Our Pantry Makeover {and Top 5 Pantry Organization Tips!}

April 2, 2014

Pantry Organization tips by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}

If you have been here before, WELCOME BACK and thank you for reading my blog!  If you are new here, you may not have read that we are in the process of making over our kitchen and phase 1 was our pantry makeover.  Let me just warn you now that this post is photo heavy and it is long!

The post explaining our vision for our kitchen makeover and the issues we will be addressing can be found here.  And here is our mood board, to refresh your memory:

Kitchen Makeover Plans by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}

Ahhh, so pretty.  But we have a LONG way to go to get THERE from HERE:

Kitchen beforeAs strange as it may sound, we decided to kick off the kitchen makeover with our pantry, located behind those double doors at the left of the photo.  The cosmetic appearance of the pantry was taken care of with paint.  We painted the entire kitchen, including the interior of the closet and the shelves, with one of my favorite paint colors, Babbling Brook by Olympic {note that I have tried color matching in other “better” brands and it never looks right}.

Painting was the easy part.  Folks, there were a lot of FUNCTION issues that needed to be addressed.  I am super, super embarrassed to show you this, but here is how our pantry looked before we got started.  YIKES.

Pantry Organization by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}

Pantry Organization by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}Whoa.  Something had to be done.  We emptied the entire pantry.  There are no words to describe what a mess our kitchen was during this process.  This photo gives you SOME idea of the chaos.  Pantry Organization tips by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}

Pantry Organization tips by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}Fortunately, we knocked this project out in one day, so the mess did not persist for long!

Now, let me share with you my top 5 pantry organization tips and ideas.  Then I will tell you all about how we implemented those tips in our own pantry makeover.

Top 5 Pantry Organization Tips

  1. Make sure your shelves are not too deep– If your shelves are too deep, items will get lost and hidden and forgotten about.  I cannot tell you how many items you will end up repurchasing because you could not see that you already had it. Deep shelves also make it very hard to reach things {if you can manage to see them, that is!}.  I think the ideal depth for pantry shelves is 8 to 10 inches.
  2. Make sure your shelf space is only as tall as it needs to be, to maximize vertical space- If your tallest item, such as a cereal box, is only 14 inches tall, you do not need 24 inches between your shelves.  And you probably need only one shelf to accommodate your tallest items.  The rest of the shelves can be anywhere between 8 and 12 inches apart.  Remember than you can store tall items {such as boxes of pasta} on their side to maximize vertical space!
  3. Group like items together- This one seems obvious, but it needs to be said.  Group like items together and store them in baskets or bins.  For example, I was able to fit all of my cookie decorating supplies in one bin.  I placed all of my flours and grains together in a basket.
  4. Divide your pantry into zones- With your pantry empty, sort all of your pantry items into three groups: used rarely, used daily, and used sometimes.  Then, divide your pantry  into “zones” to keep it organized. For example, Zone 1 should be at the top and should store things you rarely use.  Zone 2 should consist of the two or three middle {and most accessible shelves} and should store items that you use daily or several times per week.   Zone 3 should be the bottom most area and should be items that you don't use on a daily basis, but that you use frequently enough that you don't want to have to get a stool to reach them.  For us, Zone 3 stores paper towels and dog food.  Create as many zones as you need.
  5. Maximize the space on your pantry doors- There is a whole lot of storage real estate on the back of your pantry doors.  USE IT!  Purchase or build back-of-the-door storage so that you can free up some shelf space.  I provide details about the back-of-the-door storage system that we purchased later in the post.

We addressed the depth of our shelves immediately.  Our shelves were too deep, so things just got hidden and lost behind gobs of other things.  Fortunately, our deep shelves were actually made with two shallow shelves {which measured 9 1/2 inches and 11 inches deep} placed side-by-side, so we were able to easily remove one shelf from each level to make them more shallow and accessible.  That means our shelves were originally 21 1/2 inches deep and they are now 9 1/2 inches deep–MUCH easier to access!

We were also able to use a couple of the shelves that we had removed to add two additional shelves to maximize the vertical space.  All we had to do was add some additional shelf supports, which was quick and easy.

Pantry Organization by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}While the pantry was still empty, we sorted the mess into zones {used daily, used rarely and used sometimes}  Next, we installed these AWESOME, adjustable door organizers on our pantry doors.  I had to HUNT for these things!  Because we have double doors on our pantry, the doors are narrow {18 inches each}.  Most door organizers are intended for single doors and it was hard to find organizers that would work.  These are 17.5 inches wide, installed.  Not surprisingly, I found these on Amazon.  If you have not already read my recent post about my love for Amazon Prime, you can check it out here.  If you have narrow doors like us, these would be perfect for you. {affiliate link below}

Adding storage to the back of the doors freed up tons of shelf space, which was important since we had decided to make our shelves more shallow.  We also picked up some blue baskets and bins at the Dollar Store to help us group like items together {cooking decorating items, baking ingredients, etc.}

Now, you will notice that I did not label anything.  Don't get me wrong, I L.O.V.E. the pretty pantries with every single thing labeled with pretty tags that are all over Pinterest as much as you do.  But, with shallow shelves, I can SEE everything in our pantry, so I did not feel the need to label anything just for the sake of making it pretty.  Making our pantry functional was good enough for me!

Pantry Organization Ideas by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}

Pantry Organization Ideas by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}Once all of the paint was dry, we were able to load everything back into the pantry.  We placed the items that we use daily in “zone 2”, which consists of the door organizers and the middle shelves.  The items we rarely use are in “zone 1”, which is the very top shelf.  The items we use “sometimes” {weekly or monthly} are located in “zone 3,” which consists of the bottom shelf and the floor space beneath it.

With shelves that are more shallow, we an how SEE everything in our pantry.  It's awesome!  We are SO happy to have everything accessible and organized!

Pantry Organization Ideas by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}

You'll notice that we decided to leave the very bottom shelf deep so we could store some of our appliances and larger items on it. We also still store our dog food and paper towels beneath it, and it's nice for that stuff to be somewhat hidden by the deep shelf.

Pantry Organization Ideas by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}And here are some more glorious “AFTER” photos for you to enjoy.

Pantry Organization Ideas by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}

Pantry Organization Ideas by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}Let's recap, shall we?

Pantry Organization Ideas by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}

Pantry Organization tips by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body {}How is your pantry organized?  Do you have a fabulous pantry organization tip that I haven't mentioned?  If so, please share it with me and my readers–we would love to hear it!

Before you go, don't forget to enter to win $650 CASH in an awesome giveaway I am co-hosting with some fabulous bloggers.  That would give you lots of money to organize your pantry :)


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  1. Lynne says:

    I painted my kitchen cabinets off white with oil based paint. I am not happy with the way they turned out. Can I use your method on oil base paint?

    • Tasha A. says:

      Hi Lynne! I have never tried it, but this is what General Finishes’ website says about its milk paint: “General Finishes milk paints will adhere to a variety of surfaces including wood, fiberglass, PVC, vinyl, and most composite materials. Additionally, these paints can be applied over existing finishes, stains and other paints so long as the existing finish is fully dry. However, when painting over other finishes, it’s important to always test a small area first to make sure the paint adheres well to the original surface.” I hope that helps!

  2. Thanks for the storing and organizing tips. Sometimes I need some advises about how to arrange my things and to store them correctly. Greetings

  3. […] 13.  Pantry Organization Tips by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body […]

  4. I recently organized my pantry similar to what you did but my can goods I used shoe boxes. put them in that you can fit seven In the there .my selves are deep also so so the shoe boxes fit perfectly so nothing gets pushed behind anymore I love the ideas.

  5. […] The Best Pantry Organization Tips – Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body […]

  6. Maricruz says:

    Hi, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.

    When I look at your blog in Ie, it looks fine but when opening
    in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, superb blog!

  7. candy says:

    I redid my pantry 2 years ago. Hot pink walls, Spring green between the shelves and white shelving.

    I have moved 5 times and have had various size pantries and cabinets. My best organizing tool are the lazy susan. The use the corner space int he walk in pantry effeciently. I use in both my cooking cabinet (for the oils and spices) and the baking cabinet (again for spice, small items, flavorings). It is easy to organize each lazy susan by zone..

    • Tasha A. says:

      Great tip, Candy! Our new and improved shelves are not deep enough for a lazy susan, but I can see that would be a fabulous solution, too!

  8. kate says:

    Hi Tasha,
    Where did you get the cute blue baskets?
    beautiful job!!!!

  9. Ichikurai says:

    Your pantry looks awesome! I’d love to have a pantry since we have a large family and buy in bulk. But I make do with wire racks. BTW are you going to reinforce the middle of those shelves? They might start to bow from the weight.

    • Tasha A. says:

      Hi! Thank you! We have no plans to reinforce the middle of the shelves. There is a bracket running the entire length the shelves in the back and on the sides. With the thickness of the shelves and the shallowness of them, they are very well supported and I don’t think bowing will be an issue.

  10. […] You can also read all about how we transformed our kitchen backsplash by painting it.  Talk about a thrifty transformation!  And if you haven’t check out the full reveal, I hope you will–there is A LOT more to see!  You can see part 1 of the reveal here, and part 2 of the reveal here.  You can also learn all about our pantry makeover here. […]

  11. Mila Bassett says:

    Hi Tasha! For a second I thought I am looking at my pantry, the layout of our pantries look identical and mine is organized similarly to yours. You did a wonderful job! I really like how you didn’t go for all matchy containers but used just enough of some baskets to group items by category. You are so right about deep shelves being a Bermuda Triangle! My solution to that was using long baskets that reach all the way to the back wall. I am planning a series of posts on kitchen organization, including pantry. I would love to include yours!

  12. […]  As you know, we are presently working on our kitchen makeover.  Phase 1 began with our pantry makeover.  Phase 2 involved creating this MAGNIFICENT {if I do say so myself} DIY herringbone plank wall in […]

  13. Mandy says:

    Awesome, awesome, awesome….I love it. Makes me want to have a pantry now!!!

    Can I ask, if all your foodstuffs are stored in your pantry, then what do you put in your kitchen presses??? Just curious…..

  14. Good job on your pantry. It will make life so much easier.

    • Thank you, Glenna! By the way, I cannot figure out how to comment on your blog! I have tried several times to comment on some of your amazing posts lately and can’t! It seems to want to force me to log in to a account (which I don’t have). Any ideas? Anyway, I hope you know I am over way regularly. You have almost single-handedly convinced me that I need a Silhouette or Cricut!

  15. Your pantry “before” definitely looks like my pantry “now!” Deep shelves definitely are tough to keep organized. So many things get lost, like empty granola bar boxes that my kids forget to grow away;)

  16. Naomi J says:

    Those are all great tips! Someday, when I have a pantry I can call my own (we have one, but we rent, so…) I will totally implement all of these things! Our pantry now has way deep shelves, which is nice because you can put a lot of stuff on it, but all the stuff has to be in front and behind each other and it is maddening to try to take things out and put them back where they go. Most often things just get shoved wherever. Plus we have sliding doors (what a terrible idea), so we can’t even use over the door organizers. AND we can’t see all the things in our pantry at once. Lame! So yeah, great job re-doing your pantry!

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