09 March 2015

Pantry purge, part 2

Today’s the last post in this little unintentional kitchen miniseries, and with it, I’ll also finish up a project I started over a year ago. No longer do we have just two organized shelves in our pantry!

Considering we live in an old-fashioned apartment with teensy closets, it’s kind of ridiculous that we’re fortunate enough to have a walk-in pantry in our kitchen (plus an adjacent butler’s pantry!). But that means our pantry is susceptible to the same problem I have with every generous space: the downward spiral of chaos that comes with too much stuff, too much space, and not enough organization.

It’s gotten even worse now that we’re practically a family of four nowadays (my mom is staying with us to nanny Baby P for now). I’ve wanted to make sure the pantry is well-stocked, but that means I’ve been just cramming more stuff in front of an already daunting mess.

(Crooked photo courtesy of awkwardly cramming myself in between the opposite shelves to take the widest shot possible. Actually, this whole post is poorly-lit photos with bad white balance of the inside of a messy closet. Sorry about that.)

The other side seems a little less crazy, but you should know I’d already cleared out half my cookbooks and a bunch of old beer before I even took this photo.

And then there’s the upper shelf on that side of the pantry. In theory I store all our disposable kitchen products there, but I can’t be sure because I’ve just tossed items up there for a couple years and prayed nothing breaks when It periodically tumbles back down.

That lone misplaced water bottle up there tells you everything you need to know about how bad this pantry had gotten. I did not need that water bottle, and I definitely did not need to put it way up there simply because that was the last remaining free shelf space.

It was that shelf – and another recent avalanche when I dared disturb the delicate balance of plastic plates – that caused me to say ENOUGH. TIME TO ORGANIZE THE REST OF THE PANTRY.

I started by reaching into the depths of the pantry and seeing what came out. Just on the bottom shelf alone (the most accessible, and therefore the one with the least excuse for disorganization) I found these piles.

Perhaps that doesn’t seem too bad, but just from that shelf, I tossed half a packet of ranch dressing, four (4) buffalo wild wings sani-wipes, an packet for egg drop soup that I swear I bought circa 2003, an expired organic peanut butter packet, a protein bar that had become protein crumbles after I’d tossed it in my bag for about a dozen air travel trips “in case I need a snack”, and a remarkable amount of old candy and Sonic peppermints. That mess joined two irreparably broken reusable grocery bags in the garbage. Feels good.

I did the same sort of purging from that awful top shelf, first climbing up to see what the heck was going on up there.

And then pulling it all out and staring it down, arms akimbo, to figure out the best way to put it all back in.

I’d hoped to design some sort of nifty storage system up there, but I had several ideas fail before I finally bought several of these boxes on clearance:

Photo storage boxes aren’t usually found in a pantry, but these were on sale for $2 and storage is storage. After purging and sorting out the remainder, I was satisfied with the outcome:

The rest of the pantry was re-organized with thought given to what’s needed where and when. For instance, we don’t need our emergency gallon of water within easy reach, but perhaps we could store the extra paper napkins in a way that they don’t crash down on my head every time I need to wipe down my hands.

Extra water in the basement, napkins on the bottom shelf. Common sense, but I had just never stopped to think about it!

The rest of our pantry is still pretty full, but at least there’s not valuable space taken up with three-year-old mini candy canes.

Oh, but I wasn’t done with just the shelves! The aforementioned gallon of emergency water had been used to hang up our reusable grocery bags (the ones that weren’t broken), which is all sorts of pathetic. Command hooks to the rescue! Regular bags within easy access:

Insulated bags tucked under the lower shelf:

And finally, one last pantry project: hanging my bulletin board on the inside of the door!

My lovely nailhead-trim board has floated from room to room since I made it, but never fully realized its purpose. Inside our pantry door turned out to be perfect! Extra nailheads make glam (and sturdy!) thumbtacks.

It was also a good spot to stash all the chip clips that had been drifting around the pantry:

And the rest of the board was covered with items that had covered our fridge, which also got a good purge! Magnets stayed on the side, because I am a sucker for a good save-the-date magnet...

But the rest was cleared off and, if important, stashed in the pantry. Look at my fridge, people! I’ve never had a cleared-off fridge before!

And so! Now when we bring groceries home, I don’t have to dread rearranging a mess in the pantry to put the new food away. When I plan a party, I don’t have to buy more disposable plates and silverware just because I don’t want to face the upper shelf of the pantry. And when we get an important doctor’s reminder or birthday invitation, I have a place to put all that paper!

Finally, finally, a long-overdue pantry purge! Not the most pinnable after in the world, but who cares when it’s so dang functional. And now I’m wanting to tackle all those other dark corners of our kitchen cabinets...