New year, new pantry: Organize for joy!

In the 80s, resolutions were almost always about losing weight. From Richard Simmons to Jane Fonda, January was awash with legwarmers and pastel braided sweatbands. But these are strange times. Even the resolution-averse would agree that a focus on mental health is always a good idea.

One form of self-care is getting to an organization project you've been putting off. Procrastination is a stress response, and it's common, so be kind to yourself. Countless studies have noted the correlation between an organized home and a calm mind. Simply put: mess brings stress. So, what have I been procrastinating on? Our pantry. 

bulk foods in mason jars vintage style

Perhaps you like a white monochrome space with see-through containers - Khloe Kardashian makes it look great. Perhaps you love vintage style. Whatever your needs, Ladles & Linens is stocked with curated options. My pantry mirrors the Laurel Canyon Country Store, with baskets, chalkboard signs and rows of mason jars filled with bulk goods.

You need to create a space that mirrors your lifestyle. Functionality matters more than looks, because once your space is in order, you'll naturally work towards the right look and feel. 

seltzer and cocktail syrups organic

How to organize your pantry like a pro

One: Start with a clean slate

Like your refrigerator, every pantry starts to we call it dirt? More like crumbs and spilled gunk. Not to mention, it's hard to visualize a space's potential with stuff everywhere. You need a blank canvas.

Two: Maximize your storage potential

Now that your space is clean and empty, look for lost opportunities for more storage. Is there a bare wall that could use a shelving unit? Need a skinny, hidden slot for your unsightly mop and broom? Buy what you can to use up every available inch. I can promise you, there's no such thing as too much storage.

Three: Know the hierarchy

To make the pantry suit your lifestyle, there has to be easy access to everyday items. Keep them at eye level or within reach. Ensure that the little ones can reach what they need. In our closet, the rarely-used products (such as cheese cloth and crab crackers) can go on top shelves, preferably in a labeled basket to keep the look clean.

Four: If it's large, keep it low

My husband has a formidable meat slicer. It's bulky and heavy, so we keep it on the bottom shelf of our pantry. Not only does it stabilize the shelf, but it would be dangerous to pull this monster from up high, with arms over our heads. Also, if you can find a large square or rectangular basket or box to keep it in, the blades stay clean and your space will look less cluttered. 

candy in glass jars for a gingerbread house

Five: Group like objects

When my son made a gingerbread house this Christmas, we had leftover bags of Skittles, gumdrops and M&Ms. Rather than roll up the bags and seal them with rubber bands, why not display them beautifully, like a country store would? Pour the leftover goodies into small glass bottles and cluster them together. Group your spices together on tiered shelves in alphabetical order for easy access. Pour all of your grains (flour, rice, barley, etc.) into large glass cookie jars or containers and line them up side-by-side. Easy to find = peace of mind.

Six: Contain yourself!

You never know how an object can improve a space. A decorative bowl to collect your power bars makes a beautiful display. I saw storage potential on a narrow sliver of wall space, and nailed a hanging shower caddy to it. Now it displays our various boxes of tea. Baskets are great - especially square or rectangle ones that can be lined up side-by-side to maximize storage potential. Keep an open mind, and your place will constantly evolve to take on more storage, and look good while doing it. 

Seven: Power up!

To give ourselves more counter space in the kitchen, we've reserved a shelf in our pantry for a couple of appliances. They are plugged in and ready to go, converting this space from simply storage, to an extension of a working kitchen! For us, we plugged in our carbonated drink maker and toaster oven. Whether it's a coffee machine or wine fridge, saddle up with a power strip and make that room work for you.

Eight: Labels

Yea this one is pretty self-explanatory. If you can, keep the labels similar so the room maintains a sleeker look. 

Nine: Beautify!

No need to make the space overly utilitarian. If there's a window, hang a plant by it. (Hanging a plant from the ceiling allows for more shelf space). Throw an area rug on the floor, and make sure it can be cleaned in the washer. Paint the walls a cheerful color. This room deserves to show out just as any other one would.

Happy new year!

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