The pantry organized: before and after photos

It was quite a week around here. I’ll spare the gory details and just say I got sick. So as you can imagine, I didn’t quite get as much accomplished on the kitchen as I had planned.

But that’s life, right? And Project Simplify is nothing if not about regular people and everyday households, so that’s why this week’s before and after is very much a Normal Life Edition.

I’ve also had a whole variety of kitchens in the past 10 years. 11, to be exact. And I’ve only really loved one of them (the one from our home overseas). I tell you this because if you’re not crazy about your kitchen, I know what that’s like.

We’re also moving soon (to a house a half mile away), so I’m more concerned with curbing clutter than about setting up a workable cooking environment right now.

Still, there are a few things I like to do with my pantry. Here ‘s what I did this week.

First things first—I pulled out everything from the pantry, one shelf at a time.

And then I honestly didn’t change a thing about our bottom shelf. Well, I take that back—I moved the bag of rice on top of the Crock Pot.

I didn’t have too much food to throw out. It was just a mess.

I rearranged some shelves and reassigned a few items to other places.

I’m a huge fan of glass jars and other see-through containers for food storage. There’s no need to buy new containers — when your pickles and salsa run out, wash out the jars and use those.

Not only will things be more stackable and stand up straighter, they’ll look prettier. I’m a fan of a pretty-looking pantry.

I mention in my book that my mother-in-law is known for not labeling her jars, so it’s often hard to tell what’s baking soda and what’s baking powder (though she always knows, of course). Do yourself a favor, and label your items well, especially those in repurposed jars.

I got this idea from my friend Rachellabel a glass jar with a dry erase marker, then affix Scotch tape on top. The tape will keep it from smearing off, and when you’re ready to relabel, simply peel it off—the marker comes off with it.

Before, there was no rhyme or reason as to why I had things in places. It was a catch-all.

Now, there’s a bit more logic.

I like to put my ingredients — spices, grains, beans, and the like — at eye level, where I can easily use them.

A lot of our cans were still in their original Costco-sized boxes. Drove me bananas.

I consolidated all the canned goods on to the same shelf, and I corralled our individually-wrapped teabags in a plastic school box.

I used these Lazy Susans for my cans, found at a local thrift store.

All our snack items are stored up high, making it more of a conscience decision to grab them. It’s also more difficult for the kids to see stuff there.

I keep any extra supplies—a second bag of powdered sugar; the baking soda refill—in the area above the fridge.

We also keep all our coffee supplies—beans, grinder, syrups, mugs, and the like—in its own section of the kitchen. There’s a canister of loose-leaf tea as well, along with wine supplies. It’s our Drink Station.

And of course, I had every intention of taking a photo of our spice area—it’s in a separate cabinet near our stove. I didn’t need to change anything there, so I accidentally forgot to show you. I will sometime in the future.

All in all, not bad. My less than savory health prevented me from doing the fridge and a few other cabinets I had in mind, but such is life and all is grace. I’ve got time to do that soon.

I did, however, manage to take a photo of Reed’s silverware organizing work.

Now it’s your turn!

You’re welcome to focus on this hotspot at any time, of course, but if you’d like to be entered to win this week’s giveaway, you have until Saturday (tomorrow) at 11:59 p.m. PST to submit your before-and-after photos.

You absolutely don’t need to do as many photos as I have here—a simple before shot of a room, followed by its after, is great. And as a reminder, if you don’t have kids at home, you’re welcome to do your own personal belongings.

Joy the Baker Cookbook

Ten randomly selected participants in this week’s hotspot will win a copy of the Joy the Baker Cookbook! Celebrate your newly organized kitchen by noshing on one of her delectable recipes. Joy is a gem, and so is her work. You don’t want to miss this book.

Head here to share your photos and to see everyone else’s!

How does your kitchen feel after your work this week?

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.

Encouragement for living simpler, right in your inbox.

We share our stories as we simplify our lives - no guilt-trips, just love.

(no spam, promise. we hate it, too.)


  1. What a great job! I really like the tea in the school box idea. I have so many loose tea bags in my tea cupboard, mostly stuffing them into other random boxes and never knowing what I actually have. I also like that you have a “drink station.” I have two of those, one that holds all of our coffee stuff, and one that holds all of our tea stuff. Perhaps I should pare down the amount of supplies I have…

  2. Great work! Love the tip of writing w/ a dry erase marker & covering with tape , for the glass jars. I have just been writing w/ sharpie on the lids of mine.

  3. Reed’s drawer organizing looks a lot like my Peanut’s organising! When she empties the dishwasher, she just tips the cutlery basket upside down over the drawer. It’s… umm…. Efficient?

    I label my containers with permanent marker ON scotch tape. Or overhead projection markers on masking tape… or if I can’t find the markers, I’ll cut out the label from the packet and tape that on. It’s not pretty, but it works!

  4. I love the glass jars for the powdered things! I’m going to have to remember that the next time we hit the bottom of the jam.

  5. Thanks for hosting, Tsh! I love Rachel’s idea for labeling the mason jars — I think I’m going to try that on a few, too.

    You inspired us to clear out a small room in the basement and get going on our bulk storage pantry; this has been a dream of ours for awhile. I’m thrilled to say we finally finished it this week, just in time to link up with your challenge!

  6. That’s how my silverware draw looks after my daughter helps unload the dishwasher. 🙂 Thanks for the tip about the dry erase marker and scotch tape. Great idea.

  7. I LOVE glass jars too. I just recently switched everything over and it is great!

  8. I have the same cake platter that you do but mine won’t fit in the cupboard. I leave it on the counter and either put breads and cookies in there or seasonal decorations (glass balls at Christmas/shells in the summer). I don’t keep appliances out so it doesn’t look cluttered (I think).

  9. I am hoping you will do a “Simple Moving” post! We are moving a few states away in 3 months and I have 4 small children. Any ideas/tips for making it more simple/enjoyable/less stressful would be great!

  10. Tsh – what are the colorful things (the tops look like the shape of a persons head) at the back of your silverware drawer?

    • Those are training chopsticks. Got them in our stockings this year. 😉

      • I haven’t ever seen those before, but wondered if it was something like that. We want to teach our daughter how to use chopsticks and she has a pair where one has a little half circle that is somehow supposed to help her use them (I can’t use them myself, so I have no clue) but so far it’s not working. I’ll have to look into those. Thank you!

  11. Awesome! I particularly like the section just for coffee…. I too have an entire cabinet of space dedicated to the caffeinated drink. I love it. It is my happy place.

  12. aw nuts, I wish I took before pics of my pantry this past weekend. I just reorganized my bathroom and my pantry.

    I highly recommend getting stackable shelves, because it looks like there’s lots of wasted space on the top portions of your shelves!

    • Well, it’s actually not as bad as some of my other kitchens. Plus, we’re here temporarily, so I don’t really want to invest in something that might not work everywhere. But I’m sure once we settle somewhere, we’ll do something kinda like that.

  13. Looks awesome! I also didn’t get quite as much done as I wanted due to sickness (my husband’s!) – but I totally finished the pantry, and re-did a few cupboards as well, since I swapped around some stuff from pantry to cupboard.

    The fridge will just have to wait a few more weeks. 🙂

  14. I had to laugh because I didn’t touch the bottom of my pantry either. You did a great job!!!

  15. Life does have a way of rearranging our plans at times, doesn’t it? I actually did last week’s project (my own clothes since we don’t have kids) and took photos, but got too busy to post about it. This week, although my kitchen isn’t bad, we have a chest freezer that desperately needs some organization. I’m hoping to get to it over the weekend…Thanks for inspiring and challenging me!
    On another note, I saw you with your awesomely adorable family at the store the other night. I didn’t want to interrupt you with your family (or be the crazy person that recognizes you from the internet), but I really wanted to say, “hello!” So, “hello!” and I hope that you’re feeling better.

  16. Great post – and I couldnt help but notice you have a lot of Torani syrup stocked up. I hate to self-promote, but I worked out an amazing recipe for homemade vanilla syrup… it has PERFECTED my coffee routine in the AM. I just cook up a batch every Sunday!

    Check it out – and I’d love to know if you end up going with a different flavoring!

    • I’ll pass that link on to my husband! Kyle’s more of the syrup collector around here, and it’s mostly for Italian sodas. We both drink our coffee black. But thanks for sharing! 🙂

  17. Another trick to try….I learned this while teaching kindergarten and everything needs to be labeled. When writing on any surface on which you could use a dry erase marker, use a sharpie instead so that it will not rub off. When you want to change it, color OVER the sharpie with a DRY ERASE marker. Then wipe the dry erase marker off with a paper towel, and both markers will wipe right off. Pretty nifty.

  18. Instead of a dry erase marker (because I can’t stand the smell) hand sanitizer or lemon extract take sharpie right off hard surfaces. Anything with a high alcohol content will usually work!

  19. You’ve been an inspiration to me in all kinds of ways, beginning with your book – and now this. I especially like how you fit the cake stand in – I’ve been considering just getting rid of mine, its just SO bulky – but good idea tilting it!!

  20. I love it! I like using jars and other items to use in the pantry. I’ve seen some ideas I’d like to eventually implement in my own pantry but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made.

  21. Good work, Tsh! The lazy susan for cans in the pantry is an excellent idea! I am going to try that! I don’t have time to implement it by tomorrow though. I’ll be lucky if I finish up the pantry organizing so that I can upload a pic before a 2 week trip on the East Coast. I want to win a book!

    • Although I ended up finishing one shelf of my pantry, did not get to upload the picture! The before pic was taken with a camera we left behind, the after pic with my husband’s smart phone. So, no entry into the giveaway but at least one shelf of my pantry is beautiful! Thanks for your inspiration, Tsh!

  22. Love Reed’s work. My drawer looks about the same when Sienna helps me empty the dishwasher.

  23. We have the same “initial cup” from Anthropologie! Except ours is I and N, not K 😉

  24. Christie says:

    I’ve heard that rubbing alcohol removes sharpie from glass jars and plastic totes.

    Best of luck in your move!

  25. Oh, I am just itching to have a pantry again, so I can organize it! 🙂

  26. Nice! I love reusing jars too. I just keep a supply on hand so they’re ready to go when I need one.

    The big thing I need to reorganize are my spices. My husband has been getting into them, as are the kids, and they just don’t put them back neatly. It’s time to get them back in something resembling order so I don’t always have to dig around. That, and I need to put fresh aluminum foil under the oils. It’s just that time.

  27. So glad to have the accountability of this site and the others participating in Project: Simplify. Otherwise, I don’t think I wouldn’t have gotten as much done this weekend.

    I did not get the drink station done in the kitchen, but otherwise I accomplished what I set out to do.

  28. Sorry that there are no photos to prove my Simplify Project of the week. I am patting myself on the back of getting it done. I have declutter, relined with shelf liner, 12 kitchen shelves, and one large cabinet of my pantry, and 3 kitchen drawers, with one large garabage bag tossed. Yeah!!!

  29. Well, I got the fridge organized 🙂 but the pantry is leaving me frustrated. I am currently utilizing our hall closet as our pantry because our place didn’t come with a seperate pantry, and there is not enough light in this hall closet to see anything. And there is no nearby outlet or anything to put a light in there. So I don’t know what to do now… I am stumped.

  30. I’m glad to see how you organized your pantry. We JUST installed one like that and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. I really like the lazy susan idea.

  31. Nice job, I can’t say that mine looks as good as yours, but I feel better about it. More could have been done, but I definately consider it improvement:)Checkout my after photos, I’m pretty excited about the fridge!!

  32. Here is my week two attempt at organizing. Below are my after shots. I’m pretty proud of the fridge:)

  33. Donna Lybarger says:

    I have the same cake stand (or similar) and I am able to put the cover on over the stand, In the tight space you have it might free up some space. Unfortunately we are between houses and living in an apartment so it’s in a box or I would show you. Looks great!

  34. You can also label jars by sticking the scotch tape on first, and then writing on the tape with permanent marker. Just peel the tape off and replace when you want to change labels. I label shelves this way in our linen cupboard so the whole family knows what goes where… and as we are renting our house, it doesn’t leave any marks behind.

  35. An organized pantry is a beautiful thing, and cheering to the soul. At least I think so, but I probably give it too much power… 😉 I reorganized my pantry for this week’s task, too. Nothing big and new, just clutter control, also. A job I probably need to do weekly!

  36. Thanks for sharing a real kitchen! Lazy susans, now why didn’t I think of that?!! I uploaded my blog using your wonderful form, but my first attempt linked me to your site. Is there any way you can delete my mistake? Sorry for the inconvenience!!

  37. I was sick too at the start of the week so didn’t get as much done as I’d wanted. I think you did great for being sick!

  38. I love this post and I will be spending the next week on this project. I do hope you will help me and millions of other women with the one cabinet that no matter what I do, I can’t control nor organize the tupperware cabinet. Please help! I’ve been married for 21 years and have yet to tackle this issue!!

  39. Okay I must say thanks again for keeping me accountable. I have completed another part of week #2’s hotspot and blogged about it.. Check it out.. Love this.. Thanks.

  40. This is an area I wanted to conquer for awhile and Project Simplify gave me the motivation/accountability! I love looking at everyone’s posts and getting ideas! Also love the idea of labeling with a dry erase marker and tape, genius 🙂 Hope everyone is feeling better, we just all got over a nasty stomach bug and are glad to be healthy again!

  41. I was noticing something as I looked through all the entries – inspiration you know – one thing many people struggle to keep organized is all the bulk stuff that is purchased from Costco and Sam\’s Club. It\’s something I struggle with too – giant boxes, argh. And I know that the easiest thing to do is open them up and put them into something smaller -and refilling as you need to, but when I come home with your giant load of giant sized, it\’s usually the last thing I feel like fooling around with. I\’m almost to the point where I prefer to buy the smaller grocery-store sized cereals and snacks.

  42. Well done!!! I’m working on my closet right now, putting away winter clothes and getting out spring and summer stuff.
    I like how you re-organized your kitchen cabinets. That would be my next project… I too, reuse glass jars. One thing I didn’t like about it is the smell. I washed them by hand, dishwasher, let them sit in the sun but it seemed like the smell was still there. So, I decided to to try hydrogen peroxide (I know that ozone gets rid of all smells but I don’t have that available and so I thought that H2O2 may do the same trick). And it worked. I just added about 1/4 cup of H2O2 and shooke it for 30 seconds or so. Then just wash it and let it dry. It worked. Smell begone. I can now reuse my jars.

  43. Some awesome ideas Tsh! I love the drink station! I am trying to figure out how I can move some stuff around and come up with that!
    And the tape and dry erase marker? Ingenious!
    Hope you are feeling better…

  44. Hey sweet girl! Your pantries look awesome…and we have the same crockpot. 🙂 Miss you!

Add Your Thoughts