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The Complete Guide to Cleaning and Organizing Your Pantry

March 3, 2024
The Complete Guide to Cleaning and Organizing Your Pantry

Why Clean and Organize Your Pantry?

Keeping your pantry clean and organized is important for several reasons:

  • Find things easily – When your pantry is organized, you can locate ingredients, spices, and other items quickly without having to dig around. This saves time when cooking and baking.

  • Avoid food waste – An organized pantry helps you see what you have so items don’t get lost in the back and expire. This prevents food waste and saves money.

  • Food safety – Keeping your pantry clean helps prevent bugs, rodents, and other pests from getting into your food. Proper storage also maintains freshness and quality.

  • Enjoy your space – A tidy, organized pantry just feels good to be in and work in. It’s much more pleasant than a cluttered mess.

  • Cooking inspiration – When you can see all your ingredients and spices, it sparks recipe ideas and makes cooking more enjoyable.

How Often to Clean and Organize

  • Do a deep clean and full reorganization once or twice a year. This involves removing everything, washing shelves, rearranging items, taking inventory, discarding old items, and restocking.

  • Do a quick tidy and maintenance check once a month. This involves putting items back in their place, looking for expired items, wiping spills, and taking note of what needs restocking.

  • Do a spot clean as needed. If you notice spills, pest issues, or things in disarray, quickly address those problem spots. Don’t let mess accumulate.

Step-by-Step Process

Full Pantry Clean and Organization

  1. Remove everything – Take everything out of the pantry so all shelves are bare.

  2. Clean shelves and surfaces – Use a multi-surface cleaner or mild soap and water. Wash removable shelves by hand or in the dishwasher.

  3. Check expiration dates – Go through all items and discard anything past its expiration date. Compost or trash perishables and recycle non-perishables when possible.

  4. Wipe down all packages – Give each item a quick wipe down to remove dust, drips, and stickiness. Toss anything with bugs or that looks spoiled.

  5. Group like items – Make piles or boxes for different categories of items like baking ingredients, canned goods, snacks, spices, etc.

  6. Take an inventory – Note which items and categories you have a lot of and which ones you need more of. Make a list for restocking.

  7. Arrange items efficiently – Use shelves, turntables, risers, bins, and other organizers to arrange items neatly and accessibly. Heavier items on lower shelves, frequently used items at eye level.

  8. Label organizers – Use shelf liner and drawer/bin labels to clearly designate categories. This keeps everything neat and makes putting things away simple.

  9. Restock as needed – Purchase any needed pantry staples and replace old spices, oils, baking soda, etc. Organize everything on the shelves.

Pantry Maintenance and Quick Cleans

  • Put items back immediately after taking them out to avoid clutter accumulation.

  • Spot clean spills, drips, and sticky areas as needed.

  • Periodically check expiration dates and rotate older stock to the front. Discard anything expired.

  • If items look disordered, quickly tidy and rearrange back to their designated spots.

  • Give shelves a quick wipe down, vacuum floors, and empty trash as part of regular kitchen cleaning.

  • Take note of needs for restocking during maintenance cleans and make a list.

Storage Ideas and Solutions

Pantry Organization Systems

  • Shelving – Install solid shelving sized to fit the space. Sturdy, easy to clean metal, wood, or plastic.

  • Risers or tiered shelving – Create vertical storage layers while keeping visibility. Great for canned goods and mix items.

  • Turntables – Spinning lazy susans make items accessible without crowding shelves. Perfect for spices and oils.

  • Partitions and dividers – Section off shelf space and divide categories. Can use removable metal strips or acrylic inserts.

  • Baskets and bins – Contain loose items like snacks, bars, small jars and bottles. Use labeled bins for categories.

  • Clear canisters – Visible storage for flour, sugar, rice, etc. Airtight versions keep items fresh.

  • Spice organizers – Specialty racks keep spices visible and accessible. Some feature slide out trays.

  • Under shelf storage – Use vertical space with hangers for utensils and racks for canned goods.

Pantry Accessories

  • Labels and chalkboard labels – Label bins and shelves for visible organization. Chalkboard lets you change categories as needed.

  • Shelf liner – Non-slip liner protects shelves and makes labeling categories easy. Removes for cleaning.

  • Motion sensor lights – Hands-free lighting is helpful when the pantry is deep or dark. Uses batteries or plug in.

  • Expandable shelves – Adjustable width shelving accommodates various package sizes to minimize wasted space.

  • Dishwasher safe bins – For easy cleaning and sanitizing of plastic storage bins and dividers.

  • Hooks – Use cup hooks, over the door hooks, and hanging racks for utensils, towels, and frequently used items.

  • Trash can – Have a small trash bin in or near the pantry to quickly dispose of expired items and packaging.

Best Practices for Pantry Organization

  • Store similar items together – group baking goods, snacks, canned foods etc.

  • Use transparent storage so you can easily see contents.

  • Put heaviest items on lower shelves and light items up high.

  • Keep most used items at eye to waist level for convenient access.

  • Label everything clearly with contents and category.

  • Limit depth of shelf items to two rows to avoid losing items in the back.

  • Use expiration date tracker apps like Fridge Cleaner to monitor dates.

  • Store opened items in airtight containers and unopened in original packaging.

  • Place newest items toward the back and oldest in front.

  • Clean as you go – wipe spills quickly and put things back immediately after using.

Common Pantry Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Forgetting about items stored in the back that expire.

  • Letting shelves or surfaces get greasy and dusty.

  • Leaving items out on counters instead of putting them away.

  • Not rotating stock so newer items get hidden behind old ones.

  • Accumulating more food items than you can store or use before expiration.

  • Cramming shelves tightly so it’s hard to see and remove items.

  • Storing messy loose bulk items that spill and spread.

  • Failing to clean up spills leading to ant and pest problems.

  • Not labeling bins and shelves clearly.

  • Not having trash and recycling bins available for cleaning.

  • Putting too much stuff in door shelves which easily gets disorganized.

Tips for Maintaining Organization

  • Shop with a list and only buy what you need for a period of time rather than stockpiling.

  • Transfer opened packages like cereal and chips to airtight containers.

  • Keep a marker handy for immediately marking expiration or purchase dates.

  • Set reminders on your phone to do maintenance cleans and checks monthly.

  • Have a donation box or area to regularly purge unwanted and expired items.

  • Meal plan so you use up items already in your pantry on a regular basis.

  • Keep a running grocery list on the fridge to note needs after using up something.

  • Place a bright colored sticker on older items to remember to use those up first.

  • Store snacks and indulgent foods out of primary view to reduce impulse grabs.

  • Take photos of disorganized areas before and after organizing as motivation to maintain.


Keeping your pantry clean and organized takes some work upfront but saves time and stress in the long run. The key is establishing habits like putting items away after each use, full cleans twice a year, and quick tidies as needed. Using efficient storage solutions, labels, and rotation also helps maintain order. With an organized pantry, you can easily find ingredients to whip up meals, avoid food waste, and have confidence in food safety.

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