Little Changes, Big Impact (Dry Goods Pantry with Glass Jars)

I’m going to show you how to get more organized using spaces you already have and probably never really notice. Like this dry goods pantry with glass jars…

Dry Goods Pantry with Glass Jars

This is an example of using every little space to get organized. I’ve been running out of pantry space this year since I’ve switched to grocery shopping just once a month. Yes, there are plenty of other options for getting your grub, but this is how we are doing it. We’ve got a ridiculous amount of food on hand on market day, more than my pantry can hold. I’m bulking up just in case we get sick and shopping isn’t possible or I can’t get my favorite decaf coffee or…you know…the zombie apocalypse really does happen.

My pantry is still stuffed, which is a blessing, but also a problem when I’m looking for dinner ingredients and can’t find them. You’ve seen my perfect pantry: a small walk-in closet with very shallow shelves on two shelves and space for can risers in the back. The one thing I can’t stand is food on the floor, and that was starting to happen with monthly shopping, so I needed to find room, but where?

This little corner cabinet in our back hallway has always been a challenge, but also an opportunity.

Dry Goods Pantry with Glass Jars- before

The bottom is the kids’ craft cabinet. Long-time readers will know that I haven’t organized that cabinet in years. I’m a big fan of delegating kid spaces and kid jobs back to the kids. They don’t organize it perfectly, but I always say perfect is the enemy of good, so they got to organize it.

perfect is the enemy of good

From the book, Organizing Your Home with SORT and Succeed.

But the shelves above the corner craft cabinet are mine, and they have been sadly under-utilized for too long. Remember when I swapped out my black dishes for Correll last year? I honestly forgot about the cups and saucers that went with them, shown here complete with a layer of dust to prove it. And the beer and wine glasses? Totally overkill for our lifestyle right now. I can’t be bothered with a special glass for wine, girlfriend. 

Using SORT and Succeed, this little cabinet can have a huge impact on keeping the pantry organized every day, but not in the shape it was in last week, forgotten and under-utilized.

SORT and Succeed System

Step 1- Start with a written plan, about five words or less: Turn shelves into a dry pantry. 

Step 2- Organize into groups. Working up from the bottom, the cookbooks get used and are contained in the right amount of space on the shelf, so the bottom shelf didn’t need work. I just had to re-file a few wayward recipes back into my Family Favorites recipe binder. (Get your free binder cover printable here.) Everything else came off the shelves above. I have plans for the wine glasses.

Step 3- Reduce, release, reset.  The black dishes got packed for donation. Hubby said the beer glasses could be recycled. There were two bags of cat food up on the top shelf, one that I bought for “just in case” 6 months ago, but since my cat won’t eat that brand (I knew it when I bought it, but, you know, things back in March looked really desperate.), I donated it. The bag of cat food that she does eat can stay, and I’ll show you below where I’m hiding it.

Step 4- Tweak. Years ago I started saving the measured glass jars that our spaghetti sauce comes in. They aren’t Mason-brand, but they look just as cute once I remove the labels and spray paint the tops white. I’ve been using recycled glass spaghetti jars to store dry goods like rice, beans, nuts, quinoa, and other grains for years. Here’s where I found all the extra space I needed in my big pantry, by transferring all the rice, beans, and popcorn into these jars and moving them onto the top shelf of this corner. Each row has multiple jars of the same pantry staple, from front to back. It’s a system of stocking up without having to label. So simple and visually soothing. I know, it’s a little thing, but this kind of simplicity is what my over-stressed system needs right now.

Dry Goods Pantry with Glass Jars

Before loading up this shelf, I moved the shelf pegs down about 8″. Rather than cutting a new shelf like I did for another cabinet, I’m thinking about hanging a wine glass organizer from the ceiling. I like this ceiling-mounted wine glass organizer (affiliate link).

My potato and onion bins moved from the pantry to this shelf. Keep in mind that root veggies want to stay dry, cool, and dark, too, so I’ve got a little blanket/bag over the bins to keep them happy. And this gives me oodles of shelf space back in my pantry.

When you pass the hallway, you can’t see the extra cat food bag hiding in the corner. You have to make an effort to peer around to see it. Corners can be really good places to hide things, but only if you remember that’s where they live.

Dry Goods Pantry with Glass Jars

Step 5- Succeed and Celebrate. Like you, this is sometimes the hardest step, but not this time. Now that I see the organized shelves, my hunch about hanging the wine glasses is right on. I can give myself permission to order the wine glass rack I showed you above. It’s both a reward for the project and a solution to the storage issue.

This little dry goods corner reminds me of vintage grocery stores, really vintage, the kind where shopkeepers would measure out dry goods. It’s an authentic farmhouse vibe, and I didn’t have to buy a thing. Keep an eye out for containers already in your house or cute packaging that you can re-use, so you can do the same. Tins are another good option. They can be painted if you need to repair rust or make them work with a certain color scheme. Gift baskets can work well, too.

Dry Goods Pantry with Glass Jars


Update: That wine glass hanger arrived and is just what I needed here.

wine hanger ceiling-mounted in cabinet




Reality check time. The media puts a lot of pressure on us to have perfectly organized spaces. In my work with clients, I find there’s a common theme…too much plastic and not enough time. It does take some time to organize at home, and maybe you’ll think that spending an hour on one little corner like this is silly, but this is the kind of underutilized space that helps me manage my family’s food better in exactly the space we have. There’s no point in wishing we had a bigger house if I’m not fully utilizing what we already have. Imagine if I just tossed the slippery plastic bags of rice, beans, and popcorn all up on this shelf. Contained? Yes. Pretty? No. The same goes for plastic bins or canisters. You don’t have to settle for organized OR pretty OR sustainable. You can have it all, with a little planning.

From the book, The Upbeat, Organized Home Office. 

SORT and Succeed gives you a framework that you can use over and over again to find simple, elegant, and sustainable organizing solutions in your home…especially small spots like this.

If you need more ideas like these, I hope to see you at one of the events in the next week. Let’s talk about what YOU need in YOUR home to get and stay organized. And if those events don’t work for you, there’s always virtual organizing sessions, which you can schedule here. I can’t wait to meet up with you.



Will I see you this Saturday? Enjoy the open space of the beautiful Mt Airy Lavender Farm with me for an interactive SORT and Succeed workshop. Learn how to declutter and organize your home and storage spaces, like your home office, closets, the garage, and the basement. Learn the 5 steps to organize any space, even if you hate to organize. This socially-distanced, in-person event will happen outside near the lavender fields (in the large barn if weather requires). Lavender products, my books, and some of my favorite organizing items will be available. RSVP for the Mt Airy Lavender Farm organizing event here. (Fill out the registration form, and then proceed to the shopping cart to claim your seat.)

SORT and Succeed at Mt Airy Lavender Farm

Not in my neighborhood? No problem. There’s another chance for us to meet online next Tuesday. RSVP now for this event hosted by Easttown Library, called Use Every Inch: Maximize Your Home’s Space and Value. Aren’t we all doing that right now?






This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. woodberries

    I think it would be helpful to SEE my dried beans and grains–I would use them up better. Could you share a source for lids? My mason jar screw-on lids don’t seem as nice as yours. Also. do you store the instructions/recipes included on the packaging? somewhere?

    1. Darla

      That’s a really good point. I definitely use my pantry staples more because they are right in front of my pantry. They also feel really easy to use because I don’t have to measure very much. I just pour out from the jars, which are already marked on the side, so I can easily pour about a cup or so of whatever I need. Over the last decade or so I’ve really learned how to cook from staples and not from pre-packaged foods, probably in part because of having my favorites so nicely stored.

      The lids that I’m using are just the lids from the spaghetti jars. I store up cleaned jars with lids, and once or twice a year I prime and spray paint them in a batch. They hold up surprisingly well, even going through the dishwasher for months and months before they rust out.

      Yes, if there is a grain or an ingredient that I need instructions for, I cut the tidbit from the packaging and just throw it inside the jar. Usually quinoa is the one I need info on. Everything else I know by heart at this point.

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