Time well spent

Since I mentioned alphabetizing my spices a few days ago, I’ve been thinking that would be a really good idea. Why, you ask? Is it because I’m hopelessly addicted to bringing order out of chaos in every imaginable instance? Well, yes, but, no, at least not this time. Actually, it’s for two reasons that I consider to be perfectly legit:

  1. I’ve lived in my house for five full years now and have never once purged my spice cupboard in all that time. I even have some items in there that I distinctly recall packing up and schlepping all the way across town from my old house.
  2. I am cooking a lot more lately, and have made a few purchases of spices that I already had but didn’t remember that I had and could not find. I’d just as soon nip that habit in the bud.

Here’s what I started with. Not a disaster, but overcrowded and disorganized nonetheless.

I had bottles of dry spices intermingled with bottles of liquids (oils, vinegars, etc.), and baking spices were sort of grouped together but some had gotten mixed up with the cooking spices. I found several opened packets of various seasonings, rolled up and secured with a rubber band—like I’m ever going to pull those out and use them. Ha. And I had way too many boxes of tea, which is funny because I don’t even drink tea anymore. :-/

First rule of organizing: Get rid of everything you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

Oh yes, and get rid of all the crap, too, for heaven’s sake.

I threw away a lot of outdated stuff (I label spice bottles with the month and year of purchase and throw them out after three years or when the product loses its aroma and/or color), plus several baggies of bulk spices that had no labels and were no longer identifiable (memory being the fragile flake that it is at my age). I found only a couple of redundancies, fortunately: two bottles each of allspice, cornstarch, paprika, and (of course) pumpkin pie spice. Who actually uses up an entire bottle of pumpkin pie spice before the holiday baking season rolls around again, anyway?

Second rule of organizing: Make a place for everything and clean it before you put things back in that place.


The decks must be cleared! Out with everything, vacuum and wipe down the shelves, purge the deadwood. (Yes, I skipped the top shelf; pobody’s nerfect.)

Third rule of organizing: Group like things together.

I put the cooking spices (mostly) all together and in alphabetical order on the middle left shelf, coffee and tea on the middle and lower right shelves, baking spices on the lower right shelf, and the liquids on the lower left along with a few taller bottles of dry spices.


And, we’re done. Now I can find everything!

No system is perfect, of course, but the important thing is to have some kind of system that allows you to find what you have when you need it. Otherwise you waste time, gas and money on trips to the store to get things that were sitting around somewhere in your house all along. Such as, yet another bottle of pumpkin pie spice or cornstarch.

In fact, being disorganized is costlier than being organized in many ways. Here are a few articles that illustrate the point:

I am the child of a father whose mantra is “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without” and a mother whose mantra is “See it, like it, buy it,” so I have, shall we say, sometimes contradictory attitudes about money. But as I get older, I am kind of edging more toward being frugal, or at least not foolishly wasting money by failing to pay attention. So the time it took me (about an hour) to organize my spice cabinet today was, I think, a smart investment.

And let me tell you, I intend to do it again in five years—whether it needs it or not. 😉


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