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how do I organize a deep pantry cabinet?


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My kitchen doesn’t have a pantry.  It has a lot of cabinets, and this one seems to be intended to be used like a pantry.  It’s deep, about 22”.  The bottom half works ok because it has pull-out drawers.  The top doesn’t, and it’s not very useful because it’s so deep (and tall).  It’s a pain to have to haul a chair into the kitchen to stand on every time I want something that’s not right in front.  It’s a pain to have to take the things in front out to reach what’s behind them.  I don’t really have anything that’s infrequently used that can be put on the top shelf or in the back—all the cabinets are ceiling height, and there’s a lot of them, so everything in the “rarely used” category is already on top shelves elsewhere.  

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1. You could retrofit it to have the top shelves pull out.

2. You could put larger, easier to reach things like mixing bowls there and use the space where you have mixing bowls or whatever for food so you can see things easier.

3. You could just leave them empty and store nothing there.

4. You could put bulk refill bags of food there. If you have that many kids, odds are you are cycling through a ton of cereal or bread or something in a week.

 

 

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I have a large upper like that, and I store my baking sheets, muffin tins, etc. there. If the shelves in yours adjust, you could remove one to allow for more vertical and put in dividers. If you're handy, you could even change it to be half vertical storage, half horizontal. That would make it much easier to take advantage of. 

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I have a shoe rack like this one on the bottom shelf of mine and use it for canned goods. I can do 3 cans high and four deep. It is empty behind it, except on the bottom where the cans go to the back in rows (things like chicken broth and tomato puree that we use in larger quantities). I only have one shelf above it and use it for big, light things like cereal. We keep the open boxes in front and extras behind.

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I have pantry cabinets with drawers on the bottom and shelves on the top, similar to your picture. In the top area, I'm storing extra food items that I don't need to access all of the time -- extra bags of flour and sugar to use when my canister gets low, boxes of fruit cups, snacks, and cereal that are not needed yet but will be. And food items that I don't want the kids to get into, like s'mores ingredients.

I would not want those shelves to pull out, because they are taller than my head. It's nice to have that extra space but hard to keep organized. If you don't have larger items to keep up there (like bags of flour or boxes of cereal), what about buying clear plastic bins that will fit those shelves. Clear, so that you can see what is inside. And label them with general categories (baking, snacks, paper goods, etc).

You will still need to stand on something to get the bins out, but it will give you a way to divide up the space in a way that works for you better. If you have Netflix, you can watch a show called "Organizing with the Home Edit" to see what they do with pantries. Now, they are crazily organized, and you probably don't want to be like them! But you can see how to use clear containers to organize a difficult space.

I don't see a way to change the fact that you will need to stand on something to access those shelves. I think that part you just need to accept. Buy a step stool.

Oh, if you really don't need it for kitchen things, because you have enough other cupboards, leave it empty or put something like Christmas decor and dishes up there, that you only need to use once a year. Use it to hide birthday gifts, because your kids won't be able to reach it. You don't have to use it only for kitchen items.

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I have a very similar pantry cabinet.  I use bins two deep on the upper shelves.  The bins in front hold frequently accessed items.  The bins in back hold my backup supplies.  When I need something from the back I remove the bin(s) from the front and pull the back bins forward.  This is much easier than removing one item at a time. 

 

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I cannot get my entire cabinet in one photo, but it is floor to ceiling.  Imagine two additional drawers below those pictured  and an additional shelf at the top.

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Same cabinet with some of the front row bins removed.  

 

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I have had a pantry cabinet like that and found the top deep shelves difficult to access.  I used the back of the area to store things like bottles of water that were emergency supply in case of a hurricane or other emergency.  Then, I put the items that were the least used in the back.  I found it was easier to reach some of the high cabinets that were less deep for items that I would access more often.  The front part of the higher cabinets were used either for larger, lighter weight items that could be pulled down easily (like paper towels) or to store cookie sheets and other baking pans.  Or, in the front section I would use a bin that similar things could be put in (canning lids, pectin, and other canning supplies or food coloring, sprinkles, and other cake decorating items together) that could easily be removed as a group.

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I wouldn’t use those shelves for things I need daily, or I’d use fewer of them—like I might just give up the top shelf entirely for daily-used items..

Can you at all reach the top shelf without standing on something?  It looks like you have a cereal box on its side on the top shelf.  Can you reach up and grab that box without a step stool?  If so, maybe you could put all your boxed good on their sides like that, with the tops showing, if they are within reach. There would be space behind the boxes that wouldn’t be used OR you could use the space behind the boxes for very rarely used items—kitchen or not.  WHen you need the box stuff, you could grab it..

 If you cannot reach at all without using a step stool, then I would not use that shelf for things you use often.  As others have said, you can even store non-kitchen items up there.

The only other solution would be to put your food items into labeled boxes or baskets and pull out the entire box/basket whenever you need the items in them.  I know myself and I wouldn’t like doing that every day.

Personally, I wouldn’t use those shelves for things I need to use all the time, especially if I have to set up a step stool each time (I have a collapsable step stool that has to be unfolded every time I use it).  I’d find other places for the stuff I use more often, even if it’s in a piece of furniture in an adjoining room.

If you have a step stool that lives directly near that cabinet and you don’t have to set it up every time you need something, then I’d consider using those shelves.  I just know how I am, and messing with step stools that collapse bugs me.  Plus I’m always afraid I’ll fall off of it or it’ll collapse under me.  

 

Edited by Garga
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I would use those top shelves for big packs of paper towels.  Store anything bulky and light up there, so you don't bonk your head getting it down!

Do you have a grabber tool? It might help getting stuff down from the top shelves.

Grabber

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My upper shelves pull out.  The upper one is really tall, appropriate for jumbo cereal boxes.  We keep the ones we use the most in the front, and the backups in the back, so you have to both get a step stool AND pull them out to get anything out of there.  It's also a good place to hide extra boxes of cookies because by the time kids are old enough to climb up and get them they know better than to do so without permission.

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It looks like you already subdivide your other cabinet space with organizers, and if you could easily do that with this one, you would've. Based on that, I would go with unopened cereal boxes (or oatmeal canisters), paper products, and emergency storage items as others have suggested. 

I agree about pullouts that are too high and about heavy stuff that could be dropped.

Seasonal stuff sounds like a good bet if you take out the shelves and can put some boxes up there. I wouldn't store that kind of stuff individually on a shelf.

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I moved stuff around and came up with this.  It could probably use a little more organizing but it’s good enough for now.  There’s still a lot of empty space at the back of the top and middle shelves, but the overall arrangement is more useful and less frustrating.  I can reach everything at the front of all the shelves, and all the way back on the lowest shelf, without standing on anything.  If I leave that gap between the almond milk and the black basket on the lowest shelf I can even get everything in the back there out without moving anything other than one of those two things.

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 I have a deep pantry like this and it's so frustrating because things get pushed to the back and forgotten until they have gone bad.  Great idea to use pull out containers.  

 

 

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Pull-outs.  

turntables

you can even have shallow 'shelves' with a rail on the door for small items.  I got sticky individual spice holders (no longer available.  I've looked.) that I have on the inside of one cupboard.  I love them.  really easy to just grab a particular spice.  I have  three dozen different ones.  We refill small bottles.

check out "The Container Store" ,and/or Storables.

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That looks a lot like the pantry I had at the house we just left. I used the top for extra stuff like when there was a sale and I stocked up. Extra bags of flour or rice, cooking oil, bbq sauce, etc. Those things went towards the back. Yes, I needed a step ladder to reach them but I didn't have to go for them too often. Towards the front I kept baskets with stuff I used fairly often but all the time. Extra spices, teas, and other items of that type went in the baskets. 

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2 hours ago, caedmyn said:

I moved stuff around and came up with this.  It could probably use a little more organizing but it’s good enough for now.  There’s still a lot of empty space at the back of the top and middle shelves, but the overall arrangement is more useful and less frustrating.  I can reach everything at the front of all the shelves, and all the way back on the lowest shelf, without standing on anything.  If I leave that gap between the almond milk and the black basket on the lowest shelf I can even get everything in the back there out without moving anything other than one of those two things.

Well done! I thought I'd say so in case it's not appreciated by anyone in your home but you. So many household tasks are under-appreciated. 

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1 hour ago, kbutton said:

Well done! I thought I'd say so in case it's not appreciated by anyone in your home but you. So many household tasks are under-appreciated. 

Thanks!  
 

(Accidentally double quoted and couldn’t figure out how to delete the 2nd one.)

1 hour ago, kbutton said:
Edited by caedmyn
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