5 Tips for Organizing a Small Pantry

We’re sharing 5 Tips for Organizing a Small Pantry and the simple steps we used to tame the mess at Bliss Barracks.

Shortly before the holidays, my Mom called with a big and (according to her) “embarrassing problem” that needed to be addressed “immediately.”

“I’m stuck.”

“Like REALLY stuck, CoCo, and I don’t know how to fix it,” she said with a sense of urgency.

My Mom Is not usually animated so I held my comments as she continued.

“I went out and bought all these baskets for the pantry last year.  I mean, A LOT of them. I’ve tried all this time to make them work. And they just don’t. Or at least they don’t for me.”

She paused.

“The pantry is a MESS.  A BIG MESS. And I can’t take it anymore.”

A few moments later, I received photos of the 3.5 ft by 3.5 ft pantry at Bliss Barracks.

Sure, it was messy.

But I quickly assured her there was nothing to be embarrassed about and told her everything could be fixed with just a few tweaks.

Truthfully, I receive messages pretty frequently about how to keep small spaces like the pantry, closets, and drawers neat and tidy.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for someone to go out and buy lots of baskets one week and then quickly become overwhelmed when the system no longer works a few weeks later. 

If you’re one of those people like my Mom trying hard to make it all work but still feel like it’s “not quite there yet,” hope is on the way!

Here’s a look at 5 Tips for Organizing a Small Pantry…

Small Pantry Organization Tip 1: Declutter and Toss

Clear off the kitchen table or island to use as a work surface area. Then, take all the items out of the pantry and place them on the table or island. 

Create categories by pairing like items with like (i.e., keep all the canned food, rice, pasta, condiments, etc.)

Toss items that are expired.

Tip 2: Assess Your Needs & Determine Your Priorities

After my Mom had decluttered the items in the existing baskets, she was better able to assess her needs.

For one thing, she realized the baskets were not ideal for things like canned goods and oils.

My Mom also realized she didn’t like the visual clutter that came with having a variety of snacks on hand for everyone from the littles to my Dad.

This was easily remedied by decanting snacks and using clear containers. 

Small Pantry Organization Tip 3: Invest in Smart Storage Solutions & Clear Containers to Decant Where Possible

Most of the time, baskets work well to help corral everything from peanut butter to snacks to cereals. 

That said, it’s important to refine storage solutions where needed because the pantry is not a “one size fits all” kind of space.

Use clear containers for dry goods including sugar, flour, pasta, beans, and rice so you can keep the pantry fully stocked with staples.

Turntables can help corral bottles of oil to make them easily accessible.

Try risers to keep canned goods neat and tidy.

Tip 4: Shop Your Backstock First & Don’t Over Buy

I know some of you are lucky enough to have a backstock.  My parents have room for one in their home too.

If this is the case, make sure you shop your backstock first before heading to the store. That way, you’re not buying items you already have on hand. 

Also, and I know this might be a hard one, if you’re snack basket is already overflowing eat your chips and cookies before buying more.

Small Pantry Organization Tip 5: Refine Where Needed & Commit to Daily/Weekly Maintenance

Keeping your pantry neat and tidy takes work.

It’s not a “one and done” kind of thing so you have to be fully committed to maintaining and organizing a small pantry.  

We clean and declutter our pantry each week before heading out for groceries. It makes it so much easier to put things away!

We also tweak as needed when we see things aren’t working right away.

If your pantry looks like this…don’t be embarrassed.

There’s plenty of time to take the first step and start decluttering today!

I hope these 5 simple tips for organizing a small pantry have helped. Let us know if you have any tips to share on how you keep your pantry neat and tidy too!

Until next time, I’ll see you on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

Many blessings,


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  1. I feel her pain and embarrassment even though hers wasn’t that bad. I’ve seen (and lived) with way worse. I have the pantry on my list but cannot make up my mind on what sort of containers to use. Love this and congrats to mom for raising such a handy and organized daughter!

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words, Cindy. I swear the minute S saw this post she was like, “Did your Mom approve this post?” 🙂 I was really close to not hitting publish on this one. But the truth is that buying baskets yet still feeling unorganized is a VERY common problem a lot of people can relate to. I’m thankful she was totally cool about it. Cheering you on as you make the final decisions on your pantry too! Big hugs, CoCo

  2. Hi, Coco…If potatoes and onions are stored next to each other…their gases give off and increase spoilage in each other. Just separate on different shelves. I’m a big lover of clear containers, jars and plastic in our tiny pantry. But, I remember doing this for my parents in what was then the ‘broom- disaster’ closet, and now your mom is now on the way to a great pantry! Great POST! Sandi

    1. Thanks so much for letting me know about the potatoes and onion, Sandi – I had no idea! Love that you helped your parents with their organizational needs too. It always makes such a huge difference when everyone gives their best gifts. Hope your day has been a happy one, CoCo

  3. It really does pay to organize real time. I tend to have a variety of different shapes moving through my pantry, and ongoing tweaks to how I organize really do help.

    1. It’s awesome that you’re open to tweaking things when they need it, Heidi, I swear that and decluttering are key. Sometimes what seems like it should work for one family doesn’t at all for another and I hate that makes people want to give up on being organized altogether. I always tell my Mom there are very few things that can’t be figured out 🙂 Hugs for a happy week, CoCo

  4. Ahh, I understand your mum’s pain! You see those awesome baskets and storage boxes/solutions in the store and you think they will solve all your pantry problems but somehow they never do! I blame Ikea haha. I am loving these simple steps to pantry declutter, CoCo; you’ve done an amazing job. And I agree decanting where possible is the way to go. I have to find those little steps for the cans etc – that would definitely solve one of my issues.

    1. Thank you for your sweet words, Katerina! My Mom was super embarrassed for me to even post this but I told her this is something that people struggle with all the time but few have the courage to talk about. It’s so funny that you reference IKEA because I swear they make everything look good 🙂 The can risers definitely helped to make a huge difference. They also have can racks which hold more so that might help you too. Cheering you on as you organize, CoCo

  5. Hi Coco,

    I find the key to organizing is empty everything out as well. I also agree you need to assess your needs and find what will work.

    At times I have found purging and moving things around helps.



    1. I keep trying to remind my Mom and others that we all have different needs because we’re in different seasons of life. While taking everything out to declutter and assess your needs takes a bit the effort is definitely worth it. Here’s to a new year filled with peace-filled and productive spaces 🙂 Sending you hugs for a happy weekend, CoCo

  6. My pantry is very small so I have to keep up with it. I have a turntable in my spice cabinet that works for all my spices. Tall ones are in the center and short ones are along the outside edge…works really well in a small space.

    1. That is such a great idea, Karen! I know so many people that love the turntables so I’m happy that you share your organizing tips with me so I can pass them on to others. My Mom loves her turntable and said it makes a huge difference in her pantry too. Hugs for a happy weekend, CoCo

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