Organisation: Konmari-ing our pantry

One part of our home I'd been avoiding like mad was our pantry. It was just such a mess. After my 2 months of being bed-ridden during pregnancy everything had just escalated. My husband, bless him, was trying to look after me at the same time as run his new business from home, and keep on top of the kids' schedules, groceries, and cooking for everyone, etc. Even with help from family and friends that we are SO grateful for, it was a lot to deal with. One outcome of those months of pure survival mode was that items somehow ended up piled on the pantry floor - which already needed tending to before I even got sick. It was just an un-functional mess.

See what I mean?

Let's get a close up of that floor situation.

One day I finally thought I had enough mental energy to tackle it and oh my goodness, it took the 2 of us at least 1 full day of work, plus more for me the next day. Once we'd got everything out I sat down and sorted through all the items, then sent Calum out on endless errands going to different places buying the exact right storage containers that I needed, and donating any dry food that wasn't expired but was just not going to get used.
Here's how it looked at the end of our organising:

The craziest thing to me is that this was over a month ago now and it still looks exactly the same (with the addition of some labels). That's a sign of an effective system - it should literally make your life easier.

There are a couple of areas I'd still like to tackle (a lazy-susan for the spreads and some kind of solution for the spices) but there's a chance we'll be re-doing our kitchen soon and those things may end up elsewhere.

Anyway, here are my tips for tackling this job, based on our experience!

1. Lay out a large box and a rubbish bag in the area you will be moving the pantry items to. We labelled the box "donate" and also had a smaller box or 2 for more specific donations eg "donate to food bank" or "donate to friends/family". The rubbish bag is for actual rubbish and expired items - of course use your discretion about what to recycle/compost etc!

2. Start by emptying EVERYTHING into a designated nearby area. We covered our whole huge dining table and more, and got the pantry completely empty.

This was the most stressful part. Just LOOKING at all that stuff made me feel a bit sick, and Calum had to leave the house! But that's the beauty of this process. By taking everything out you REALLY feel the pain of how much you own. You get a true sense of what you're hoarding, and that is motivating in itself, so don't skip this step!
3. Go through each item:
  • check the expiry, discard expired items
  • ask yourself if you will actually use it. We had teabags for a thousand people and had somehow ended up with about 10 bags of a type of pasta I don't really cook with. So those were donated to a local food bank.
4. For the remaining items, get a piece of paper and jot down the items and what size or type of container would be item for them (if you need one). I kept a tally showing which items would need:
  • a small lidded jar (ideal for those smaller quantities of nuts, seeds, dried fruit)
  • a medium lidded jar (ideal for things like dessicated coconut, or homemade spreads)
  • a large lidded jar (ideal for things like organic coconut sugar that don't get used heaps. Large jars can be heavy so I wouldn't use these for everyday baking ingredients unless you never move them)
  • a large cereal container (ideal for all products that get poured into a pot, bowl, or measuring cup - including rice and pasta, not just cereals)
  • a large tupperware style box container with lid, with a cup-size scoop kept inside. I have about 4 of these for: flour, sugar, self-raising flour, and wholemeal flour. I.E everything I measure out with a scoop by the cupful.
  • cans. We got these can-racks from Briscoes, on sale for about $13 each and used 4 of them on our lower pantry shelves. They happened to fit well and it is SO nice to finally be able to find the can you need! We usually have at least 3 of each type of food item and the shelves fit 3 one behind the other, which is perfect.
  • which things can stay in their packets but to be coralled together with other items. E.G a large storage container with no lid to keep small boxes of lasange sheets in; or in our case a large box to keep "spares" of coconut water and cooking oil that we buy on special but don't need yet.
  • ....and which of your items would be fine in existing containers that you already have (it may take a re-shuffle).

5. Go and get your products! I'd say always get a couple extra containers than you think you'll need, and for most of them, buy a slightly bigger size than you think you'll need. It's nice to have room to grow and some empty space in the jars for top-ups.
If you're curious, my favourite items were lidded jars from the brand "Kate's Kitchen" (sold in Mitre10 and Briscoes in NZ), and the white plastic Nouveau bins from Mitre10 (I've seen almost identical ones at Kmart and The Warehouse too). We also used good old sistema containers.

Of course, you don't need to buy new! I see lots of people re-purpose jars and containers from second-hand shops. Just do what you need to do.

6. Rinse all new containers with hot water or give them a run through the dishwasher, and make sure they are thoroughly dry before filling.

7. Clean out your pantry shelves and vaccum the pantry floor while they are drying.

8.  Start emptying ALL packets, bags and boxes into your new storage containers and discard/recycle all the wrapping appropriately.

This is the part where you finally start to feel you are gaining ground. I found it overwhelming until this point.

9. Fill your shelves back up and keep an open mind about where things go. Think about the items you use the most and keep them in arm's reach; and obviously things you hardly use or that are dangerous for kids go higher up.

10. Go forth and donate/sell/etc any excess

I think that's everything!

Honestly once this job was done, I felt so much better about all the other organising I had left to do.

In our day-to-day life, I no longer have any hidden packets of who-knows-what lurking in my pantry and I never end up with double-ups, because everything goes straight into its container. For me personally, I prefer to have a designated container for every single thing, rather than just for the larger items like flour and sugar. I bake with a lot of alternative ingredients (coconut sugar, arrowroot powder, almond meal to name a few) and it is a total game-changer to have a separate labelled container for every single thing. Not to mention you can take the containers directly to bulk-bin places like Bin Inn and have them filled, bypassing the whole packaging situation altogether.

Like I said, it's been weeks and everything is still orderly. Normally after a pantry-purge I have to keep tidying things up, but this truly works as a sustainable system for us.

I hope this has helped motivate you to get purging and be more thoughtful with your storage systems! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment. You are awesome!