People can lose years of their life rooting around for the cumin or coriander in a cupboard full of spices—in fact, many would say organizing their spices in some logical and effective manner is probably the biggest kitchen riddle they are dying to solve.
So how do you get started?
In this latest installment of our Dream Kitchen Remodeling Guide, we home in on this tricky area and offer some spice organization ideas that will work for any space and tastes (both in terms of food and decor). Trust us, cooking will be a breeze once you’ve found the right system.
It’s time to kick your kitchen organization up a (spicy) notch!
1. First, declutter your stash
Don’t organize a single bottle more than necessary. Before you even start looking at ideas, purge what you don’t really need.
“Spice solutions are something nearly all of our clients ask for,” says Ben Soreff, co-founder of House to Home Organizing. “But before we even think of the best home for spices, we focus on what we are keeping.”
One rule of thumb: Toss any spices older than a year (since they aren’t fresh anymore). While you can replace those you use regularly, if you haven’t used any particular spice in over a year, odds are you never will, and these spices should be tossed, too (or at least not earn a prime spot in your kitchen).
“When you look at all your spices together, you usually see those exotic spices from that once-in-a-lifetime recipe,” says Soreff. Go ahead and let go of those spices and the memory of dishes that didn’t quite turn out well enough to repeat.
Once you’ve pared down your collection to the essentials, it’ll be easier to figure out where to keep them.
2. Decant your spices into matching jars
Let’s be honest: That jumble of mismatched spice jars looks like a mess.
“Transferring your spices into uniform glass jars takes organization to the next level while also allowing you to clearly see your spice inventory,” says Ria Safford, founder of full-service organizing company RiOrganize.
Williams-Sonoma sells a set of 12 jars with screw-top lids (like those above) for $20. Don’t feel like printing out labels? Safford suggests writing directly on the bottles with a waterproof paint pen.
You can find all kinds of spice jars and tins at all kinds of prices. A set of 12 from Crate & Barrel (below, $30) comes with charming clamp lids.
Are you more of a minimalist with spice? This set of four spice “beakers” (below, $17) from Ikea is fun.
3. Organize your spices alphabetically
If you’re tired of your epic spice hunts, consider organizing your spices alphabetically.
“No matter where spices are being stored, keeping them alphabetized makes for quick retrieval,” says personal organizer Amy Trager. “It also means it’s easier to see when something is suddenly used up or missing from the shelf/drawer/cabinet.”
But it’s not the only way to go. Trager’s more adventurous cooking clients group their spices by cuisines.
“Whether it’s baking spices, Indian, Greek, or Thai, when the spices they use most for these dishes are already in a bin or container together, they can grab it and get to work,” she explains.
You could also sort your spices by height or size of jar, by color, or by type (e.g., spicy, sweet, mild).
Now that you have an idea of how much space you need, how you cook, and how you want to organize your spices, here are some ideas for where you could store them.
4. Store spices in drawers
“I am a professionally trained chef,” says Learnivore CEO Emily Burns, so the “user experience” of her kitchen is crucial to her cooking routine. As an intuitive cook who adjusts her spices as she cooks, rather than following a recipe, keeping all her spices within eyesight is imperative.
“It is also imperative that they stay in alphabetical order so that when I am looking for a specific spice, I can easily find it,” Burns says.
Chris Marcum of home blog Chris Loves Julia also keeps spices neatly stored and easily accessible in a drawer. Marcum uses 3-ounce aluminum jars with clear display windows from Specialty Stuff SoCal on Etsy (6 for $12). This type of jar works for experienced cooks who can identify most spices by sight. The jars are labeled on the sides, too.
5. Store spices inside a cabinet
This is most people’s go-to. But when spices are lined up a few bottles deep, you’ll still have to pull up bottles to find what you’re looking for. So you may want to consider one of these tiered racks, which make efficient use of cabinet space while also giving you a full visual of everything in there. Here’s a three-tier expandable bamboo version from Target for $13. (A 12-bottle plastic version is available for $15.)
This 30-bottle, pull-out spice rack will also fit inside a cabinet ($40, Target).
6. Store spices on your counter
For those of you with just a few spices or plenty of counter space, you can keep your spices handy in a decorative rack. Just remember to keep it away from the stove and out of direct sunlight. This 14-jar rack from Crate & Barrel includes the herbs and spices inside ($50).
7. Mount spices on a wall
Another handy way to store spices is mounted to a magnetic board on the wall, the side of a refrigerator, or the inside of a cabinet. I don’t recommend keeping them on a refrigerator door as they’ll be likely to get knocked off (imagine broken glass and a cloud of spice going everywhere). This six-jar mounted set comes with five years of spice refills ($20, Amazon.com).
These interlocking magnetic hexagon spice jars from GneissSpice on Etsy are especially fun (24 jars for $100). Throw in the stainless-steel wall plate ($25, Etsy) and you can stick them anywhere you want. They double as kitchen art.