Pantry Organization 101: Purge + Clean Your Pantry

Look at you, all determined to get your pantry organization on. We should definitely be friends.

If you were with me last week, you should have set a goal for this project, and I want you to 100% keep that pantry organization goal in mind as you work today (if you missed this step, it’s worth it to go back and do this first).

Eventually, we’ll branch out in different directions depending on your specific goal. But today… the dirty work looks pretty much the same for everyone.

Pantry Organization Part 2:

Purge + Clean Your Pantry

Step 1:  Clean Up Your Act

Grab a big black trash bag, look your pantry in the eye (well, pantries don’t have eyes, but you get what I mean) and show it who’s boss.

Stale, half eaten bags of La Favorita chips? Adios. Those weird granola bars you bought that everyone hated? Gone. Rock hard tubes of icing from… God, when did I ever use that?

Don’t let another minute pass with these forgotten, unwanted items taking up valuable space in your pantry.

  • If it’s stale…throw it out.
  • If it’s empty…throw it out.
  • If it’s expired…throw it out. (Seriously, check the dates. You’ll be shocked.)
  • If it’s perfectly ok but you don’t like it or want it… donate it to your local food pantry.

Step 2: That Empty Feeling

Now, begin pulling everything out of the pantry. Every. Single. Thing.

Designate a landing zone – the island or kitchen table works well- and place items into categories as you go. 

If your brain doesn’t naturally group things this way, I want you to think of “food families.” These categories will look different for everyone, but here are some common groupings:

  • Dinner
  • Pasta
  • Baking
  • Snacks
  • Breakfast
  • Condiments
  • Grains
  • Beans
  • Soups
  • Mixes
  • Kids’ Stuff
  • Snacks I Hide From My Family

Keep groupings loose and place outliers in their own piles.  If you find things that don’t even belong in the pantry (whose socks are these?), start a go-back pile.

TIP: If you store food in other areas, bring that too so you can see what you have.  You might find that you can move it to the pantry once you’ve started using your space more efficiently.

Don’t stop until every shelf of that pantry is bare and every pantry item you have is in one of your thoughtfully designated counter piles.

You may question your life choices at this point as you survey the mess. This is normal. Push through.

Step 3: Clean Slate

Once EVERYTHING is out and sorted, do a deep clean.

  • Wipe all surfaces with disinfecting spray (even the top shelf, don’t be lazy).
  • Vacuum/sweep and mop the pantry floor.

Step 4: Get Fancy (Optional)

If you chose “Make It Pretty” as your goal, this might be a good time to install shelf liner, paint your walls, or install wallpaper (’cause you already took everything out).

However for most folks, it may be easier for you to save this for the end. Totally up to you!

This is my favorite project of all the projects as a wannabe interior designer. Since I want to do the topic justice, I’m going to dedicate a separate post to pantry prettification at the end of this series… stay tuned!

Step 5: Rethink + Reset

This is where the magic happens, but it’s also where you can make or break the success of the rest of the project.

It’s not enough to just put everything back where it was.

To achieve the type of pantry organization you want, you have to put things back THOUGHTFULLY.

3 Considerations For Planning the layout of your pantry.

Keep these three consideration in mind as you place things back, group by group, in the location where they will be most functional.

  • Place unusually sized items or items that must go in a certain place FIRST.
  • Next, fill in your most frequently used + important items at eye level so the people who use them most can easily see and reach them.
  • Keep working through the piles group by group.
  • You will place your rarely used items last; just put them wherever they fit.

Once everything is safely reset in its perfect location, take a breather.

This is usually a good stopping point for the day (because you will most likely be tired).

Things may not look like your Pinterest dreams yet (that will come when we add in thoughtfully curated products!). But your pantry will be clean, functional, and you can feel good about the progress you made today.

Next week, we’ll take a look at the next step (which is where you will get a glimpse into how I source and select products for my clients).

I’ll teach you how to measure your space and order the best pantry organization products for your particular setup. Since your space is edited and organized, this last bit will be a breeze.

If you completed this part of the project this week, tell me:

How did it go?

The process is different for everyone, and I’d love to hear how it worked for you. This tells me how I can improve this information (and I love self improvement almost as much as I love an organized pantry).

Thanks so much for joining me for the second installment of this Pantry 101 series. Make sure to check back next week… it’s about to get gooooood.


PS. If you want to spend a little time developing a vision for the finished product, check out my Pinterest pantry boards here and here for some inspo!

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