Challenge #10- The “Pantry”

[Note: Scroll down if you want to review the process we are using all month!]

Pantry Organizing. It is a good idea to periodically clear it all out.


Not everyone has a pantry, but all of us store food. Over time, we tend to pile up/forget about what we have, so it is a good idea to periodically clear it all out.

Designing and implementing a customized storage solution for your food is more than a quick project, so we won’t worry too much about creating the “ideal pantry.” Today, we just want to take all of the food out of wherever it is stored and eliminate anything we no longer want.

The first step is to go through your cabinets/pantry/garage/etc., gather all of the food, and then put it on a clear sorting surface (such as a dining room table or kitchen island.)  If you’ve been working along with us each day, you don’t need to consider the fridge because you’ve already conquered this area. If not, you can put this on your “to do” list for the upcoming weekend.

As you look at each item, ask yourself:

Is it expired? Begin by throwing away any item which is expired. When it comes to spices, many say that the shelf life is one year. While spices may be at their best within this timeframe, they really can be kept longer. However, if you have a spice that you know has been living in your cabinet for eons, better to pitch it.

Will anyone in this house eat it? The second step is to consider whether anyone will actually eat everything that remains. Sometimes we purchase an item thinking someone in our family will eat it, only to discover nobody will touch it. For any item like this, go ahead and put it into a bag to donate. Likewise, if there is anything which you are trying to avoid eating (e.g. because it is unhealthy, fattening, etc.), go ahead and either donate it or throw it away. Don’t keep items simply because you spent money on them – if you won’t eat it, pitch it.

Can I consolidate? Now consider whether you can consolidate any items. Perhaps you have a box of instant oatmeal that only has one or two packets left. These can easily fit into another box, which saves you space. Original boxes are terrific containers for holding smaller items on a shelf, just remember to remove the flaps on the top of the box so they look neat and function more as a drawer and less as packaging.

And now you can reload your space. Remember to wipe shelves clean while they are empty. If you feel motivated and have the time, you can consider if there are better ways to store your items. For example, you can purchase an over-the-door rack which can be a great solution for storing cans and other narrow items.

Over the door storage rack

As we discussed in Challenge #9, using a “stair stepper” or a lazy susan can also maximize the use of your space.

You may also have a basket which can sit on a shelf and hold similar items, such as ramen noodles or bags of snacks.

Storing items in a pantry

Also, remember to store only a small number of each item in your “prime real estate” (the shelves you can easily reach), and put the rest in a longer-term storage area (such as a higher shelf, a basement, garage or closet.)

How did it go? Did you free up some space?

*     *     *     *     *

If you are new to the challenge, here’s a review of the process we are using all month:


1. Gather your supplies: (you can reuse these same supplies each day)

  • Boxes or bags labeled with “Donate”, “Elsewhere” and “Store”
  • Trash can and recycle bin
  • Damp rag/wet wipe

2. Remove everything from the area (yes, everything) and wipe it clean with a damp rag.

3. Sort the items into these categories: (The Seana Method’s R.E.D.D.S. system)

  • R- Restore: these are the items going back in
  • E- Elsewhere: these are items to keep, but that don’t belong in this space
  • D- Donate
  • D- Dispose: trash or recycle
  • S- Store: items you want to keep for sentimental reasons, or perhaps for a long-term future use, but which you don’t regularly use. These items will eventually need to go into a bin/box in an attic, basement, or closet.

4. Keeping the “Restore” items out, and put all other items into the boxes/bags you prepared.

5. Move items to their final destination:

  • Put the “Restore” items back into your designated area.
  • Carry the “Elsewhere” box/bag around your house and redistribute its contents.
  • Move the “Donate” box/bag to the car to be donated.
  • Trash/recycle the “Dispose” items.
  • Put the “Store” items into a container and move it to a remote location for future access.

7 thoughts on “Challenge #10- The “Pantry””

    1. If you have unopened packages you can donate them, Janine, which can make you feel better about getting rid of it. In the end, having easy access to what you want is worth the effort. You’ve been a faithful reader throughout the challenge – I so appreciate you and your comments:)

    1. You are making me laugh! I just worked with a client who had a “toddler in the pantry.” Think high shelves, boring stuff on the bottom, and containers. GOOD LUCK!!!

    1. Okay, I see some lovin’ for Cassidy if he tackles this one! No doubt it is a heavily used space, and therefore won’t be tidy every minute. But yes, every now and then it’s a good idea – sometimes its fun to see what you find:)

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