9 Genius Pantry Organization Hacks, According To An Expert

If you're like me, the cabinets in your kitchen get messy and cluttered pretty regularly, and it's a source of continual frustration. In fact, I'd say that knowing how to organize our kitchen pantries is one of the most important, if under appreciated ways to help simplify our lives.

And I'm not the only one. In an effort to get a handle on the best ways to organize my cabinets, I reached out to New York-based professional organizer Collette Shine, founder of the home and office organization company Organize and Shine. "Life is full of hassles," Shine tells me over the phone, "to have something not be organized just creates more for us." She went on to note that organization isn't about getting rid of stuff —"it's about making things easier."

OK, even I, a person who has never been particularly tidy, have to admit that when put like that, it kind of seems crazy not to take the time to organize our space. As Shine says, life is full of road bumps and frustrations, so why not make things within our control as easy for ourselves as possible?

If you've been struggling with keeping your cabinets organized and usable and this is resonating with you in a big way, worry not. Here are Shine's top tips for keeping our cabinets organized.

1. Think Before You Unpack

"Typically, people move into a house or apartment and unpack the boxes into the kitchen cabinets. They think they know how they will use the kitchen and almost never think about how it is organized ever again," Shine says. "Kitchen cabinets should be organized in terms of accessibility. For instance, cutting boards should be stored near the food preparation area." She stresses that items should be placed near where you actually need them to prevent trekking back and forth throughout the space.

2. Remember, Shelves Are Adjustable

JA Marketing Bamboo Expandable Cabinet Pull Out Shelf, $40, Wayfair

Shine also notes that a lot of people tend to just accept cabinets the way they come when they move into a home, completely forgetting that most shelves are adjustable and that you can tailor their placement to meet your needs. So don't be complacent when shelf spacing isn't quite meeting your needs — switch it up!

3. Put The Things You Use Often On Lower Shelves

"Place the most frequently used items on lower shelves, and special occasion or rarely used items on the higher cabinet shelves," Shine says. This might seem intuitive, but there are likely plenty of times when you've found yourself needing a stepping stool, or digging on your hands and knees to find a needed object. This could also be because there are certain items you don't use much any more that you used to use a ton, but you haven't rearranged your cabinets to reflect it.

4. Break Up Stacks Of Dishes

Chrome Dinner Plate Shelf, $10, The Container Store

Shine also suggests breaking up stacks of dishes using a simple wire rack. This means you won't have to remove an entire half a stack of heavy plates to get to the one or two that you actually want.

5. Utilize Bins And Containers For Small Objects

Acrylic Drawer Organizer Set, $20, The Container Store

Most kitchens have those little items that get collected into a disorganized mess in a couple drawers (measuring spoons and cups, toothpicks, candles, etc). Instead of letting things get out of control, Shine says to simply corral them in smaller containers.

6. Invest In Storage Containers For Dried Good

OXO Good Gripes 10-pc POP Container Set, $100, Amazon

"Use plastic containers for pantry items like pastas, beans, and flours. Label and stack," Shine says. This will not only economize on space, as you won't have ill-fitting bags and boxes sitting in your cabinets, but it will also help keep items fresh and safe from home invaders, like ants.

7. Use Lazy Susans

Vera Two-Tier Lazy Susan, $29, Joss & Main

Shine notes that items can easily get lost in the back of deep cabinets, and it becomes easy to completely forget what we even have (not to mention a total pain to get to items we need). She recommends simply using a lazy susan for, "easy access to frequently used spices or olive oil and other bottles."

8. Don't Forget About The Fridge!

Whirlpool WRF535SMB French Door Refrigerator, $998, Home Depot

Shine also reminds us that a ton of pantry organization hacks also help us out when it comes to organizing our refrigerators. Lazy susans can help us easily access items in the back of the fridge, plastic containters can help us keep food items separate and organized, and — perhaps most importantly — most refrigerator shelves are adjustable! So if you're constantly cursing the heavens that your bottom shelf is just a tad too low, remember, you can probably change that!

9. Toss Things

Better Homes and Gardens 30L Stainless Steel Rectangle Recycling Trash Can, $49, Jet

And finally, Shine recommends starting your pantry organization process by assessing everything that you actually have. "Before starting a cabinet organization overhaul, you should pull everything out of each cabinet and use the opportunity to discard and declutter. Throw away containers that are missing their matching lids. Toss, recycle or donate items that are no longer used. Put like items together."

When it comes to organizing our pantries, remember, a little work for a day can save you a ton of time and frustration in the long run, because it will make everything more seamless. So do yourself a favor, and organize those cabinets!

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