Pantry organized with baskets and bins
Written by Sandie Orlando

Organizing a Condo Pantry – Small Changes Make a Big Difference

“My kitchen drawers and pantry are disorganized as **! Wherever things landed when I moved 5 years ago just became ‘their place’ and I just got used to the way things were. I’m sure there are expired cans and jars in there, and things buried that I don’t even know exist.”

Everyone has a different view of what disorganized looks and feels like. April’s condo is uncluttered to begin with, and has more than enough storage space. The kitchen is well stocked, but not filled with unnecessary items. At first glance, one would wonder why she felt it was so disorganized.

disorganized condo pantry


As I worked in the pantry to pull everything out and sort, I realized that her feeling of disorganization probably came from not having established a system that defined how she uses the space when she first moved in, so the feeling of chaos has persisted.

The shelves in her pantry are generously sized, which means a lot of wide, deep and tall space – perfect for things to start sprawling all over the place and become visually confusing. It also means there is a deep corner where things can get lost from view. There were lots of interesting goodies stashed back there!

Beverage cans and bottles were stored in a number of places, sometimes in the cardboard cases or on the flats, with singles mixed in with other items. Serving pieces and infrequently used appliances were taking space in easily accessible areas, while overflow supplies were hidden from view, which had resulted in duplicate purchases. Unopened condiments and cereals had expired, the result of buying volume deals at Costco for items not frequently used. Seasonal items for entertaining were in plastic bags, turning them into ‘mystery’ items stashed at the back.

Pantry organized with baskets and bins

April needed a better way to group and contain like items so she can see clearly what she has, and make consistent decisions about where things go. Sub-structure, in the form of baskets and bins to contain items, was an inexpensive and flexible solution that can be adapted and shifted as she re-stocks.

We used sturdy baskets that can be pulled out with one hand to allow a clear view of the contents to contain the floppy pouches of dog treats. One was used to keep bags of pasta and rice together, and another was designated for the collection of snacks. Clear plastic bins were used to store smaller items like dog toys and chews – and were stacked to take advantage of the vertical space.

Overflow paper and plastic supplies were collected and placed where they would be more readily visible so April wouldn’t buy more before she really needs them. Cleaning products were put together and given containers to keep them from getting mixed up with the food products.

drawer of messy utensils and organized drawer of utensils

April’s drawers were suffering from the same lack of internal structure, which resulted in a confusing jumble. This was easily fixed by adding some drawer inserts and gathering like items together. She could still pare down the duplicate items, now that she can see how many lifters and stirring spoons she actually owns. Seasonal items and smaller gadgets were separated out and stored in an empty cookie tin where they can be re-discovered, but not constantly get in the way of finding the regularly used gadgets.

Spices can be particularly challenging to wrangle, especially for clients who want to keep them on hand, but out of view. Narrow upper shelves don’t easily accommodate a rack that makes it easy to see each jar, so our solution was a sturdy basket that can be taken down with one hand when cooking, and returned easily when finished without the jars always falling over. The most frequently used are in one basket on the lower shelf, with overflow or specialty items in the basket above. Sharing the space with the most frequently used food wraps helps to keep those boxes contained and accessible.

cabinet with disorganized shelves and organized into baskets

April’s kitchen project was really about finessing – or finishing – rather than an entire reorganization. Five years after moving in, she can feel that her set-up is complete. She wonders why she waited so long!

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