How to Organize: A Spice Cupboard Solution

Posted by Jennifer Suarez onDecember15,2011

 Sometimes getting organized is as simple as taking 10 minutes to actually fix the thing that bugs you.


Case in point: I was rooting around in my spice cupboard this week, looking for cumin. I KNEW I had some, but I could not find it. I grumbled about the small spice cupboard, blaming it for my difficulty.


And then I stopped a moment, realizing the small space is NOT the problem. The problem is, I have too many items in there and they're not organized in any way to make it easy for me to find what I need.


Organizing Note #1: Figure out the real problem.


So I took everything out of the cupboard and put it on the counter. I then began lining the spices up in alphabetical order. Recently, Janice mentioned that most food has an expiration date -- even spices -- so I examined each bottle to make sure it was still good. Several ended up in the trash can.


Organizing Note #2: Purge.


I also discovered duplicates. I have no idea how we ended up with two bottles of red pepper flakes, but both were nearly full. After some consideration, I tossed one. I hate to be wasteful, but realistically, it will take me YEARS to get through one bottle. By that time, the other will be old and gross.


Organizing Note #3: Be realistic about what you keep.


Once the bottles were lined up, I could see how many I had. I put the larger items (sea salt, cocoa powder) into the adjacent empty cupboard, because they are different shapes and sizes.


Organizing Note #4: Sort.


Next, I divided the regular spices in half with my arm, sweeping some to one side. This turned out be spices starting with the letters A through G. I took a moment to wipe the shelves clean (Organizing Note #5: Clean as you go) and then put A-G onto one shelf. The rest onto a second.


Although I put them in some order on the shelf, I know that maintaining complete alpha order will be more work than I care to manage.


Organizing Note #6: Be realistic about your daily habits to better maintain the order you created.


However, by adding a label to each shelf, I know that I can at least return spices back into one of two groups, making it easier later to to dig for the one I want. My labelmaker was not at hand, so I just used a simple piece of masking tape, which will function just fine.


Organizing Note #7: Use labels.


And ta-da! The spice cupboard isn't perfection. (Organizing Note #8: Forget perfection or you'll never get done. You're seeking daily usefulness.) Perfection would be a system that enabled me to see all the spices lined up. But in my current kitchen, that's unrealistic.


Meanwhile, I can now find the cumin.