Many of the beautiful pantries you see on Instagram and Pinterest are almost works of art. You may see some of those features in this video, but there is just one feature that I am focusing on: visibility. In my book The Circulation Solution, I talk about the key to staying organized. That key is to have a plan for movement in a series of manageable, reliable stages. That’s what I mean by circulation and circulation prevents accumulation.
One of the most critical factors to items circulating reliably is visibility. The rule is simple: Reveal don’t conceal. When items are visible you create a clear scoreboard. When you instantly know where you stand, you can decide quickly and act quickly. To keep up with a football game, you can instantly take a glance at the scoreboard. This is where you can clearly see how many points the losing team needs and how much time is left. So too with a clearly organized pantry. You can instantly identify what you need to pick up from the grocery store and how many.
1. Remove Excess
So, what makes things hard to find in a pantry? Excess stuff conceals. Therefore, toss expired food and donate forgotten or unwanted food to a food pantry. Reserve top shelves for bulk quantities and lower shelves for heavier items like beverages. That way you free up space in the middle.
2. Clear Containers
I know. Folks love beatuiful baskets and we can use them if you want. However, to increase your visibility, find-ability, and general ability to stay organized, I recommend these clear lucite containers. They’re very popular and with good reason. You may see them as a wasteful expense but consider how they save you time and money.
One of the simple rules in my book is Frequency Merits Facility. The more often you do something, the easier it should be. Buying groceries is something we need to do all the time, so always having that clear scoreboard saves time. And have you ever wasted money on an item, simply because you couldn’t find the same item you already had?
Maybe you can use up the extras before they expire. However, in the meantime, you have more of the excess which conceals. When you can see your full variety of snacks all at once, you give them a fighting chance. This prevents the hidden ones from going stale.
How you fill the bins contributes to the visibility, so it is not superficial. Like a supermarket shelf, always position items vertically with the labels always facing outward. Supermarket shelves don’t have the same variety of sizes surrounding the bags, so they support each other. When you have a variety of sizes, you need the structure of a bin.
Here are some tips for keeping bags vertical and visible:
1.If the base of the bag is too wide to fit straight, tip it back so that you can push the base upward and the corners turn down. Now it fits beautifully in a straight-on view.
2. If the base of the bag is creating too much depth, limiting how many bags you can fit, same thing but tip it all the way back to bring the contents to the top.
3. Final step, a simple pull across the top. Superficial? Perhaps, but it does contribute to the visibility and that does justify the effort.
4. OK here’s one that IS completely superficial. I admit it. I just hate the look of chip clips. So, for open bags do this instead. Push the air out of the top and fold forward at least 3 times. Then fold the sides backward, push the fold backwards and tuck it underneath. It won’t be fully locked into the corners, but enough to keep the bag closed and airtight.
Let’s be honest. The only way to get your kids to participate with these tricks is to convince them that it’s a fun game to make things visible. Hey, it would have worked on me.
Are you wondering whether one can justify decanting things like cereal into air-tight canisters? You can, as long as you can clearly identify the contents, such as cereal. Check out my Organizing Pet Supplies video for further details.
3. Three Tier Expend-A-Shelf
Here is a way to actually improve upon a supermarket display. In a supermarket, the cans and jars are on the same level, because they have the advantage of wider, deeper shelves. In your pantry, you will keep fewer cans and jars in a limited space, to help maximize the visibility. The Three Tier Expend-A-Shelf product fits the bill. I still like to keep the same items in a line with the label facing outward. Also, by having the items behind elevated, you can see exactly what’s left and what’s running out. You remove the guesswork. Again, you have a clear scoreboard of what you need.
4. Lazy Susan
A great way to maximize the dead space in your shelf corners is with a Lazy Susan or turntable. Rather than having to shift bins to access the corner, you simply rotate the turntable to access what you have. I think the turntable is particularly well suited for tall things like oils and vinegars. Spices might also be good candidates. Position them similarly to the three tier organizers with tallest items in the back.
5. Labels Enable
The final step in maximizing visibility is choosing labels. You may think labels are unnecessary if you can see what’s inside a clear container. However, they play a part in maintaining dedicated zones. The exercise of getting organized is all about clarifying a reasonable quantity to keep in each category. It’s important to leave a little room for growth in each category.
It’s also important to be able to see when you have exceeded your reasonable limits. Labels keep you in check. They create a clear scoreboard for the entire family, even when the containers are empty. Don’t just shove an excess item from another category into an empty bin. Learn from the scoreboard. If you are out of healthy snacks, don’t fill the healthy snacks bin with the excess potato chips you bought. If you want to re-evaluate your priorities and keep fewer healthy snacks, then that’s different.
A label reminds you of the priorities you have chosen. When a container is empty, the label reminds you what needs filling. If you want a bold reminder, go with the black on white P-Touch label. If you just need a subtle reminder, then go with the white on clear P-Touch label.
You may see other professional organizers show you ways to make your pantry look pretty. That’s fine, but that’s not my purpose. My purpose is to make it as easy as possible to stay organized. So easy that it feels like cheating. Hopefully you can clearly see how these tips will help that.
So that’s it for pantry organizing for visibility; I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions in the box below!