Is your food storage containers cupboard an avalanche waiting to happen? Can you easily find what you need when you need it? Do you have unmatched tops and bottoms?
One of the most difficult cabinets or drawers to keep organized in any kitchen is often the Tupperware/plasticware/leftover containers zone. Even when you take time to neatly nest containers and organize the lids, it typically doesn't last. When containers are used and washed and ready to be put away, who takes the time to put them back as neatly as they were before? Most people toss them in and run. It doesn't take long to become an overwhelming mess!
Want to know the secret to maintaining an organized food storage containers zone? Read on!
Kitchen Organizing Tips
First, as a refresher, or in case you missed any, here's a list of all the tips I've shared already (with links to the corresponding post).
- Use drawer dividers
- Measure before you buy
- Determine the purpose of each drawer
- Purge before organizing
- Store like with like
- Keep items where you use them
- Store items you don't regularly use in "out-of-the-way" spots
- Maximize the vertical space in deep drawers
- Create zones in your kitchen
- Use boxes and baskets to contain like items
- Use clear containers for baking ingredients
- Label your containers
- Done is better than perfect
- Store dishes in a cupboard you can easily reach when you empty the dishwasher
- Maximize the vertical space in cabinets using wire shelves
- Store all your hot beverage supplies together
- Use under-the-shelf baskets to maximize vertical space in cabinets
- Store all your breakfast supplies together
- Use the top shelf of a food cabinet to store extra foods
- Hang paper towels on the back of a cabinet door to keep them off your counters
- Keep as many items in drawers or cabinets as possible, instead of on counters
- Rearrange or relocate items on counters for a less cluttered look
- Wash dishes frequently and put them away quickly
- Relocate items that you rarely use so they don't clutter your kitchen
- Use narrow spaces under the sink for tall, narrow items
- Use plastic bins to contain cleaning supplies under the sink
- Use short stacks as much as possible so you don't have to move items to access others
- Only store shallow pans in a shallow drawer
Many of these tips come up over and over in my kitchen organizing posts because I apply them in different contexts. Today you'll see a version of #4, 5, 10, and 27 in the context of my food storage containers cupboard.
Here's a picture of my cupboard before I tackled it today.
Scary stuff! And believe it or not I organized this about a year ago. If you look closely behind all those containers on the bottom shelf, you can just barely see the 2 decorative boxes that were intended to hold a bunch of the containers that are now piled in front of them.
I'm totally going against my short stacks tip in this cabinet. Plus this cabinet REALLY needs a purge. The containers in the front are the ones we use the most. And to be honest, most of the remaining ones in the boxes at the back haven't been used in the last year.
And that top shelf... wow, it's full of stuff we rarely use (and a few containers that didn't fit in the piles below!).
I emptied everything out and decluttered 37 items! That will help my total for the 365 Items in 365 Days Challenge :)
Here are several cracked, broken, or excess containers I'm recycling or tossing in the garbage.
And here's my donate pile... it seems like 1/2 my cupboard!
A bunch of trays, bowls, and funnels we never use. And lots of extra plastic containers we have not used in a long time or that we don't need anymore. This brings me to the first part of the secret for organizing food storage containers so they stay organized.
Kitchen Organizing Tip #29: Only keep as many food storage containers as you actually need and use regularly
And I mean ONLY those containers. Not the 56 extras that you never use. Or the 23 containers you only use for one specific purpose, when you have other containers that could be used for that purpose and several others as well.
Sounds simple right? But so many people have such a difficult time limiting their collection of leftover containers. We think we need every different size imaginable, but in reality we only use a few containers most of the time. So why clutter up our cabinets with more containers than we need and use?
At any one point in time, is your plasticware cabinet ever empty? What I mean is, are you ever using every single one of your leftover containers at once? Nope! Never happens. Can you even fit all of your food storage containers (assuming you had enough food to fill them) in your fridge at once? Nope again.
But by keeping so many containers, we make it practically impossible to keep this cabinet or drawer organized. Why do we do this?
Let's stop the madness!
Want to see the difference this principle made in my cupboard?
Doesn't that look pretty? Look at all that empty space now! I purged so many containers and other unused items that now I have space to keep everything organized.
I applied the "short stack" tip on the top shelf.
The cereal container has 2 smaller cereal containers inside it, but we only use one of them at a time usually. The other stacks on the left and right have only 2 pieces in each so it's easy to access them and easy to put them back where they belong.
On the bottom shelf I applied the "store like with like" and "use boxes and baskets to contain like items" tips.
These boxes had lids on them before and I had stacked them on top of each other to give more space in the cupboard. Usually I encourage maximizing vertical space in cabinets, but it didn't work with food storage containers.
The extra steps of having to move items from in front of the boxes, pull out the box we needed, take the lid off, find what we needed or put back a clean container, and then reverse the whole process, was just TOO MUCH EFFORT.
You saw the result of our laziness... big piles of containers waiting to topple over on the floor when I open the door.
I'm still using the boxes, but without lids. And with nothing in front. Purging made that possible. Here's a closer look inside each box.
This one has the containers we use most often (for muffins, muffin tops, cookies, and other baked goods). The square container standing in the corner is mainly used when we make french toast. It's the perfect size for a piece of bread. The stack at the front is only 3 high (2 larger Rubbermaid dishes and 1 medium one). It's easy to access and return the ones we use.
The other box has all our small food storage containers. These stacks are mostly 3-4 high. One of them is 6 high (3 deep and 3 shallow). These stacks are manageable because all the containers are the same size and shape.
The smallest ones at the front are used when we go camping to hold small amounts of condiments, or for snacks or sauces the rest of the year. The rest are used for leftovers or single serving freezer meals.
This is still more than we need because I have my carousel organizer and a few frequently used containers in one of my upper cabinets too. So I'm actually going to watch what we use over the next few months and purge even more containers soon.
Kitchen Organizing Tip #30: Only use matching food storage containers
This is the other part of the secret to maintaining an organized food storage container zone. If you have matching containers it's much easier to nest them, which makes it easier to keep your dishes neat and organized. You can also mix and match lids and bottoms which simplifies the process of grabbing containers or returning them to their stack.
When I purged my containers, a lot of what I gave away were assorted sized and various shaped containers. What I kept were mainly Ziploc, Bernardin, and Rubbermaid sets like these, these, and these. The containers and lids nest neatly inside each other. New containers aren't in my budget right now, but for future birthday and Christmas gifts I'm going to leave hints for some of the newer Rubbermaid food storage containers like these :) I love how they stack, both in the cabinet and in the fridge.
I'm not saying you need to go out an buy all new food storage containers today. But, start by purging as many odd-shaped ones as you can, and keep your eye out for sales on matching sets. Dollar stores usually have quite a selection too. Don't forget, as you invest in new matching sets of food storage containers, toss or donate the rest of your non-matching ones so you don't end up with too many again!
I know I'm going to be able to maintain this system now. Even when we're
So there you go... the secret is out! Take advantage of this knowledge and go purge and organize your food storage containers zone. And then maintain it!! :)
Not sure what the 365 Items in 365 Days Declutter Challenge is? Check it out here! And join our 365 in 365 Facebook group here! Get started decluttering your home :)
You can find more kitchen organizing ideas on my Kitchen Organizing board on Pinterest.
And stay tuned the next few weeks as I wrap up this kitchen organizing tips series!
How do you organize your food storage containers? Do you have other tips for keeping your plasticware organized? And do you leave hints for gift ideas too?
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Here are all the posts from the kitchen organizing tips series: