5 Things To Remember In Your "Real Life" Pantry Makeover by LifeDarling.com

5 Things To Remember In Your “Real Life” Pantry Makeover (+ My Pantry Redo!)

A girlfriend of mine called to tell me she was organizing her pantry with dollar store items, so of course I got on Pinterest to see what she was talking about. I didn’t know there were so many tutorials, and that they all ended in pantry perfection (I’m so late to the party!). The idea of getting a great looking kitchen with as little money as possible, made my inner tightwad sing with glee, and with all the free time I had during the day, I decided I was going to try my hand at organizing my pantry as well!

I thought it’d be fun (and helpful) if I documented my project for you. I know that in a world where entire homes can be redesigned in a matter of thirty minutes on TV, the energies required to declutter your space or redo a room is seriously underestimated. That’s true for me, at least. In any case, if you’re interested in seeing a real life pantry organization unfold before your very eyes, enjoy mine!


Here is a picture of my pantry area. Consider this the “Before” picture:

"Before", doors closed - 5 Things To Remember When You Organize Your Pantry In Real Life by LifeDarling.com

"Before", doors open - 5 Things To Remember When You Organize Your Pantry In Real Life by LifeDarling.com

See how badly I need to organize this spot? This is real life, people. No filter. Don’t mind the original 90s splendor, the missing cabinet pull (I took it off so I could use it to measurement new handles), or the sore eyes when you gaze upon those light maple cabinets next to my darker wood floors. Hubs and I need a break from DIY, so it’s gonna stay this way until next year…


Clean out expired food and food my family doesn’t like, create enough space in the cabinets to fit my kids lunch items, clean off the counter top, and maybe paint the wall a grey accent color. Finish this within a week’s time, under $30.


Go to all the dollar stores in my area.


Day 1
  • I was thrilled with the idea of getting my pantry nice and neat using cheap bins, but when I went to Dollar Tree today, I couldn’t find anything I liked. Everything was too small and the wrong color! Even Walmart didn’t have any bins that fit my cabinet! I ended up driving to Target, but could only find bins for $14.99 each. Nope. Ain’t gonna pay that much. Disappointing first day. Poop.
Day 2
  • The reality of putting my cabinet back together is making me want to eat chocolate. This happens when I’m overwhelmed, and is the norm for me when I attempt to clean and organize anything. Today, I managed to wash out an old container to reuse for oatmeal.
  • Off to the 99c Store! Hopefully they’ll have some white bins or glass jars!
  • No luck at the 99c Store. Went to Big Lots and struck out. Nothing was accomplished today except for burning through my gas.
Day 3
  • I looked at my pantry. It stressed me out a bit, so I walked away. That’s all I could manage.
Day 4
  • Sat in front of and stared at my pantry this morning. Fiddled with a few things here and there, just to clear the floor up a bit so the kids could get to their school lunch items. Still a hot mess. I’m going to give Target another try to see if there’s anything I like.
  • Found some large mason jars at Target! Hooray!

Mason jars - 5 Things To Remember When You Organize Your Pantry In Real Life by LifeDarling.com

Day 5
  • Found a stackable bin system online that would work (and fit!) in the cabinets for my kids’ lunch item storage. I may have to order them if I can’t find anything in a brick and mortar.
  • Today’s shopping adventure: Target (need a couple more mason jars), Staples, Office Depot, and perhaps The Container Store. These are not dollar stores. Keeping on budget is still in the back of my head, but I’m desperate to get my kitchen back in order… *sigh*
  • Found a couple white baskets that will fit the space. Unfortunately, they’re not $1. I will sacrifice the price just to get this project finished. Budget officially out the window.
Day 6 – 7
  • Ignored this monster. Feeling tired and uninspired!
Day 8
  • Decided to use what I have. I’m so tired of running around and not finding what I want and need. I have two larger plastic cereal bins that aren’t being used. Since I needed something to sort my taller pantry items, I tried using the bins, and they were a perfect fit (without their lids, that is).
  • Repurposing the wire organizer to hold my random linens and insular bags.
  • It’s more convenient for my kids to have their lunch boxes on the lower shelf, so I’ll keep them there for now. I feel a little better about this project.

5 Things To Remember When You Organize Your Pantry In Real Life by LifeDarling.com

Day 9 – 13
  • Too many school projects and social obligations to focus on this project. Have been researching other bin systems online, but I’m still having a hard time letting go of my “dollar store” budget. My frustration makes it easy to stop progress.
Day 14
  • Starting to get nervous that I will never finish this thing. I have this problem every time I try to organize something. When it takes longer than the snap of my fingers, I lose interest. I can’t live with my pantry area looking like this (though it *is* way more organized and clean compared to before).
  • I’m forcing myself to go through the paper pile and empty out the brown box.
Day 15 – 19
  • Life sure does get in the way of finishing this project…
Day 20
  • Went to Target to get two more of those white baskets for the other side of my pantry. Things are coming along at a sluggish pace.
Day 21
  • I will clean this counter top if it’s the last thing I do!!!
  • Didn’t finish cleaning off the counter top…
Day 22
  • Reused my black bin, unwillingly. I wanted an all white and glass look, but at this point, I don’t care. I’m reusing all the things today.
  • Surprise, surprise, it looks nice! …Or is my eagerness to be done deceiving me?
Day 23
  • One more basket for my baking items, I promise myself! I cannot spend any more money on this thing!
Day 24

"After", doors closed - 5 Things To Remember When You Organize Your Pantry In Real Life by LifeDarling.com

"After", doors open - 5 Things To Remember When You Organize Your Pantry In Real Life by LifeDarling.com




It took me nearly one month to complete this project. ONE MONTH! I still cannot believe it took that long, considering I wasn’t tearing anything down or repainting. Sheesh. Unfortunately, the size of my pantry really limited what products were available to me, and hindered my process and budget.

Were the time and money spent worth it? Yes and no. In retrospect, it took so much time to finish because I could barely find anything in stores to fit my space. And because my measurements had to be very precise (I’d just be wasting space if they weren’t, which I was already doing for free!), the dollar store route didn’t work for me. That was disappointing.

I’m sure most of you out there won’t face the same problems. Your pantry clean up will probably only take you a weekend. But for those of you who happen to have awkward spaces like mine, use your imagination, let go of some of your expectations (i.e. finding the perfectly measured bin/basket/jar/whatever, in the absolute perfect color/texture you were looking for). That will probably help you finish faster.

Is this the absolute completion of this space? Heck no! I have to paint the cabinets, change the pulls, we’re still figuring out what we want to do on that backsplash/accent wall area, and decorate the space. I still have to find a better place to store our pup’s food and any extra water jugs, and I’m going to find a new place for that gray corkboard. Still so many things to do, but at least now the insides are organized and clean. That’s all I care about.

If you’re contemplating reorganizing and decluttering your pantry (or any room in your home for that matter), check out my following thoughts. They’re practical, useful, and will really help you reign it all in!

5 Things To Remember In Your "Real Life" Pantry Makeover by LifeDarling.com

5 Things To Remember In Your “Real Life” Pantry Makeover

1. Plan, plan, plan!

I know it’s no fun to go to a store and not get anything when you’re super excited to begin your makeover. But trust me, you’ll be happy you shopped around before settling on anything – especially if you’re on a budget. For example: the large mason jars that I’m using in my pantry? They were $6 a piece at Target. Not bad, considering how large they were and the fact they fit. However, Walmart had the same jars in a pack of six for only $10. TEN. DOLLARS. Why didn’t I return the jars to Target? Because I washed them and filled them immediately when I got home – too late to return them. Lesson? Don’t be like me. Go to every store you think might have what you’re looking for and compare prices.

2. Don’t be ashamed if your pantry doesn’t turn out looking the way you want.

Picture perfect Pinterest pins are pretty to look at and great for inspiration, but sometimes they don’t translate into real life. I tried my best to make mine look perfect, but in the end, it didn’t happen. But it still looks awesome to me! It’s clean and completely functional! When I open my cabinets, I have a sense of pride knowing everything in there is edible, has it’s own place, and is not falling on top of my head! That’s a win!

3. Buy what you need. Buy what you eat.

I had a lot of wasted, expired food in there. There is no point in keeping and/or buying food just to let it sit in your cupboards to waste. I don’t think I’d need to worry about an organized pantry if I was a conscious and responsible consumer. Buy what you eat. Give away or share what you don’t.


4. Get rid of stuff.

It boils down to not having a bunch of kitchen stuff you don’t use. I have the genetic predisposition to hoard stuff. I won’t say which female family member that gave birth to me passed it down, but I assure you, I have the gene. I’m donating whatever I don’t use regularly.

5. You have a cabinet full of food. You’re already ahead of the game.

First world problems, anyone? There is nothing wrong with cleanliness, organization, color schemes, or coordinating textures, but in the grand scheme of things, there is food in your house that you and your family can eat. That’s more than what a lot of people around the world can say. What’s that saying, again? “Bless this mess.”


If you’re currently cleaning out your pantry – good luck! Come back and link up your progress when you’re done – I love looking at organized pantries (OCD represent!)!

8 thoughts on “5 Things To Remember In Your “Real Life” Pantry Makeover (+ My Pantry Redo!)”

  1. Your so funny. I know how you feel, My pantry shelves are only 6 inches wide, so I am thinking of taking out every other one to give me more space, luckily my pantry is a walk in closet with two floor to cieling cabinets built into the walls so I do have a little more space. I would not have thought to go the dollar store way, thank you for the idea, that will save me a ton of money. I do think what you spent was well worth it because it does look great and organized, I hope mine will look as nice. Great post, thanks for sharing it .

    1. Oh Jenn, thank you for justifying the money I spent on this project, LOL! I’m so bummed I couldn’t get anything at the dollar store, but you’re right – the money I did spend was worth it because I don’t have a mess on my hands anymore! Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

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