pantry organizing
The CSA box

How to Konmari Your Pantry


Creating a Pantry that Sparks Joy

First off let me say, I have read Marie Kondo’s book and this article isn’t a replacement for it.  Her method is very specific with specific steps that work.  However, there are lots of great tips and tools that can be specifically applied to the pantry regardless of where you are in your tidying journey.

Her method focuses on a few key points that can come in super handy when you are trying to create a pantry system that works for you and I’m going to focus on those here while also sprinkling in my own thoughts, beliefs and opinions on the subject.

The main goal of this process and method is to reduce the amount of unnecessary crap you have that is stressing you out so that you are only left with things that you love and use and to create a system to keep them organized and tidy. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?!


Admit That There is a Problem

If you’re reading this article it’s probably because you want to organize your pantry differently and create a system that works.  Another way to say that is that your current system or lack thereof is a problem and you want to change it.

The biggest obstacle to meaningful change is resistance to the change.  If you can admit that there’s a problem, then you are on track to creating something great!  So say it out loud, write it down and own it.


Find Homes for Wanted Items

Spoiler Alert: you are going to be getting rid of a bunch of shit.

So before you get started, go around and ask your neighbors, friends, family if there are any pantry items that they are in need of or would really like.

Now you have a list of potential homes for any of the pantry items that you will need to part ways with.  This reduces a lot of the anxiety around being wasteful when throwing things out because at least it won’t be going straight to a landfill.  But it only works if you ask first and make a list of who wants what.

Otherwise, if you take your big pile of unwanted crap and start auctioning it off to people, they will take it because THEY don’t want to be wasteful and you just foist the burden of clutter onto another poor soul.


Visualize the Pantry of Your Dreams

I do a lot of personal development work and this is basically the first step for any kind of growth journey.  You have to know where you are going in order to get there!  So close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine the pantry of your dreams.

What does it look like?

How does it make you feel?

Be as specific as possible in your visualization and really imagine yourself inhabiting the space.  After you’ve done that, ask yourself how this would benefit you?

How would your life improve?  And why?

Another way of describing this process is that you are creating a vision for your future pantry and then you are grounding yourself in that vision.  This is a crucial step in order to proceed to the next step and ultimately achieve success so don’t skip it!!!  This will be your guiding light, your road map as you move through this process.


Sort. It. Out.

Now is the fun part that Marie Kondo has become a bit infamous for.  Take every single item out of your pantry and put it out on the counter top.  Organize it by sub group – rice, grains, beans, vinegar, sauces, boxes of crackers, etc.   And yes, do this next part even though it might sound insane.

Look at each item and ask if it sparks joy.  For some, this will make perfect sense.  For others (like if you are not the most avid cook in the world) here is another way to think of it: does the food you can or will create with that item spark joy?

Does that package of lentils remind you of your grandmother’s recipe for lentil soup and fill you with a feeling of warmth and comfort?  Does the all purpose flour excite you with all it’s millions of possibilities?!

Alternatively, when you look at that dusty canister of rolled oats are you filled with dread because you hate oatmeal?  Does the sight of the cayenne pepper cause you to involuntarily recoil because you get heartburn from spicy food?

Are those bugs in the corn meal?  Do they spark joy?  No!  Gross!  They go in the toss pile!  Once you have your carefully selected items that spark joy for you, and a toss pile it’s time to move to the next step.


Getting Rid of Stuff

You should have at least two, but possibly three, piles when you are done.  One pile is the sparks joy pile aka the keep pile, a second pile that is the throw it away pile and possibly a third pile of things that other people already said they wanted.

Throw out what’s the throw it away pile, distribute the goods in the people said they wanted this pile and then when you are done we move on to the exciting part… organizing your new pantry!


Everyone Gets a Home

You should have a lot more space in your pantry now that you have cleaned it of any unnecessary items.  I also think this is the perfect time to get a damp cloth and wipe down the inside of your pantry.  Or if a more thorough cleaning is in order then do that!  You want your lovely, wanted, joy inducing pantry items to have an equally lovely pantry space to call home.

Now that your pantry space is clean, it’s time to come up with a strategy for how you are going to organize your pantry. 

A labeling system should be part of this.  You can use masking tape and write it on, print labels on your label printer, write it on the vessel with washable markers, it’s really up to you and what your vision of your ideal pantry looked and felt like.  Just make sure it’s also functional.

Grease pencils are great but they rub off of glass really easily.  Sharpie is also great but it does NOT come off easily or ever in some cases.  Choose what works for you.  Label the containers clearly and accurately.

I put the least used items in my pantry in the harder to reach places and the often used items in the easiest to reach places.  I use grains, legumes and spices in almost everything I cook at home so I have all of those on the easy to reach shelves that are eye to hip level. I put the more exotic of those items in the back of the shelf and the more often used items in the front.

The most important thing is to think about how you are going to use these items every day and then set it up so that it’s easy and comfortable to access what you need when you need it.  Also, make it look nice!  When you open those pantry doors it should spark joy and loads of cooking inspiration!!


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