Declutter Your Pantry

10 Tips for Maximizing Food Storage Space

Do you need to declutter your pantry?

The key factor in ensuring the functionality of a pantry is accessibility. ‘Inventory’ should be easy to identify and easy to retrieve. Whether you have a dedicated pantry or an overstuffed cupboard for food storage, it is possible to create an organized space that functions well. Just keep the following in mind.

Pantry Organization 101


If you want to declutter your pantry and keep it organized, the first step is to purge. To truly purge a pantry you have to empty it of its contents. Before doing so, it’s useful to clear a space for temporarily storing, sorting and organizing everything. Kitchen counters and tables work well for this purpose. If you haven’t got enough space on yours, try setting up a folding table so that you have a flat surface nearby on which to work.

Check the expiration date. If it has expired, throw it in the trash.

When it comes to open items, throw out anything you tried but didn’t like.  It’s not going to improve with age.  If the idea of throwing out food gives you a nervous twitch, you might try finding someone you know to give it to, but open items cannot be passed on to food pantries.

It is also useful to designate zones for placing each type of item (canned goods, boxed foods, items in bags, etc.).  In addition, I recommend designating a box for items you might want to donate to a local food pantry. A trash can and recycle bin are also helpful to have close at hand.

As you remove items from the shelves, make a determination about where each one belongs. 

Sort – Like Items Together

The most common problem with pantries is the lack of order. People can’t find what they’re looking for and don’t know what they have because everything is jumbled together in a disorganized mess - that’s where sorting comes in.

Once you’ve separated out the unwanted items, you’re ready to sort what’s left. Within the designated groups you’ve identified (canned goods, boxes, etc.) group all the like items together: vegetables in one group, fruits in another, beans in another and so on.


The next step to declutter your pantry is to organize its contents.

Take your sorting to the next level by arranging each specific type of item. Within the fruits, separate the peaches from the pears and the applesauce and the fruit cocktail –line each different type of fruit up in a row. Separate the black beans from the pinto beans and the vegetable soup from the beef stew and so on. 

Analyze Your Pantry’s Space

Before putting items back in the pantry (be it a cupboard, a closet or a room full of shelves), you will need to ‘map out’ the location of items within the space. It is not necessary to draw an actual map of the space (although it may be useful to do so).  You just need to determine what is going to go where. To do so, consider the following:

  • The amount of space available – the smaller the space, the more creative you will have to be in arranging it.
  • The arrangement of the space (shelves, drawers, etc. plus the dimensions of each) – determine whether or not shelf heights can be adjusted and which items will store best where in order to maximize the space.
  • The quantity of each item that needs to be stored – whatever you have the most of will need to go on the largest shelf, etc.
  • The kinds of items that are used most frequently – these should be stored between chest and eye level in the center of the space at the front for ease in accessing them.

Arrange by Expiration Date

Once you’ve determined what goes where, you’re ready to start reloading the pantry.  

As you return items to the shelves, be sure to arrange each individual type of item by expiration date with the oldest item in each category at the front and the newest item (or the item with the most distant expiration date) at the back.

Rotation is an important means to declutter your pantry as it ensures that nothing goes to waste. Have a system in place for putting newly purchased items at the back or on the bottom of stacks so that the older items are used first before they expire.

This can sometimes be tricky depending on the number of items of a particular type and the arrangement of the space. There are a number of organization products available which can make this process easier, some of which will be highlighted below.  You can also check out my Pantry Inspiration page for a simple and clever method of rotating food storage within deep pantry cabinets.

Try a Lazy Susan (or two!)

I love Lazy Susans! There is nothing lazy about these organizational gems. They’re great for solving all kinds of organizational dilemmas, but they work particularly well as a means to declutter your pantry.

The beauty of a Lazy Susan is that it allows you to store numerous items in a tight space. 

The spinning base provides easy access to everything with a simple turn.

A single shelf of this deep pantry cabinet (above) was able to accomodate two Lazy Susans (one of which is 2-Tiered) and a helper shelf in order to maximize the storage capacity and increase the functionality.

When shopping for Lazy Susans, be sure to measure the depth of the cabinet in which you want to place it. They come in a variety of sizes, but some will be too wide for use in standard upper kitchen cabinets, making it impossible to close the cabinet door. If your shelves are tall enough, you can even find 2-tiered Lazy Susans for twice the storage!

Helper Shelves

Helper Shelves are another useful tool to declutter your pantry. They are also called cabinet shelves or kitchen cabinet organizers, but I like the term ‘helper shelf’ for a couple of reasons. First of all, they’re very helpful! Second, they can be used in a variety of ways outside the kitchen, so why limit them with labeling?

I digress…

A helper shelf is designed to maximize space by allowing you to separate and stack items simultaneously. Use them to avoid heavy, cumbersome stacks of dishes or cookware in the kitchen, or separate different types of food items in the pantry.

Stepped Storage

Another useful tool to declutter your pantry is the tiered organizer. They’re like grandstands for your food! 

They come in a variety of sizes to include adjustable versions.  Use them to store different types of canned goods in order to more easily identify what is in back.

Remove Boxes

One of the best space saving tips for the pantry is to remove individually wrapped items from the box. Boxes are bulky and frequently oversized in order to provide cushioning for items in transport. Once they come to rest on your shelf, they no longer need cushioning, but you need storage space so dispense with the boxes where possible.

Baskets and Bins

Wondering what to do with the loose items you’ve removed from their boxes? Store them in baskets and bins. Even in a small space, baskets and bins are tremendously functional. Use them to store snack items such as granola bars, boxes of raisins, bags of microwave popcorn, and so forth. Use them to store corral bagged items which are bulky and don’t stack well on a shelf. Use them to group canned or boxed items according to type. The possibilities are numerous.

Use these simple tips to declutter your pantry and create functional food storage the whole family can maintain.


More Pantry Pages

If this or any other organizational task seems overwhelming, do not dispair. Help is available right here at step-by-step-declutter.  Simply click on the link below to get started today!

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