Creating an organised pantry ...

Creating an organised pantry ... Photo: Getty Images

“I want a new kitchen!” I whined to my husband. “This one has a stupid design and I’ve got nowhere to put anything. Rip it out I say!”

“But honey, if we put in a new kitchen, you’d just clutter that one up too.”

It doesn’t matter if the containers are not matching, the main thing is that containers make a pantry neater by keeping things together. 

Ouch. The truth hurts. He was right. I may have a poorly designed storage system, but my problem was that I had too much stuff. Spilling out of cupboards, falling off shelves, dripping through cracks, littering my countertops and window sills.

Boxes galore ...

Boxes galore ...

The impetus for finally tackling my kitchen clutter problem came partially with my husbands blunt observations and partially after I attended a kitchen tea for a blushing bride-to-be.

I sat back and watched as she opened present after present. Her eyes gleamed, revealing delight in receiving 4 biscuit trays, 20 tea towels, 8 serving dishes, a juicer, a blender, a food processor, a sandwich press, a monolithic toaster and no less than 10 serving spoons.

I sat quietly, biting my lip, preventing myself from telling her the truth about her future: you will never use the majority of these things. I should know, I was this girl about eight years ago.

Oh I had fun with my little zapper, aisle after aisle at David Jones, adding fabulous trays, carafes and decanters to my gift registry. I had grand ideas of hosting lavish parties every weekend and for that I would certainly need eight square salad bowls, five square and five rectangular serving platters.

Fast forward to today and on the rare occasion I have the whole clan over to my place, food is served up on melamine trays because they’re light and salad is served in disposable aluminium bbq trays, because I’m too lazy to wash up after everyone has been and gone.

Who keeps telling us that we need all this stuff? Case in point: after I purged my kitchen cupboards I discovered that I had a tower of large plastic boxes just sitting there taking up nearly forty percent of my cupboard space. Thankfully I put them to good use (more on that later.)

The truth is it’s really hard not to be convinced that you need new things all the time. My email is bombarded daily with offers to buy various contraptions at rock bottom prices. The sad part is that I was the one who subscribed to receive the emails in the first place. And then there are the offers that I don’t invite but seem to be everywhere - the big displays at the supermarket, the flashing signs and the enticement of buy two get one free ( I suspect this is how I accumulated three tins of condensed milk in my pantry.)

I was yearning for a simpler, cleaner life, so this is what I did. Man it feels good! Follow my steps to kitchen nirvana.

Set a realistic goal and stick to it. If you’ve only got an hour, only tackle a small space. If you’ve got a bit more time up your sleeve, try and get some more done. It can feel very overwhelming once you’ve pulled everything out, so don’t try and do it all at once. The last thing you want to do is to shove everything back without giving some proper thought to placement because you’re just sick and tired of the task.

Pull everything out and edit as you go. Have a garbage bag to throw out anything that is spoiled, past its used by date or infested with pantry moths. As you are pulling items out, group them in like piles which will help you when figuring out where to put things back. If you’re thinking about throwing away larger items such as appliances or crockery, put them in a separate pile.

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Wipe down your shelves. My tools of the trade are eucalyptus solution and a microfibre cloth. All sorts of bugs and spiders hate eucalyptus and the microfibre cloth traps every last particle. The best part is that you just throw it in the wash and it’s as good as new for your next cleaning task. Oh, and the smell is what I imagine heaven smells like. Divine!

Plan how you will put it all back. This is the hardest part. By now your kitchen will be covered with tins, packets and plates. You will not know where to start. My suggestion is to focus on all the groupings you have made and try and imagine how they will fit together. Also consider whether something really needs to go back at all. Maybe it could be repurposed, donated, sold or thrown away. If you haven’t used an item in the past year, consider getting rid of it for good.

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Use containers to coralle groupings. Let me preface this by saying that a lot of people tackle organising by buying more containers. Containers are great and I’m sure we’ve all had fantasies of that perfect Tupperware pantry with colour coded lids and not an errant packet in sight. Whilst this is fine for some, for many of us it’s not in our budgets. My suggestion is to look around your house for containers that you already have. I found that I had many plastic cake boxes that were taking up a lot of storage space in my cupboard. Instead of trying to find a place for them, I put them to good use by grouping together like items like oils and vinegars, seasonings and sauces. I actually didn’t buy any new containers at all. If you do need to buy some new containers, your local variety/cheap shop is a treasure trove for cheap ones. It doesn’t matter if the containers are not matching, the main thing is that containers make a pantry neater by keeping things together.

Avoid putting items at the back of deep cupboards. My main storage cupboard is very deep and can hide many things however this is not a good thing. It’s the perfect way to forget that you even own something that you need. It also makes retrieving the items right at the back pretty difficult. Keep the bulk of your items towards the front of your cupboard for easy access and quick visual location. If you do have to put a few things up the back, make sure they are items that you barely ever need and keep the area sparse so that you can clearly see what’s back there.

Stand back and admire your hard work. There’s nothing more satisfying than a job well done. Take photos, post them to your instagram feed and be proud. The challenge is to keep your system going.

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What do you think of my pantry and cupboard? Pretty nice huh? Maybe, if I keep these looking as good as this, hubby might cave on the new kitchen idea after all.

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