As a busy working mom of three, I spend much of my time keeping track of appointments, deadlines and making sure I’m on top of my family’s busy schedules. While I can manage our comings and goings like a champ, I do find it challenging to stay on top of the organizational aspects of our home. Frankly, it’s not particularly my strong suit. Taking on spring cleaning and pantry organization instantly overwhelms me and makes me tense up.
However, I am always striving to find ways to make our family healthier and live a little simpler. A clean and clutter-free pantry feels like a valuable place to start my spring cleaning journey. With a hopeful attitude, I researched many different strategies for attacking the pantry. Here are 6 simple steps to spring clean your pantry and give it a healthy makeover.
1. KonMari Your Pantry
For those who are still not familiar with the “KonMari” phenomenon, its creator, Marie Kondo, is an organizing expert who wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The success of the book has led to more books and a series on Netflix called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Basically, she is a year-round, spring cleaning guru.
Her approach to better pantry organization (or organization in general) is to essentially remove everything off of the shelves or closets first. You should be staring at nothing but bare shelves. As you move through the process, you only put back things that ‘spark joy’. This part of her method is usually shown while sifting through clothes or treasured items. So while a bag of flour doesn’t necessarily spark joy in my life, I’m approaching this step as an opportunity to let go of unnecessary or never-used items.
It may feel excessive to remove all of your pantry items at once. But, it is very humbling to be able to see everything that you have been stacking in your pantry and question its use. That Halloween candy hanging out in the back? Toss it. The dip mix gifted to you two years ago by your Aunt? Chances are you’re never going to use it. It’s okay. Time to let it go.
I also appreciate this ‘rip the band-aid off’ approach. It forces me to fully commit to this task by removing all of the contents. It’s also much harder to turn back once everything is splayed on your countertop looking back at you. You may discover some seriously expired items or those three jars of baking powder you bought but can never find when you need them.
As you take things out of your pantry, go ahead and throw away any expired items. If something is close to an expiration date, you will be placing that towards the front of the shelves to get used sooner. This is also a great time to create a “Food Pantry Donation Box” for anything that you know isn’t bad but that you likely will never use. You can find some tips on best practices for donating to your local food pantry here.
2. Unprocess Your Shelves
This is probably one of my main drivers for wanting to take on this project. While we always try to have mostly healthy options available in the pantry, the truth is that with kids in the house you’ll find boxes of cookies hidden in the back and bags of chips on the ready. I desperately want to create some clean options for my snack monsters.
However, creating a pantry with only clean and unprocessed foods can be expensive. Begin by removing foods that are processed and slowly add in healthier choices. Instead of throwing everything processed away, look at this as an opportunity to take a closer look at what is on the labels of your pantry food and possibly removing things that may not be necessary right now. Follow these links for more tips on what it looks like to eat clean and how to read your labels.
3. Deep Clean the Shelves
With everything off of the shelves, now is a great time for a deep spring clean. Here are a few great approaches for this:
- Thoroughly attack that pantry with a feather duster, starting with the ceiling and moving down until you get to the floor.
- Inspect shelves for food stains and crumbs. Give them a thorough wipe-down with soap and water or grab your vacuum attachments for hidden crumbs.
- To encourage little mice to steer clear of your pantry try dabbing a cotton ball with peppermint oil and wiping down the shelves with it. Once you do that you can tuck a couple of those cotton balls in the back. Peppermint has been found to repel mice and when it’s cold the field mice are always looking for a new home.
4. Contain your Contents
Once you have taken stock of all of the items and gotten rid of expired or overly processed foods, now it’s time to get organized. This is the moment where you decide if you want a ‘pretty and organized’ pantry or just an organized pantry.
I fall somewhere in the middle.
If you start to research pantry organization, you will quickly find that some containers can get quite expensive despite how beautiful they look. I was close to pulling the trigger on more expensive containers. I love the idea of being able to see the contents of my pantry and to help keep baking items more contained and fresh.
Ultimately though, I decided to find a way to be a bit more price-conscious while still feeling like I’m really giving it a makeover and achieving the overall look. If that sounds like you, take a look at using mason jars as a more affordable option. After looking at multiple options I decided that this was going to be my approach.
Mason jars are so versatile so I figured once it is no longer being used in the pantry I can find another use for it in my home. I already had plenty of jars on hand (they make wonderful drinking glasses). However, I wanted to find a way to label my jars so I found these Oval Adhesive Chalkboard Stickers that are dishwasher safe. I did invest in a couple of the larger mason jars that I will use for bigger portions of pasta and cereal (and later in life as a vase).
No matter what you decide to use for pantry organization, utilizing clear storage containers will be especially helpful for bulk-bin items, like rice, grains, and nuts. With neatly labeled clear containers, gone are the days of having four partially open bags of rice. I already feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
5. Sort and Organize
At this point in your pantry organization journey, you’ll want to begin sorting your items into groups as you give everything a proper place on the shelves. Remember to place those items closer to expiration towards the front.
Every person’s groups will be different based on the type of food and drink they consume. However, for most pantries, you can start with the following groups:
- hot drinks (coffee, various teas)
- baking (flour, sugar, baking mixes, etc)
- breakfast items (rolled oats, cereal, pastries, etc)
- lunches/kid-approved snacks (chips, crackers, cookies)
- dinners (regular dinner staples such as tinned tomatoes, chili beans, coconut milk and so on)
- staples (rice, quinoa, pasta)
6. Revisit Weekly
If you want to maintain this beautifully organized pantry that you’ve worked so hard on, this step is important. Maintain. Take a couple of minutes every week to make sure everything is still in its place, replenish items that need to be restocked, and take a quick stock of any unused or expired items.
A Clean Pantry is a Healthy Pantry
With your pantry organized and everything labeled, finding items for dinner will become so much easier and you can confidently forge ahead with other spring cleaning projects. It will also help you eat cleaner by cutting out the processed foods and putting those healthy foods up front.
Need more tips on giving your body the nutrients it needs?
Ask your AlignLife chiropractor how they can help!