Spring cleaning: day four

Even though we’re spring cleaning, it’s still Book Club day, as usual per each Thursday! Head over the forums and join in discussing chapters 15 and 16 of the amazing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Even if you’re not reading along with us, you’re still welcome to join in the discussion.

Day four is part one of the kitchen. As my four-year-old likes to say, “Duh duh DUH.” Spring cleaning the kitchen can be a doozy, but thankfully, it’s so much easier each year you keep at it. The key here, as in all rooms, is to truly have only what you need and love.

Kitchens are a clutter magnet. From random small appliances to expired spices, kitchens can hide needless accessories and can unfairly justify the “need” for tools and gadgets. Because of this, in my e-book, I suggest tackling the kitchen in two days, no matter what size your space. Take the needed time to get it right.

As I also suggested in the book, I emptied, decluttered, cleaned, and reorganized each area of my kitchen, leaving no stone left unturned. On the first day, I tackled the food. And that’s honestly all I finished – it was a lot of work to do it correctly, but I’m so glad I did it. I now know all the food we have stocked, and I can easily find it.

The Pantry

To be honest, my pantry wasn’t too bad to begin with. We eat mostly from scratch, so our shelves are stocked with staples more than packaged snacks. But it was still disheveled, and the area needed a good examination.


pantry before


As prescribed in the e-book, I put everything in one working space – in my case, the dining room table. This way, I could easily see everything and reorganize from scratch.

pantry during


I like keeping things I use most at eye level, so this means my staple ingredients are right near the stove and counters (I’ll show you these cabinets tomorrow). But I keep handy things like vanilla, flax seed, balsamic vinegar, and unsweetened baking chocolate on the most accessible shelf.

pantry after 03

Canned and dry goods get the shelf above. After labeling containers and reorganizing the cans, it’s now much easier to find everything.

pantry after 02

The top shelf is home to refills and extras of our staples – things like unopened oatmeal, cereal, and peanut butter.

pantry after 01

To the right of our pantry rests a cabinet that we used for… well, random food.


cabinet before

This is where we keep imported food from the States, along with occasional snack items. I tossed out things that had been there forever, and organized like with like, labeling each container.


imports after

The shelf above this area is great for baskets, so we didn’t change this – I just finally got around to making labels. I also discarded quite a few spices that were given to us by fellow expats when they returned to the U.S. Some expired in 2006!

baskets after

I kept my spices the way I had them before – just making a few new labels for some of them. We also recently added lazy susans to this area, so it’s now much easier to find the spice I need. This area sits open on shelves, without doors, so it’s especially important to me that this area stays neat.

spices 02

spices 01

Finally, I added an inventory of staples we currently have, especially the items up high – this way, I know what we don’t need, keeping me from buying more tomato paste.  I taped it on the inside of the pantry door.

pantry inventory

I did this same routine with the fridge, freezer, and extra storage freezer, including the inventory sheets (which are all included in the e-book in Appendix B).

Making Clear Kitchen Goals

I started with the food areas because I knew I could purge quite a few items here. I wanted to make as much room as possible for what really counts, and I wanted to be clear about what we currently have, and what we need to buy. This made tackling the rest of the kitchen the next day much easier.

I encourage you to make this food purging process a regular thing for you, possibly once a quarter. I hadn’t done this since last summer, and it was definitely due for an overhaul.

When you’re reorganizing your food, keep these ideas in mind:

1. Label everything.

You may think you can easily recognize salt from sugar, but when you’re in a hurry cooking, you don’t want to make that mistake.

2. Reuse glass jars.

There’s no need to buy expensive storage containers – just reuse jelly and pickle jars.

3. Keep the important things accessible.

If you’d like to gravitate from boxed cooking to more scratch cooking, make it easy. Keep fresh ingredients at arm’s length.

Tomorrow we’ll be working on the rest of the kitchen – behind the cabinets, the drawers, and the surfaces. You can get some advance inspiration today at Organizing Your Way, where Mandi walks you through a process of deciding whether you really need certain appliances, tools, and gadgets.

Get some rest tonight; you’ll need it! But today, I’m looking forward to seeing your before and after kitchen photos.

What do you love about your kitchen? What one thing do you most want to change?

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. What a great purge! Experts say spices should be updated every year, ie: tossed and replenished, although most people (including me) often let them go much longer. A tip is to always buy them in small quantities, even if the larger quantities are more frugal, as they loose their ‘flavor’ pretty fast.

    In my kitchen I love my pot rack that displays my pots and stainless utensils; I also use it for hanging garlic braids or dried herbs.
    The lighting is terrible, however, and I am usually working in my own shadow! Not fun.

    • I used to have a pot rack when our kitchen was much smaller. I actually love it more than keeping the pots and pans hidden behind a cupboard – but ironically, in our current kitchen we don’t have room for it. No wall space.

  2. Christine says:

    Saturday May 9, is when the USPS holds there Stamp Out Hunger food drive. Excellently timed with this decluttering. http://www.helpstampouthunger.com/

  3. We are just at then end of our kitchen makeover, with new appliances, cabinets, cupboards etc. So I really have no excuse for not being organised! However, there are still a couple of cupboards not yet complete, and I am actually going to end up with LESS storage at the end! But I do LOVE my new kitchen, and will just have to keep on top of things.

    I already use old sauce and jam jars to store dried goods. Love the idea of a list of the basics, so I don’t over buy!

    Loving this series – keep it up 🙂

  4. We redid our kitchen last year (before that it was about 80 years old!). So now we have our dream kitchen. Looking forward to tackling it today.

    Yesterday one of my 4-yr-old sons said to me, “Mommy, are we getting ORGANIZED?”



    • That is cute. When my 4-year-old is bored, one of the first things she says is “Mom, can I organize something?” Hmm, apparently the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 🙂

  5. For some reason I LOVED doing the kitchen. As I get older, I find I enjoy having things neatly lined up and organized more and more. I moved a bunch of our grains to reusable containers, but a few are still in the original bags. However, I found that cutting off the used portion of the bag can save a lot of space! It’s amazing what small things can do.

    Favorite kitchen thing – the island. It’s great to be able to have conversations with someone in the living room while prepping a meal. Least favorite – the space above our cabinets! It’s a huge wasted space. We could store stuff up there but I don’t really want to “display” things like the popcorn maker. We hope to replace our cabinets in the next couple of years and make sure they go all the way to the ceiling.

    Megan´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Continues

  6. Great post! I really like the pictures it gave me great ideas. We live in a town home and have a really small kitchen. So most of my storage goes is used for my food processor, dishes, kitchen linens, etc. So we use a huge pine hutch as a pantry. While it it pretty on the outside, right now it looks quite messy on the inside. I will be using your techniques of laying things out on the table and labeling. Thanks!

  7. I love that I have so much pantry space in my kitchen. I hate that I don’t have a lot of cabinet space. I have added a side-board type piece to help store serving pieces and table linens.
    I had a good time before the kids got up today organizing! Thanks for this great post. One of my pantry pet-peeves is cardboard boxes, that have half-empty bags of stuff. So I take out the baggie of stuff, and place it in a stackable container with the cooking instructions I have snipped out of the box. I feel this helps save so much space.
    Thanks for the post, and happy organizing to everyone!

    Abbie´s last blog post…Ever Procrastinate?

  8. I tackled the kitchen a little bit early because I knew it would be a HUGE project. Here are the before and afters:


    Melissa´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Update–Kitchen

  9. Oh Tsh I love your inventory! Fabulous! That’s what I’ll be tackling (hopefully today). To say our kitchen is tiny would be an understatement, but I do love it. I try to keep the counters as clutter free as possible, to give it a bigger and simpler feel.

    I hear the pantry calling! 🙂

    Angie @ The Creative Mama´s last blog post…Shabby Chic – distress for less.

  10. My 4 year old also LOVES to say “duh..duh DUH!!”..totally cracks me up. They both must have seen the same episode of Backyardigans. :p GREAT tips here..I can’t wait to get into my pantry and do the same.

    Lyndsay´s last blog post…Get Fit – Hooping, The New Fitness Craze

  11. I love organizing my kitchen so I’m looking forward to this one. I won’t be home for more than an hour or two today so I don’t expect to get to it until the weekend. I expect it to take awhile to I want to make sure I have the time to dedicate to it.

    You can see my post for day 4 here

  12. Last night I had a nightmare about cleaning the oven, it was looming large in my thoughts all night. I knew I was in for one tough cleaning job because I have been away from my home for 5 months, leaving my husband alone in the house for all that time while I enjoyed NOT cleaning kitchen appliances back in my homeland with my boys. Now that I am back, there is a lot of cleaning to do. So today, I started with the oven.. its done. It took a LOT of elbow grease. but it’s done.

    The one thing that I like about my kitchen is how much light comes in via the french doors. Its a small kitchen, with hardly any storage… but when it comes to cleaning it all out, Im glad its small.

  13. Tsh, I could not help but notice that the font on your spring cleaning logo is your handwriting (?). How cool….how did you do that?

  14. I had to do an emergency clutter attack on my pantry about 3 months ago when I realized, after a trip to Costco, that I didn’t have room for everything. The sad part is, I have a very big kitchen so you wouldn’t think that space would be a problem. It was kind of embarassing (even though no one was there to see it). I am looking forward to tackling all the other cupboards. Thank you for the post.

    Yvonne´s last blog post…Recipe Template

  15. Love the reusing of jars with their respective labels! Eventhought we have limited space were we live, I have make sure that everything has its place. When is time to cook I know exactly where to look! But is true that sometimes we let go and find messes in our cupboards. The simple system of labeling reused jars is great! That’s why I have so many empty jars in my cupboard! (yeah right!, at least I have a new idea to use them!)

  16. This is great! I tackle the kitchen this weekend (the “snack cupboard” is horrific) so these tips will help. I had a bit of a misadventure with Spring Cleaning & hubby this week. Pop over to my blog and give it a read. At very minimum it’s worth a good giggle!

  17. Just wondering where you found the jars you use for your spices? I like the glass and having them all be the same size…

    Darcy´s last blog post…Tiny Dancer

    • Actually at a random, hole-in-the-wall shop here in my current country of residence. In other words, not in the U.S. I’m sure you can find them somewhere, though! They’re pretty basic glass jars.

  18. I almost didn’t bother with this today because I tend to keep my kitchen clean and organized….but your pantry pics inspired me to do my own, and what a difference an hours worth of work made!

    I love my kitchen since its only a year old, I have lots of storage and its sleek and modern looking…the only thing I would consider changing is replacing my island with a massive island to replace my kitchen table. I love the idea of having a huge island that everyone gathers around at parties 🙂

    Laurie´s last blog post…The Party’s in the Kitchen – Day 4 Spring Cleaning Party!

  19. This looks really like hard work, but i’m sure, it’s a great feeling, when it’s done. I’ll do the kitchen cleaning later, because there a some plans for a birthday party this weekend!

    Micha´s last blog post…Frühjahrsputz 2

  20. Ghanimatrix says:

    Argh – I’ve spent all morning excavating the fridge and it’s still not done, which I guess is a testimony to how bad it really was. The hardest part, besides cleaning off the goo, is throwing away all the expired stuff, even if it looks and smells fine. But the expired stuff is all expired for a reason: it never gets used! Can’t even fathom doing the pantry today, especially since my son is on a nap strike.

    • I am sorry to hear that your son is on nap-strike. Those days are so tough! I like using warm water on a miracle cloth to get those sticky messes off the inside of my cold fridge. I just rinse in warm water when I need to and they come off easily. Good luck cleaning!

  21. CarrieK says:

    I love my skylight and the warm yellow I painted the walls of my small galley kitchen. I have lots of ideas for changing my kitchen; new faucet with a high neck so I can get my big stock pot underneath, new countertops, put glass in 3 of my cabinet doors, new floor, new baseboards….recently I added some shelves for my cookbooks, garden books and my antique butter churn. You have inspired me to empty out my cabinets and start over, especially with my spices. I have a lazy susan for mine and and I LOVE it! I also label my reused jars. I don’t have a lot of gadgets, but I am a Demarle Rep so I have a lot of bakeware. Good news is I use it all the time 🙂

  22. i love it, i love it! i like the idea of an inventory sheet. i think that would def. save me time (and sometimes headache) when i create our grocery list.

    prasti´s last blog post…the month of "e"

  23. I finished up re-organizing the food cabinets in our kitchen, It made a HUGE difference! I posted way too many before and after photos and explained how I divided up our food into categories or “zones”. I’m really happy how it all turned out!

    I am really enjoying looking at everyone’s progress through your blogs, it’s fun to see photos and know that I’m not alone! 🙂

    Donna S´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning – Day 3 – Finally decluttered the Livingroom

  24. Wow – this was a tough day for me. I think the Kitchen is going to be the hardest room for me.

    I love that my kitchen is very open and that there is a lot of bench space. However I really dont like how it is currently set up and am frustrated with some of the cupboards. Especially where the tupperware is and the baking things. I hope to tackle these things tomorrow.

    Kristin R´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Day 3

  25. I love the extra space I have now after organizing my kitchen. We cleaned when we put our house on the market. What a great gift for a new seller. Real Estate agents should give sellers your ebook!

    Laura´s last blog post…Favorite Technology

  26. I didn’t have much food to purge b/c we’ve been eating up our pantry and freezer stock this last month, but I DID take your advice and label. Not only does it look great, my husband won’t have to open each container to see what’s inside anymore! 🙂


    I’m glad today was a light day for me…I’m mentally preparing for tomorrow. It’s going to be a doozy!

    Katie @ 3 Blondes and a Redhead´s last blog post…{Day 4} Kitchen, Part 1

  27. I’m still on my great room. I try to keep up on everything else (dishes, laundry, pick up) while tackling new room. I can already see my kitchen will take me more than 2 days.

  28. I am really enjoying this. I have always gotten either overwhelmed before or sidetracked into different rooms. Since we are “assigned” a certain task and room each day, it really keeps me on track! And even though I’m not blogging about it, I feel accountable, so I’ve actually been doing it! I’m siked! My living room and pantry look awesome!!

  29. Okay, finally got some before and after photos up, but they are of the first kitchen/living room declutter round. (And they are very embarassing before photos…)


    I love the size of my kitchen and that there are many ‘stations’ where helpers can be working or visiting, or even eating. I especially love having one really long counter for work space and also a little peninsula for serving food, buffet style. We really need to put handles on the cupboards and drawers as well as putting in a new floor. The floor might be a long time coming…

    Thanks for the ‘party’ and the inspiration to just DO IT!

    Heidi @ Mt Hope´s last blog post…The Real Me

  30. I love my major appliances and my extra deep sink. I hate the lower cabinets. Either the shelves are fixed too low so none of my bigger small appliances (mixer, breadmaker) fit OR they are too deep to reach the back and really need to have a gliding shelf instead. That’s what you get when kitchen cabinets are custom designed by a man!


    Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Party – Day 4

  31. I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with my kitchen. I love that it’s small but at the same time I hate it. I like that everything is at my finger tips but at the same time there never seems to be enough space for everything. I do manage with not having too many gadgets that take up too much space.

    I did post what little progress I did today… I will be stretching my kitchen cleaning to 4 days.

    Bonnie´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Day 4

  32. I love the way you have used those old glass jars and labeled everything. Our curbside recycling doesn’t accept glass, so I’m always wondering what to do with them. I really hate to throw them out.

    I got a little done today, but I’m jealous of all that you did. Way to go!!

    Christy´s last blog post…Declutter Day 25

  33. What great tips and suggestions you give!! It is a lot of work to get it all organized but so worth it when it’s done! I completed my kitchen but I am tackling my upstairs now!! Although I will probably be back in the kitchen in a month to reorganize!!

  34. Well I have your button on my site and had every intention of doing this. I have bins on my table where I started but Life keeps happening. I plan to do a post on what I’ve been up to and hope to join in starting on Monday!

    I did read through the first couple chapers of your e-book though. Love it!

    Jenn @ Beautiful Calling´s last blog post…See Chloe in See Kai Run (+ GIVEAWAY)

  35. Sweet & Simple Mama says:

    Whew! Day one of the kitchen down. It wasn’t so bad. I just love seeing how everyone else is doing.
    Here’s my update:


  36. This was a workou for me. I was actually afraid to do the kitchen, but knowing that I wouldn’t be alone doing this project made me feel like I could do this. I still have a lot of work to do.


    Rana´s last blog post…Spring Clean Day 4

  37. Ah, I’m so sad that I couldn’t clean again today! And tomorrow isn’t looking good either. I just love what you’ve done though. I like the idea of keeping jars to store food in. I will have to incorporate that into my kitchen organization, once I finally get to it 🙂

  38. Thanks for the motivation to tackle my kitchen clutter! This was a great post….see mine at: http://goodisbestsworstenemy.blogspot.com/2009/05/spring-cleaning-day-4.html

    Andrea P.´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Day 4

  39. Well, I am officially one full day behind, but I’m really okay with that. I am finished with the most difficult room in my house, and I’m totally thrilled!

    I’ll start tackling the kitchen tomorrow, which should be pretty easy, since I’m already very happy with how it’s organized, and my pantry is pretty empty-ish since I’m almost due for a grocery shopping trip.

    Just going to clean behind the fridge & stove, clean out the fridge, and take care of the floors and windows.

    To answer your question, the one thing I love about my kitchen is having a window over my sink. I hate staring at a wall if I’m at the sink. Blech!!!

    The one thing I would change is having my laundry in the kitchen, in a closet with ugly metal doors. I would move that junk out to my garage, if that were an option. Ideally, I’d turn that space into a long bar, with cupboards below, so the kitchen would open into our living room. I loooove open spaces in homes.

    Tiff @ The Faery Inn´s last blog post…The Hardest Day

  40. Here’s a tip for the microwave… before you spend ages scrubbing the crusty interior, microwave a cup of water with a 1/2 a lemon squeezed into it. It will steam all those food particles and help loosen them, plus the lemon will get rid of odors. Yay!

    Aimee´s last blog post…Mother’s Day Announcement and a Giveaway!

  41. Well…I am loosely doing the cleaning party with you! I bought the e book about a month ago, and spent the last month on day one (breezily collecting things to get rid of). Then when you tackeled the cleaning, I skipped to the kitchen because that was what was most in need of cleaning (we have only been in our house 6 months, so the living space is still very organized). The kitchen however…was another story! Our new kitchen was completed 5 1/2 months ago, while I was at the hospital birthing my second child! My mother unpacked the kitchen boxes while I was in the hospital, bless her heart, but it has been driving me nuts ever since!
    My organization tricks I’m trying:
    1) I made several boxes in my pantry so that I can just grab that box while making certain things. For example I made one ‘baking staples” and included soda, powder, icing/brown sugar. I made another ‘indian spices’ since I do a lot of Indian cooking I can just grab that small box and bring it to the stove top.
    2) I am keeping my toaster on a small wooden tray. This way I am more prone to pop it in the cupboard, and gives additional mess control to the rarely emptied crumb tray!
    I’m finding you cleaning supplies really great, though I must confess I had to add a few drops of bleach to the all purpose!
    Thanks for this inspiration!
    I plan to do my living spaces this weekend (my husband is away) and keep up next week!

  42. That was so much fun and I feel good being in my kitchen. I get a high from just opening the pantry door!

    cortney´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Party- Day Four

  43. It was a TON of work, but I feel really really good about the pantry and stockpile area! I even went out and bought some pretty liner paper to line the shelves. Now it isn’t such an eyesore anymore as well as being newly organized and clean! My favorite part of my kitchen would have to be our new fridge (more space!) and my lovely deep red walls. I really dislike the yellow countertops and the brown linoleum, though. You can never be too sure how clean it is with brown linoleum…!

    Katie´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Party, Day 3 (or rather, 2.5)

  44. How funny that you are reading the same book I just happened to buy! What an exciting experiment they ventured on.

    And I love the spice cupboard. I may just have to reorganize mine. Thanks for the tips!

  45. I’m about a week behind according to the Spring Cleaning chart, but I’m still plugging away. Thanks for motivating me to take everything out of the cabinets, to put “like with like” and to organize.

    On the Eastern Journey´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning: The Kitchen

  46. i know i’m behind. graduation and mother’s day threw me out of whack and off my usual schedule. i did finish this before just didn’t have time to blog about it until today.

    christy´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Party Day 4

  47. Adriana says:

    I started my kitchen today and yes it is a small one, but I managed to do the insides of all the drawers and all the cabinets but 3, which is all the bottom ones and the fridge. I am 33 weeks pregnant and take naps so I did the higher cabinets and all the drawers while the kids were playing. We have been eating all the leftovers so the refrigerator will be empty. I may tackle that tonight. I threw out a stove size full of things and am enjoying the results. And I found more multiples of things to thrift away. I was amazed by how many kids’ medicine cups and syringes I had. We can use those for development of small motor skills. I can’t wait to really clean all the surfaces well tomorrow. I will my hubby get the oven.

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