Shake Up the Pantry

A little later I moved into the house, I set up my pantry in the basement. My kitchen is small. It's tiny. Tiny like a NYC apartment kitchen. Because the kitchen used to be a pantry. Yup, I cook in the pantry.

That means there was no pantry when I moved in. So, I set up a new pantry in the basement. The basement has a small closed off area with a door. It was just a perfect spot for it. With the French drain and my reliable dehumidifier, my basement has no flooding, mold or musty smell. I've never seen any bugs there, either. Thank God!

Over the years, I got more stuff from cooking tools to small appliances to serving wares... They all ended up in the pantry. The original system doesn't function anymore. Meanwhile, the stuff has kept piling up. The poor pantry was screaming for help drowning in STUFF...

Time for New System

The pantry has the electric panel in it. I'm afraid I scared some contractors with my collection there when they checked out the panel for some projects. Hence, it's time for action.

I packed my tool box — a brand new tarp, my vacuum cleaner, disinfectant wipes, wet rags and trash bags.


It's hard to configure a new system shuffling around things. It's better to clear the area to start clean and better understand what's going on. You don't want to put foods, cooking and serving stuff on the ground. Putting a big tarp on the basement floor is the first step.


This is also a sorting process. I assigned each corners for specific categories, and placed stuff from the pantry following by the categories. It's a game of grouping. It's an interesting process. Sometimes, you notice how your brain works by doing it, too. When you do any organizational tasks, efficient grouping is a key. In the pictures, they don't look organized, but they are grouped with certain labels. This helped me to assess how much space was necessary for specific groups in the pantry.

This step is actually quite important. If you don't do sorting your stuff at this point, you'd lose the control of your motivation. Imagine you randomly put your stuff out on a new space without any rules, you'd have no idea what is where. You'd feel like you're looking for a needle in haystack, and you wouldn't see the end of the tunnel. Nobody wants to work in such chaos.


Once the pantry was cleared, I dusted, vacuumed the area. It's a great feeling to get rid of all dusts behind the shelvings. I have four shelving racks, and I go one by one. Each rack has their own category.

The First Round

The first shelving rack keeps things for daily diet — canned goods, pasta, seasonings, stocks, jellies, coffee, sugar, salt, etc.

From the previous system, I grouped the stuff per storage container for small items. This process is to find the most useful placement to me for those containers.

I use these clear storage containers to keep out uninvited guests help themselves. After all, it's an old house, and they find a way to get into the house to stay a little bit comfortable in the harsh winter of New England, which I don't blame them. I'd look for a shelter in any possible ways if I were them, but I don't offer free meals in the house. This is not negotiable in any manners, period.

I started placing the containers with the items I use often to the easiest to reach, which is at my height. The third shelf from the top is reserved for canned goods.

The flour and the stocks were on the bottom shelf because they are heavy.

After the containers got their own spots, I found bunch of small bottles and jars such as salad dressings and mayonaise. I grouped them in three baskets and put them on the second top shelf.

They looked good, but this was a mistake. I'm only 5'2". The shelf is not so in my reach. I need to pull out the baskets to get what's inside. Each basket is quite heavy. It is not easy for me to pull them out.

Time for a shuffle.

The Second Round

This time the light containers were swapped with those three baskets.

All cans were back on the shelf.

I didn't mention, but the very top shelf was reserved for the white wines. The wine is not related to the daily diet, but the given space is just perfect for those bottles. It's just a good use of the space.

I learned that the way grocery stores place items on their shelves is a good reference. Well, they place the most popular items in the middle in general, but they don't put heavy stuff on higher shelves. They also give you some ideas of how they group items. A pantry is a kind of your private grocery store at home. You could use their system if it works for you.

Move on to the Next Rack

On the left, there is the electric panel. That area needs to be always clear. About a quarter of the left shelves are hard to reach. So, the left rack for something I don't use often such as party utensils, paper plates, paper cups and so on.

The round cover on the right bottom is the pump for the French drain. This area should stay clear, too.

The right rack is for drinks. Soda, carbonated water, bottled water, juice, drink mixers, boose and tea got their home. The top shelf is for... guess what! Red wines🍷

It left the second shelf empty. I gave it to snacks like popcorns, chips and cookies.

The left rack got some extra space. The second shelf got serving stuff. Its top shelf has instant grains like oatmeals for now.

It's hard to nail everything perfectly at once. So, once I reached to somewhat OK state, move onto next.

More Stuff...

I have stuff. I don't deny that. Even I don't use them often, they help me when I need them. These guys go to the forth rack.

After shuffling them around, things started settling down to where they were supposed to.

The bulky serving items are on the top shelf. Canning jars which doesn't get affected by light on the second shelf. There is a window behind it. Baking related items are on the forth self. Small appliances are on the fifth. It's packed, but they fit.

Roll Out

There is an open space below. I have a plan for it. When you put heavy stuff on the bottom shelf, you still need to pull it out. That could be a hassle. So, why don't I use a container with wheels ?

I looked around some storage bins with wheels. They are not cheap, but their build doesn't look tough enough for their prices. Their wheels only go back and forth, not sideways. They are not so flexible.

Then, I found this guy at Ikea.

Its wheels look nice and sturdy. they are not taking up the space of the container. That's awesome! The size is 15" W x 20" D x 14 1/2" H. If I get lucky, I can put three of them there. It's not clear, but I can live with that.

I got lucky🍀 Three of them fit right in. Before I ordered them, I measured the width of the rack and saw the size of the container on their site. I knew three were very tight fit, and the slight extra addition by the lid could cause to push out the third one.

I was so glad to order four of them. They all found their spots happily. They are assigned for flour, sugar, vinegar and sauces (bottled seasonings), and rice.

After a little more shuffling, they settled. The bottom shelf of the first rack got an empty container. That means it's not fully packed.

The Last Group

Finally, my kitchen work essentials got their own home.

These are the kind of things I tend to forget to buy as they run out. So, I stock them up when they are on sale. Technically, they never run out at my household.

As you see, I don't buy so it called brand items so much. They are either store or bargain brands especially for plastic bags. They still serve my purpose just fine.

The new system probably needs some more tweaks, but it's working so far. The things are grouped better. Their locations are clear. They are easy to reach. It was well worth to spend one weekend.