Declutter Pantry & Food Cabinets

Decanting Pantry Food


1. to remove mess or clutter from (a place).

2. to organize and prioritize (one’s commitments, material possessions, etc.)

3. to let it go

Declutter First, Organize Next. 

Pulling out what you no longer want is key to creating space and will make the organizing process smoother. Whether it’s clothing from a hanger, shoes from a rack, books from a shelf, paper from a filing cabinet, or toys from a bin, it’s time to make decisions on the things you are ready to let go. Focus first on decluttering. When the unwanted is out of the way, begin cleaning and organizing.

*** Read both steps before getting started, and choose how you will like to proceed. If you have a lot of food to go through and are limited on time, break the process up into the DECLUTTER step now and the CLEANING & ORGANIZING step later. ***


Step One

Declutter the Pantry and Food Cabinets

  • Take a “Before” photo of the pantry or food cabinets.
  • Have on hand plenty of plastic trash or paper bags for 1) trash, 2) recycling, 3) compost 4) give away/donate items
  • Prep a bottle of all-purpose cleaner or mild soap, and a clean sponge or rag.
  • Grab a pen and pad of paper for notes.
  • One area at a time, pull out the old and expired food from the kitchen cabinets, pantry, refrigerator/freezer, even the emergency kit (make a list of what needs immediate replacement in the kit.) You may have heard that labels offer “suggested” expirations, but are you willing to take that chance?  
  • Compost expired food and recycle the packaging. If you have non-expired, non-perishable dry food you want to give away, set it aside in the “donate” bag. 
  • Make note of what you are buying too much of and prevent future waste.

Step Two

Clean and Organize the Shelves & Cabinets (can be done the same day or another)

  • If you didn’t already take everything out during the declutter process, do it one cabinet or shelf at a time. Place on a nearby table or countertop surface. Start sorting and place like with like. Your brain is making an important mental note of what you own.
  • Sort like items – soups, grains, beans, breads, snack foods, baking items, spices, breakfast items, drink (tea, coffee, cocoa, etc.) Keep like with like to find things faster and avoid buying duplicates.
  • Wipe empty food cabinets and pantry surfaces with a wet and warm, soapy cloth or all-purpose cleaner. Crumbs and goop accumulate over time, like on that bottle of honey. Keep ants and critters from sniffing out the goods and protect your cabinets with regular cleaning. Allow to completely dry before putting things away.
  • Put away like items together, labels facing forward when possible. Think “grocery store display.”
  • Take an “After” photo of your organized pantry & food cabinets.
Feel like getting a little more organized around the kitchen? Read up on how to make a Drink Zone.

Bella_Organizing_Best_Professional_Organizers_San_Francisco_Oakland_Berkeley_silicon_valley_montereyIsabella Guajardo, founder and owner of Bella Organizing, is a San Francisco Bay Area professional organizer offering home organizing, interior redesign, and residential move management services throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. Call (510) 229-7321 or email for more information. Gift certificates are available.

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