How to Declutter Your Pantry

A cluttered pantry is not just an eyesore – it can lead to a lot of wasted food and money. Having an organized pantry makes it easier to see what you have, use things before they expire, and identify what needs to be restocked. Decluttering your pantry may seem like a daunting task, but it can be accomplished by following these steps.

Do a Full Inventory and Remove Expired Items

The first step in pantry organization is taking everything out and doing a full inventory. As you remove items, check expiration dates and toss anything that is past its prime. Some things to look for:

  • Canned goods or jarred foods past their “best by” date
  • Spices and baking ingredients more than 2 years old
  • Packaged foods like cookies, chips, granola bars that are stale
  • Pantry items with broken seals or damaged packaging

Getting rid of old expired items clears the way for new organized items.

Group Like Items Together

After removing expired goods, organize what is left by grouping like items together. Having similar items together makes everything easier to find. Consider grouping foods as:

Baking Goods

  • All-purpose flour, bread flour, whole wheat flour
  • White sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar
  • Baking powder, baking soda
  • Vanilla, almond extract, cinnamon, nutmeg

Dry Goods

  • Pastas, rice, quinoa, beans, lentils
  • Cereals, oatmeal
  • Nuts, dried fruits


  • Crackers, granola bars, popcorn
  • Chips, pretzels
  • Cookies, candy

Canned Goods

  • Fruits, vegetables, beans
  • Soups, sauces, gravies
  • Tuna, salmon, chicken

Grouping like items together makes your pantry neat and easy to navigate.

Use Clear Containers and Optimize Space

Using clear storage containers is a game-changer for pantry organization. You can instantly see what’s inside each container without having to shuffle things around or move items out of the way. Some good options:

  • Stackable clear plastic bins
  • Glass canisters with airtight lids
  • Clear jars for bulk foods like pastas and grains

When transferring items into clear containers, be sure to label the outside. This avoids the annoyance of constantly having to open and search containers to find what you need.

Also look for ways to better utilize vertical space with organizers like:

  • Step shelves to create extra layers
  • Wall-mounted spice racks
  • Tiered racks for canned goods

Getting items up off the floor and using vertical organizers makes more storage space in your pantry.

Categorize and Label Everything

A labeling system is essential for maintaining organization. After sorting all foods into groups, label each shelf, bin, or storage container. Choose a labeling style that works for you:

  • Chalkboard labels + chalk marker
  • Printed labels adhered to containers
  • Masking tape + permanent marker

Some key categories to consider labeling:

  • Baking ingredients (flours, sugars, baking powder)
  • Spices and herbs
  • Dry goods (pastas, rice, cereal)
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Snacks
  • Condiments (oils, vinegars, sauces)

A logical labeling system helps keep things neat and easy to find. Periodically update labels if you change how things are organized.

Store Foods Properly to Maximize Shelf Life

Storing pantry items correctly helps extend their shelf life so nothing goes bad before you can use it. Follow these guidelines:

  • Keep cool, dark spaces for potatoes, onions and winter squash.
  • Transfer flours, grains and baking mixes into airtight containers.
  • Keep nuts and seeds in air-tight containers in fridge or freezer.
  • Store oils away from light and heat.
  • Transfer spices from their original containers into air-tight glass jars.

Proper food storage helps you keep pantry items fresher for longer. Discard anything past its prime before it spoils.

Have a “Use Up” Shelf

Designate a “use up” shelf to keep track of foods that need to be eaten soon. This ensures opened packages and items approaching their “best by” dates get used up in time. Place the soonest-to-expire foods on one dedicated shelf and make a point to use them first.

Some candidates for the use-up shelf:

  • Opened bags of snacks or baking supplies
  • Canned/jarred foods that were recently opened
  • Anything marked “use within 10 days of opening”

Rotate this shelf frequently and you’ll have far less wasted food.

Keep a Running Grocery List

As you declutter your pantry, make note of depleted items that need restocking. Keep an ongoing grocery list on the fridge or pantry door to jot things down as you run out. Some tips:

  • Organize your list by the sections of the grocery store.
  • Mark needed staple items vs. nice-to-haves.
  • Note specifics like brand, quantity, size.

Keeping an ongoing grocery list prevents duplicate purchases and saves money on groceries.

Add Functional Organizers as Needed

Look for areas in your pantry where small organizers can add function. Options like:

  • Spice racks to keep jars upright and easy to grab.
  • Vertical paper towel holders to save space.
  • Tiered fruit baskets for potatoes and onions.
  • Drawer organizers for packets and drink mixes.

Multi-purpose organizers provide specialized storage for different types of foods and supplies. Add functional elements tailored to your space.

Maintain with Quick Weekly Tidying

To keep your pantry stay neat, do mini tidying sessions each week:

  • Put foods back in their designated homes.
  • Get rid of any new expired or spoiled items.
  • Move older unopened items to the front.
  • Update labels as needed if you re-organize.
  • Take 5 minutes to vacuum up crumbs or dust.

Doing a weekly mini-declutter becomes a simple habit over time. A few minutes maintains organization.

Know When to Utilize Extra Storage Spaces

If your pantry items simply don’t fit, look for other spaces to store overflow:

  • Under-bed bins for bulk paper goods or extra canned foods.
  • Freestanding utility cabinets for appliances or backstock.
  • Shelving in the basement for boxes of cereal, pasta, etc.

Extra spaces like closets, garages, or basement storage can provide auxiliary room for stock-up items. This leaves your main pantry clutter-free and organized.

Don’t Overbuy Just to Fill Space

Avoid the temptation to buy more than you need or can realistically use just to occupy newly organized space. Stock your pantry based on:

  • Realistic consumption for your household.
  • Regular staples your family eats.
  • Ingredients for meals in your usual rotation.

Stick to practical purchases rather than impulse buys. Remember, empty space is easier to keep organized! Ongoing decluttering is easier than purging a huge buildup later.

Frequently Asked Questions About Decluttering Your Pantry

Decluttering your pantry can seem like an overwhelming task. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions to make the process easier.

How do I know what to throw away from my pantry?

Check expiration dates and toss anything past its prime – dried herbs and spices over 2 years old, stale cereal, crackers, or baked goods. Also get rid of anything with damaged packaging that may introduce bugs or moisture into your pantry.

What’s the best way to organize a small, cramped pantry?

Make the most of vertical space with wall-mounted spice racks, over-the-door racks, and multi-tier shelving. Use bins and baskets to hold foods so you can stack and slide containers around to maximize every inch.

How often should I declutter my pantry?

Aim to do a deep declutter and reorganization every 6 months. Do lighter maintenance like wiping jars, tidying bins, and removing expired items weekly.

What types of containers are best for pantry storage?

Opt for clear plastic bins, airtight glass jars, or clear canisters so you can easily see contents. Make sure containers are food-grade, BPA-free, and have airtight lids to keep foods fresh.

Should I keep my pantry in the dark or use lighting?

Dark spaces are best for onions, potatoes, and oils to prevent premature spoiling. For other items, use LED lighting so you can easily see everything – just avoid direct sunlight streaming into your pantry.

How can I avoid wasting food when decluttering my pantry?

Donate unexpired canned and boxed goods to a local food bank. Compost any spoiled produce and stale spices, grains, flours. Toss anything spoiled, expired, or with damaged packaging.

What’s the best organizational method for a pantry?

Group like items together – pastas, oils, canned goods, etc. Use clear bins and containers to make contents visible. Label everything, and go vertical where you can to maximize space.

How do I stop my pantry from getting cluttered and disorganized again?

Regular maintenance is key – tidy, wipe down shelves, check dates weekly. Have a donate box for incoming groceries that don’t get used. Don’t overbuy just to fill space.

Is there a checklist I can use to declutter my pantry?

Yes! Use a comprehensive checklist that includes: removing expired items, cleaning shelves, reorganizing and grouping like items, optimizing space, adding labels and bins, evaluating storage options.

Keeping your pantry clean and organized takes some work upfront, but the ease and reduced waste are well worth the effort. Following the tips above will transform even the most crowded, messy pantry into an efficient storage space.


A cluttered, disorganized pantry leads to a lot of wasted time and money on duplicate or forgotten purchases. Taking the time to do a deep clean-out and create an organizational system has huge benefits. You’ll be able to find items easily, know exactly what you have on hand, reduce food waste, and save money on groceries.

The key decluttering steps are: taking inventory, removing expired items, grouping like foods together, utilizing clear containers and vertical space, labeling everything, storing foods properly, maintaining with weekly tidying, and avoiding overbuying.

Set aside time on a weekend to tackle your pantry and commit to quick tidying sessions to stay on top of it. You’ll gain back wasted time searching for ingredients while cooking. Most importantly, you’ll get control of your inventory and reduce unnecessary food waste and spending. A decluttered pantry makes home cooking feel easier, less stressful, and far more enjoyable.