If your kitchen pantry isn’t sparking joy, much less the slightest “what’s for dinner?” inspiration, it’s time to call in the arguable founder of the modern-day organizing craze, Marie Kondo. We went straight to the source to get Kondo’s pantry organization advice, and she delivered with easy, practical tips that anyone can follow (even if you can’t follow a recipe).
A pantry—and the kitchen as a whole—is one of the most difficult spaces to keep orderly, Kondo admits, but her top five suggestions, from how to categorize your ingredients to knowing when it’s time to say goodbye (with gratitude!) to worn-out tools, will get you there. Take notes, then take an afternoon to tackle the space once and for all.
Make Taking Inventory a Habit
Before you bring in your arsenal of risers and racks, “take the time to tidy all of your food,” says Kondo, noting what’s gone bad, what’s missing, and what you have way too much of. Then plan to do it all again in a couple months. “I recommend assessing your kitchen inventory regularly so you know what’s about to expire and can plan to replace it,” she notes.
Sort by Category
The KonMari pantry organization process involves tidying by food category (such as seasonings, dried carbs, canned goods, and baking essentials), not by individual ingredient or location. “Gather all items in the same food category in one area, then decide whether each item sparks joy for you or not when you are cooking,” says Kondo. Within each section, arrange the things you reach for most often front and center. The Costco-size container of oats you rarely dig into goes on the bottom shelf, toward the back.
Give Your Ingredients Boundaries
Stock up on the three B’s: bins, baskets, and boxes. That way items are contained so, say, your backup hot sauces aren’t knocking over every time you open the pantry door. Kondo stacks hers to make the most of vertical space—in fact one of her favorite organizers is this tiered, expandable spice rack, which lets her see every single label at a glance.
Evaluate Each and Every Kitchen Tool
Kondo recently said goodbye to some cooking gadgets that had seen better days: worn cutting boards, chipped knives, and the like. “I believe I used them to their fullest extent, and it was time to let go of them with gratitude,” she explains. (She upgraded to this sleek Japanese cutting board, in case you want to copy her.) Do the same with your tired tools, then invest in chic countertop storage. Kondo uses an in-drawer knife block to safely tuck chopping essentials away and a beautiful utensil holder to display her everyday items, like wooden spoons and tongs, within arm’s reach.
Designate a Home for Everything
Kondo’s key to long-term pantry organization: Assign a place for each object, from spatulas to salt. “If items don’t have a designated home, they can easily clutter countertops and accumulate mess,” says the expert. Ensure everything has a specific spot and soon you’ll always know where the almond butter is— and so will everyone else in your house.