Williams-Sonoma.

“I have several clients who cook specific kinds of food, like Lebanese or Hungarian,” adds Burns. “These containers help them keep everything together.” The spice trays also make fantastic gifts, especially with a corresponding ethnic cookbook.

Do an annual sweep of your pantry. Spices have a limited shelf life. Some experts claim six months is the rule of thumb, but others say that’s way too conservative. Stored properly, ground spices (nutmeg, tumeric) and ground herbs (thyme, sage) might stay fresh for two or three years. Whole spices like cloves and cinnamon sticks can last up to four years, as can some seeds.

By checking yearly, though, you’ll know what needs to be refilled and what probably should be tossed. When in doubt, give it a whiff. If spices smell stale, they’re done. A rancid scent is also a clear sign to throw it away. Marking open dates on new additions will help you determine freshness down the line.

Experiment in small doses. Cooking a new type of cuisine at home often requires purchasing several new spices. You may love Ethiopian food, but will you ever need berbere again after your first — and only — attempt at doro wat? If you’re unsure, try to buy the spices from a specialty shop, where you can pick up small amounts from bulk containers.

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A Messy Pantry Gets Organized

Pantry Before

Before:  A mother asked for our help when she became fed up with her disorganized pantry. Her 3 kids would make a mess every time they went in there, so we needed to develop a system that everyone would understand and follow.


Pantry After

After:  We created zones and made better use of the can stacking device and lazy susan that were underutilized in the space. The can stacking device, which was pushed in the back of the pantry is now front and center. The lazy susan is in the back corner housing sauces and other liquids, and a quick spin keeps anything from getting lost in the corner.

Pantry After

We also moved all of the kids’ favorite foods to 2 shelves that they can easily reach. The kids’ section is in the back of the pantry rather than right by the door so that if they do make a mess, the rest of the pantry is still accessible. We containerized the kids’ snacks, bread, and sandwich ingredients in clear plastic double shoeboxes. We also put cereal into tall, clear plastic containers. This eliminated stale, unsealed cereal bags and empty boxes from going back on the shelf.

Pantry After

The shelves near the entry of the pantry are now used for Dad’s supplements and bars as well as canned and dry goods that the kids don’t use.

We also made a zone for baking items like sprinkles, food coloring, etc and those are now in a lidded container behind the more often used items, to be pulled out when needed.

Pantry After

We containerized medicines, separated by type so they can easily be found when needed. We also made room for sodas which use to live outside the pantry.  We made sure to keep them in a plastic container as they had leaked in the past.

Finally, we labeled all containers so there is no question as to where things belong. This is a very important step when you need everyone in the family to work together to keep an area organized!

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Three Sure-Fire Ways to Organize the Canned Goods in Your Pantry

Although my family eats mainly fresh vegetables, we still need to keep cans of beans, quick sauces and condiments available for nights when we are pinched for time. Thank goodness that there are several wonderful ways to organize our caned goods! My three favorite solutions are shown below with the pluses and minuses listed.

Favorite #1 The Extra Large Lazy Susan

I love this organizer! It not only holds massive amounts of cans, it also organizes the pantry areas that become dark and deep black holes. So, instead of piling cans or boxes in front of one another, simply stack and spin until you find what you need. These organizers are a little pricey ($25 + each) but they are worth their price in gold. I currently have over 35 cans on one and loved it so much that I added a second one on the shelf below!

The minus ~ if you do not have a deep dark recessed hole in your pantry, this is not for you, The smaller lazy susan is great for condiment bottles but this boehemoth only works in areas 25″ or larger.

Second Runner Up ~ The Can Stacker Shelf

This organizer makes you feel really efficient and official. Once this shelf is in place within your pantry, all cans are visible and accounted for just like in the grocery. These shelves expand and contract to fit the length of the shelf at hand.

The Minus ~ Make sure to buy the extra large shelves, the others will hold only small spice bottles or micro-sized cans.

Third Place Contender ~ The Drop-Down Wire Organizer

After using this ditty for a year or so, I determined that it was only useful for items that I use repetitively and buy in mass. For me, this means my favorite Mexican sauce (for everything) El Pato, and my cat food. Items are organized behind each other and it is designed to roll the next one forward after the first one is used.

The Minus ~ It takes up too much shelf space unless you have a large quantity of the same items that you use over and over. As you can see in this photo, this was the beginning of my experience and my cans were not necessarily as organized as I had hoped. The size was a bit wonky so I even ended up storing packaged goods along with the cans. Not the best solution! Once I began using it strictly for my cat food and El Pato collection, it became more user friendly.

We Want Your Ideas!

Please let us know if you have created any other solutions for organizing  your canned goods or your pantry. All ideas are welcome here at addSpace. The more minds that ponder a problem, the greater the results. Go ahead and take a moment to post your solutions below so others can learn from you as well!

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Eight Quick and Easy Kitchen Storage Solutions

As a Professional Organizer, over the years I have tested and used many pantry organizing products. I have found several that I seem to use over and over again. I decided to post eight of my favorites to help you keep order in your pantry.

Stepper Shelves Stepper Shelves: These steps really take the (more…)

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Kitchen Organizing Basics Presented on Martha Stewart Living Radio

What is the best way to keep a kitchen well organized?

1. Create zones to keep your supplies and tools within reach

2. Clean as you go

3. Keep a constant eye on the amount of tools and whether you are using them

What are the different types of zones?

Prep Zone = This area will include your knife collection, poultry shears, cutting boards and other prep containers including measuring spoons and cups and mixing bowls. This is also where your Tupperware, baggies and paper wraps should live.

Cook Zone = This zone is located on and around the stove and oven. Store all cooking utensils within arms reach of this zone. A ceramic jar takes up a small amount of space and keeps your spoons, spatulas and whisks close at hand. You will also need to store your baking racks, pots and pans and pot holders within this zone.

Bake Zone = If you love to bake, you might find it handy to store your flour, sugar, baking powder, a set of measuring cups and spoons, your favorite mixing bowl, etc. together in one convenient spot. Right below these items will be the cabinet with the cookie trays, baking sheets etc.

Serving Zone = Everything you need to set the table including plates, bowls, platters, flat wear, napkins, trivets, cups and stem wear and the whole shebang!

It might even make great sense to keep your much loved and frequently used condiments here: salt and pepper, hot sauce, liquid aminos? Whatever your family uses with most meals.

Clean Zone = This is obviously by the sink and hopefully the dishwasher too. Keep your soaps, towels, scrub brushes, drying rack all in this area. A pretty ceramic flower pot will keep your scrub brushes upright and the hole in the bottom will keep them drained and free of muck and slime.

Waste Zone = This area is getting more complicated as we endeavor to recycle as much as possible. You will want an area large enough to hold your trashcan, recycle bin and possible even a compost container. The best location will be close to the cleaning and prep zone.

Storage Zone = If you are lucky, you have walk-in pantry, if not you still need to create a zone to keep all of your excess dry and canned goods.

A Bonus Zone = If you have kids, another great zone to create will encompass breakfast and lunch. Use lower cabinets to hold breakfast bowls, cups with lids, cereals and possibly even the peanut butter and jelly. The ideal location 6twill be close to the prep zone so it will be easy to make sandwiches and bag up your lunch items in a snap!

What about my pantry? How can I keep that organized?

There are many ways to organize a pantry but the most organized pantry will also have specific zones created within.

Here are a few examples of pantry zones you might use:

Condiments, Sauces

Canned Goods: Soups, Veggies

Baking Zone


Teas / Coffees / Canned Beverages

Snack Zone

International Foods

Breakfast Zone

Entertaining Foods

Do you have any favorite organizing devices for pantry items?

For cans – If you have a large amount of shelf area, use stepped stacker shelves. These shelves come in white plastic or metal and expand to fit your shelf width. Make sure to buy the extra large shelves, the regular size typically accommodate spice jars, not canned goods.

For cans – You can also use extra large Lazy Susans with a tall lip on the edge. The extra large susans will hold 20-30 cans and maximize your recessed corner areas. Simply spin and find what you are looking for in a snap!

For bottles of sauces – Lazy Susans are the best storage device. Use as many as you need to hold all of your sauce bottles. I also use these in the cabinet next to my stove for quick access to oils and vinegars.

For Bags of Beans and Rice – Remove packaging them and store into tall rectangular containers. You could also keep them in their original packaging and pile them on top of each other in the plastic or glass containers with lids that seal tight. Avoiding round containers will save precious shelf space.

For Pastas – Baskets or plastic square or rectangular open bins keep these packages from falling all over the shelves. You can place this basket conveniently beside the marinara bevy.

Any Other Tips For an Organized Kitchen?

1. Keep all papers off of the kitchen counter. If you do bills in the kitchen, designate a drawer to hold the bills in between payments. Keep stamps, envelops, and pens within the same space. If you don’t have an extra drawer, create a vertical storage space that will live at the far end of a counter against a wall. Keep all papers and materials within that container. Stepped vertical file holders or stepped baskets work well. Only use tools that require minimal counter space and please do keep everything vertical and out of piles on the countertop!

2. Wipe down and clean out one drawer or shelf at a time at periods when they are the most empty. Cleaning a little at a time makes it less of a chore.

3. Determine where to store items based on how frequently you use them. For instance, if you only use your crockpot during the winter months, store it away from your main cabinets. It might even make sense to store it on the garage or somewhere outside of the kitchen area.

4. For those items that you use on a weekly basis, keep them in easy to access cabinets front and center, not high up or in the back out of reach. If you use one appliance every day like a small food processor,, it might deserve to live on your counter right beside the stash of knives and cutting boards.

These tips came from my interview with Betsy Karetnick & Sunny Anderson on Martha Stewart Living Show broadcast on Sirius Radio October 18, 2010

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Kitchen Pantry Gets Optimized and Organized


An incredibly large pantry with built-in shelves and drawers but a very industrious and busy cook. It seemed to have a life of it’s own and created it’s own systems if we didn’t keep an eye open for small hands and hungry mouths!


There were so many shelves and drawers that it looked deceptively easy to organize. This is a common situation with too much space in pantries, closets or other areas in your home. Because of the expanse of storage space, you keep buying more and more products to fill it up. Sound familiar? This actually wasn’t the issue in this pantry but a good thing to keep in mind if you have a large but out-of-control storage area.

Pantry After


We decided what zones were really necessary to keep everything organized in this space. Zones were super important since this was a very busy mom with a multi-cultural family with a variety of palettes.

Specific zones were created to include:

1. Condiments, Sauces

2. Asian Cuisine

3. Canned Goods: Soups, Veggies

4. Canned Goods: Mexican

5. Baking / Entertaining Zone

6. Rice/Pastas

7. Teas / Beverages

8. Snack Zone

9. Breakfast Zone

These are the zones created specifically for foods. After that we created storage for appliances and other items to include:

1. Entertaining  2. Baking  3. Cooking  4. Paper Goods

Click here to see more specific solutions for storage and zone organizing for pantries. I use these solutions frequently when I work in with clients and you might end up with some new ideas for your own pantry!

PS Please post any good solutions you have developed on your own in the comment form below so that others can benefit from your clever tips and tricks!

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Oven Used for Storage

Oven before

Situation: An oven that had turned into a cabinet. A pantry that held almost everything but food and food storage supplies.

Challenge: This was a very dangerous choice. When space seems to be at a premium, folks will often default into using areas for storage that are really meant for other things. The real pantry was used to store games, wrapping paper, office supplies, almost everything but paper goods.

oven after

Solution: Get rid of excess grocery inventory, clear the pantry and make room for what supplies and food needed to be kept on hand.

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Organizing Kitchen Food Storage


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