Several people have contacted me recently to tell me that their kitchens and pantries are driving them crazy. I addressed kitchen organizing in a recent blog, but storage for the kitchen and the pantry can best be summarized with an approach I call showroom vs. stockroom.

Consider the typical clothes shopping experience. There is a nice variety of clothes attractively displayed within a few steps of each other. That’s what you want in your kitchen with your food and cookware.

In the clothes store, the reason you get a nice variety of clothes is because the number of different items is LIMITED. If you had to look at the entire inventory, you would be overwhelmed and walk out.

That’s why there is a stockroom in the back. To keep your kitchen manageable, keep the number of same items in it limited. Save the bulk purchases for the pantry and/or basement. You can think of them as your personal stockroom.

It is more important that the showroom clothes are open and accessible while the stockroom clothes are more closed and store-able, possibly boxed and stackable. An example of this in the kitchen would be an open roll of paper towels on a dispenser vs. a twelve pack protected in plastic in the pantry or basement.

In both cases, it is important that the items are visible and findable. If clothes are lost in a stockroom, there is the risk of them going out of style before they can be sold, but if food is lost in the pantry or the basement, there is the risk of it expiring. That’s a waste of money, which really hurts these days.

The answer to this is to limit your food purchases. While the whole point of keeping a personal stockroom is to have back-up supplies on hand, there is such a thing as too much. Even stockrooms have their limits.

To find the best way to maximize your pantry space, be sure to check out my series on closet storage. The same rules apply.

Also, the same showroom vs. stockroom approach applies to office supplies for your home office.

TODAY’S KEY TO UNLOCKING CLUTTER: Arrange your kitchen for visible action and you pantry for visible storage.