Decluttering – Braving the Pantry

My mind has been a mess for the last year, it’s no surprise that my house is too. The problem is, a messy environment quickly feeds into the entropy of the mind. So, for the past month I have decided to put some effort into decluttering and organising.

The thing is, I’m quite comforted by clutter. I like collecting things, I love nosing about at thrift stores and it’s impossible for me to leave a Pyrex bowl to be snatched up by someone else. So I am never going to live in a minimalist environment. But the chaos needs to be organised, the clutter curated. Drawers bursting forth with bunched up pairs of underwear entangled in bra straps are not quite what I’m looking for.  Nor is a concussing avalanche Tupperware every time I open a cupboard.

I’m currently working on buying less, wasting less, and making the most of what I’ve already got, so the pantry, with its uncharted stack of ingredients just waiting to be turned into something seemed like a good place to start my reorganisation efforts.

Our pantry is a corner cupboard that swallows half-eaten boxes of crackers and spices like a hungry goat. It doesn’t help that I often buy ingredients with the greatest intention of making elaborate meals only to say fuck it and cook pasta again. As we’ve had a lot of guests recently it was in even more disarray than usual – people constantly digging through it for snacks, leaving debris in their wake.

I looked at some blogs for organisation inspiration, but most of them involved buying a whole lot of plastic organisational aids and I didn’t want to buy anything.
Instead I reflected on what I really wanted when I was meal planning and shopping and cooking –  a good idea of what I have, easily being able to check what is running low and enough on hand to be able to cook a half satisfactory meal without going to the shops. I started by pulling out everything on all five, deep shelves and trying to sort it into categories:

  • Grains/Pasta/Rice
  • Legumes
  • Baking Stuff
  • Canned/Bottled Goods
  • Vinegars/Sauces/Spreads
  • Spices
  • Tea/Coffee
  • Snack Food

As I pulled each item out, I assessed whether I would ever use it if it went back into the pantry. For example, a bag of wholewheat pasta that was really awful the first time we ate it, hadn’t been touched in 3 years and had what appeared to


be moth droppings in the bottom? This went in the bin. At the same time, if something had been around for a while but still could be used (a couple of tins of tomatoes found in the deep recesses) I simply made a note to put them at the front so they would be used up first. As I pulled each item out of the pantry I added it to an inventory list.

Once everything was sorted and inventoried, I put it back, in an order that made sense to my cooking needs. Grains and baking stuff at eye level, vinegar and sauces a little lower, canned goods (of which I only buy about 3 or 4 types) on the bottom. Snacks and coffee and tea up top. I made sure to prevent any more spillage or possible moth bait, either by transferring the contents of open bags to jars or clipping the packaging tightly with clothes pegs. All duplicate products were sorted with the newest purchases at the back.

I have a nice little rack in the pantry for all of the spices I use most often. The rest I alphabetised and put in a drawer instead of the pantry so they are easier to find. Hopefully this will stop me from stocking up on any more ground chiles, sage or thyme!


The whole project took a couple of focused hours, but the result is totally worth the effort. Now I have finished the reorganisation I have a few goals:

  • To keep it organised! In the state it’s currently in, I can see at a glance what I need to buy at the grocery store and not overstock.
  • To start using what we’ve already got (I need to find things to do with semolina!)
  • To be mindful of purchasing large quantities of novelty ingredients for one specific recipe either by buying bulk ingredients in the right amount or finding a more versatile recipe.

What are your pantry organisation tips?

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