Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Organizing: Spice Cabinet

We moved into our house just over 4 years ago, and I was very pregnant at the time.  So, needless to say, packing and unpacking was done very quickly, and I didn't have much energy to put into purging and setting things up the way I want.  We had renovated the kitchen, and I had installed something which I loved (and still do) - a spice cabinet with roll out shelves, right next to my stove.  So, in went all the spices and condiments.  I have been enjoying this convenient cabinet for the last several years, but it has gradually gotten a bit out of control.  A few things were particularly bothering me:

  • My spice tins were designed for the spice cabinet at my old house.  The labels were on the side of the tin, since my old cabinet was an upper one, and I would look at the spices head on. 
    In our new house, my spice cabinet is a roll-out shelf, and I am looking at my spice tins from above, so I can no longer see the labels without taking the tins out.  It is time consuming and annoying playing the "guessing game" every time I need a spice.  I needed to find a way to label the top.
**I have been asked where I got the tins from - they are from a store called Lee Valley Tools.  A great size and good value!
  • The second shelf is where I keep extra spices. This one had gotten especially out of control.  There are so many packages of spices that I don't even know what I have anymore - and I keep buying more.  I needed to go through, throw out old ones and find a way to organize what I have so that I can easily refill my little tins when they run empty.

  • The bottom shelf is where I keep things like sauces and oils.  Again, a little out of control, and some really old stuff in there that I just need to purge.  I had also noticed that the bottom was a bit "sticky" - time to give everything a good scrub.

Special things I was saving for "someday".
Got too old, now they are in the
garbage bin!

So, I embarked on what I knew wouldn't be one of those 10 minute jobs (like the time I organized my tupperware drawer) - but one that would take a bit longer but would be very satisfying.  So, I went at it - I started with the bottom shelf - took everything out - and scrubbed.  I ended throwing out most of what was in there - a lot of specialty oils I was saving for "some day".  This was a valuable lesson - use your specialty items now, don't save them for some day - because like mine, they may just end up getting old and thrown out. 

Labeling with a Sharpie now lets me
see what is in the little tins from
 Then, I moved on to the top shelf (I'll admit, it's because the middle one was still intimidating) - I took out all the tins, emptied the ones I knew had been sitting there for a while, gave them all a good wipe down.  Then I scrubbed out the bottom of that drawer.   But the big thing I did here was use a Sharpie marker to write the content of the tin on the top of the tin (I tested it and I learned that you can remove Sharpie off of glass by rubbing it with alcohol).  So, off I went, labelling away - so that I will no longer have to play the guessing game everytime I need a spice!  YIPPEE!

Onto the dreaded second drawer, I started by emptying everything out - and putting the unopened bags of spices into alphabetical order.  I was shocked by how many of the same item I had, what a waste!  I threw out all opened bags (even though the general rule is that spices are only good for 6 months, I tend to stretch that out to a year....ok, maybe two).  It "hurt so good" to throw out so much stuff.  Then I put everything back into the drawer - with my unopened spices in alphabetical order so that when one of my tins is empty, I can just go to the second drawer and see if I have another package or if I need to take a trip to the store. 

TADA!!!  It took about an hour and half, but I think it really was time well spent!  What little space have you been organizing lately?  Do share!

Top shelf for easily accessible spices while I am cooking.

Bottom shelf now has room to spare!

Middle shelf to house "refills" and
some other small items.


  1. Nice job!! I'm visiting from Org Junkie. Where did you find your spice containers? Love them. Keep up the good work!


  2. Thanks for the encouragement Sue! I got the tins from a store called Lee Valley Tools - I think they have them in both the US and Canada. They are one of my favourite sources for interesting kitchen stuff - with sort of an industrial edge. I will re-post with a link to their site. Thanks again!

  3. Starting a job like this is so formidable! It takes a kind of bravery. You deserve a round of blog-applause!

  4. Thanks for the encouragement carb snark - stay tuned - I may tackle my pantry next!