Confident home cooking

The Joys of Being Organized

by Nick

Let me show you something:

spice stuff

What holy hell is this?

There are probably 40-50 different spices shoved in that drawer and every time I would go to find one, it would cause me to have a level 10 migraine.

I knew it was a problem when I started selecting recipes to cook based on the spices that were on the top of the pile.

This was, without a doubt, the worst spice situation I had ever seen in my life and over the weekend, I set out to make it right.

Bottle Selection

If I had my way, spice companies would all have to standardize their jars.

There would be three sized: small, medium, and large. The bottles would have to be labeled on the sides and top of the jar.

Is that too much to ask? Apparently, yes.

Out of the 40ish different spices I had in my drawer of doom, I probably had ten different bottle designs which ensured that none of them fit next to each other or stacked easily and none of them were labeled in the same way making it impossible to organize them.

So I threw them all out!

Ok… not all of them, but I did pick a bottle design that I liked (4 ounce, round, glass, flat lid) and only kept jars with that basic description with just a few exceptions.

I picked up a few dozen empty jars that I liked and used those to start my new organizational system.


Sweet new jars.

I found my empty jars at a local health food store (Vitamin Cottage). I would also recommend checking out Target for empty jars. At a minimum, you can also find them online. My Spice Sage has a cool selection of various spice containers. I went simple to keep my costs down. My empty jars cost about $1.40/jar so it cost me about $35 to buy all new jars.

Starting the Process

Step one in reorganizing this disaster of a drawer was just to pull every single jar out and figure out what I was working with. I lined up everything on my kitchen counters which took up pretty much every inch of counter space I had.



The most shocking thing about doing this (and one reason why it’s really important) is to identify duplicates.

I had some really impressive duplicates. Apparently, I can never remember whether or not I have coriander.

Memory problem.

My worst example of duplicates was fennel seed. It’s a spice that I don’t use frequently so I could never remember if I had it or not. I had FIVE (FIVE!) different fennel seed jars from various spice companies.

Just by clearing up duplicates, I knew I could free enough space in my small drawer to probably hold most of my main spices.

Making Inventory

After I had everything pulled out of the drawer, I made a complete list of every spice that I wanted to label. It is easier to make labels all at once rather than running back and forth to my computer.

So I just made a list!


I think I had 41 spices on this list and I missed a few. My total printed spice list was around 45 I think. What can I say? I’m a spice guy!

I printed up small labels that could be read from a reasonable distance that I could fit on the tops of the jars. Arial font, 11 point to be exact.


Nice labels.

The Fun Part

For me, the fun part of this project was combining jars, pouring stuff into my new, clean glass jars, and labeling everything.

Obviously, a lot of my spices had overflows since I had so many versions of them. When that happened, I did one of two things:

1) I first tried to identify if one of the versions was super-old. If it was possible, I would taste or smell them and see if they were still good. For example, I had a mustard spice that had to be many years old. It tasted like nothing. Mustard should not taste like nothing.

Old spices get thrown out!

2) Assuming the spices are good (most whole spices keep for a long time), then I just made a reserve bag of the spice and moved it to a spot in my pantry. When my jar gets empty, I can look there first before running out to the store.


Coriander problem solved.

Everything Back In Its Place

Once I had everything labeled and old stuff discarded, everything fit perfectly back in the drawer.

I did not bother keeping old jars and bottles. I just recycled them all. I’m on a mission to convince my wife that I’m not a hoarder…


My new drawer!

How nice does that look?!

When I open it now, my brain doesn’t try to revolt against me! It’s a complete breath of fresh air.

Organization is Important

From someone who is admittedly not the best at keeping things organized, I’ll be the first to say how important it is.

Just taking a few hours to organize this one bad part of my kitchen has already paid big dividends. Not only does it make it more fun to use my spices, but it makes it easier to find the spice I want which saves me time and probably money because I won’t go out and buy a replacement for spices that I already have!

What’s Your Organization Issue?

Do you have a problem area in your kitchen that you need to reorganize? Leave a comment! Maybe we can figure out a solution.

If you have tips on organization, also please leave a comment. I need all the help I can get!