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5 Strategies For Maintaining an Organized Pantry

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You’ve spent a lot of time, energy and money creating the organized pantry of your dreams. 

You snap a picture or two, stand and stare proudly at your perfect creation, and think to yourself “This time I’m going to KEEP IT LOOKING THIS NICE!. I’m never going to let it go back to the way it was!”

But you don’t live alone.  Other humans who don’t share your organized pantry dreams use this space too.

A week in, you notice someone shoved an (almost) empty bag of chips in the bin that’s supposed to hold oatmeal packets.

Why is this so hard?

Shortly thereafter, someone spills cereal; now there are stray pieces and traces of Cheerio dust lightly coating the surfaces. 

Ugh.

And then you go to the grocery store and there’s a sale on S’mores supplies. When you go to put them away you can’t find a good place… so you shove them in the first empty spot you find.

Nothing to see here…

Slowly… things slip right back into a (perhaps slightly more organized) state of chaos. 

What went wrong?

Well my friend… you forgot the final (and most critical) step in the quest for an organized pantry.  Maintenance.

Maintenance: The Key to an Organized Pantry

The reality is that organization is never a “one and done” kind of thing. 

It is an ongoing process that can (and should!) evolve as you and your family begins to use the space.  A well organized space will make staying organized easier and flex with you as your needs change. 

But there are also some changes you have to make to your habits to really make the most of your newly organized space.  Namely… you have to embrace the mindset that small daily habits are the backbone of a more organized life. 

The practice of maintaining your space daily, weekly, and monthly is what will keep the job manageable (and help you avoid that “I can’t take this anymore” feeling).

Here are my top 5 strategies for maintaining an organized pantry.

Organization Strategy 1:

Tack Regular Upkeep Onto an Existing Routine

One of my favorite books on building better habits is Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  She lists a ton of actionable ways to develop the habits you want (and rid yourself of those you don’t).

The most useful strategy I learned from this guide is that if you want to add a new, positive habit you can simply tack it onto another habit that is part of your routine.  

It works so well!  If you already have a good kitchen related habit going, you can add a few minutes of “pantry touchup” to it with little extra mental effort.

For example, I do my weekly pantry touch up when I am putting away my groceries.  It’s something I have to do anyway, and I’m already in the pantry. So it just makes sense!

As I’m restocking the pantry with new items I take a minute to do the following:

A printable checklist of tasks for keeping an organized pantry.

Following these steps regularly saves me from ever getting to the point where things are so messy and out of order that I will have to do a total overhaul.

Some other habits you could a weekly 5-10 minute pantry maintenance session onto might include:

  • Meal Prep Day (do it during downtime)
  • Saturday morning house cleaning
  • Waiting for your coffee to brew

Organization Strategy 2:

Do It Now

You know the old saying “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today?”

Let’s make that one of our organized pantry commandments.

3 habits to follow for keeping up an organized pantry.

It doesn’t take any more effort to do any of these things today than it will to do it tomorrow.  Address issues immediately; you’ll save yourself much more time down the road.  Taking the time today to do things right saves you the pain of dealing with the compound effect months down the line (not fun).

Organization Strategy 3:

Be Mindful of What You Bring In

Ok, I have to admit that the KonMari method isn’t a perfect fit for me.  But there are a few concepts that I learned from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that I have adopted with great results.  

Perhaps one of the most important is being mindful of what we bring into our houses.  This is really just another form of preventative maintenance.

Only bring things into your house that you know you will use and love.  This extends to your pantry as well.

  • Don’t let your pantry become a dumping ground (especially if you have a big pantry).  Stick to your zones and only store related items.
  • Say no to items you might use “someday”.  Sorry mom… that hand me down chocolate fountain is probably not going to make the cut.
  • If you buy something and you don’t like it or it doesn’t work for you, don’t hold onto it. Donate or throw it out immediately.
  • Use things up before you buy another… unless you have a good bulk buying storage solution, cramming extras in will not feel good.
  • Basic rule: One in, one out.

Organization Strategy 4:

Delegate

Have kids?  You’re in luck!  Pantry upkeep is actually a great chore for kids.  If you’ve done the legwork and established clear, labeled homes for everything in your pantry, this is a job that most kids can be taught to do on chore day.  You can print the checklist above (there’s a pdf version available in my free resource library) and give it to them to follow.

Problem solved.

Organization Strategy 5:

Be Honest With Yourself 

In the end, you know yourself, your tolerance level, and how much time you can realistically devote to the sustention of your new organizing routine.

If you like the big burst of effort required for a major semi-annual cleanout… you do you.

If you need to hire someone to come do the maintenance for you… that’s totally cool. That’s why professional organizers exist!

Stay flexible, roll with the punches, and keep some perspective.  Everything about our homes (including the organizational component) is a constant work in process.  Give yourself the grace to do what you can, when you can.  


That’s it! You made it to the end of my Pantry 101 series, and now you know more than you ever wanted to know about creating an organized pantry.

If you missed, anything, click any lesson below to go back and catch up:

Thank you for following along!

If you want to stay in the loop about future organization series + upcoming courses, you can enter your information here to join my mailing list! I send an email once a week on Sunday with a dose of motivation + a recap of my weekly content. PLUS! You’ll get access to my free resource library with tons of printables, ebooks, and downloadable products!

What space should I tackle next?

Let me know in the comments below!

I’m so glad you’re here.

xoxo,

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