Spice Cabinet Cleanup: Before And After

Organized Spice Cabinet

Our spices are housed in a ridiculously narrow cupboard to the right of the stove. It has bugged me since we moved here seven years ago. Of course, not enough to do much more than stuff things in there and quickly shut the door.

spice cabinet before

See what I mean? When we first set up our kitchen each shelf in this cupboard had a custom made wood caddy (which you can see still on one shelf). While cute, there is a lot of space wasted on each side, since they’re made to slide out, so I only kept one in the cabinet. Which really worked for throwing things into…uh-hem. But the shelves where I wasn’t using the caddies didn’t look that much better.

And function? Does having to remove three items to access the one you need sound like the best of situations? Um, no- and when something came tumbling out last week I knew it was time to tackle the spice situation. Luckily, the other two wood caddies were stashed in another cabinet holding our teas – and not doing a good job there, either.

Spice comparison

Here was the ultimate challenge, though: the tray on the right holds all the contents of the first shelf (somethings were double-layered, remember) – the caddy on left is what I need to fit it in. Ugh. You can see why I got rid of them in the first place and why I put it off for seven years in the second!

I decided to apply some of my “eliminate” criteria to the cabinet: Is it beautiful, functional or do I know it to be useful? I did really like the look of the custom-made wood boxes- they qualify as “beautiful” and so I was willing to figure out a way to make them work.

Pantry spice box

How to make a too-small cabinet more functional? First, I looked at what I could eliminate- old spices I’ve not used for years, things people had given me, and containers that I didn’t need were tossed. Then I put seldom-used spices and bulk bags holding extras in a storage container that will live in the pantry closet. I only need these things occasionally, so this was a good solution- I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner!

spice shelf after

To make the boxes useful as well as beautiful, I added numbers to each. I used some round, white stickers we already had and some old scrapbooking number stickers on top of them. I also added labels to the containers that didn’t have them using my label maker, coordinating them with each other – it always makes things look better right away, don’t you think?

Then I grouped like items (loosely- not everything fit just perfectly) into each:

  • Shelf 1 holds curries, ginger, and Asian spices
  • Shelf 2 holds taco seasoning, cumin, chili powder and international spices (like Italian)
  • Shelf 3 holds my most-used spices- basil, garlic, onion, thyme, oregano, and paprika.

spice lazy-susan

I was also able to create more room moving some of the spices to different cupboards. The cinnamon moved to a baking cupboard, along with the pepper flakes (huh? well, there’s a few random things there, so it sorta fit). I also keep the salt and pepper in bowls on a tray next to the stove – which I actually moved there a few months ago- and I have to say I LOVE it- so convenient when I’m cooking!

Before-After-spice cabinet

As you can see in the before and after picture above, it certainly looks a lot better when I open the door. Neat and tidy (you may notice I also consolidated my post-it notes onto one computer printed sheet that I taped to the door). But does it work? Even with all the spices and things that don’t fit?

It’s only been a week, but I’m already enjoying how easy it is to reach into the cupboard and only have to pull out the one spice I needed- and not the three in the way! It makes a lot of sense to have the baking spices with the baking things and not all crammed together with the curry and cumin.

In fact – and this is big – even though I know there’s wasted space in there (horrors!), I really, really like opening this cupboard now…and using it.


Want more kitchen inspiration? Today I’m teaming up with these talented bloggers to help you tackle your own kitchen projects, learn some new tips, and organize:

Nony from A Slob Comes Clean is talking about how she keeps her food storage containers from causing an avalanche every time she opens the cabinet door.

Christine from I Dream of Clean is sharing cleaning ideas she’s learned from watching cooking shows.

Taylor from Stain Removal 101 is sharing tips, tricks, and how-tos of cleaning the fridge.

Lauren from Mama’s Laundry Talk is sharing the Dos and Don’ts of Dishcloths.

*This is also linked to Saturday Nite Special.


  1. Anonymous says

    I use a plastic caddy thing in the front of a drawer. I am trying to move to square or rectangular cans/jars so they fit more efficiently. I label the top of the container and put them in alphabetical order.

  2. gramgarden says

    In order to make use of that ‘lost space’ in the cupboard, would that plastic container fit under the wood drawer inside the cupboard, thus making 2 layers of storage?

  3. says

    I’ve never thought about categorizing the spices. Super smart! I usually keep the most used ones on the back of the stove, I know the worst place possible

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