No matter where you keep your spices, it’s safe to say you probably have more of them than you need. Maybe you bought a spice you were going to use in that one recipe that you didn’t like and then completely forgot about it. Or maybe you hoard your spices and hold on to them for so long you have some older than your kids. Even if you have the perfect number of spices, it’s a good idea to take inventory, purge and organize them every now and then.
I would describe myself as a spice hoarder. I had more spices than any one person or extended family needs. The funny thing is, I don’t even like to cook and I’m not good at it but my spice drawer was jam-packed. Here’s what my spice drawer looked like.
It’s a large, deep drawer and my spice collection seemed to grow to fill the space. (Isn’t that always what happens?)
With this many spices, I couldn’t even tell what I had. And when you’re in the middle of preparing a meal the last thing you want to do is hunt for a spice you could have sworn you had. It’s like trying to find a needle…well, you know.
In an attempt to simplify my collection and keep only what I really needed, I decided to clean out and organize my spice drawer. What I thought would take an afternoon turned out to be a lot more involved than I planned. But in the end, it was totally worth it! Here’s how I did it.
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Clean Out Your Drawer
If you haven’t organized your spices in a while, odds are there’s a mess of spice residue all over the place.
I grabbed my hand vacuum and quickly cleaned up the spices scattered all over the bottom of the drawer. Unfortunately, my hand vac wasn’t going to get all of it. I had some stains probably from vanilla extract or whatever other colorful spices I had in there. I used a microfiber cloth and some all-purpose cleaner to wipe away the stains and finished it off with a good scrub using a Magic Eraser.
I didn’t like the idea of my white drawer bottom being permanently stained so I decided to cover it. You can use a paper drawer liner or regular wrapping paper. I was using wrapping paper to create my dividers so I used an extra piece to line the bottom. Then I covered the wrapping paper with leftover plastic shelf liner that I already had on hand for good measure. It wasn’t a perfect fit but it was close enough.
Now that I had a clean drawer, I was ready to create my categories.
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Separate Your Spices Into Categories
I decided that organizing my spices into different categories would make life easier. But I also wanted to keep my categories super simple. My go-to, everyday spices would live in one section, the less used spices (aka, my husband’s spices) would live in another section, and my baking supplies and miscellaneous items (which are technically not spices) would live in a third section. That’s it, just three categories. Here are the spices separated by category.
As you can see, I had a LOT of spices. The jars on the left were the expired ones that were being tossed. I got rid of roughly a third of my spice collection.
Get Rid of Expired Spices
I sorted my spices to separate out the ones that were VERY expired from the rest. And just for fun, I’ll share what the oldest spice in my drawer was— a paprika bottle that expired in 2008. Not only did I have that paprika but I had another giant restaurant-size jar that was also expired. I guess I have a thing for paprika. I also had multiple expired chipotle bottles, one with the plastic seal still on it!
According to Livestrong.com, you can tell when it’s time to toss a spice or herb by the smell and color. If they are past their prime they will smell stale and the color will look different than when you first bought them. Will an expired spice or herb ruin your recipe? Not necessarily, they just won’t taste as flavorful as when they were fresh. I’ll be honest, I did keep a few expired spices because I’ve used them recently and know they still taste fine, but I made a note to replace them eventually.
I have different criteria for herbs. I grow herbs in my garden, so I don’t keep any that are old because I know I can just grow more in the Spring. I can replace those yearly, so I purge them often.
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Label Your Spices (Maybe)
Since I’m using a deep drawer and looking at my spices from above I won’t know what anything is unless the tops of the jars are labeled. That’s why I love the Simply Organic spices which include the name of the spices on the tops. I also appreciate the streamlined look of the glass jars; they look great and get bonus points for being environmentally friendly.
I was tempted at one point to get rid of all my spices from different brands and replace them with Simply Organic ones just so that everything looked uniform and neat. Unfortunately, they don’t carry some of the spices I use. I was planning to use my label maker to label the non-Simply Organic spices but I have so few, I didn’t bother. I could easily identify the other spices by the size of the jar and the color of the top.
Use Drawer Dividers (or Whatever) to Contain Your Categories
My original plan was to buy some sexy bamboo drawer dividers on Amazon and use those to separate my categories. Here’s the set I got. Unfortunately, when they finally showed up, they were pretty but I found out the springs put so much pressure on the sides of my spice drawer they probably would have cracked it. My drawers have been around since the 1980s and are made of particle board so this wasn’t going to work.
It was time to get creative and put together some DIY dividers. Thankfully, I had some packing material I got from a neighbor that worked perfectly. But it looked …. like packing material. So I decided to pretty it up with some wrapping paper. And I was really pleased with how it turned out!
I went with drawer dividers because I decided to use materials I already had, but baskets would have worked just as well. If I ever redo this drawer in the future, I’ll probably give baskets or containers a try.
Step Back and Enjoy
Here’s what my spice drawer looks like now.
I wish it hadn’t taken as long as it did (mainly due to having to rethink the dividers) but overall, it was time well spent. I can now find what I need without having to wade through all the expired stuff needlessly taking up room in my drawer.
This is another one of those small projects that has a pretty big impact on my daily routine. Now that my spice drawer is organized maybe I won’t dread dinner time as much. I won’t hate cooking any less but at least now the process will be a little less painful.
Until next time, happy organizing!