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12 Pantry Mistakes The Container Store Thinks You’re Making

Looking to give your kitchen pantry a makeover? Side-step these slip-ups to create a neat and tidy space with these tips from the ultimate storage experts.

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Professional pantry organizing tips

Have you ever wondered how a professional would recommend organizing your pantry? If so, click ahead for these tips from Cori Horsch,  buyer for kitchen at The Container Store. She shares how to correct the most common mistakes you might be making. While you’re at it, follow these 13 tips to organize your kitchen counters once and for all.

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Mistake: Mixing categories


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Grouping like with like is a basic rule of organizing—and one we should all try to follow according to Horsch. Think in terms of broad categories: contain all baking ingredients together and do the same for beverages, breakfast, canned goods, condiments, grains/pastas, and snack foods. That way “when looking for a specific item, you’ll know right where to go to find it,” Horsch explains.

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stasher bagsvia

Mistake: Losing little stuff


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Container Store customers are obsessed with Stasher bags and for good reason. They are the perfect way to contain all the little things that get lost in the pantry, like seasoning packets and accessories for small appliances. Use the easy-to-see-through clear version or color-code by category.

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Mistake: Wasting space


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You might be overlooking valuable pantry storage according to Horsch. Maximize every inch by using a shelf expander to add an extra layer of storage to your existing shelf. And solve those awkward corners with a customer favorite, The Home Edit Divided Lazy Susan. Have you ever wondered who is the Susan in the “Lazy Susan?”

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Mistake: Piling instead of filing


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Stacking stuff is a big mistake; when you pull something from the bottom, you risk an avalanche. Use dividers to divvy up the space so you can slide things in and out with ease. To save time, try storing pot and pan lids, baking sheets, food storage containers, and even lunch bags this way. Discover the 17 products from The Container Store that you’ll wish you had in your life sooner.

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Mistake: Guessing what’s inside


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Horsch has a simple solution to the problem of not knowing what’s inside the storage container; apply re-usable write-on labels. Or better yet, she suggests for a clean look and so you can see what it is you use clear containers. They eliminate the need for guessing what’s in there and how much is left. Looking for more label inspiration? Here are 10 creative ways to use a label maker—and feel instantly organized!

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Mistake: Having sticky shelves


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Shelf protectors do more than just protect the shelf, they make it, “very easy to wipe up the mess with a wet rag or paper towel,” Horsch says. And the Montauk Open-Front Bin “is your best friend for spills!” Store messy marinades and sticky sauces inside and if anything spills, they’re washable. Check out these 16 pantry organization ideas you’ll wish you knew before.

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Mistake: Not unboxing


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Horsch’s habit of opening and dumping could not be easier and it makes so much sense. She recommends designating “reach in bins for categories like protein bars, chocolate, snacks, and easy-to-grab single-serve foods. Then get in the habit of opening the bulk box and dumping the food into the bin.” Follow these 5 ways to save more money when buying in bulk.

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Mistake: Picking the wrong storage containers


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The wrong containers can cost you money, time, and space. If they are not airtight, “like the hard to keep in stock ProKeeper,” then Horsch reminds us, “you’ll have to re-buy food that goes stale.” If they are not labeled or see-through you may overbuy or not restock in time and risk running out. And if they do not stack then you’re wasting valuable pantry space.

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Mistake: Always alphabetizing


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Instead of wasting time reciting the alphabet, Horsch prefers to simply, “keep the most often used items up front for easy access.”

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Mistake: Not using a step stool


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Less convenient spots, like a fourth shelf, are “perfect to store back stock (like those extra boxes of chicken broth) or rarely used items” according to Horsch. But you might need a step stool to help you reach it safely. She suggests keeping a slim, folding, step stool in your pantry so you can easily reach those up high spaces.

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Mistake: Forgetting to rotate


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If you keep re-stocking with the new in front, you risk forgetting to use the cans in the back before they expire. Horsch recommends using a gravity can feeder; simply fill from the top and it will dispense from the bottom. That way you are always using your back stock first. These are the 16 pantry items you’re probably keeping for too long.

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Mistake: Skipping the edit


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“Once your pantry is set-up and everything has a place, maintaining it will take minimal effort,” Horsch explains. During the purge process remove anything you’ll never use, like a gift set of sauces in flavors you don’t like and relocate these 15 foods you should never keep in your pantry.

Jamie Novak
Jamie is a cleaning and organizing expert with more than 20 years of experience. When she's not on deadline, you can find her searching for the mango slicer that mysteriously disappeared from her kitchen utensil drawer. The author of Keep This Toss That: the practical guide to tidying up she covers cleaning and organizing for