Organizing My Spice Cabinet - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

Organizing My Spice Cabinet

Or, How I Got Overwhelmed By a Huge Bunch of Trees and Wondered Why Everyone Was Blathering About Something Called a "Forest"


Several years ago, LO got hold of a permanent sharpie and had a grand ol' time creating a mural on our dining room wall. Since we generally use our dining room for dog food and recycling storage, this was not a huge deal.

Then, while nesting with BB, I cleaned the kitchen (which shares a wall with the dining room) within an inch of its life.

All of a sudden, the Exorcist pea-soup green color that some former owner had painted on our walls became far too much for us to bear. We decided to paint the dining room and kitchen while J had a little time off between Christmas and New Year's.

Of course, as we have long known, no simple home improvement project is EVER done until someone utters the hated words "while we're at it." In this case, the words came when we decided to be really thorough in our cleaning efforts and temporarily removed the drop ceiling fluorescent lights that reside in between our back door and our basement door, pictured below looming menacingly over Halloween fun:

(In other words, we didn't think to take a before picture).

We HATE that fluorescent light. We've HATED it since we moved in. Since we were already there, J convinced me it was a good idea to pull it all out and try to recreate the lovely arches we have elsewhere in the house.

Momentarily made insane by grand DIY dreams, I agreed.

We thought our division of labor would go thusly: J would work his magic to create an elegant archway between the dining room and the kitchen, while I continued to clean the kitchen and begin the painting.

That worked for a while. I pulled off cabinet doors, emptied cabinets, cleaned, purged, and painted. But then, I tripped and fell into a morass of Pinterest.

You see, I did not want to replace my spices in the designated spice cabinet unless and until I could figure out a way to retrieve necessary spices while cooking without having to crawl into the cabinet and mutter things like "Where did the thyme go?" under my breath. I have tried in the past to organize my spices. I've alphabetized them. I've had super OCD friends rearrange them by height. I've put commonly used spices at the front and alphabetized the rest. Nothing stays organized for long.

So, I turned to that bastion of modern time-wasting, Pinterest. And I discovered that the secret to an organized spice cabinet is decanting one's spices into uniform containers.

Without further ado, I ordered myself 50 canisters and got my label maker all warmed up. The result is impressive:

Order! Alphabetizing! Uniform heights! The ability to reach into a cabinet and lay my hands on any spice! Always knowing where the thyme went!

Unfortunately, while I was working my tuchus off getting this taken care of, this is what the rest of my kitchen/dining room looks like:

(Please do take a moment to admire the lovely arch J has managed to recreate!)


So basically, my spices are organized like nobody's business, but I don't know where to find my favorite frying pan.

Clearly, While We're At It has struck again!


How do you organize your spices? I know this is a great deal of thought going into a fairly minor issue, but doesn't anyone else get tired of buying more vanilla/thyme/taco seasoning only to find four unopened ones somewhere in the back of the spice cabinet while looking for something else? Or is that just me?



racheltayse said:

Wow, that arch is lovely! And so are your spice cabinets!

We have spices in jars in a drawer, one layer, label side up, ideally organized by how frequently they are used. I say ideally because I'm the only one who puts them back in the same place so they tend to move frequently. It works well enough for us.

Every day is a succession of 'while we're at it' for me. I'm getting better at wrapping up one project before the next starts but it's so fun to begin something new and exciting!

January 14, 2014 11:10 PM

whitney37354 said:

So glad you're back!  I'm not a big cook, so there are not many spices to deal with at our house.  They are all on the top shelf of one cabinet.  I get up on a stool & take down what I need.  I don't buy more until I know I'm running low or it's gone past it's "use by" date.  I did a purse of the "pantry" just after Christmas and threw away quite a bit.  I did buy replacements & I hope we get to use them this time!

January 15, 2014 9:42 AM

kay in canada said:

Lazy Susan in an eye level cupboard for the bottles, with the taller stuff in the middle, and most often used on the edges.  The baggies of bulk spices that refill the bottles are in a shallow cardboard tray, so I can pull the whole thing out to find what I'm looking for. Infrequently used ones also live here.

January 20, 2014 10:03 PM

Juneflower said:

Nomorerack.com had the little plastic "as seen on TV" slide-out spice racks on a great sale. Unfortunately, this deal consisted of 8 racks but only 20 bottles. I gave away 2 racks and purchased bottles on eBay. Etsy had deliciously retro spice labels, some printed with spice names, some blank. They were dirt cheap. When I went online to match the Deco font, it was nearly $30, a deal-killer.  I found two free fonts online of equivalent age. Adobe Acrobat prohibited any but their proprietary fonts. BTW, the little plastic racks stick on their slides but they sure do save space.

January 21, 2014 8:13 AM

Live Like a Mensch said:

Whilst I was away on my blogging hiatus/maternity leave, I became obsessed with the incredible time suck

January 23, 2014 2:49 PM

dallasfan said:

I got so tired of searching through the spices that I finally came up with a system that works wonderful for me.  I have a pantry off the kitchen. I put one of those over the door shoe organizers with clear pockets on the inside of the pantry door and all the spices go in there.  I put the most used ones at eye level, then the less used ones in pockets above that.  Extracts, gravy mixes,enveloped seasoning go below and the bottom row is reserved for extra jars of spices that we use most frequently.  They are all organized and easy to get to and I see what I have at a glance.

January 26, 2014 7:56 PM

I still lubya said:

My mom lived 15 happy years as a full-time RV-er back in the late '80s and '90s.  Because she pulled her trailer behind a truck (and the trailer had no suspension), all the cupboard contents would get tossed about when she was on the road.  After each trip, she'd have to put spices back in place before she could begin cooking.  But Mom was a problem solver.  One afternoon he typed a list of all her spices, sorted the list alphabetically, and sequentially numbered each entry.  Then she taped the list inside a cabinet door, wrote the corresponding number on the top of each spice with a felt pen, and moved the spices to a drawer.  Only each spice container's top was visible.  They weren't so beautifully displayed but would stay put during a rough ride and were easy to locate, saving her time and space.  I remember Cinnamon was number 8.  I miss you, Mom!

January 27, 2014 3:16 PM

haverwench said:

Ours are in a narrow cabinet that's not much use for anything else. Each shelf in the cabinet has one of those little tiered inserts on it, as shown in your picture, so we can see several rows of spices at once. The most frequently used spices are on the bottom shelf, in alphabetical order (except for the ones in really tall containers, which are all in the back where there's room for them). The ones we use occasionally are on the middle shelf, and the truly obscure ones are way up on the top shelf where only my husband can reach them. Fortunately, he's also the only one who cooks with them.

January 27, 2014 9:21 PM

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