Organizing the spice cabinet by category | Before and After

I wasn’t sure what decluttering and organizing project to work on next, so when I saw that my friend Kristen at The Frugal Girl was organizing her cabinets and inviting others to join in, I knew that was my ticket to motivation!

I like to cook. I like to try different recipes. I have a ton of spices. Too many, I think. And disorganization usually reigns.

Problems that lead to spice clutter:

  • I buy a spice that I don’t usually use for one recipe I want to try.
  • I buy too many seasoning blends. Aren’t they fun and easy, though?
  • I don’t use all of the spices I own, but I don’t want to get rid of them because I might come across a recipe that needs that spice, and I don’t want to have to buy it again.
  • Disorganized spices. I don’t always put them back after using them which leads to spice containers cluttering up the counter, wasted time looking for spices, and buying duplicate spices because I don’t realize I already have an extra jar of nutmeg in the back of that random shelf.

Note to self: You don’t need to own every spice and spice blend known to man and grocery store to be able to cook a variety of meals.

The spice cabinet before organizing

The first step was clearing the space. As I was doing the clearing, I found this fun discovery:

Really? 6 cans of cooking spray?

And you know what? 4 of them were pretty much empty, just sitting there. So now I’m down to this:

Much better!

I also threw out some other things that were very expired and/or gross.

Now let’s focus in on those spices. Here they are on the island along with a cute little boy.

Lots of spices

Here’s the empty cabinet:

Yuck. The counter that had all the spices on it was even worse.

This next picture is actually encouraging to me. The bag on the left contains mystery spices from who-knows-when (pre-blog). The bag on the right is recent and I know exactly what is in there. I wrote the date on it, too after I took this picture. I think I’m learning something!

Labeling is good!

Next, I separated out all of the seasoning blends (or at least the ones I think of as blends).

Seasoning Blends

Gabe helped me and we alphabetized the rest of the spices and stacked the duplicates.

Alphabetized spices

I usually organize my spices alphabetically. I’m using the word “usually” very loosely here, because I never seem to keep up with that system very well.

So I decided to take  a break to see Kristen’s before and after pictures. She used containers to group her spices by category. I kind of loved that idea, and I was really ready to try something new, so back to work I went with my new plan!

Little Anna “helped” too.

Spice hopping. A new Little People sport.

I started out just doing the spices that way, but I was loving it so much that I organized that entire cabinet.

Here’s the bottom shelf, where I am keeping my most commonly used spices. I have them separated into savory, spicy, and sweet.

Savory, Spicy, Sweet

The next shelf is more of a baking shelf. You will find a nice big, important container of chocolate, one for nuts, and one for dried fruit.

Baking shelf: Nuts, dried fruit, chocolate

The next shelf up hold less-frequently used spices, and the top shelf holds spice duplicates and some infrequently used spice blends.

infrequently used spices and duplicates

I put the more frequently used spice blends on a turntable in the corner cabinet.

Spice Blends

Let’s look at that before picture one more time, for comparison:

The spice cabinet before


Organized spice cabinet with a clear counter!

Now I’m jazzed to organize some more cabinets! I’ll keep you posted on how this new system is working out, too. I’m expecting it to save me time, money, and sanity.

How do you like to organize your spices? 


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Filed under Before and After, Declutter, How To, Organization

20 Responses to Organizing the spice cabinet by category | Before and After

  1. Denise

    I love that our grocery store sells spices in little bags for $1 apiece. The bags are not resealable, so once they’re open I put the bag and its label in a ziploc bag. Then I can store all those bags alphabetically in a Tupperware. The other good thing about the bags, besides the low price and small storage space is that they get used up more quickly and even spices that get used infrequently get used up. Spices that I use allot (for example, ground oregano) I still buy in bottles, usually from the dollar store.

  2. You really do like variety. I’m amazed that you managed to have so many different brands of cooking spray all at once!

    Spice cabinets are really tough. I tend to organize by size and frequency of use. Biggest in the back. Of those, the most frequently used get the coveted middle spots.
    I also do some stacking. But mostly just the little ones get the stack treatment. Then they are relegated to the front side so the wall of the cabinet can offer a little extra support.

    I like how the containers make it easier to grab spices from on high without knocking down the others. They just come along for the free ride!
    I have a clay pot on the counter under my spice cabinet that keeps getting little chips in the lip from spice jumpers.

    • Elizabeth

      You know what spray I didn’t have? The one that has the oil and the flour in it. Maybe I should try that one, too….. J/K!

      Gotta control those spice jumpers! 🙂

  3. My FAVORITE part? The clear counter below! That is totally awesome. YAY!

    • Elizabeth

      I think that is actually the place with the most before/after impact! That is also Mr. RSS’s favorite, and now I have more counter space! Yay!

  4. WilliamB

    That free counterspace looks fantastic! It seems little but it’s in such a useful spot, right next to the stove.

    If you have room, you might want to keep your less-used spices in the freezer. Heat and light degrade spices but cold and dark keep them longer. Another hint: one of the people who linked to FG’s site taped a list of spices to the cabinet door. You could do this with the spices you keep in the freezer.

    Speaking of heat and light … many of your spices were right next to the stove. Did you check to see if they were still tasty? No reason to keep them around if they’re not.

    I have the oil-and-flour spray. Not worth it unless they’re dirt cheap (like mine were). Regular spray is good for most baked goods, and oil-and-flour spray isn’t good enough for baked goods that really need the flour treatment. Ask me how I know.

    PS: what do you use alum for? I know it’s used in pickling and to fix dyes…

    • WilliamB

      BTW, when a recipe uses a spice I don’t have and think I won’t use much, I recklessly substitute. Yesterday’s Chinese Twice Cooked Pork had black bean sauce instead of sweet bean paste. Very different flavor, very popular meal.

  5. Duplicates were the bane of my existence. I’d notice I was low on something, put it on the shopping list, purchase a replacement, store it in the back of the cupboard, forget about it, empty the original, buy a replacement, end up with two (sometimes 3,4 you get the idea) until I started marking the almost empty bottle with a note saying I already have a replacement.

  6. Nice turnaround! One other tip that I find really helpful is using a Sharpie and writing the first letter of the spice name on the top of the cap (P for Paprika or GS for Garlic Salt). It can get a little tricky with all the C spices, but at least when you pull your basket down, you don’t have to lift up every container to see what’s what.
    Happy Cooking!

  7. Theresa

    Looks really good! The back of the stove is also clear. Clean has a way of spreading itself around. Makes me feel so good! My tool I’ve had for eons is a double decker lazy susan that fits in my cabinet. Small spices on top, larger ones on the bottom. Overly tall bottles live on the shelf near the lazy susan. Where to find a double decker lazy susan? I have no idea!

  8. Kimberly

    I love the new little people sport! WTG!!

  9. That is a LOT of chocolate chips, lady! You are ready for any and all chocolate chip emergencies. I like!

  10. Alice

    I have a spice rack, organized alphabetically, w/ labels on top of the spice jars (the tops point out, so they’re all you see). The hyper-organizing only works because I do the bulk spices thing – the bottles have been the same for years, and I don’t have to think about it.

    Seriously, though, I LOVE the bulk spices at the hippie grocery store – I’d def. check it out if there’s a place near you, since it’s way cheaper, and makes buying ‘just a smidge’ of something a lot more feasible.

  11. Tiffany C.

    Your countertop looks soooo great!! I just recently put my ‘holiday’ spices back in the basement pantry and out of my way. They were falling out on me when I was looking for the salt, pepper, and garlic.

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  13. Love the containers in the spice cabinet!! It makes me feel less overwhelmed just looking at it!

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks! And I have actually been able to keep them from collecting on that counter, even though they could use some reorganizing in the cabinet at this point. 🙂

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